Despite being confined to Cardiff in the United Kingdom for a three-month international print journalism course by Thomson Foundation in 1998; Lekan Otufodunrin stretched himself beyond Cardiff.
He wrote a series of articles and conducted a number of interviews with participants at the training drawn from several parts of the world.
That effort is part of what he put together in the book titled, Dateline Cardiff… unforgettable media training experience and impact.
In the book, Otufodunrin; a former Online Editor of Nation Newspaper and currently Executive Director of Media Career Development Network attempts to immortalise his experience in Cardiff.
Apart from serving the reader a 25 -year old training menu; the book also gives a bird’s eye view of the world. It is a collection of critical events that shaped the world in the late 90s.
Divided into eight chapters across 120 pages; the book chronicles the author’s adventure and the stories of the attendees of the training programme. It also tells the story of Cardiff.
With Dateline Cardiff, you don’t need to be in Cardiff to know about Cardiff. And you don’t need to be in some countries of the world to know their stories.
Chapter one, titled, “The long road to Cardiff” gives an overview of how the author secured a space in the training programme against all odds, while chapter two, titled, Cardiff Notes, is a collection of articles that were published in the Punch Newspapers during his three-month stay in Cardiff in 1998.
The chapter which is a collection of enduring articles is a down-to-earth account of various events that caught the attention of the author while he was in Cardiff.
The stories in the chapter are bits of information about important global events and how they relate to Nigeria.
The reader also gets to know that Cardiff is one of the most vibrant cosmopolitan cities in Europe with a trademark of unpredictable weather.
But then, what comes out strong is the creative genius behind the articles. For instance, there is a piece devoted to celebrated Newscaster, Julie Coker. Another article under the headline, Citizen Hadiza tells the story of a Nigerian who holds her head high in the UK. And then, another one that is a kind of reminiscence is titled, “home away from home”.
In that same chapter is an article titled, “the making of goddess Diana”. It brings to the fore the place of the British monarch in the global community. It tells the story of how Princess Diana was deified after her sudden death in 1997 in a car crash.
Read also: The church has done well for Nigeria-Otufodunrin @CPAN: https://churchtimesnigeria.net/church-otufodunrin-cpan-akinola/
The deification is to the extent that an online church was set up to worship the late princess. This article is a rare collection and would always serve as a reference for people who so desire to have information on the life of the late princess.
Chapter three titled, “Cardiff Diary” is a continuation of the notes. This time, the author had come back to Nigeria after his three-month stay in Cardiff. The chapter does contain his articles and interviews while in Cardiff
The chapter gives a wider perspective and betrays more global representation. Here the author tells the story of the Thomson Foundation and that of Kingsway International Church founded by Pastor Mathew Ashimolowo along with several other stories.
But it seems chapter four is the most exciting of the book. It contains the story of participants who came from across the world for the training programme.
Their stories take the reader through a global tour on the pages of the book. The countries whose stories are told in the collection include Solomon Island, Tanzania, and Yugoslavia, one of the largest countries in Europe that were devastated by war. The story of East Timor, Burma, Rwanda, and a couple of others were documented in the collection.
It is important to note that the stories are live accounts by citizens of countries who were at the training programme with the author and not a library rehash. This makes the collection a unique effort.
Chapter five tells the story of Media Career Development Network while chapter six is on Journalists for Christ. These two organisations are what the author has nursed over the years. They are the two outlets that represent his passion.
Chapter seven of the book, titled, ‘Class of 98 Come Clean” is a collection of notes by all the participants at the training programme while Chapter eight is like a denouement. It is titled, “Since Cardiff”. It is a chronicle of a catch-up attempt with the alumni of the training institute.
The well-presented articles in the collection are interspersed with pictures that create nostalgia.
The strength of the book lies in the creative genius behind it. Written in relatable English, it’s perhaps the only collection that has immortalised the 1998 three-month training programme at Thompson Foundation.
This is an unusual attempt and an inspiration for future attendees who may borrow a leaf from Otufodunrin’s effort. It is a reflection of a journalist who thinks outside the box. Beyond that, however, is the rare privilege of an excursion to the past which the book provides.
The creative effort behind Dateline Cardiff… should be ingrained in students of journalism. And should be imitated by practicing journalists.
Review by Gbenga Osinaike