Dr. Idowu Sobowale.

Cox Center Director Gives Keynote Speech To Honor Nigerian Scholar Dr. Idowu Sobowale

The topic of the keynote address, the deliverer told the conference in Ago-Iwoye, Nigeria, was chosen to honor Dr. Idowu Sobowale, the head of the Department of Mass Communication at Olabisi Onabanjo University.

The conference itself, attended by more than 200 scholars from around Nigeria, had been designed as a tribute to the career of Dr. Sobowale, who has held numerous positions in government, at universities, and as a journalist in Nigeria.

“It is a true honor to be here today to celebrate with Idowu his birthday and his accomplishments,” Dr. Lee B. Becker said at the beginning of the address. “As all of you know, this is a wonderful man who has done much for his family, for the field of mass communication in Nigeria, in Africa, and in the world, and for Nigeria generally. I’ve chosen as a topic of conversation something I know Idowu cares very much about–media freedom.”

Dr. Becker, director of the James M. Cox Jr. Center for International Mass Communication Training and Research at the University of Georgia, told the audience about research he and his colleagues have conducted on measurement and conceptualization of the media freedom concept.

That research shows, Dr. Becker said, that countries around the world should take seriously how they are classified in terms of the freedom of their media, since media freedom is associated with low levels of governmental corruption, overall levels of prosperity, and even peaceful interactions with neighbors.

Dr. Becker noted that Nigeria has been considered to be a leader in Africa in terms of the feistiness and freedom of its media, but it is still considered only partially free by international organizations that have evaluated its media system. The United States, he acknowledged, also has been criticized for violations of media freedom, particularly in occupied Iraq.

The conference was held March 31 and April 1 in the building that houses the Department of Mass Communication on the main Ago-Iwoye campus of Olabisi Onabanjo University in Ogun State, just north of Lagos. Dr. Sobowale had turned 68 on March 29.

The conference theme was Media, Governance and Development in Africa.

Prior to the keynote address, colleagues in the Department of Mass Communication presented Dr. Sobowale a citation of his accomplishments, calling him a “living legend.”

The citation noted that Dr. Sobowale was born into a farming family in what is now Ogun State and was expected to take over responsibility for the family farm. Dr. Sobowale did not begin his formal education until the age of 13 and entered the University of Lagos at the age of 29.

After completing his studies at the University of Lagos, Dr. Sobowale moved to the United States, where he was to earn a master’s and then doctorate from the Newhouse School of Public Communications. Dr. Becker served as his mentor and advisor at Syracuse.

Dr. Sobowale returned to Nigeria to become the head of the Department of Mass Communication at the University of Lagos. He also served as dean of the School of Communication at Lagos State University.

Dr. Sobowale has served two terms as special adviser and one term as Commissioner of Education in Lagos State. He also has been a general assignment reporter, war correspondent and acting chief correspondent and held various editorial positions at newspapers in Nigeria. He also was publisher of The Republic and created and managed a consulting firm specializing in public opinion research.

Among Dr. Sobowale’s numerous scientific publications are a book on uses of the scientific method in journalism.

In addition to the keynote address, Dr. Becker also gave a presentation to the conference on research in the Cox Center evaluating the impact of media assistance projects around the world. The day after the conference, he gave a lecture to students at Olabisi Onabanjo University on new sampling methods being used for survey research in the United States.

On April 3 Dr. Becker visited the campus of the University of Lagos where he met briefly with faculty in the Department of Mass Communications and gave an interview to the university’s student-run radio station. Dr. Becker had served as an external examiner in the Department of Mass Communication at the University of Lagos in 1987.

The Cox Center is the international outreach arm of the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Georgia.