|Veteran Journalist & Politician, Chief Segun Osoba|
Alhaji Babatunde Jose, former chairman and the first Nigerian managing director of the Daily Times is one man who can say “Segun is my beloved son in whom I am well pleased” and no one would accuse him of blasphemy for this religious parody. He was the one who recruited Segun Osoba into the Daily Times, discovered something special in him, nurtured him and fortuitously made him editor of the Daily Times triggering off a crisis within the Daily Times where Jose was an emperor.
In writing about the newspaper years of Segun Osoba, the natural person to start off with is Alhajii Jose, the man who was Osoba’s mentor; inspiration, and newspaper father. He is one man whose name keeps echoing in the pages of this book showing the depth to which he has influenced Nigerian journalism. Without any doubt, Alhaji Jose is ‘Nigeria’s most influential journalist of his generation. He is what you call a journalist’s journalist. He belongs to the vanishing breed of old journalists who never went to the university, but made success of journalism by dint of hard work, passion and self-development.
“I am proud to say that I found myself in Segun when I was a reporter. The professional values, the way I would behave, the initiative I would take, the way I would react to events, I found it all in Segun. Professionally, he was my beloved son in whom I was very pleased. There was no doubt about that”.
|Alhaji Babatunde Jose...The man who saw what many failed to see in Chief Segun Osoba....|
Jose is the first to admit: “I myself have not been to a university to study but 1 developed myself through reading such that if you ask me now what book 1 am reading, I will tell you the title of the book and when I started reading it”. He is the author of the newspaper memoir, ‘Walking The Tight Rope’ which is an account of Jose’s lift and times in the Daily Times, an institution that has seen the best and the worst of times. Below, Jose, the great media icon captures the newspaper years of his beloved media son, Osoba and probably his heir-apparent:
“I knew James Olusegun Osoba when we were looking for bright young men with a good mastery of English. Young men with credit in school certificate English. Young men with a flair for the profession. Young men who had incisive minds. Young men who are probing. Young men who are observant and who would make journalism their first love. We invited these young men for an interview and after the interview panel had interviewed them, I intervened to ask the young men my own set of questions aimed at testing their love for journalism. One of the questions was: “If you are going home, if you leave the office at 8p.m. at the end of a day’s job and you are going to your fiancé and on Carter Bridge, you come across the story of a man who had jumped down the bridge into the lagoon in a suicide bid, what would you do?” Someone said: “Well, I would go to the nearest telephone” I asked a second question: “If you are making love with your wife and you hear a bang outside followed by a scream, what would you do?”
|Aremo Segun Osoba....Nigeria's Best Journalist?|
Another answer I got was: “Oh, I would disengage. Then I would take a shower” But Osoba said: “I won’t shower. I would just put on my pants and trousers and go”
Another question: “If your wife is sick, is expecting a baby, and in the morning as you are about to leave home for an urgent journalistic assignment, she starts groaning, what would you do?” One young man said: “I would take her to the hospital”. Another said: “I would hire a car and take her to the hospital. Then after she has given birth I would go for my assignment”
|Mike Awoyinfa & Dimgba Igwe, Authors, 'Segun Osoba: The Newspaper Years'|
Obviously one would have sympathy for the man who would call a cab and take his wife to the hospital but on the other hand I would tell the man that: “You are not a nurse, why do you have to wait at the hospital after taking her there?” I was that harsh in my assessment of people’s attitude to work. Overall, Segun topped the list of those who were impersonal, who showed that the love for work transcends personal conveniences. He was that kind of man. I myself have not been to a university to study but I developed myself through reading. I like reading to such an extent that if you ask me now what book I am reading, I will tell you the title of the book and when I started reading it.
|L-R: The Authors in rare pose with the GDA (M)|
Another question we asked the young men was: “What book are you currently reading?” We asked all of them but many of them could not remember what book they were reading. But Segun remembered the book, gave the title and the author and could even discuss the book. That qualified him eminently above others for recruitment. He came in among the first batch of reporter trainees-himself, Dipo Ajayi and Femi Sonaike. The three of them had GCE Advanced level certificates then. They were about going to the university but I persuaded them not to. So they came in as trainee reporters. The trainee would be attached to a reporter. The reporter would write his own report and the trainees would write their own report for their trainer. But we found that Osoba’s reports were better and more detailed than the reporter he was accompanying. The Daily Times depended more on his stories than the reporter whom he accompanied. He distinguished himself as a reporter to watch.
|Mike & Dimgba....Their life is Book and Journalism...|
He quickly developed the cynicism of a journalist. He would not take anything for granted. He would test information. He would crosscheck information. He would not rush to press with unverified stories. He was meticulous in investigating stories, in gathering stories and he wrote with flair. He wrote in such a way that he was readable.
The Osoba Reporter…
|Aremo Segun Osoba with late Sage Chief Obafemi Awolowo and first Nigerian Civilian President Shegu Shagari|
After six months those who did not make it were weeded out and those who made it, we gave them money to buy typewriters. Osoba was the ubiquitous reporter who was everywhere with his scooter. He was a man about town, who knew a lot of people.
He had a telephone at home even in those days that such facility was considered as a luxury and with it he was able to build a network of news sources and contacts. A good reporter must have contacts. For every story you must know whom to link up with to get you more facts on the story.
|One-on-One with Tabloid King & Co-Author, 'Segun Osoba; The Newspaper Years' Mike Awoyinfa|
He used to be called James but dropped that name either on nationalistic grounds or because he found that three names are too long for a byline. For the first two months they were posted to the newsroom where they took assignments from the news editor and they would write their stories in duplicate. One would be given to the news editor and the second would be given to their journalism teacher. The following day, they would compare their original manuscripts with the published version. If you failed to ask some key questions you would be asked to go back to find answers to those unasked questions. That was the kind of practical training they got.
|Co-Author, 'Segun Osoba: The Newspaper Years', Dimgba Igwe of blessed memory speak with the GDA|
At that time, we were using them mainly for the Sunday Times. Later on we put them on the daily paper so that they can work under pressure. Segun was very enterprising as a reporter. Very, very enterprising. And brave.
How Osoba broke the Murthala Coup…
|Late General Murthala Mohammed... His Coup changed Aremo Segun Osoba's journalism career|
One incident that illustrates his bravery was the day of the Murtala Mohammed coup. I used to leave home for office at 6.45 every morning as the managing director and chairman of Daily Times. I was living at Ikoyi. By 7 o’clock I would be at my desk listening to the BBC. That day somebody rang me that there was a coup. So I jumped out. Of course, I had finished my prayers. Segun and Emmamuel Adagogo Jaja were already in the office and together we produced the Evening Times of that day to reflect the fact that there had been a change of government. Martins lroabuchi, the editor of the Evening Times joined us later.
|General Olusegun Obasanjo...Deputizes Late General Murthala Muhammed|
From the newsroom we went to the production room. It was in the days of hot metal setting. I cast the headline and we stood on our feet till the paper came out at noon. After producing the evening paper, we all left the office to go home and refresh. The telephone exchange had been switched off by the coup plotters so that nobody could telephone or communicate with anybody. But Osoba, the reporter, drove to Yaba to meet General Emmanuel Abisoye who was then living in Yaba. On getting to his house at about 4 p.m., he was just coming from the Supreme Council meeting, and he, being a friend, gave Osoba details of what had transpired. That Murtala Mohammed had been chosen as the new head of state and Olusegun Obasanjo as the second-in- command. Admiral Wey, then Chief of Naval Staff, had been retired. He gave Osoba the rundown on the decision they took at their first meeting. Osoba then rushed back to the office with the hope of writing the story. By the time he got to the office, it was about six o’clock and curfew started at six. So he was in a dilemma.
|Chief Segun Osoba: The Journalist-Politician with ex-CJN, Justice Musdapher|
The evening paper had earlier been produced and everybody had gone home. The editor of the Daily Times Areoye Oyebola had called a meeting of the staff and said there was a curfew, so everybody should go home. So Osoba came back to meet an empty office. He was then deputy editor. He couldn’t produce the paper. The whole of the Daily Times was ringed by soldiers.
There was no telephone. It was not the era of GSM. What would he do to get approval to announce Murtala Mohammed as the new head of state? And at that time, Daily Times was fighting Murtala Mohammed over Akindele. Murtala was Minister of Communication under General Yakubu Gowon. He had then just awarded the contract for a telephone exchange in Nigeria to the late Chief M.K.O. Abiola’s ITT, against the advice of the permanent secretary, Akindele. And Daily Times took a position in support of Akindele’s advice. And we were writing stories to that effect. For the man that we had been attacking to now become head of state, Osoba found himself in a dilemma.
|The Authors/Tabloid Gurus, Mike Awoyinfa & Dimgba Igwe with the GDA|
An idea came to him to collect some of the copies of the first edition and to be giving them out to soldiers. Along the route, he was giving copies to the soldiers until he got to Ikoyi to come and tell me what he had heard and to seek authority to produce the paper, since the editor had left for home. I asked him how he got here in spite of the heavy security checkpoints and he told me he came with copies of the first edition, which he used in softening up the soldiers to allow him pass. I was very impressed, so I decided to go with him to the office. Two of us came and we changed the front page and back page of the paper for the following morning. You can just imagine the embarrassment if we had been the only paper that did not announce Murtala Mohammed as the new head of state. Osoba, again, saved the day. His story did not just announce the appointment of Murtala Mohammed as the new head of state but gave a detailed report that contained other decisions taken by the Supreme Military Council based on what his source had told him. The papers in the provinces like Observer, Herald all had the story of Murtala Mohammed on their front pages, because the curfew did not extend to their own areas and the new head of state had made a broadcast in the evening which they carried. So, for the Daily Times to have missed the story would have been seen as a continuation of the fight with Murtala Mohammed.
|Chief Segun Osoba....The Journalist-Politician (With Ex-Jigawa State Governor Sule Lamido)|
My two editors, Areoye Oyebola (editor, Daily Times) and Gbolabo Ogunsanwo (editor, Sunday Times) later came to the office. They strolled in around 10 and 11 o’clock in the morning. That got me angry. I couldn’t understand why they should come late to the office on the day of a coup. Oyebola, editor of the daily compounded it by now dismissing everybody to go home on account of a curfew, whereas journalists are expected to sleep in the office and produce the paper at such a critical period of our national history.
|Late Alhaji Babatunde Jose....Denied Osoba a University degree in order to allow academic take him away from journalism|
I am proud to say that I found myself in Segun when I was a reporter. The professional values, the way I would behave, the initiative I would take, the way I would react to events, I found it all in Segun. Professionally, he was my beloved son in whom I was very pleased. There was no doubt about that. His greatest scoop was when he found the body of the assassinated Prime Minister Tafawa Balewa during the first coup of 1966. It was a great story by any standard and it boosted the image of the Daily Times.
Why Osoba had no University Degree…
|Chief Segun Osoba; Had no University Education but made best feat in Journalism (With his family in this Pics)|
It is true I did not encourage Osoba to go to the university, although at that same period we gave scholarships to others like Agbeke Ogunsanwo to go to the university. In the case of Segun Osoba we found that what he needed was to strengthen his journalistic ability. And to make up for the university education, we sent him on a short-time course at Oxford University under the auspices of the Commonwealth Press Union because if he stayed too long, he may forget his journalism and embrace academics. The idea was to let him improve himself through association, through seminars and workshops. And, he did just that.
|Back of the Book & 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 phone Mrs. Gloria Oriakwu on 080-33-44-5125)