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Why I’m still in active media practice – 80-year-old journalist

At 80 years, Josiah Akwarandu is not slowing down in journalism, making him one of the oldest practitioners in Nigeria. At 80 years, Josiah Akwarandu…

At 80 years, Josiah Akwarandu is not slowing down in journalism, making him one of the oldest practitioners in Nigeria.

At 80 years, Josiah Akwarandu is perhaps one of Nigeria’s oldest practicing journalists still enjoying the thrills of the profession. It is what is keeping him going in the profession. In what started as a studio photographer in 1963, the octogenarian became a photojournalist much later in a profession he still cherishes. Josiah is presently the correspondent of Orient Daily in Abia State.

Born on April 4, 1939, Josiah hails from Umuekwe, Umuocheala Owerrinta in Isialangwa South Local Government Area of Abia State. It wasn’t a bed of roses being orphaned early in life. He lost his mom at just 8 months and dad 10 years later when he was preparing to be enrolled into school.

According to him, despite his setback, out of my sheer ambition and unfettered determination to make it in life, as little as he was, he took up the challenge to fend for himself by going into the forest to fetch firewood and palm nuts to sell and pay for his education.

However, he explained that he found favour and was fostered by his aunt, his father younger sister, Rosanna Nwangaji Ahuchauba.

Through her, he finally found himself in school and in 1951, made history with a double promotion from Standard 1 to Standard 3 due to his brilliance in the examination.

Thereafter, his father’s cousin, Mr. Aaron Sunday Akwarandu, a civil servant, took him to his station in Cameroon, then a Nigerian colony and enrolled him in school.

But, his long journey in journalism began in Enugu when he joined his uncle, Comrade Akwarandu, a renowned photographer in Enugu. He said he watched closely the tricks of photography and showed keen interest in the act and served as an apprentice under the uncle until 1962 when the uncle died.

However, he told Daily Trust on Sunday that he forged ahead by managing the big photo studio his late uncle left behind. And, God was with him stressing that it was through the studio that he made many friends including Cyprian Ekwensi and Tony Nkememena among others.

According to him, having learned photography in Enugu, he travelled to Lagos where he picked up interest in photojournalism, having been exposed to certain assignments.

He explained that it was the contacts he got at the studio that introduced him fully into photojournalism in 1963 when he was hired to cover the visit of then President Julius Nyerere of Tanzania by the Daily Times newspapers. He made his first byline from covering the visit. From then, he never looked back. He worked with the Daily Star newspapers in 1976, an employment, he confessed, was secured through the help of Mr Cyprian Ekwensi. He said as a photo journalist, he couldn’t attend formal secondary school, but did private studies where he finally wrote GCE Examination and proceeded to the University of Jos for a nine months news reporting and photojournalism programme. Thereafter, he was posted to Lagos.

Josiah said he cherished some great moments in his career including the coverage 2nd World Black and African Festival of Arts and Culture, FESTAC ’77 in Lagos, handover of General Olusegun Obasanjo to Alhaji Shehu Shagari in 1979, visit of then American President, Jimmy Carter to Lagos 1979, Commonwealth meeting in Lagos 1979, ECOWAS meeting in Abuja, 1981, Dr.  Nnamdi Azikiwe’s Presidential Campaigns in 1983, the 8th All Africa Games, Abuja in 2003 and FIFA World Youth Championship in Nigeria in 1999.

He pointed out that at the creation of Imo State in 1979, he moved over to Nigeria Statesman published by Imo Newspapers Limited and was posted to Government House and served under then Governor Sam Mbakwe. When the military took over, he remained at Imo State Government House under General Ike Nwachukwu and two other military administrators. Then, when states were created again in 1991 and moved to Abia Newspapers Corporation publishers of the National Ambassador Newspapers as pioneer staff.

Josiah, however, retired from the civil service at the Office of the Head of Service Abia State under Comrade Chimdi Oluoha as Permanent Secretary and Editor-in-Chief of Service Monitor, a monthly tabloid published by the office.

Comparing analog to digital journalism, Josiah said it a good innovation and at his age tries to switch over with younger journalists. According to him, present generation of journalists are lucky to have all the gadgets and innovations to use for the job.

He said he has been very careful not to step on anybody’s toes especially during the military regime.

“If you ask me to compare the practice of journalism during military administration and democratic dispensation, I will choose the democratic rule, because of the laws that enables free press, the military dealt with us using decrees,” he said.

Josiah noted the easiest way to make impact in journalism is through exclusive stories.

However, the media fraternity in Abia State came out in droves on Tuesday, April 16 and feted the veteran journalist to a birthday party organized by the state council of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ).

At the ceremony, Abia State Governor Okezie Ikpeazu represented by his Commissioner for Information, Chief John Okiyi-Kalu, said the state government would celebrate the octogenarian in a special way.

The governor charged journalists in the state to make the celebrant their role model.

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