YINKA Craig, iconic broadcaster, one of Nigeria’s shining lights in sports journalism, an articulate compere and a detribalised Nigerian, died on September 23, aged 60. He was an amiable man who distinguished himself in his chosen career, for close to 40 years and who, in the process became a mentor to many.
Widely regarded as a role model, Craig, a man of many parts, lost his spirited battle of over 18 months with cancer of the lymphatic systems at a clinic in Rochester, Minnesota in the United States of America. He approached the illness with the same attributes for which he was known: courage and dignity. Coming shortly after the death of celebrated musician Sunny Okosuns, who also died of cancer, and disturbing reports of the spread of cancer-related ailments affecting prominent Nigerians, Craig’s death has again raised public concern about cancer, its treatment and the need for early diagnosis.
Early in life, Craig had planned to study Sociology preferrably to the Ph.D level in the United States and stay there as a lecturer, but fate had his path cut out for him in broadcasting. He joined the Nigerian Broadcasting Corporation (now Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria) in 1967 as a studio operator. He rose to the limelight as a sports commentator and analyst in the 1980s while on the staff of the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA). A very well-informed commentator, he was one of the most travelled broadcast journalists of his time. Craig later confessed that he had to give up sports analysis in order to diversify his talents. That decision brought out the best in him as a multi-talented professional.
Following his voluntary retirement from the NTA in 1990, he went into packaging private corporate documentaries just as he was involved in information technology (IT) and computer operations, through his marketing communications outfit, Yinka Craig and Associates. He remained actively involved in television programming and soon became famous for his presentation of Newsline, a highly regarded news magazine feature on television. Later, Craig also served as the main anchor of AM Express, an early morning show that is laced with freshness and originality. Craig impressed viewers with his encyslcopaedic grasp of varied subjects and inimitable presentation style.
He never quite realised his dream of studying sociology or obtaining a Ph.D; although in later life he had tried to return to school, he was a self-made man who developed himself so well and rose to the peak of his career. A jolly good fellow from a popular family in Abeokuta, Ogun State, he was always at ease playing the guitar, the piano or the sax. In no small measure did he add value to the entertainment sector in the country. As the attestation goes, he was a charming, nice person to relate or work with. Easy-going, his presence was dignifying as he carried himself with so much respect.
The Chairman of the Sports Writers Association of Nigeria, Lagos chapter, Niyi Oyeleke, has observed that Craig valued the virtues of accountability and transparency. The former Director-General of the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC), Danladi Bako sees in him “one of the most effervescent broadcasters in Nigeria…who knows a bit about everything and everything about a bit.” Craig, the Federal Government observed in a statement, impacted positively on many Nigerians.
He deserves these accolades and more, and even more instructive was the passion and concern that his illness generated when it became public knowledge. Individuals, groups and corporate entities offered to contribute to Craig’s huge medical bills and did so. The Ogun and Lagos State Governments in particular were among the most generous contributors to the Yinka Craig fund, with the latter donating as much as N15 million, and promising to give the departed a befitting burial. That Nigerians can be so caring and generous is reassuring.
In Craig’s case, as in other instances, medical help had to be sought abroad eventually. Medical facilities in Nigeria are inadequate. This is a persistent challenge that governments at all levels must address. Yinka Craig’s life should inspire the young ones in our society who are easily discouraged, who are tempted to imagine defeat in every situation and who are forever tempted to cut corners where hard work is required.
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