Thanks to Funmi Aderinto who must be a daughter or goddaughter of the late Chief Joe Oroye, the ace photographer at Media Trust Ltd, publishers of Daily Trust and sister publications, all those who worked with or came to know the late photographer were made aware of the first anniversary of his passage and something else beyond that. A Media Trust WhatsApp platform is gladly splashing the link. But, first, the late Chief.
It is not clear whether it is his racy personality or professionalism that endeared him to others but he had presence in the newsroom to which he always returned in the late afternoon to produce his shots. He had the habit of exclaiming something that sounds ‘ire’ which became his signature tune.
He was clearly not a product of the post Cold War journalistic orientations in Nigeria, belonging rather to those who rose through the ranks and mastered all the intricacies of the trade. Their strength lay not in “long grammar” but in technical sophistication.
Their types are better appreciated by journalists who go on to work as political appointees, mostly as media adviser to political office holders. Government House photographers work under such journalists. Such journalists are unlikely to have much trouble with the likes of the late Chief Oroye because they know what an angle means, what a real action picture means and appreciate pictures that speaks to the history or memories around any official functions. As such, they are a contrast to those who might have even entered the job with a diploma but have not internalised the tricks involved. They can bring to a media adviser a thousand pictures from the many engagements of the governor or president on a busy day but out of which only two or so may have any ‘meaning’.
That is never going to be the case with an Oroye or an Umoru Ibrahim or a Pius Ekpei. Ekpei cannot have been functioning in AFP with iconic pictures if he didn’t have the quality of training he has. Umoru Ibrahim who must still be alive moved on to become the editor of one of the Triumph newspaper publications, obtaining a PhD from Bayero University, Kano eventually. There must be many of their types in The Presidency, the News Agency of Nigeria, (NAN) and similar spaces of journalistic concentration in Nigeria, doing great jobs by any standards. That is, however, not to say that Nigeria has great departments of Mass Communications, Fine Arts and the likes in the polytechnics and universities, training Philosopher-photographers. And any country needs such in the age in which visuals have become a major site in the discursive constitution of the global. One shot can make all the difference in favour of or against war, for example.
So, Funmi Aderinto does Nigeria and Nigerian journalism a great service by reminding us all of the first anniversary of Chief Oroye’s passage and, by implication, drawing collective attention to the imperative of filling that gap. It all boils down to having an education industry that is simply equipped in terms of the curriculum, the quality of the teachers and the knowledge delivery arrangement. Certainly, this is not too much for Nigeria to accomplish as soon as it can get its acts together.