Laolu Akande, OON: Testament to unflinching hard work, dignity of labour

Laolu Akande

By Seyi Gesinde

Some silent achievers won’t for any reason personally blow their trumpet. One of these very rare noble-minded humans is Laolu Akande, a modest, self-effacing, cerebral and unassuming spokesperson of Nigeria’s immediate past Vice President, Prof Yemi Osinbajo, GCON, SAN. He is a thoroughbred professional who knows his onions. And that he is being honoured with a national award of the Officer of the Order of Niger (OON), confirms his excellence as a fruitful public servant.

Akande who operates silently but whose works speak for him publicly doesn’t believe there is something which can’t be achieved as far as doing what is right in one’s line of duty is concerned. He won’t take anything less than a beezer for submission. With him, you can’t rush any work to a conclusion for the sake of doing it. No. He has a standard, which must surpass the earlier achievement you made. He is a man of finesse.

The life of Akande, an internationally recognised media expert and renowned publicist is equally confirming the saying of the legendary Brazillian soccer star, Edson Arantes do Nascimento, (October 23, 1940, to December 29, 2022), popularly known as Pele, who said, “Success is no accident. It is hard work, perseverance, learning, studying, sacrifice and most of all, love of what you are doing or learning to do.” He worked for his achievements.

It is this commitment and zeal of Akande that were added up to bestow the national responsibility on him to work in the last eight years as the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity,
Office of the Vice President, positioning him as the spokesperson of Prof. Osinbajo, who has today been applauded by eminent Nigerians and generally by all and sundry as the country’s best Vice President since 1960.

Without sounding immodest, Akande, a smart as a whip spokesman, played a lead role in most of these public endorsements given to the work of the Vice President, all of which summed up to making him the best achiever as a public servant today at the home front and in the international circles. His on-time press statements, coordinated projections of his principal’s and governmental achievements on both traditional and social media, and his scintillating wit plus brilliance in responding to correspondences helped in a long way to avoid bad press.

As we can see, Akande is on top of his game as a big player in the media industry. He knows the job, its in and out. He has grown big enough to command the respect of reporters, many of whom see him as a mentor because he has a good air around him. Then, in stature, he may not be large or fat, but averagely tall, with sterling credentials and achievements he won’t even exhibit for self-importance as many do.

Akande is unpretentiously modest. A man not boastful of his record achievements, he grew taller sitting on the shoulders of giants to see further, that is the hallmark of humility his life teaches, confirming again the words of another world legend, Isaac Newton, an English mathematician, physicist, astronomer, alchemist, theologian (January 4, 1643, to March 31, 1727), who in his lifetime said, “If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.”

What can we gain from the lesson of Akande’s life? Firstly, just like his principal, Prof. Osinbajo, it is that humility is the solid foundation of all virtues. Everyone will come nearest to the great when we are great in humility, knowing true humility is intelligent self-respect which keeps us from thinking too highly or too meanly of ourselves. Instead, for self-development and to measure up to our God-given potential, it only makes us modest by reminding us how far we have come short of what we can be. This is what is divinely blessed and rewarded as stated in Proverbs 22:4: “The reward for humility and fear of the LORD is riches and honour and life.” God has rewarded his efforts.

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Then, he can thankfully say today, after serving his principal and Nigeria for eight years in the words of Eleanor Roosevelt (October 11, 1884, to November 7, 1962), a diplomat, pacifist and activist and the First Lady of the United States from 1933 to 1945, during her husband President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s four terms, who said, “I am who I am today because of the choices I made yesterday.” And what were those Akande’s choices? In 1989, over 34 years ago, he opted to become a journalist, a decision which has seen him grow through the ranks from a reporter to an editor, as well as a scholar, who has also lectured for over a decade as a Professor in the United States.

Before he was named as spokesman to the Vice President in 2015, Akande founded and reported for Empowered Newswire, a US-based news agency and was also a former North America Bureau Chief for The Guardian (Nigeria) in New York, United States. Foundationally on the job all through these years, he has worked with The News magazine as a founding member Senior Writer in 1993, and also Tempo publication, after the then military government banned The News for being critical of the dictatorial government through its pro-democracy reportage. Later on, in 1995, he joined the Nigerian Tribune as a special projects editor, where he also became the editor of Saturday Tribune, Nigeria’s oldest surviving newspaper in Nigeria, making him the youngest newspaper editor at the time.

Shortly after this period, he left Nigeria for the United States to team up with Newsday of New York, as an assistant editor. There, he wrote regular columns for several prominent online platforms at the time, including the then-seventh-largest US newspaper, Philadephia Inquirer. He also freelanced for the Philadelphia Daily News and The News Journal of Delaware. It is on record that Akande is regarded as the only Nigerian journalist who has interviewed a sitting American President in the White House when he interviewed former US President George W. Bush, at a White House African Reporters Roundtable.

He has also interviewed prominent personalities like Billionaire Bill Gates in New York on different occasions; immediate past US President Donald Trump; former US Secretary of State, Colin Powell; and Nobel Laureate Professor Wole Soyinka. In 2002, he also worked as a Press Officer at the United Nations Headquarters, in New York, where he was responsible for writing press releases on the proceedings of UN main bodies including the General Assembly, and covered press briefings at the UN, and other assignments for the UN’s Department of Public Information.

Prior to the time he was named as spokesperson to the Vice President in 2015, Akande had founded and reported for Empowered Newswire, a US-based news agency and was also a former North America Bureau Chief for The Guardian (Nigeria) in New York, United States. Over the years, he has related well with his principal, professionally and on a personal level.

Prof Osinbajo trusts Akande’s judgement and invaluable experience as a thoroughbred professional. You cannot work directly with a Professor of Evidence and Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) without being a man of wisdom and expertise on the job. So far, so good. Looking at his trajectory, the honour bestowed on Akande by President Buhari is well deserved and overdue. It is a testament to his unflinching hard work and calm dignity good enough to achieve every dream. On this note, here is wishing Akande, a brilliant reputation manager, even more success now and in the future. Warmest congratulations!