Shola Ilesanmi was an investigative reporter at British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), a correspondent and fact-checker who died on Tuesday, 1st of March 2022, at the age of 36 after a brief illness.
Shola started his journalism career at Echo Media (a campus media outlet in AAUA) and became an award-winning journalist with over a decade of experience in broadcast, print, digital media, and public relations before his death.
The Shola Ilesanmi Memorial Writing competition was organized during the 15th Annual Press Week of the National Association of Mass Communication Students, Adekunle Ajasin University, Akungba-Akoko chapter to honour the memory and impacts of this alumnus.
During the public lecture/ symposium which was held on Tuesday at the Obasanjo Multi-Purpose Hall, two AAUA Mass Communication students emerged winners of the Shola Ilesanmi Memorial Writing Competition and were given cash prizes for their outstanding performance in the competition.
Adagba Promise O, the incumbent president of the department, disclosed that the idea behind the competition is to bring Shola’s name to the limelight, however, he stated that Shola has been the one sponsoring the competition before his demise.
“We do not want his name to die down, we felt the need to continue this competition in his memory to bring his name again to the limelight. It’s so important that the next incoming administration continue this competition.”
“The NUJ and other bodies have said they will be happy if we can continue it. Through this, we would have to make people know more about him, for the incoming students to know Shola Ilesanmi who had done remarkable things in the department,” Promise noted.
The wife of the deceased, Mrs. Damilola Ilesanmi who could not hold her emotions at the event applauded the efforts of the association to organize the first memorial competition in honor of her late husband Shola Ilesanmi.
Mrs. Damilola who pledged her support for the competition presented cash prizes to the two Mass Communication students, Adetula Josephine, a 200-level student, and Taiwo Rebecca, a 300-level student who were the first and second winners respectively.
The words of Shola Ilesanmi to campus journalists before his death was captured in a report by Roland Bayode on the (AAUA) Echo Media news platform. How Shola thrived when digital journalism had not gained its foothold.
“I started by working with a campus magazine Echo newspaper where I developed my skills. I’m always chasing after the news. One of the things that helped us is that those who started the paper in 2004 left in 2005 with only one or two people left. So, we had the chance to come in at a very early stage mainly to work and this gave us a drive.”
“When I was working for The Nation Newspaper, I would have to go to the cyber cafe to type my story, while typing, the system would just go off and I would have to buy more time. If at that time, things were difficult and we did it, then students now do not have an excuse to give.”
“We will put our stories in a floppy disk, only to get to Akure and realize that the floppy disk has been corrupted, so we will go back to Akungba to revert. Some typed stories would have been stale because of the delay.”
“There was no phone at that time, we could not browse, we could not snap pictures, we had to beg and pay a photographer to come and take pictures for us. It was very difficult. Despite that, I kept going and I have many national newspapers I wrote for while on campus. Immediately when I finished school, I had job opportunities then I chose the one I wanted and that’s how I found myself in international media as a product of prayers, resilience, and hard work.”
“I didn’t come out with one of the best grades you would possibly think. Students need to know that there is life beyond grades. The contest out there is crazy, nobody will ask for good grades, what they will ask you is if you have a degree and skills related to journalism. Then you have the job but there is a need to understand the market language, the market forces, and what is obtainable in the field, then you can fit in.”
“Some of those who were committed are now doing well and have big shots in the media. This is not because they all finished at the top of their classes but because they understood that it is beyond the grades in class,” Shola said.