Title: Segun Osoba, the Newspaper years,
Publisher: Corporate Biographers Ltd, Lagos, 2011
Authors: Mike Awoyinfa and Dimgba Igwe,
Reviewer: Bayo Ogunmupe
THIS book, Segun Osoba, the Newspaper years is a history of Nigerian journalism from the fifties to 2011. It is more than a biography of Chief Osoba, the Araba of Yewa. Osoba’s Newspaper years is the golden age of Nigerian journalism. It started in the 1950s, it has not ended yet for he might spring the surprise of founding a newsmedia of his own. The Osoba era of the Nigerian journalism saw the media soar to its highest, giving birth to patriachs like Babatunde Jose, Lateef Jakande, Adamu Ciroma and Alade Odunewu.
This showcases Osoba as a great reporter and turnaround manager. In his career, Osoba blazed the trails of Nigeria’s media history encapsulated in this volume. This volume isn’t only Osoba’s literary compendium, this book is merely a foil used to tell the larger history of the Nigerian media. Thus, no one who wants a niche in journalism can afford to ignore this treasure-trove of media directory. Laced with intrigue, professional technique and power play, Osoba’s Newspaper years makes captivating reading.
The authors, Mike Awoyinfa and Dimgba Igwe, media gurus by themselves, paint Osoba as a deserving dean of twentieth century journalism in Nigeria. Their book which opens with a prologue captioned, in the search of the reporter contains five parts, 22 chapters and 400 pages. Other matters enclosed in the book include 12 pages of outstanding acquaintances of Chief Osoba in pictures. Of course, the pictures include those of Osoba and his family of one wife and six children, his meetings with U.S. Presidents Ronald Reagan and George Bush Jnr, Presidents Shehu Shagari and Umar Yar’Adua of Nigeria and Chhief Obafemi Awolowo.
Osoba is introduced as the quintessential reporter with his core competency as news reporting. In a profession that is stingy on praise, Osoba enjoys an accolade from his peers as the “reporter’s reporter.” As the archetypal reporter, Osoba strode the media as colossus: he became editor of Lagos Weekend and the Daily Times. Moreover, he distinguished himself as a media turnaround manager of the state owned Nigerian Herald of Ilorin, Daily Sketch of Ibadan. He turned these drain-pipes into cash cows that were not only self-supporting but profitable. Thus, Osoba’s pivotal position in newspapering is as a reporter, he is so crucial to the media because news reporting is the soul of journalism.
In part one of this book are listed seven patriarchs, from Babatunde Jose, through Alade Odunewu, Sam Amuka-Pemu, Henry Odukomaiya and Prince Tony Momoh. In Osoba’s Newspaper years, the natural prologue begins from Alhaji Jose, the patriarch of the Daily Times, the man who recruited Osoba, nurtured him and made him editor of Daily Times. Without doubt, Jose was the most influential journalist of his generation, derided and feared to the extent that they killed his Daily Times.
“Remember there are two sides to a story. You don't just listen to one side and draw a conclusion. That is unprofessional. You should as a reporter look at your code of conduct. I think there are eight or more points in the code of conduct. A reporter who can avoid those booby traps, all those no-go areas, would be a damn good reporter. Osoba in my estimation was a damn good reporter.” That is the view of Alade Odunewu, former editor of Daily Times, and chairman, Nigerian Press Council. The hallmark of a good reporter, according to Odunewu, is the ability to give opportunity to various sides of the story and at the same time come out with an incisive report.
Odunewu met Osoba at the Times. Both were employees of the paper but as an older professional Odunewu assesses his colleague as a great reporter, one who breathes journalism. He oozes news. He smells news. In the opinion of Odunewu, Osoba is the type of person he would ask to write a memoir: “News reporting All My Life.”
Odunewu’s forte in journalism was and still is column writing. His pen name is Allah-de meaning God almighty exists, who sees through all human actions and motives. Allah-de said the foregoing to explain Osoba’s devotion to news gathering. To Osoba getting news was a way of life, a life-long devotion to duty.
Prince Tony Momoh is a dean of Nigerian journalism. After editing the Daily Times he went on to become Times General Manager from where General Ibrahim Babangida appointed him Information Minister. “I never saw Segun touch alcohol or cigarette as a journalist,” was his assessment of Osoba who was his contemporary at the Daily Times. At the Times, Momoh remembers Osoba as the ebullient, scooter-riding colleague who was always dashing through the newsroom with well-crafted exclusive news copies. Momoh was a sub-editor while Osoba was a reporter. Eventually, Momoh edited the Times immediately after Osoba’s six month stint. Then Osoba went to Kwara State to manage the Nigerian Herald as General Manager. A few years later he moved to the state owned Daily Sketch in Ibadan.
However, a recognisation of the Times after federal government acquisition produced Momoh as general manager and Osoba as managing director. Within the same year, Momoh was appointed Minister of Information. I was a sub editor on the Times at the time, so I witnessed all the drama which led to the demise of the tabloid.
In part two of the five person highlighted in the book, I will mention three. I leave the others for your attention. Dr. Yemi Ogunbiyi was Osoba’s successor as managing director of Daily Times. Ogunbiyi admired Osoba as a turn around media manager. He credited Osoba for turning the Times around from a loss position to a position where the company was beginning to make profit. Ogunbiyi considers Osoba to be very blunt and straightforward. Interestingly, he also revealed how Osoba defeated Moshood Abiola in the election of the position of chairman, Newspaper Proprietors Association of Nigeria. It was the election at which Ogunbiyi won the position of NPAN general secretary. The lesson Ogunbiyi learned from Osoba’s victory was that social contacts are essential for success in business and life. He said Osoba has the mobile number of everybody. That he will give you the number of anyone from his little diary. And as the president of NPAN, Osoba could call the president and arrange a meeting. That was the concern for contacts.
Another academic in journalism is Mrs. Doyin Abiola. She was features editor of the Daily Times when she got a scholarship to go abroad for her doctorate in mass communication, she went on to edit the National Concord and to marry Concord’s billionaire proprietor. In her view of Osoba, she considers Osoba as a daring and resourceful journalist. She said because Osoba is short-tempered, who cannot suffer fools gladly, a trait not permissible in politics, that was the reason people see Osoba as arrogant.
However, for Idowu Sobowale, the professor of mass communication at Covenant University, Osoba was a first class reporter and news gathering is his way of life.
In all, Osoba’s Newspaper years make captivating reading. It is an encyclopaedia of Nigerian journalism, a source book on world politics and a manual on media management. The next level for both the authors and the protagonist is for them severally to create thriving newspapers. They have succeeded in building newspapers for others. The next thing is for them to build their own newspapers.The authors Mike Awoyinfa and Dimgba Igwe revolutionalised newspaering in Nigeria when they created the entertainment genre of journalism with Weekend Concord in 1989. It became the best selling tabloid at the time. They subsequently became the founding managing director and deputy managing director of The Sun newspapers in 2002. They wrote The Art of Feature Writing in 1990, fifty Nigeria’s Corporate Strategists in 1999 and Nigeria’s Marketing Memoirs in 2005. They are the publishers of Sunday Express and Entertainment Ex