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Tolu Olorunnipa is Bloomberg's White House correspondent (photo: Bloomberg.com)
Tolu Olorunnipa is Bloomberg's White House correspondent (photo: Bloomberg.com)

PepNaija Interviews Tolu Olorunnipa, First Nigerian Bloomberg’s White House Correspondent

Tolu Olorunnipa is a Nigerian journalist based in the United States. In fact, he is the first person of Nigerian descent to become the White House correspondent for Bloomberg, a world renowned media organization headquartered in the US. In an EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW with PEP NAIJA, he opened up on his childhood days, challenges as White House correspondent, Nigeria’s democracy and media. And then, his favorite book ever. Enjoy READING.

Growing up, what dream did you have as a child?

I was the only one among my siblings who didn’t know what career I wanted to pursue from an early age. I was drawn to journalism as I followed the news articles and documentary programs that so captivated my parents. I realized the power of journalism to enlighten and to shine a light, uncover wrongdoing, hold the powerful to account and enlighten the people.

I set out to make the dream of becoming a journalist a reality by doing a lot of reading, and practicing my writing skills and then taking short jobs (internships) at various newspapers. That allowed to start working full-time as a journalist in my home state, and helped launch my career.

While I’ve only begun on my journey in journalism, I’ve been fortunate to have some unique experiences, including covering the White House during the presidencies of Barack Obama and Donald Trump. My reporting has taken me to more than 20 countries on five continents.

What support system and tools have helped you in the course of your career? 

I have been fortunate to have various forms of encouragement in my career, including mentors, good professors, internship programs and supportive parents.

Probably the most important factor was the support of my parents, who instilled a love for reading in me from an early age. They would often take me to the library and leave me there for hours among thousands of books. That gave me an insatiable thirst for knowledge that led me to journalism and continues to drive me in my career today.

There are many young talented Nigerians who are in dire need of opportunities back home. What can you say to them?

It is so unfortunate that many of my peers whose talents often exceed my own don’t have the same opportunities that are available here in the U.S. But that doesn’t mean there are no opportunities; it just means that it requires some extra hustle and creativity to excel.

My advice is to view the landscape of challenges through the lens of opportunism, and push hard for the breakthroughs you seek. The market is wide open and ripe for disruption, so if no opportunities open up, look for ways to create new opportunities of your own. Don’t wait. And don’t seek shortcuts

The progress made by Nigeria since return to democracy in 1999 has not been impressive. In your opinion, what do you think is the lasting solution to the nation’s myriad of problems?

I think the solution lies in the human capital of Nigeria, home to some of the most intelligent, creative, industrious and hard-working people in the world. The young generation coming up is particularly full of potential. By cultivating that latent talent, Nigeria can begin to overcome some of the challenges of the past and further diversify its economy to reflect the incredibly diverse skills of its people.

The U.S. was able to invest in its young people through programs like free education, scholarships, volunteer programs and social welfare. It has paid off over the years as those young people grew up to become innovators and job creators.

As a Nigerian journalist working in the US, What is your assessment of Nigeria’s Media?
I’m a big fan of Nigeria’s robust and independent media, which is vital to any democracy. It’s not easy to do the job many journalists are doing in Nigeria, so my hat’s off to them for providing information to the masses on a daily basis.

I love seeing newspapers being bought and sold on the street and in the market, something that doesn’t happen so much here in the U.S. anymore as our newspaper industry has retracted in recent years. My only advice is to keep incorporating the voices of young people in the news coverage, because they are the best sign of how the future will look.

On the average, how many books do you read in a month? Tell us your favorite book and why it is so? 

I don’t get to read as many books as I would like, due to my busy schedule as a reporter, but I read hundreds of news articles every month. I’m lucky if I get to finish one book in a month.

One of my favorite books is “Half of a Yellow Sun” by Chimamanda Adichie. I love all of Adichie’s books, but this one about the Biafran War is especially moving and well-written.

You have been covering the White House, Congress and US politics for years, what can you say has been your biggest challenge so far? 

The biggest challenge is adjusting to the quick-moving pace of the Washington news cycle. As soon as one story starts to settle down, there’s another bombshell to report about. The election of Trump has made this even more challenging. You never know when a tweet is going to upend your day as a reporter.

Considering your tight schedule as Bloomberg’s White House Correspondent, how do you get to relax? 

I hardly get to relax! But one of my favorite things to do is to travel. I hope to visit Nigeria again soon.

By the way, are you the first Nigerian to become Bloomberg’s White House Correspondent? 

To the best of my knowledge, I’m the first person of Nigerian descent to become a White House Correspondent for Bloomberg.

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