|The GDA (M) with the Authors of 'Segun Osoba; The Newspaper Years' Mike Awoyinfa & Dimgba Igwe|
Peter Enaboro, a Nigerian newspaper icon was 23 when he became the editor of the Sunday Times. That makes him the youngest man to edit a national newspaper in Nigeria. From the Sunday Times, he moved up to edit the Daily Times; taking over from the great Alhaji Babatunde Jose. In his heyday Enahoro made a name for himself with his Peter Pan column. He went into voluntary exile in 1966 following Nigeria’s second coup when he felt his life was in danger. The exile lasted 26 years. In England he edited respectable magazines like New African and Africa Now. As a reporter in the Daily Times, Segun Osoba worked under Enahoro. Here, Enahoro reminisces on his newspaper life and on Osoba, the young go-getting reporter with a passion for getting exclusive stories:
“Segun Osoba was my reporter at the Daily Times. I remember him as a passionate, go-getting, indefatigable reporter with a sharp nose for news and the luck of being at the right place at the right time. In the time of Alhaji Babatunde Jose as editor of the Daily Times, if you were a reporter, you could be sent to cover anything. But when I took over from Alhaji Jose as editor, I categorized reporting into beats. Segun went into politics as a political reporter. And here, he proved himself as a reporter with a sharp nose for news. He broke big stories. He was usually at the right place at the right time.
|Elder Peter Enahoro|
From the start, I identified him as a star reporter. I wrote him a letter of commendation earlier in his career, around 1964, expressing satisfaction with his work and predicting that he would go far in journalism. And, of course, he went far at the editorial and management level, culminating in managing the Herald, the Sketch and eventually the Daily Times.
|Osoba the Reporter with late Sage, Chief Obafemi Awowolo & Osoba the Politician with Nigeria's first civilian President, Alhaji Shehu Shagari|
Osoba’s defining moment as a reporter was during the first coup in Nigeria. I remember on the day of the coup that claimed Prime Minister Tafawa Balewa’s life, a naval officer and some others were gathered in my house and Segun came. It was from him that it was confirmed to me that Balewa was dead. He told me that Balewa had been killed and that he knew where his body was. And I said, “Alright, go and get Peter Obe and two of you, go to the spot and take a photograph.”
That was the morning of the coup when we were all listening to Radio Ghana because Radio Nigeria was out of the air. That was the kind of reporter Osoba was. He was very resourceful, very quick. Because this was a matter of hours after Balewa was murdered, and Ifeajuna who did it had fled the country through
|The Book by Mike Awoyinfa & Dimgba Igwe which mirrored Aremo Segun Osoba's life as a Visionary Newsman|
Idiroko border to Ghana. For Osoba to get the news a little past midday shows how quick he was as a reporter. A good reporter must be smart, on the spot, quick, all the time on the ball. A good reporter associates with his source, the way a detective would. I was never a reporter. But from what I have seen, a good reporter sticks like a leech to his contacts. And Osoba has contacts all over the place. And he is quick. The day he discovered the body of the late Prime Minister, Tafawa Balewa and Okotie Eboh in 1966, the Sunday Times printed about 500,000 copies and they sold. That story was a turning point in Osoba’s life. It was one of the stories that launched him.
Osoba is truly a reporter. As for me, I don’t claim to be a reporter in the sense of Osoba being a reporter.
My claim to fame is column writing. Now, who is a columnist? A columnist is not necessarily a commentator. A columnist is not necessarily an essayist. It’s hard to give a specific, concise definition but a columnist is somebody who has a space to fill and if he has his way, fills it with more than one subject matter.
|The Authors, 'Segun Osoba: The Newspaper Years' Mike Awoyinfa & Dimgba Igwe in their Lagos Library|
Secondly, he expresses opinion, he does not narrate. And I think the difference between narration and commenting is what makes the difference between a columnist and an essayist. When I read some of our so-called columnists now, they start explaining. No. The person who is reading your column ought to have some knowledge of the background of what you are talking about. And he is waiting to know what you have to say. So, don’t start telling him again tediously, all the background to the stuff you are writing on. That’s not it. Be punchy, Come to the point. But you have to find a way of coming to the point without restating the background at length.
|The GDA & Mike Awoyinfa on Journalism|
Our columnists in Nigeria are too tedious, too windy. We wind on and on. The columnist in some papers in Nigeria has been told he has the back page of a paper to fill, so he is trying to fill it. So, he starts saying everything under the sun. Why don’t you take two or three subjects and treat them in a punchy manner? Once in a while, a columnist can be reportorial. Once in a while you will report, but you know you are still reporting with comments. The typical reporter somehow avoids too many comments. He looks for slants. He looks for information. The typical essayist is flowery, a bit windy without being boring. The typical columnist is punchy, to the point and gets on to the next subject. Sometimes, two paragraphs will do.
|The GDA with Dimgba Igwe....On Journalism|
I met one former minister who reminded me about a column I wrote after the first coup. I was summing up my feelings and when it came to Okotie-Eboh, I simply said: “About Okotie-Eboh, all I have to say is speak no ill of the dead”. And I didn’t continue. But he felt it was enough. The meaning was so clear. That’s a columnist’s type of comments. Writing a column can be tedious. People think you are brilliant. But it’s a lie. You are sitting there, trying to crank out something.
|A book written by Peter Enahoro|
To me, the first paragraph is my biggest trouble. If I get away from that first paragraph, it sets the tone for what I am going to say. I throw away many sheets trying to get that first paragraph right because it is going to tell me where I am headed.
After my column, George Sharp, was killed off, I then combined it with Peter Pan. In the beginning, I was the editor of the Daily Times and I was writing editorials that I didn’t really believe in. By which I mean I was writing the official line. I used to preside over editorial meetings in the afternoon and we would discuss the editorial. All the line editors would gather, and then we would decide. And I wrote quite a lot of it. Alhaji Babatunde Jose also wrote.
We had one case. The government wanted to allow people to set up
casinos in Nigeria. The Daily
Times took a line, supporting government that it was good and that the
revenue that would come in would help the economy and all that stuff. I didn’t
agree with it. I saw gangsters coming. Maybe I had read too much about Hollywood and so on and so forth. So I
wrote the editorial of the Daily Times supporting it, and I went to the Peter Pan column and disagreed with the
editorial of the Daily Times, which I happened to have written. Peter Pan spoke my conscience whereas I
had to do my job writing that editorial for the Daily Times.
|Young Aremo Olusegun Osoba & his Beere (M) with other colleagues & their spouses|
|Dimgba Igwe takes GDA through a section of their library|
To succeed, a columnist needs somehow to establish a personality. That means a slight form of specialization.
It’s not one and everything you talk about. Secondly, you must be seen to stand for something. It is important to work hard in life to succeed in anything but success in life is being at the right place at the right time. Everything that has happened to me 60 percent has been the luck of being there at the right time and 40 percent is the work, the effort I put in. Now, let me attempt to look back at my life as a journalist.
I didn’t set out to go into journalism. I came to Lagos after I had left secondary school. I was playing cricket one day with the director of information, Captain Stocker. I didn’t know he was the director of information. He asked me what I was doing and I told him I had just left school. He asked whether I would like to come and work for him. They were looking for secondary school graduates. He asked if I was keen and I said yes. So, I went to see him. They were then trying to bring people into the information service to train them. Previously, people were recruited from the Nigerian press. So, I was the first in the scheme. The plan was to send me to U.K., to the Polytechnic School of Journalism.
Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe was
the premier of the Eastern Region at the time. As at that time (and now also)
the big thing in Nigeria was revenue
allocation. The big issue was: ‘Should
the federal government allocate funds according to the region’s derivation or
should it be by need?’ The richest region in the country was the Western Region because the price of cocoa was very high. It was followed by
the North, which had groundnut and tin from Jos.
The East was the poorest. Its main product was palm nut and then a bit of coal.
Oil hadn’t been found at the time or was not in commercial in quantity. So, Dr.
Azikiwe’s region naturally favored revenue allocation according to
need. That would have meant that the East would get the largest chunk. But the
West, which was the richest, wanted revenue allocation according to derivation
because of its own cocoa wealth. So, Zik
undertook a world tour, which according to him, was to raise funds for the
And when he came back it was my duty as assistant publicity
officer to help arrange the press conference, which he held in Lagos. And at that press conference, he
said that he had been promised funds. He was asked whether when the funds came
he would be prepared to share it according to need or whether he wanted it
shared according to derivation. And Zik, recognizing the needle that was
being plunged into his backside, responded jokingly. In fact he didn’t give a
straight answer. He just said: “Well you
can’t have monkey work then baboon chop”.
|Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe....'The man whose countenance fired Peter Enahoro @ a News Conference'|
|Mike & Dimgba shares a joke with the GDA|
|Mike & Dimgba....'Life is all about Reading & Leading'|
And everybody laughed. And he wanted to pass on to another question. Then, I didn’t quite understand the role of the civil servant that you are to be seen and not heard. So, I put up my hand and then said: “Excuse me sir, I don’t think you have answered the question”. I repeated what the man wanted to know. And I saw the face of my director go completely white because I had broken one of the severest rules of the civil service. I just knew I was in trouble somehow.
So, when the press conference broke up, Abiodun Aloba who was then one of the most powerful columnists in the country and the editor of the Sunday Times caught up with me on the corridor and said that was a very brave performance. He asked: “What are you doing in government? You should be in the press. If you want to be a journalist, this is not the place”
|Aremo Olusegun Osoba...The Journalist-Politician|
I had really not thought of journalism. After my performance at the press conference, I knew I would probably be fired. So, when Aloba asked if I would be interested in working for the Daily Times, I said yes. Within an hour he phoned and said he had arranged an interview with Mr. Percy Roberts, the general manager of Daily Times. I went straightaway to have the interview and Percy Roberts offered me a job as a sub-editor. It was almost a year to the day I started work (at the information service). So, I resigned straightaway that day. Captain Stocker at first refused to accept my resignation. I really didn’t plan to be a journalist. It was by chance.
|Back of the Book reveals the Profile of the Authors|
(Excerpts from the book “Segun Osoba: The Newspaper Years” by Mike Awoyinfa & Dimgba Igwe. To get a hard copy of the book, kindly call Mrs. Gloria Oriakwu on 080-33-44-5125)