On Sunday 9th October, 1955, baby Muraina Olayiwola was welcomed to the family of Oso in Sagamu, the capital city of Remo geopolitical zone of Ogun State. The parents of the new born baby, Late Pa Ogunjobi and Mrs. Salamotu Arinola Oso, were both happy as they welcomed the new boy and their last child, but they never knew they were welcoming a treasure, an intellectual giant and the encyclopedia of communication and media studies in Africa. His father, Pa Ogunjobi Oso, was a peasant farmer, who loved and placed a high degree on education. His mother, a petty trader, was also very supportive of Lai’s journey in life.
Baby Lai was, therefore, from a muddy background as he never tasted affluence in his growing-up years. In his usual way to motivate many of his students, Late Prof. Lai Oso said severally, “my mum was a petty trader, who was prominent for selling pap and traditional herbs. As a growing primary school boy, would hawk pap every morning within the township before I went to school”. Late Prof. Lai Oso, however, lived to fulfill the mid-clause of one of the Shakespearian lines, who philosophises that “some are born with greatness, some attain greatness while others have greatness thrust upon them”. Lai Oso was never born with greatness but he attained greatness and made thousands to be great!
Lai Oso attended the Saint Paul’s Primary School, Sagamu, Ogun State while his secondary school education took place at Odogbolu Grammar School, Odogbolu Ogun State. At both elementary and high school levels, the great Lai had not fully discovered himself. The prestigious University of Lagos was the destination of full discovery and the pitch of success. Between 1975 and 1978, Lai Oso began the journey into his present iconic status in communication scholarship under the tutelage of the best teachers of communication such as Professors Alfred Opubor, Femi Sonaike and Idowu Sobowale. The young Lai graduated from the Department of Mass Communication, University of Lagos in 1978 with a B.Sc Degree, Second Class, Upper Division.
As a young sharp, who knew and had defined his career goal, Olayiwola proceeded to the University of Ife now Obafemi Awolowo University where he diversified into International Relations in his second degree. He, therefore, bagged his M.Sc in International Relations between 1980 and 1981 through the Ford Foundation Scholarship. His insights and exposure in International Relations deepened and widened his scholarship in mass communication and marked the beginning of his robust thoughtfulness in debates on national development, politics, political economy, and international diplomacy. The great Lai, a phenomenon in communication scholarship, advanced his educational pursuit to the University of Leicester, United Kingdom through the Federal Government Scholarship, to bag a PhD Degree in Mass Communication between 1983 and 1987. The return of Dr. Lai Oso to Nigeria in 1987 was the beginning of his massive investment into communication training and scholarship, and human capital development.
Professor Muraina Olayiwola Oso, a fine and cerebral communication scholar, and core professional, started his career as a journalist and worked in a few organisations including Ogun State Broadcasting Corporation (OGBC), Kwara State Ministry of Information and News Agency of Nigeria before he finally bowed out for the academia. Mr. Lai Oso joined the services of the then Ogun State Polytechnic Abeokuta and now Moshood Abiola Polytechnic as a pioneer staff in the Department of Mass Communication through the guidance and effort of the late Dr. Femi Sonaike. Dr. Sonaike was his teacher and mentor at the University of Lagos, who had spotted great researcher in the young Lai. As Prof Oso was fond of saying,
‘’Dr. Femi Osinaike taught me how to conduct research in communication. He personally taught me how to use content analysis research method and that was the beginning of my research insights’’. Dr. Lai Oso served Moshood Abiola Polytechnic Abeokuta for more than two decades where he moved across the ranks and positions in the Institution. He was Head of Department, Director School, Director of Industrial Liaison and Placement, and Deputy Rector of the Institution.
He later moved to Olabisi Onabanjo University as an Associate Professor in 2006 and became a full Professor in 2008 in the Department of Mass Communication. Destiny led the finest communication scholar in Nigeria, Prof. Lai Oso, to Caleb University Imota, Lagos State for a period of two years. Within this period, Professor Oso was appointed the Head of Department and later Director of Students Affairs. In 2011, Lagos State University appointed him as a Professor of Mass Communication where he later became the Dean, School of Communication and served for two terms of four years. Prof Olayiwola Oso was still in the active service with Lagos State University before he breathed his last!
Professor Lai Oso emerged a Colossus, a Giant and outstanding General in communication research and scholarship in Nigeria, Africa and across the globe. He was a fine scholar, a cerebral intellectual and a major household name in the communication literature. He was a Professor of Mass Communication and truly of Mass Communication! He had humbly declared severally that “I am a Professor of Mass Communication”, and he indeed lived to justify this claim. Prof Oso’s research cut across all areas of mass communication with quality attention to details. In his research endeavour, Prof Oso emphasised such research areas as Development Communication, Political Communication, Political Economy of the Media, Media, Politics and Democracy, Media and National Development, Communication Theories, Media and Cultural Studies, Commercialisation and Media Industry (Media vs. Capital), Media Plurality/Diversity and Citizens, and New/Digital Media and Modern Democracy.
While he pronounced these areas in his research, Prof Oso succeeded in publishing in all areas of mass communication, viz: Print Journalism, Broadcast Journalism, Public Relations, Advertising, Book Publishing and Strategic Communication. With over 120 publications, Professor Oso succeeded in reflecting his scholarship across books, edited books, book chapters and journal articles with several unpublished public presentations.
Professor Oso was a wizard and a hungry lion-researcher. He craved for researches/studies, publications and other academic assignments as if he had just joined the academia and needed these outputs for his promotions. He was a true academic and an epitome of who a researcher should be!
CONTRIBUTIONS TO THE ACADEMIA AND NATIONAL DEVELOPMENT
There are many Professors of Mass Communication in Nigeria and beyond but Professor Lai Oso was a white horse in the midst of thousands of black horses! He was such a unique, simple, deep, critical and inspirational academic. This informed why Prof Oso was the cynosure of all eyes and was wanted by all
universities in Nigeria for different academic assignments/tasks. By record, Prof Oso was the most invited Professor of Mass Communication in Nigeria to render academic assignments such as external examination of M.Sc dissertation and PhD thesis, and assessment of Readership and full Professorial appointment.
The late sage was consistently in many universities in the North, most universities in the South hosted him severally and Eastern universities had him frequently for either postgraduate external examination or professorial assessment. He was one-in-all, the credit of which no other Professor of Mass Communication in Nigeria shares with him! Apart from these assignments, Prof Oso was a regular consultant and resource person for the National University Commission (NUC); with his last assignment of being the Chairman of curriculum development for the unbundling of mass communication programme, and Tertiary Education Fund (TETFund).
He also consulted for many State Ministries of Information in Nigeria on various technical sessions as well as private organisations and NGOs. Other areas of his contributions to national development include being a member, National Committee on the Drafting of National Broadcast Policy; Consultant/Principal Researcher—United Nations Fund for Population Activities, (UNFPA), Consultant, United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF); Member, Nigerian National Commission for UNESCO; Member, Ogun State Inter-Ministerial Committee on Public Enlightenment (1994– 1996); Member, Audience Research Team, National Broadcasting Commission, Director, Research and Publications, Agency for Child Development (an NGO concerned with the Welfare and Development of Children) from 1993 to date and also as Vice- Chairman, Non-Governmental Association for Literacy Support Services (NOGALSS), an Advocacy NGO on Adult Literacy from 2000 to date. Prof Oso was also the Chairman, Media Awareness And Information For All Network (MAIN)(an NGO that focuses on supporting media for sustainable development).
PROFESSIONAL ASSOCIATION AND AFFILIATION
Professor Lai Oso was strongly connected within and outside communication community in Nigeria, Africa and across the globe. He, therefore, belonged to several professional and academic bodies, the platforms he used to popularise many conversations in communication scholarship and extended mentorship to thousands of young/upcoming communication scholars. He was a member and former National Coordinating Secretary, African Council for Communication Education (ACCE) a member, Nigerian Institute of Public Relations (NIPR), a member, Advertising Regulatory Council of Nigeria (ARCON), member, Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), a member, Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication (AEJMC), and the pioneer President, Association of Communication Scholars and Professionals of Nigeria (ACSPN).
In the same colouration of his childhood, the family life of late Professor Oso was but a humble and simple one. He got married to Mrs Morayo Abimbola Oso (nee Omopitan) and the family was blessed with Dr. Simisola Olabisi Asekun (nee Oso) and Barr. Moyosola Olayori Oso. Prof Lai Oso was an exceptionally- dedicated, responsible and committed family man. After the first degree of his children in Nigeria, he single-handedly sponsored their education abroad. Simisola bagged her M.Sc in Environmental Science at Brunel University, London, United Kingdom and her PhD in Environmental Microbiology at the University of Canterbury, New Zealand through the personal funding of Professor Lai Oso.
In the same vein, Barrister Moyosola studied his LLM at Queen Mary University, London, United Kingdom, tapping into the hard-earned financial resource of his beloved dad. During the oversees study of the children, which ran almost concurrently, it was a fierce battle for Professor Oso as he exhausted himself so much that he could not change his car. The car consistently developed faults but he remained resolute that, ’’the children first’’!
Professor Oso was a caring husband and father, who would call his wife and the children first-thing in the morning, especially whenever he was away for any assignments. Mrs Morayo Abimbola Oso, the special better-half, described him as “my husband, my father, her advisor, my companion and the compass of my life”. Professor Oso was also a pillar in the extended family as he guided and advanced the career of my nephews and nieces. He was always with the extended family for several family engagements. He was loved by all.
Professor Muraina Olayiwola Oso, the man of people, the people’s choice and the great pathfinder, died as if he was the first Professor to die in Nigeria or as if the only Professor in Nigeria had died. Yes, he was neither of those two considerations but his personal qualities/attributes earned him such outpouring accolades, tributes and cries that followed the announcement of his death. Prof Oso was humility-personified and very unassuming. If not introduced anywhere, one would hardly believe he was the mighty tree where scholars pluck communication and media fruits in Nigeria and Africa. He lived sharply opposite of his attainments.
The great Lai was also extremely generous. He gave out materials and cash indiscriminately to people; he was paying school fees of pupils, students, undergraduates and postgraduates. Only God knows how many PhD students Professor Oso paid his tuition fee but now they have to seek assistance elsewhere! An occasion readily comes to mind; the late Lai had about one million naira (N1, 000,000) in his bank account and some of his students needed to pay their school fees. The generous Lai disbursed to various accounts of his students until the account was reduced to N10, 000! He was a philanthropist in his right; he regularly distributed foodstuffs, cash and other gifts to members of his extended family and church. Prof Oso was also sponsoring the education of many church members before his death. As an academic and a family man, Prof Oso was very upright and a role model in character and moral building. This informed why many young scholars, female and male, preferred to associate and share their problems with him. He was an epitome of omoluwabi, a well-bred and cultured individual.
Professor Oso lived a simple life, dressed very simple, ate very simple and took every issue in a simple but critical manner. This is also connected to his large-heartedness. Regardless of peoples’ religion, ethnic background and racial leaning, the great Oso convivialised with everybody, especially within communication family in Nigeria. His major concern was how the problem was going to be solved and in what ways he was going to be instrumental in solving it. He accommodated all and all would feel I was his special! This is what he did most of his life time; he found the path for many, motivated multitude in various ways so much that, one can arguably submit that no communication scholar/teacher has been successful as Lai Oso in term of his pool of mentees and progenies. His mentees and progenies cut across all the continents of the world, well established in the academia, in the industry and in the government circles. An example here; when his first child was to travel for her M.Sc in London, Professor Oso met one of his students at the Muritala International Airport Ikeja, Lagos State who personality escorted Prof’s daughter into the aircraft and changed her seat from the Economy Class to the First-Class section.
One unique quality of Professor Lai Oso was his agility, strong body and energy. He was full of strength, candour and vitality. The great Oso would read and write every time. It was his practice to wake up at 2:00am most of the days of the week. The list of his assignments/tasks (PhD thesis external review, book projects, assessment of publications for professorial appointment, presentation at conferences and other public presentations) never got exhausted. The very week the Giant of communication scholarship died while returning from where he had conducted a PhD viva, Professor Lai was also assessing publications of three professorial candidates and another PhD thesis slated for examination on the 4th of July, 2023. He was, therefore, a great time manager.
He knew the meaning of time and as such, he utilised his time judiciously to build his family, to discover, nurture and develop human capital and advance communication scholarship in Nigeria and Africa. A complete gentle man, a man of justice and equity, who related with everyone justly, fairly and conscientiously. He sanctified the dues/rights of family members, his colleagues, associates and students. Professor Oso was guided by the principle of modesty in his social life; he partied very moderately and avoided extravagance. His major weaknesses, however, were hatred to publicity despite being a communication Guru, and hatred to lobby for positions within the university, community and at government corridor. Professor Lai Oso passionately detested power and holding power; power was useless in his hand!. He had several opportunities and the goodwill to be in the corridor of power but his personal principles would not just make it happen.
For this great man, a rare gem, the one-in-all and a phenomenon of our time, it is extremely difficult to reconcile with his demise. But with a deep and critical thought on a life well lived, the thousands of lives made, his indelible marks in communication and media scholarship in Nigeria and Africa, whose replica might remain a mirage, we are more than strong to take solace and comfort that, Professor Muraina
Olayiwola Oso’s death remains an incompressible mystery beyond human knowledge. We, therefore, say good night daddy, good night the intellectual giant and encyclopedia of communications in Africa. We will definitely miss you forever!!!
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