In this interview, Edugist talked with Dr Wale Oni, a media technology behavior scholar and researcher at the of Arts and Media, (MediaCity, UK), University of Salford, Manchester, UK. He was privileged to have gone through the 3Ds in media as a practitioner, researcher and an educator. Wale, with laudable inverse from secondary school joggled the sciences and Literature-in-English before complementing his talent with a formal education which has made him a scholar today.
Interview transcript here:
Abigael Ibikunle of Edugist: Can we meet you, please?
Wale Oni: My name is ‘Wale Oni. I hold a doctorate degree in Digital Media and Cultural studies obtained at the School of Arts and Media, University of Salford in Manchester-England. My Masters and First degrees are also in the same discipline – media and communication studies. These were obtained at the Department of Communication and Language Arts, University of Ibadan. I was at the University of Ibadan between 1995 and 2002. I had initially commenced a diploma programme in Library Archival in Information Studies before proceeding through UTME/JAMB to the Faculty of Arts for a degree course at the popular CLA Department. I had my primary and secondary education in Ibadan and was, I should say, fortunate to be among the first set to start the 6-3-3-4 system of education in Oyo State. So, I was at Lagelu Grammar School until 1991 and lived the Ibadan life to the fullest even as a thoroughly-bred indigene of the historic metropolis.
AI: What has the world of media/journalism been like?
WO: Interesting, I should say. Although media is bigger than journalism; journalism is just a branch of the media world. I am more of a media person than a journalist. As a media person, I have calved a niche for myself in the area of media technology and used behavior across contexts. So, there is multimedia journalism and data journalism to deal with as part of my field of interests. As an “acadeprenuer”, that is someone who actively combines academic work and research with entrepreneurial drive, my conception of media is informed by my scholastic drive and creative business. Journalism, on the other hand, is a strange profession. I knew about that long before I finished my studies at UI. Strange in the sense that it is both a profession and trade. Unlike other profession, journalism is not a straightjacketed occupation. This affects the way journalists’ roles are conceived and how it is practiced throughout the world. With the proliferation of digital technologies and self-publishing tools on the internet and mobile devices, the profession has suffered a double blow; first from the shifting paradigm in the way journalism is conducted as a business, and secondly from its public appraisal stemming from dwindling readership, fragmentized broadcast format and credibility issue since the mainstream media are so politicized and heavily commercialized. The media world generally is experiencing a seismic shift. This is not in any way new to the profession as it has always been technology-dependent – all mediated communications are. However, what is new is the rapidity and depth of transformation experienced in the media landscape due in one part to the increasing adoption of internet technology and light mobile telecommunication devices.
AI: How are you able to combine media and education?
WO: Well, there are three dimensions to media and journalism. I am fortunate to have gone through the 3Ds as a practitioner, a researcher and as an educator. It is uncommon to have that combination. As an academician, it is important to allow my research to dictate my teaching and learning activities. It is teaching and learning at the same time because I have a way of including my learners in my research and teaching experience, so I am a part of what I do. That is a dynamic and inclusive model which sustains my approach to media practice and how it is taught.
I will always recommend hard work, good work ethic and passion for what you do. Then, to succeed in a hostile environment like ours, it is better to find hope in a few people who have succeeded despite their lowly background and humble profile.
AI: How long have you been in media? Has the journey been smooth all through?
WO: I have been in the media all my life in one capacity or the other; formal and informal. I need to point out the creative in-born aspect of media which makes it an all comers’ affair in the first place. That is why you see people succeed exceedingly over and above others with formal tutelage in media. Mine can be said to be talent-inclined too. I am a writer – I write for passion, fictional and journalistic. I am a DJ, a radio presenter, an international freelance journalist, a photographer and motion pictures aficionado. I am also a dancer, a music lover and dramatist. I held editorial positions whilst at UI. I was an active member of the Independence Hall (Indy) Press and the UCJ (University Campus Journalists). However, not many people have the opportunity to nurture their talents through formal education. This worked for me. My background was in the sciences, I passed my Physics and Chemistry at credit level and I was an A candidate in Biology. I believe this background informed my orientation and approach to media and journalism work where I combine literary ideas with scientific principles. The transition has not been smooth but it is worthwhile. I was first discovered by my late mother who pressured me into studying literature alongside sciences whilst in senior secondary school and then my late sister-in-law, having read my manuscripts talked me into the reality of life beyond equations. So, I was attending literature classes with Arts students and eventually sat for Literature in English examination in lieu of History or Geography. I am better for it today.
AI: What was it like for you as a starter on this cause?
WO: Not so easy when you have my kind of background where you have to compete for scarce resources. It was difficult to progress without the right ‘connections’ or familial networking. But when you are hardworking and dedicated you could be spotted sooner than later. I will always recommend hard work, good work ethic and passion for what you do. Then, to succeed in a hostile environment like ours, it is better to find hope in a few people who have succeeded despite their lowly background and humble profile. I have a few people like that who have constantly inspired me. I follow their trail to excellence and success.
AI: Journalists are presumed to be low-income earners, what’s your say to this assumption? Smiles.
WO: Journalists are not only low-income earners, they are generally poorly remunerated. I once made £150 for a two minutes reportorial job for Canadian Broadcasting Service as an international freelance multimedia journalist. That was made possible because I have the facility to do the work without even living the comfort of my workstation at home. The internet is there as the backbone of modern digital technologies. But an average Nigerian journalist is still grappling with the problem of internet connectivity. Once you have your organisation’s ID that is your meal ticket – no salary, no office space, no dignity. Why won’t they compromise standard and the ethics of the profession for fat brown envelope? Nigerian journalists are rugged considering the price they have paid to bring democracy back to Nigeria. But mode of ownership constitutes a hindering force to the proper practice in Nigeria and probably elsewhere in the developing countries. With politicians and friends of political office holders as owners of news media platform, the playground can’t ever be so level as to accommodate good pay scales in the sector. Journalists have found moonlighting as a way to cope with the low-income earnings. It is a sorry state.
AI: Considering your years of experience in the university system, would you willingly accept an offer to teach in any Nigerian university, even if it’s part-time?
WO: I am still a part of the Nigerian Higher Education system. I only left on study leave in 2014. I am therefore more likely to be back than not. I strongly wish to be back. There is no place like home. But home should first be made conducive to living by government or else people will have to adopt as a home where they are accepted in lieu of where they belong. The attraction here in Europe or there in Australia, Canada and the United States is strong. Not because of anything so spectacular, but because of the availability of resources to work with and the opportunity to live the most basic life without the constant headache and unnecessary prayers to access the most basic amenities in the society. These amenities come at a huge cost, but the fact that they are there once you have the means is just so satisfying and alluring. You don’t have to steal or murder to live your basic life.
AI: How do you rate this administration on education?
WO: This administration and others before it, have not done enough to improve the sector. Everyone is only interested in the private side of the business. Public primary and secondary education are in comatose. Governments have only been paying lip service to the problems therein? The bedrock of a society is its public education. But it seems there is a grand design from the FG though its policies to keep the standard of education low to achieve some clandestine goals. It’s more political than otherwise. It takes but a political will to transform any sector. So, the question is why the will is lacking if there are no latent anxiety or apprehension, with regard to progress that will be made by people, who prefer a route through Western education to alleviate poverty and social development through science and technology rather than religious pontifications.
Home should first be made conducive for living by government or else people will have to adopt as a home where they are accepted in lieu of where they belong. The attraction here in Europe or there in Australia, Canada and the United States is strong.
AI: Most Nigerian graduates are often believed to be unemployable, what factor(s) do you think is responsible for this?
WO: There are several factors to consider. Nigerian graduates are confronted with plethora of issues ranging from personal to sociological. Nigerian youths are not the problem, the problem lies with the Nigerian parents and their orientation or worldview. Nigerian parents of the Generation X and the Millennia are materialistic, egocentric and pathetically religious. They wrongfully believe education is the sure road to success and wealth in life. Not that their religiosity isn’t an act of piety but a mere accessing and legitimating tool. Nigerian youths have grown in a hostile environment which have not prepared them for the reality of life beyond Nigeria. They are being forced through university education and are living school as DJs, rap artists, make-up artists and food vendors. They rush them through schools during sessions and holidays and still are lacking in basic life skills, job experience and technical knowledge.
Once they own a laptop or browse the internet, they think they are computer literate. These are people who cannot even type their own long essays and projects. They depend on typists here and there at schools’ business centres. Ask them to prepare PowerPoint or do basic MS Office Excel calculations and broadsheet, you will see their incompetence radiate. They are unemployed because they are waiting for white collar job at blue chip companies. They want to work at the NNPC or Banks or Federal Ministries and agencies because those places are the real deal. They don’t want to teach because they are not patient enough at school to acquire the subject knowledge or develop the tutor skills. They have been singing too earlier in life on how their shoes will hit a high note on the paved terrace once they go to school. Our youthful population is heavy now. But most of them want money not job.
A few are being creative to be self-sustained as business owners. But this must go beyond buying and selling. There is market for Nigerian goods and artisans. I have introduced a number of Nigerian made goods to the Western market using the Etsy ecommerce platform. I believe when parents are properly educated, the young people will be properly guided. There is nothing bad in being a mechanic or a shoemaker or a tailor. We must evolve a system of education that defocuses university education but prioritizes apprenticeship, life skills and technical proficiency through vocation and entrepreneurship.
AI: Do you consider Nigerian universities fit to compete globally when it comes to facilities and quality education?
WO: Nigerian universities compete where? Please don’t go there! What facilities, internet or laboratory resources; library access to archival materials and databases or what? Nigerian universities are good universities, don’t get me wrong. But ours aren’t competing with any world class universities, not even in South Africa.
AI: What suggestions would you give to help upgrade our education system?
WO: Declare a state of emergency in the sector.
Many thanks for your time!