• Wednesday, May 22, 2024
businessday logo


Rotimi Sankore: The Multi-platform, Cross-Continent Journalist Who Motivated Young People


Hillary Nnoruka

When Rotimi Sankore felt repeatedly ill in 2022, he assumed it was malaria, which is common in Nigeria.

He experienced joint pains, and the initial diagnosis from a General Practitioner was arthritis. Treatment for the ailment did not make the pain go away, prompting the seasoned journalist and health advocate to seek a second opinion. “Out of curiosity, I said, ‘Let’s do all the tests and find out,’” he told Nigeria Info in July 2023. Subsequent tests revealed he was battling prostate cancer, leading him to start a challenging course of chemotherapy treatment. Sankore died on Friday, 12 April 2024, aged 55.

Born in Lagos on 5 June 1968 and christened Rotimi Johnson, Sankore worked across continents and multiple media formats, leading groups promoting journalism practice, human rights, good governance, and gender equality.

He was the Executive Director/Editor-In-Chief of the Africa Centre for Development Journalism. He was also the editorial board chair of the Nigeria Info radio group and the founding Editor-in-Chief of Africa Human & Social Development Information, which pioneered data and statistics for journalism and policy advocacy during the UN Millennium Development Goals era (2000 – 2015).

In the 1990s, Sankore was the pioneer editor of the Belgium-based International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) website for African journalists. He worked with The Guardian UK, Global Index on Censorship, Mail & Guardian (South Africa), the New African magazine, The Journalist (UK), and New African Woman. He lived and worked abroad for 20 years before returning to Nigeria. In Nigeria, the deceased worked with and contributed to Guardian Newspapers and the now-defunct The News & Tempo magazines.

Sankore had a stint as a broadcast journalist, hosting The Public Square on Nigeria Info 99.3 FM Lagos. The show focused on democracy, development, governance, and public policy. He inspired several young people who joined the ‘talk station of the Nation’ at the turn of the newest decade. His tutorship extended to the staff of Nigeria Info’s sister stations, Wazobia FM and Cool FM, which form part of the AIM group of 14 radio stations spread across Nigeria. Young staff talk about how he would call and spend up to an hour on the phone, sharing journalism insights and encouraging them.

His development advocacy includes consultancy and project lead work on partnership projects with UNFPA, UNAIDS, WHO, the Geneva-based Global Partnership for Maternal, Newborn & Child Health, the Africa Development Bank, and the African Union Commission. He also coordinated the Africa 15 percent Plus Campaign on Development & Health Financing, chaired by South African democracy and rights advocate Archbishop Desmond Tutu, a Nobel Peace Prize Laureate.

Sankore is survived by his daughter, mother, and brother. The family will announce funeral arrangements in due course.