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Reporting a beat for over 20 years sure avails some prerogatives. Tolani Abatti’s new book, ‘Two Decades of Lagos House of Assembly: Face to Face With The Movers and Shakers’ is a proof.
By Ngozi Enedolibe
Tolani Abatti, fondly called Prof by friends and colleagues, is to Lagos State House of Assembly what Robert Jobson is to the British Royal Family. As a journalist, Jobson is the most influential Royal Correspondent and has done so meticulously and meritoriously for many years, authoring a series of books on issues that matter the most in that important beat. So distinguished on that beat has Jobson become that the respected Wall Street Journal, dubbed him the ‘Godfather of Royal Reporting’.
These are milestones that come with a considerable dose of the X-factor.
Covering a beat in journalism is not as tasking as knowing what to do with the different shades of information-good and bad- which often emerge on the job. This is important, because depending on the platform, some reporters do opt for only the positive sides, while others opt for the negative sides. But like the renowned Jobson, Tolani Abatti, has managed both sides of the divide, making enemies and friends at the legislative chambers of Lagos, which unarguably is the most important state in the country, taking cognisance of its cosmopolitan nature.
His media platform, Encomium, makes his duty a precarious one. As a frontline tabloid, Encomium, served the sensational part of a story, a reason why Abatti, would have to dig deeper than his colleagues in the mainstream newspapers who for fear of litigations, restrict their definition of news to mostly information approved and handed down by the authorities in the House. But this extra work, necessary to douse the gossip-appetite of his audience, not only made him popular but influential. Being in possession of damning information about the personal lives of frontline politicians did make him a go-to source for people wishing to confirm stories about the private lives of those legislators, who have become political celebrities of sorts. And when it mattered most, Tolani Abatti became the right choice to work as the spokesperson of the Speaker of the Lagos State House of Assembly, a duty he performed creditably, buoyed by his deep experience and understanding of the communication essentials of the House.
All these effects are innately reflected in this 476-page compendium, written by the journalist, whose intent is to keep his readers abreast of facts about people who have shaped the affairs of the House since the beginning of the Fourth Republic. Divided into three major parts made up of question-and-answer format interviews, profiles of some members as well as some historical facts about the House, the book also comes loaded with facts that make record-keeping sense. Readers with great knack for records will find these details enthralling as they are neatly arranged from Page 441 to Page 447. The revelations in this portion of Abatti’s work, chronicled Hon Bola Banjo and Hon Adejoke Orelope-Adefulire as the first female members of the Lagos State House of Assembly; Hon Mutiat Adetoun Adediran as the first female principal officer in the House and Senator Olorunnibe Mamora as the first member of the House to be elected a senator amongst others. The author went a step further to capture all the laws that have been passed by the House since 1999 in a chronological order, a testimony that Abatti wrote from a premise of knowledge.
Some books boast of rich content only to end up with a compromised packaging, this book copiously avoided that. It’s aesthetically designed and comes with not just a hard cover for longevity but also a glossy dust jacket, which reinforces the author’s intention of making his work accessible to readers of today and in the future. Abatti’s ‘Two Decades of Lagos House of Assembly’, should be a source of pride to all lovers of history in Nigeria and should evoke the conscience of the Government of Lagos State, Lagos State House of Assembly as well as all present and past members of the legislative arm of the state to support the initiative with every ounce of their political power. This will not only encourage the author to do more but embolden other writers with such a vision to document more aspects of our political system.
Of course, this compendium deserves a space on the shelves of every library that is worth its salt!