Reuben Abati, chairman, editorial board of The Guardian newspapers, is a very brilliant scholar cum journalist who has contributed greatly to nation-building through his unique style of discussing topical issues in his columns.
Abati's approach of using dialogue, narrative, essay and satire to deal with serious national issues has made his columns captivating to many readers. Most of his articles are laced with humour and this makes readers to be carried along. What exactly informed his style of writing?
Abati had a First Class Honours degree in Theatre Arts at the University of Calabar and won the Vice Chancellor's prize as the overall best graduating student of the university in 1985 among several other prizes for academic excellence. At the University of Ibadan where he did his masters and Ph.D in Theatre Arts, he distinguished himself as a university scholar between 1987 and 1990. He completed his Ph.D at the age of 24 within just two years, specialising in Dramatic Literature, Theory and Criticism.
He also did a journalism programme as Hubert H. Humphrey Fellow, College of Journalism, University of Maryland, College Park, United States between 1996 and 1997. And in 1997, he earned an LL.B (Hons) from the Lagos State University, Ojo. The training in these three fields has immensely impacted on his writings.
As a scholar who taught a course on the aesthetics of laughter in the university, Abati finds it easy to use humour to convey his message in a dramatic and impactful manner.
As a columnist, Abati is motivated by happenings within the society and because there is never a dull moment in Nigeria, he finds the task of writing on topical issues very exciting. He is quite aware that columnists are agenda-setters who use the newspaper platform to provide leadership by assisting the public in formulating their own reaction to issues.
Over the years, Abati has won several awards for his well-informed commentaries and professional excellence both nationally and internationally. They include: The Cecil King Memorial Prize for Print Journalist of the Year, 1998; The Diamond Award for Media Excellence for Informed Commentary, 1998; Fletcher Challenge Commonwealth Prize for Opinion Writing, 2000; and Diamond Award for Media Excellence for Informed Commentary, 2000.
Abati who was a university teacher between 1985 and 1996 found it very easy to transit from the academia to journalism because both as a student and lecturer, he was consistently contributing articles to virtually all the leading Nigerian newspapers. From 1989 to 1991, he was contributing editor, Hints and Channele, both Lagos based romance magazines. He also freelanced during the period for The Guardian, Daily Sketch, Democrat, Nigerian Tribune and Daily Times. Between 1994 and 1995, he was contributing editor, Hearts, a romance magazine which he assisted in setting up. For eight months he maintained two columns under a pseudonym.
But before Abati went into journalism on a full-time basis, he was having a promising career in the academia. He was a graduate assistant, Department of Theatre Arts, University of Benin, 1985-1986 where he served as a member of the National Youth Service Corps, NYSC. While pursuing higher degrees at the University of Ibadan between 1986 and 1990, he was a teaching assistant in the "Premier University." Immediately after the completion of his Ph.D in 1990, he was appointed Lecturer II at the Department of English, Ogun State University.
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