Dele Olojede

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Dele Olojede
Born 1961
Modakeke, Nigeria
Occupation Journalist and former foreign editor for Newsday
Nationality Nigerian
Education University of Lagos
Alma mater Columbia University
Notable awards Pulitzer Prize

Dele Olojede (born 1961)[1][2] is a Nigerian journalist and former foreign editor for Newsday. He was the first African-born winner of the Pulitzer Prize. He serves on the board of EARTH University, in Costa Rica, and he is a patron of the Etisalat Prize for Literature.[3]

Biography[edit]

Olojede was born in January 1961 in Modakeke, Nigeria.[1] He was the 12th of 28 children. In 1982, he began his journalism career at the National Concord in Lagos, a newspaper owned by aspiring political figure Moshood Abiola. Olojede left the paper in 1984 after he became concerned that Abiola was using the paper to advance his personal political ambitions.[4]

Olojede enrolled at the University of Lagos where he studied journalism. As a student he was particularly influenced by Nigerian literary luminaries like Chinua Achebe, Wole Soyinka and Cyprian Ekwensi and other African writers like Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o.He also acted Shakespeare in grade school and dabbled in poetry in Yoruba and English[2]

Olojede became one of the founding staff writers of a Nigerian news magazine called Newswatch in 1984. The magazine was edited by Dele Giwa, a well-known Nigerian journalist who was killed by a mail bomb on 19 October 1986. Olojede publicly accused Nigeria's military leader Ibrahim Babangida of being responsible for the murder. In 2001, eight years after leaving power, Babangida refused to testify before a human rights court about the murder.[4]

A 1986 investigative report by Olojede on the imprisonment of the popular Nigerian musician Fela Kuti led to Kuti's release and the dismissal of the judge who imprisoned him. In 1987, Olojede's efforts earned him a US$26,000 Ford Foundation Scholars grant which Olojede used to get a master's degree at Columbia University. At Columbia he won the Henry N. Taylor Award for outstanding foreign student.[1] Olojede eventually became a US-Nigeria dual citizen.[5]

Newsday[edit]

On 6 June 1988, Olojede joined Newsday, the Long Island-based newspaper, first as a summer intern and later as a reporter covering local news, including a stint in the Hamptons, on the East End of Long Island. He eventually became United Nations Correspondent, a perch from which he began to cover Africa, making several extended trips to the continent. He was subsequently named Africa Correspondent, based in Johannesburg, South Africa, following the release of Nelson Mandela from prison.

Olojede later worked as a correspondent in China from 1996 to 1999, after being named Asia Bureau Chief, based in Beijing. His reporting took him to all but a handful of Asia countries. Following his assignment in Asia, he returned to Long Island where he became foreign editor of Newsday. In January 2004, Olojede took an opportunity to return to Africa as a correspondent to write about the 1994 Rwandan Genocide, ten years later.[5]

In April 1994, when the genocide broke out in Rwanda, Olojede was covering the South African general elections, the first free elections at the end of apartheid. Olojede has said that while the South Africa story was important, he has often wondered if he could have helped the situation in Rwanda if he had gone there instead.[6][7]

Olojede's 2004 series on the aftermath of the Rwandan Genocide was well received. One story that drew particular attention was "Genocide's Child" about a mother who was raising a son conceived during a gang rape during the war.[6]

In 2005, Olojede won the Pulitzer Prize for International Reporting for his "fresh, haunting look at Rwanda a decade after rape and genocidal slaughter had ravaged the Tutsi tribe." The series was viewed as a major accomplishment for black journalists. Olojede was assisted by African American photographer J. Conrad Williams, and much of the series was edited by Lonnie Isabel, another African American journalist who was the assistant managing editor for national and foreign coverage.[5]

By the time he won the Pulitzer, Olojede had already left Newsday. The Tribune Company had purchased Newsday from its previous owners in 2000, and by 2004 were trying to trim costs. At the end of 2004, Newsday offered a round of buyouts. On 10 December 2004, Olojede took the buyout and moved to Johannesburg, where he was living when he learned he had won the Pulitzer.[5]

Back to Africa[edit]

As of 2006, Olojede was living in Johannesburg with his wife and two daughters. In November 2006, the East African Standard reported that Olojede was hoping to launch a daily newspaper that would be distributed across the entire African continent.[2]

Returning to Nigeria, Olojede launched 234Next in 2008, first on Twitter and then online and in print. Hiring 80 new journalists fresh out of college and working out of a diesel-powered 24-hour newsroom, NEXT worked to expose government corruption in the face of much resistance.[8] Most famously, NEXT scooped the story that the president, President Yar'Adua was secretly brain dead and not "returning soon from a Saudi hospital" as promised.[9] While this story resulted in the elevation of Goodluck Jonathan to the presidency, other stories such as the revelation that the Oil Minister Rilwanu Lukman was still in the oil business and involved in massive bribery were utterly ignored by officials.[10] NEXT also exposed extreme corruption in Nigeria's oil industry in a series of detailed investigative reporters that were subsequently confirmed by independent investigators. The then oil minister, Diezani Alison Madueke, still faces corruption charges in a London court as of July 2018.

In 2011, Dele Olojede won the John P. McNulty Prize,[11] which was established to reward the most innovative projects driving social change created by Fellows of the Aspen Institute.[12] The Prize was awarded for Olojede's vision and efforts in creating NEXT in Nigeria.[13]

Under Olojede, NEXT paid its journalists a living wage, opposing the usual local practice of politicians paying journalists and expecting only favourable coverage in return. It scooped many stories of public interest, but found that advertisers would no longer support it. When it collapsed in 2011, it owed its staff more than five months' wages.[14]

Awards[edit]

In addition to the Pulitzer Prize, Olojede has won several journalism awards.[1]

  • 2011 McNulty Prize
  • 2010 Prize for Ethical Leadership, World Forum for Ethics in Business
  • 2010 100 Most Creative People, Fast Company
  • 2009 Distinguished Alumni Prize, Columbia University in the City of New York
  • 1992 Unity Award from Lincoln University
  • 1992 Media Award from the Press Club of Long Island
  • 1995 Publisher's Award from Newsday
  • 1995 Educational Press of America Distinguished Achievement Award for Excellence in Educational Journalism

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d "Dele Olojede Biography". National Association of Black Journalists. 13 April 2005. Archived from the original on 28 September 2007. Retrieved 12 August 2007. 
  2. ^ a b c "Dele Olejede – the Pulitzer Award Winner". The East African Standard. 11 November 2006. 
  3. ^ http://www.etisalatprize.com.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  4. ^ a b "Dele Olojede: The first citizen of journalism". The Financial Times. 15 May 2006. Retrieved 12 August 2007. 
  5. ^ a b c d "African-Born Pulitzer Winner Catches His Breath". www.maynardije.org. 6 April 2005. Archived from the original on 6 August 2006. Retrieved 12 August 2007. 
  6. ^ a b "Pulitzer-Prize Winner Dele Olojede". National Public Radio. 8 April 2005. Retrieved 12 August 2007. 
  7. ^ "Olojede: The Pulitzer laureate opens up". nigerianmuse.com. 22 April 2004. Retrieved 12 August 2007. 
  8. ^ Prize, McNulty. "Dele Olojede". 2011 McNulty Prize Winner. 
  9. ^ Press, Propaganda. "NEXT: President Yar'Adua Is Brian-Damaged". News Story. 234Next.com. 
  10. ^ Mojeed, Musiliku. "Oil Minister in Oil Business". NEXT Article (reposted). 
  11. ^ John P. McNulty Prize
  12. ^ Fellows of the Aspen Institute
  13. ^ Prize, McNulty. "2011 Winner". Dele Olojede, 2011 McNulty Prize Winner. mcnultyprize.org. 
  14. ^ Nigeria's 'brown envelope' journalism. Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani. BBC News 5 March 2015. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-31748257 accessed 10 07 2015.

External links[edit]