In 1962, a reporter covered the historic opening ceremony of the University of Lagos on the pages of Nigeria’s most foremost paper. 60 years later, he graduates from the same university as the oldest PhD candidate. The historian has made history.
By the time most individuals clock 80, there are very few things they wish to accomplish, tired and weary they look back on their youth with longing and remember their past achievements with nostalgia, while they tidy up their affairs, careful to not do anything that would blemish their legacy. Dr Dayo Duyile, however, is cut from a different cloth. At 83 this doyen of journalism is not resting on his oars. For a man who has achieved so much, there were still greater heights to be conquered, and so after eight years of rigorous academic research he added another feather to his cap, a PhD from the department of mass communication, University of Lagos. The crowning glory of a career of historic proportions.
In 1960, Nigeria started her journey of self actualization as an independent nation, also starting out on a similar journey was 17 year old Dayo Duyile. Fresh from secondary school he started his career at the Southern Nigerian Defender, one of the papers in the famous Zik group of Newspapers as a trainee reporter, later moving to Awolowo’s Nigerian Tribune. At the time, there was no training institution for the formal education of journalists in the country, famous journalists like Nnamdi Azikiwe and Olabisi Onabanjo who were his role models had gotten their tertiary education abroad, and he was ready to follow the same path, but for the timely intervention of former governor of Lagos, Alhaji Lateef Jakande who at the time, was editor of the Nigerian Tribune. “He encouraged me, that I needed no further education and I should remain under his tutelage and that of other senior journalists at the paper, and I’d be successful. So I shelved the idea of going to London.”
That piece of well meaning advice would turn out to be detrimental to his career progress at the Ismail Babatunde Jose led Daily Times Paper which he joined in 1962. The Daily Times was the best paper in the country, hitting nationwide circulation numbers of 200,000 daily; it had reached this height by maintaining strict neutrality in the ethnically polarised Nigeria of the 60s and by putting out impartial, well written and researched stories. Ismail Babatunde Jose believed that a University education for all its journalists was crucial to the Daily Times maintaining this standard. He promoted intellectualism in journalism and would later set up a training school to teach his young recruits the tricks of the trade, but that would be many years away in the future.The present times demanded that Dayo get a tertiary education if he ever wanted to become an editor or hold any senior position in the Daily Times or any of its sister newspapers. He started his bachelor’s degree programme in 1972, finishing in 1978, paving the way for future career advancement. He became editor of the Daily Sketch and other publications including The Sketch and Drum Magazine, by the time he returned to the University of Lagos for his masters in 1991, he had already become the Director of the Nigerian Institute Of Journalism.
Dr Dayo Duyile’s decision to get a masters degree was strategic, age was no longer on his side and he could not withstand the rigours of running a newsroom, however he still had some value to offer and he decided to put his deep well of journalism knowledge to good use in training the next generation of media practitioners. “I could not be an editor or a reporter for life. And also my age may not be acceptable in the newsroom, but in academics, it’s a free world where you could continue to do what you want to do as a teacher, imparting knowledge.” He helped establish the Mass Communication departments of Adekunle Ajasin University, Joseph Ayo Babalola University, Elizade University and Wesley University, however despite all these achievements, the one thing he wanted most eluded him.
When Dayo Duyile started his PhD programme in 2016, it was his third attempt at getting the degree, his first attempt in 1990 was scuttled when his mentor, Alhaji Lateef Jakande prevailed on him to continue his work training young journalist at the Nigerian Institute Of Journalism in lieu of pursuing a PhD. A second opportunity came in 2006, but unforeseen circumstances prevented him from taking it. When he started the application process in 2015, there were several doubters who believed it wasn’t necessary.
‘My close friend said,” What are you going to do with your PhD? You’ve been an Editor, you’ve been a General Manager of a paper, you’ve been a Consultant, to The Tribune Paper and so on and so forth. Dayo, you’re just wasting your time.”‘ But he persevered and got the admission. It was not an easy task however for the octogenarian who endured the rigours of travelling from Ondo Town where he lived in Ondo State to come to the University anytime he had lectures, but he had counted the cost and was up to the challenge.
For his doctoral research Dr Dayo decided to get to the root of the history of the Press in Nigeria, he travelled to Calabar, the location of the first printing press in the country and Abekouta where the first newspaper has started, he wanted to find out the challenges these forerunners had faced, and the editorial policies and processes of their papers with the understanding that we are bound to repeat the mistakes of history if we do not know and learn from them.
However Nigeria’s poor record keeping culture was a barrier. A lot of the material he needed could only be found abroad. So he travelled to the UK spending time at the Cadbury Library of the University of Birmingham “I had to go there for one month and two weeks to browse through their materials especially the written properties left behind by Reverend Henry Townsend – the man who came to Abeokuta in 1846 on Christian evangelism to civilise, to educate and to preach the gospel to the people of Nigeria. He departed Abeokuta after 22 years of service but all his documents; his personal diaries, his journals, his church sermons – printed and written by hand are all deposited in Cadbury Library in the University of Birmingham. I had free access to them.”
The octogenerian is not resting on his oars. In addition to his many books on Journalism and Communication studies, Dayo Duyile intends to go for a fellowship abroad. According to him, a PhD at any age is not a loss. “When I was on sabbatical, at the University of West Indies in Jamaica, there was a 93 years old person who was a professor. He said he did his PhD at the age of 87. I still have his picture and each time he came to the institute where I was to lecture, I would be at the background to listen to him. He got his PhD at 87, and he became a Professor at the age of 92. And he was 95 at the time that was in 1999. Why won’t I go for PhD at eighty something?”
In 1962 the young Dayo Duyile was the Daily Times reporter who covered the event to mark the inception of the University of Lagos, he was at the beginning of a what would be a storied career, now as he draws close to the end of that career, he has made history as the oldest PhD graduate of the university. Sixty years ago he told the university’s origin story on the pages of Nigeria’s foremost paper, now all the leading papers in the country will tell his story.