BOOK REVIEW: ‘Encounters’ By Ayo Oyoze Baje

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BOOK REVIEW OF AZUH ARINZE’S BOOK, ‘ENCOUNTERS’ BY AYO OYOZE BAJE

TITLE:‘ENCOUNTERS – Lessons From My Journalism Career’

AUTHOR:Azuh Arinze

PUBLISHER:YES International Ventures © 2020

BOOK REVIEWER:Ayo Oyoze Baje (Author, Media Consultant, Public Affairs Analyst)

DEDICATION:  To Azuh’s ‘three musketeers’, his darling wife, Nkolika and adorable daughters, Nmesomachukwu and Nekenechukwu

PAGES:231

COVER PRICE:N2,500

FIRST INSIGHT INTO ‘ENCOUNTERS’:

Any of the teeming readers of his motivational books would gladly ask the question: “Another book by Azuh Arinze? What is it all about, this time? I can’t wait to read through it, especially after the previous bestselling one titled, ‘The CEO’s Bible’. His books are always full of inspiration’’. 

Such a person would no doubt be excited and in fact enriched by the new offering, which comes from the depth of the author’s heart as the encounters he has had in his eventful journey in the field of journalism, spanning over two decades. These include not only with members of his family and friends, but thorough-bred achievers who have widened his professional horizon in more ways than one.

From the attractive book cover, graced with Azuh’s portrait beaming with his trademark enticing smile through the foreword, preface, introduction and across the interactions with 60 people, it is a testament to the vast experiences of a determined young man, truly passionate about and dedicated to his art – journalism.   

FOREWORD:

As aptly put by Chief Tony Onyima, the former Commissioner for Information and Culture, Anambra State in his insightful foreword to Arinze’s engaging ‘Encounters’, journalism is about people and events around them. The journalist’s ability to cultivate a credible relationship with reliable sources is therefore, key to his successful practice.

 The truth, however, is that the relationship which should be symbiotic is not only difficult at times but delicate because of ethical issues. That is the candid opinion that underscores the imperative and importance of the author putting his one-on-one interactions as a journalist for others to glean from.

Such relationships have, however, changed over the decades as most of the readers would prefer building it with the journalist rather than the newspaper, magazine, radio or television station he or she represents. This much was revealed in a survey conducted by Revue, an online publication amongst 130 journalists.  That 66 per cent of such readers have expressed their preference for the contact person between the media house and the public is profound.

What makes the difference in such relationships therefore, include the persona, the skills and uniqueness of the journalist himself. This incidentally, is what Arinze has come to represent over the last two decades as a celebrity journalist. “A journalist cultivates relationships with sources, as he or she climbs the career ladder. How enduring and lasting these relationships are will largely depend on the personal and social skills of the journalist, irrespective of the organization he or she works for at any point in time.’’

The point of interest here is that, ‘’he (Azuh Arinze) has creatively distilled his encounters with these sources into teachable moments. Like his previous book ‘The CEO’s Bible’, this book is purpose-driven’’. More importantly, it ‘’seeks to teach life lessons on human relationships’’.

PROLOGUE:

These significant lessons on relationships are evident in the author’s past duties as a reporter and later editor with ‘Fame’ and ‘Encomium Weekly’ respectively, arguably two of the most influential soft sell magazines of that era.  Thereafter, he achieved another milestone in his career when he edited ‘Reel Magazine’- one of the first magazines dedicated to covering Nollywood and its stars, filmmakers, and marketers. And what more, since 2011 he has published Nigeria’s most respected celebrity journal, ‘YES International Magazine’.

In the incisive words of Chijioke Azuawusiefe, who wrote the prologue to the book, Azuh “shares the most inspiring takeaways of competence, dedication, hard work, tenacity, generosity and gratitude which he has painstakenly teased out from those life-changing relationships’’. Little wonder that he has aptly described his brother as the ‘Igwe of Journalism’.

It is instructive that Azuh has humbly admitted and highlighted the fact that his meteoric rise to where he has reached as at today is traceable to having learnt the ropes from the best in his profession. These great minds include of course, Mr. Kunle Bakare, who Chijioke describes as the author’s lifelong mentor, as well as the meticulous editor, Femi Akintunde-Johnson (the iconic FAJ). Not left out is Bashorun Dele Momodu, renowned flamboyant publisher of ‘Ovation Magazine’.

It would interest the reader to know that the author did not set out to write ‘Encounters’! Are you surprised? It all came as a bolt out of the blues, or what he refers to as a ‘brainwave’ after celebrating his 14th wedding anniversary to his wife, Edith Nkolika and he decided to share ‘the surreal story’ on his Facebook wall.

The response to this was spontaneous. Suggestions started pouring in, for him to expand the scope, to include his experiences in journalism. Such came from the likes of Chief Onyima (who wrote the foreword), Jossy Nwkocha (former editor with ‘Newswatch Magazine’), Jayne Usen-Augoye (of ‘Premium Times’), Stella Dimoko-Korkus (a super blogger) and Mrs. Debbie Akindele-Ojo (of ‘Everywoman’).  

In fact, yours truly can recollect reading the touching testimony of Azuh’s first encounter with his wife. My piece of advice then was that he should expand it into a book for the younger generation of boys and girls who know little or nothing about the word, ‘love’. But here we are with a broader perspective in ‘Encounters’. So, what makes it different from the others?

WHAT THE READERS STAND TO GAIN FROM ‘ENCOUNETRS’:

The lasting lessons that any average reader would remember this book for are hereby emphasized with the use of capital letters:

THE POWER OF GRATITUDE: 

As reflected by Azuawusiefe in the foreword “Azuh does more than just recall and share these encounters; he appreciates and gives thanks.’’ To highlight this important factor, he adds that: “Gratitude, that singular virtue which St. Ignatius of Loyola said causes the heavens to rejoice, remains a recurring theme in Azuh’s encounter stories’’.

One of such instances of gratitude is that which Azuh has for Femi Akintunde-Jonhson, who he rightly describes as “the man who started it all’’. Fate first brought them together when he, Azuh was one of the winners of the music quiz competition which FAJ had organized at ‘The Punch’ newspaper. The second time was when he won another competition when FAJ was one of the directors of ‘FAME Weekly’.

He went to collect the Ten Thousand Naira (N10,000) as the Maiden Fame Reader of the Month. Alas! That was to change his career trajectory from law to journalism. Azuh puts it this way: “One reason I will never stop talking about Mr. FAJ’s goodness to me is this – he could have turned me down and killed my dreams. But he never did. Rather, he provided me wings to fly and also a huge canvass to paint my stories’’.

I have to begin with this all-important factor because not a few people take some life-changing issues for granted. They miss golden opportunities because they are not grateful for the little things, so how can the big ones present themselves?

KNOW WHAT YOU WANT AND GO FOR IT, WITH ALL YOUR HEART:

Chapter One begins with Azuh’s divinely ordained encounter with the then Miss Edith Nkolika Uzochukwu (who would later become his wife). They met at Niteshift Coliseum, Ikeja, Lagos. That was after he had an interview with legendary banker, Otunba Michael Subomi Balogun inside the Primrose Towers, Lagos Island.

Unknown to him back then, Edith had exclaimed to her friend: “Whaaooh! This guy is not bad. This is exactly the kind of man I would like to marry’’. It might sound strange but their paths crossed again, days later somewhere on Allen Avenue, still in Ikeja. He was lucky to get her phone number from one of the members of the Resource Team.  

Upon calling her at 10 pm on that same day, this is what transpired. “Will you be my angel?’’ he asked. Her ‘response was both swift and superb’. “If you promise to be my archangel’’. The rest, as they say, is history. But what are the lessons here?

Both were well dressed on those first and second days of their encounters. Both were well comported. This shows that image matters. First impression goes a long way. Also, both knew what they desired in their spouse and they did not hesitate to go for it. 

ABILITY TO ADAPT TO CHANGES IN ONE’S PROFESSION:

From exhibiting his creative ingenuity and hard work as a reporter to an editor and currently a publisher of YES International Magazine and books on motivation, Azuh has shown the characteristics of a survivor against all odds. That is in tandem with Charles Darwin’s evolution theory which explains that when changes take place in an environment, the species that survive most are those with the ability to adapt to the dynamics. As it is in the global ecosystem, so it is with the global economy, journalism inclusive.

As rightly stated in the foreword: “The internet caused a seismic shift in the world of print journalism, with the new media both opening up and diversifying the playing field… Millennials, particularly, dived in with gusto, and bloggers started cashing in real big’’. 

PERSISTENCE PAYS! DON’T TAKE ‘NO’ FOR AN ANSWER

It was Ray Kroc, the late American entrepreneur who said that: “Persistence pays’’. This has worked for Azuh and why not you? Both Bianca Ojukwu and Christopher Kolade had at one time or the other said “no’’ to his request for interview. But because of his persistence it eventually paid off.

For Bianca, his first encounter with her was at Asaba when he attended an event hosted by Chief Sonny Odogwu (of blessed memory) along with his colleagues working at ‘National Encomium’. For Kolade, he was at the Golden Gates Hotel, Ikoyi to deliver a lecture. Both did not grant him the interview at his first request. But he persisted.

It was a slightly different scenario regarding his interview with the impressionable singer, Onyeka Onwenu. The interview she had with him did not record. He did not give up. Instead, he wrote a passionate letter to her explaining his ordeal. Good enough, she granted him another one.

As fate would have it, Bianca, Christopher and Onyeka have become some of Azuh’s ‘closest friends’ as at this day. As Kunle Bakare, his boss then puts it: “The world steps aside for the man who knows where he is headed’’.

And to add what Azuh stated on page 9 of the book: “Forget the land mines, the road blocks, the potholes, the craters and even the accidents. We can overcome them if we keep pushing and knocking and refusing both vehemently and obstinately to take ‘NO’ for an answer’’.

OTHERS TO LEARN FROM:

Do you want to know the 25 lessons of succeeding in journalism as presented by Aremo Segun Osoba, the former Managing Director of ‘Daily Times’ and former governor of Ogun state? Do you know why Azuh describes Rotimi Amaechi as “a different kind of politician’’ and Festus Keyamo as “a benevolent activist’’? What about the late Tunde Braimoh (who recently died of COVID-19) seen as “a likeable and admirable politico’’?

From Biodun Shobanjo, the czar of advertising, Quincy Ayodele of ‘Quincy Herbals’ through astute bankers (Jim Ovia MD/CEO of Zenith Bank and Tony Elumelu, Chairman of UBA) to wave-making politicians ( Akinwunmi Ambode, Muiz Banire, Jimi Agbaje, Ifeanyi Ubah, Godwin Obaseki) and key players in the entertainment industry (Ken Kalebs Olumese, Bisi Olatilo, Tunde Obe, Kanayo O.Kanayo, Larry Izamoje, Saint Obi) to preachers (Anselm Madubuko, Wole Oladiyun, Helen Ukpabio), there are great lessons to learn about a committed journalist’s encounters of over two decades.

OBSERVATIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS:

This greatly inspiring book, written close to the heartbeat of the author that involves a chapter each on the father (Ichie Azuh Chimezie Aloysius), sweet mother (Anna Okwurunirota Azuh), wife (Edith Arinze) with the prologue written by his brother (Chijioke Azuawusiefe) comes as an eye-opening and informative  mini-biography.

What’s more? It is spiced with 24 pages of colour photographs taken with several celebrities, including Aliko Dangote, Pastor Enoch Adeboye, Lateef Jakande, King Sunny Ade, Lagbaja, Shina Peters and some group photographs at important events, to mention but a few.  There are also photographs displaying photocopies of important letters, showing that Azuh is a good keeper of records as Aremo Osoba has rightly advised.

Careful efforts to avoid typographical errors were taken, except the ‘foreword’ typed wrongly as ‘forward’. For subsequent editions, the book could be restructured so that encounters are segmented in line with related issues, for instance beginning with members of the family, fellow journalists, businessmen and women, advertising practitioners, preachers and the big shots in the entertainment industry. The point-size is bold and legible for the readers’ delight.

TAKE-AWAY:

Read this aspect of the influence of his ‘sweet mother’ on his life: “I am glad that I have remained her (mother’s) pride and joy. Back then, many parents never wanted to associate with me, or even find their children in my company. But today, the number of people, in my community, who have named their children after me (Arinze) is incredible”.

With great confidence and satisfaction, I humbly recommend this life-changing and professional guide of a book to every literate citizen, not only in Nigeria but in the entire world. In the words of Benjamin Disraeli, “the secret of success is constancy of purpose’’. That, Azuh Arinze, has amply demonstrated over the past two decades.