It has been rain of congratulatory messages for associate editor and multiple award-winning journalist with The Nation, Olatunji Ololade, who emerged as winner of the 2021 Fetisov Journalism Awards (FJA)’s Outstanding Contribution to Peace category.
Ololade, who is the only Nigerian among the 12 winners of the award chosen from 400 stories from 80 countries, won with his story “The Boys Who Swapped Football for Bullets”.
The story highlights the horror of life as a child insurgent and the need for a more humane approach to the Federal Government deradicalisation programme for child insurgents via the Operation Safe Corridor. The Operation Safe Corridor is Nigeria’s home-grown programme for providing child recruits with a voluntary exit route from Boko Haram.
The scheme, hitherto, restricted to incarceration and hostile debriefing of former child soldiers/insurgents, is been re-evaluated and greater attention is paid to PTSD issues experienced by the ex-child insurgents
His story came top ahead of other contenders, including Haris Rovèanin and Albina Sorguè from Bosnia, Herzegovina and Ali Al Ibrahim (Sweden), and Khalifa Al Khuder (Syria) who clinched the second and third prizes respectively in the category.
Ololade clinched the cash prize of CHF100,000 Swiss francs and a unique silver statuette designed and handcrafted in Switzerland.
Lagos State Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu commended Ololade for winning the prestigious award and for putting the state on the global map with the outstanding feat recorded.
The Lagos State Commissioner for information, Gbenga Omotoso, who spoke on behalf of the governor said: “On behalf of the governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, and all members of the Lagos State Executive Council, we congratulate Olatunji Ololade and the entire family of The Nation.
“We feel very proud that of all the people (journalists) who applied to be examined for that award, he came top in his category.
“For his work to be adjudged as the best, he deserves kudos. It shows his level of training, seriousness and expertise. We are indeed very proud of him. For someone who has been plying his trade in Lagos for quite some time, I see some similarities in the resilience that Lagos is well noted for and in the resilience that Ololade has displayed for writing such a great story.
“He is a serial-award winner and a thorough-bred professional, and we congratulate him for this remarkable feat. This award is not just for Ololade alone, it is for all journalists in Nigeria. It shows that Nigerian journalists can stand side-by-side with their colleagues anywhere in the world to produce great works.
“I congratulate the management of The Nation, and most especially for encouraging reporters, for encouraging good journalism and writing.”
Also, the Convener of DAME awards, Lanre Idowu, in his congratulatory message, said Ololade’s feat is a validation of the quality work he is known for.
“This is a good feat. It is a validation of the quality work that Olatunji Ololade is known for, and he has won numerous awards in various categories.
“Going international for more recognition is a way of validating the track record he is already known for. We wish him well, and we hope he won’t rest on his oars, but he will continue to produce more quality works.”
Veteran actress Taiwo Ajai-Lycett described Ololade as a brilliant journalist with an amazing repository of knowledge.
She said: “He is a very uncommon man; a special man and I am excited that his talents are greatly rewarded. He is an unassuming, cerebral journalist and that is wonderful. He is also a devout and proper man. He is brilliant. I am excited for him that he’s being recognised both locally and internationally. Some of us know his gift. He is very diligent, hardworking and dedicated to his craft.
“Ololade is dedicated to the pursuit of knowledge. In Nigeria where people are arrogant and full of themselves, Ololade has chosen to be a gentleman. He is a proper Omoluabi.
“If we can have many persons like Ololade in the field of journalism, which is the fourth estate of the realm, digging and reporting facts, we can turn this country around for good.”
In 2020, Ololade’s investigative series on sex trafficking of Nigerian girls across West Africa: 21st Century Slaves, was also shortlisted for the Outstanding Investigative Reporting Category of the Fetisov awards.
Ololade who is a recipient of thirty-five (35) awards for journalism excellence, won all his awards with The Nation.
Some of the awards include: CNN/Multichoice African Journalist of the Year Award, West Africa Media Excellence Conference and Awards (WAMECA), Wole Soyinka Prize for Investigative Journalism (WSCIJ), Diamond Awards for Media Excellence (DAME), UN/Migration Reporting Awards, Rotary Humanitarian Journalism Awards and the Nigerian Media Merit Award (NMMA).