|Mike and Dimgba...Authors 'Segun Osoba; The Newspaper Years' with the GDA inside their Lagos Library|
I think I was very lucky in that I met at that time a group of people in the Daily Times who lived the life of journalism. Journalism was more a way of life than a profession. I was just lucky to be in that set. Amongst them were people who had gone on to other things. Sonny Okongwu, Herbert Unegbu, the late Rabo Abaide, Oliver Jackman, Willie and Alex Nwokedi, Peter Osugo, Nelson Ottah, Aig Imoukhuede.
The idea of closing from work and going home didn’t occur to anyone. We often came to work together, eat together, and go out together at night. So, that kept me in the office where I was learning.
|Peter Enahoro....The Man who wanted to leave journalism but was arrested by the News room|
My tenure at the Daily Times was punctured for a year. I left the Daily Times for a year. What happened was that there were no conditions of service, there was no union and I was involved in a protest in fighting for a better condition. The drafting of the protest letter to Cecil King, publisher of the Daily Mirror in England and chairman of the Daily Times took place in my house. We knew he was coming around December when he used to come to pass the budget for the following year. So, we said we would protest. In those days, if you left the Daily Times, you practically felt you had nowhere else to go because the Daily Times was head and shoulders above the rest in terms of service condition.
So we organized this protest. I took the paper and had it typed secretly at the department of information.
|The Book which explained how journalism was practiced in the Osoba Years|
The day Mr. King came, the letters were distributed. It took the senior management completely by surprise. Thirty-three of us signed it. The editor was very, very hurt that it could happen under his nose and he didn’t get a whiff of it. The editor was Gab Idigo. Mr. King looked at it and said: “I don’t recognize any union here.” This was the great socialist from England telling us that we were not a union. He said it was a local affair and that Mr. Roberts should deal with it. He was not going to deal with it. Mr. Roberts then said to the African management: “How could this happen and your people don’t know anything about it?”
A meeting was called and the meeting was extremely rowdy. Gab Idigo was angry. Abiodun Aloba was angry. They all protested that we had disgraced them before the white people, that we didn’t trust them and so on.
|Mike Awoyinfa & Dimgba Igwe, Authors 'Segun Osoba; The Newspaper Years'|
Those were the days when you’ll walk to your editor for pay rise and he would ask you: “What do you young man need money for?” He would just dismiss you from his office. There was no formal leave. You just worked and worked. We said all these things had to be regularized.
|The GDA with the Authors, Mike & Dimgba|
At the meeting, heated words were exchanged between certain people, between Nelson Ottah and Sonny Okongwu in particular. The meeting was suspended when the late Chief Osula who at that time was the only African executive director, said that after what he had heard, he felt the senior management should meet and discuss the letter. That we the young ones had grounds for complaints and he supported us. And that was a very powerful intervention. During the break, there were more quarrel, more arguments. As we assembled and reassembled, they said three people were to be asked to resign. One was Nelson Ottah, the other was Sonny Chu Okongwu and a third person. All this was around 1956. I joined the Daily Times in 1955.
|Peter Enahoro's own book 'How to be a Nigerian'|
So, the three of them were asked to resign. Then the meeting was closed and everybody got up to leave. I started feeling very uneasy. As I said, the protest letter was drafted in my house. I took the letter to the department of information to have it typed out. At that time my brother was the minister of information in the Western region and I just concluded that the only reason I had not been added to the list was because I am Chief Anthony Enahoro’s brother. That was how I felt. I was so guilty that I was not asked to resign. From that day on I was not happy with the Daily Times.
In those days, I used to go and sit in the House of Representatives. My main duty was to cover the foreign news. We didn’t have Reuters at that time. My job was to sit down and listen to the radio and take down notes from BBC broadcast from 7a.m till about 12 noon. After listening to the 12 o’clock news at home, I will then set out for the office to write my story. But when the House of Reps was meeting, usually, after hearing the 8 o’clock news in the morning, I would set out for the House of Reps to go and listen to the debates. I had a motorbike. So, this day, there was a hotel on the way called Grand Hotel. It was the fashion in those days to go there on Wednesdays when they had Mixed Grill. It was a treat. We go there and pretend that we were wealthy to order Mixed Grill. On this day, I sat there and sat there and sat there. I just didn’t want to go to the office. I hated myself for not having resigned. I was confused. So, I just rode my motorbike, after a couple of drinks, at a great speed into the Daily Times compound. And as I looked up, there was Percy Roberts, the Managing Director. I think I was filled with hatred or something. There and then I made up my mind that I would resign. I walked straight past him, went to my desk and started typing my letter of resignation. He came over, saw what I was typing and said to Aig Imokhuede who was the acting editor: “Make sure he hands that in”. I looked up at him and said: “Mr. Roberts, this is serious”. And I resigned and left.
|The GDA and Tabloid King Mike Awoyinfa share a laughter over journalism talk|
After my resignation, I went to Ibadan where I worked briefly as Assistant District Manager for Radiofusion Services. The job was fine and the salary was good. I have always had the luck of earning good salaries, compared to my contemporaries. On this day I was in Lagos, well-dressed in my suit, feeling like a millionaire. I visited the Daily Times and the editorial adviser, an Englishman, Jeffrey Taylor with whom I had worked, looked at me and said: “When are you going to give up this charade and come back to join us? You have a talent and you are wasting your time”.
That deflated me like hell. I thought: ‘here I am, a successful young man, assistant district manager and this man has just deflated me like that’. But I always respond to things like this. So, I said: “Hang on a minute. If I said I wanted to come back to the Daily Times, you won’t have me, would you?”
He said: “Of course, you know very well that we think highly of you. Why waste your talents?” Quite honestly, I never thought I had a talent. I just knew I worked. That’s all. The idea of it being a talent didn’t cross my mind.
|Babatunde Jose....The Man who re-appointed Peter Enahoro|
Alhaji Jose was by now the editor of the Daily Times and Jeffrey Taylor went upstairs to talk to him. Alhaji Jose then called me up and said: “I hear you would like to rejoin the Daily Times. We would be glad to have you back. Your brother, Tony Enahoro, played a role in my career and I would like to have you back”. I went to Ibadan and resigned. Of course, my mother was very distressed. I seemed to be a shiftless person. Every time I had a good position, I would throw it away. She didn’t quite get over the fact that I resigned from the government. So, I came back to the Daily Times and things started to move from then on.
Alhaji Jose picked me to act as chief sub-editor on one occasion when the chief sub-editor at the time was on vacation and I got a letter of commendation from Mr. Roberts. I also got a bonus for the months that the chief sub-editor was away. On his return from vacation, I went back as a sub-editor.
One evening, the features editor was suspended. He was involved in a scandal that one shouldn’t talk about. I happened to be the only one in the office. The senior hands were not around. Alhaji Jose walked into the office and asked whether I could handle the letters page since the features editor was on suspension and no senior hand was around. I said yes, and he asked me to go and select and edit the letters. At that time, before I took it on, it was the practice to publish two or three letters in a page, and I found bundles of letters that had been written and were not published. So, I sat through the night, sifting them out to just two sentences, some one paragraph, to give everybody, as many people as possible a chance. And the reaction was something I didn’t expect. Everybody said: “What a wonderful job!” They said it was interesting to read the letters, that I chose the right letters; some contradicted the others and so on. I turned it into a debate page.
After about a week or so, Alhaji Jose said: “Do you think you can edit the features page as well?” I said I would try. So, again, I was given the file of features and I found the subjects that I thought were current and interesting were usually ignored. Instead, we had this stiff approach to features. The Daily Times, I wanted to be seen as a serious paper. They featured things that nobody could digest-unreadable stuff. I put those aside and I took those I felt I would like to read. I selected them and they were easier to edit as well, because I could understand the subject. Some of them I couldn’t understand at all. And that was how I was confirmed as the features editor. The features editor was sacked.
Editing the Sunday Times
|Aremo Osoba the journalist with late Sage Obafemi Awolowo & Aremo Osoba the Politician with Nigerian's First Civilian President, Shehu Shagari|
I was 23 when I was asked to edit the Sunday Times in 1958, to succeed E.T. Willie Harry. In those days you knew who was going to be the next editor. The next editor of Sunday Times was going to be Peter Osugo. But he went to Australia to cover the Olympics. He returned and on his return, he went almost straightaway to America at the invitation of the state department. So, I was asked to act as the editor of the Sunday Times during his absence. So, in the two months or so that he was away, it was decided that I should stay on as editor when he came back.
|The GDA speaks with late Co-Author, 'Segun Osoba; The Newspaper Years' Dimgba Igwe|
That is why I believe that you need luck to make a break. When people say they’ve worked hard, that’s why they became what they are, I say yes, hard work is part of it but you have to have the lucky break. If you don’t have the lucky break, you can work your guts out, you won’t get the chance. All my life, it’s been pure chance, pure chance. I was 23 and altogether I had been in real journalism for about two years.
My mission as the editor of the Sunday Times was to make the paper as simple as possible. Peter Obe, the Daily Times chief photographer worked closely with me. We would go out of our way to look for a pretty face. We didn’t have Page 3 girls in those days. The page wasn’t very daring then. The Sunday Times used to carry sometimes “Ebenezer Williams column” which was very, very popular and powerful in the country. It used to be put on the front page sometimes. But I took it out. I tried to put a human face on the page. I would discuss issues but with a human touch. I was lucky to have the friendship of some people on the Daily Times who wanted me to succeed. We carried more human angle stories. I remember very vividly the story of a naval ship, which we had bought, that was not serviceable or something. The Sunday Times carried it and generated big impact. I did stories like that of a rapist and a fellow who got to jail several times for rape. I had an interview with him and did a story where he tried to explain his bad habit.
|The GDA in straight encounter with Mike Awoyinfa, Co-Author, 'Segun Osoba: The Newspaper Years'|
There were campaigns and crusades. I had a car accident and while I was at Igbobi Orthopedic Hospital, I discovered that one of the patients there was a boy who had been bed-ridden for years. He couldn’t leave his bed all because he didn’t have a wheelchair. So, I did his story and I asked the readers of the Sunday Times to raise money to buy the wheelchair and that went down very well with the public.
For myself, I was also doing interviews. I wrote a lot. I never worked so hard in my life before or since. We would start production from Thursday. Quite often, I wouldn’t leave the office at all until Saturday after the final edition of the Sunday Times. I would sleep in the office and send my driver home for a change of clothes, tidy myself up and change. We were only three people at one time.
|Aremo Osoba (R) ex-CJN Dahiru Musdapha (M) and Egba Chief, Alani Bankole|
Most of the times, we were two people - the late Ayo Adefolaju and I. Then we were joined by one Miss Elizabeth Olamuyiwa. But we were using Daily Times staff outside Lagos if we needed. Then we used people like Isaac Thomas and Peter Obe the Daily Times chief photographer also worked with me.
|Back of the Page reveals the authors|
There was a time I was writing altogether three stories myself. I did a series called “Legend of our land”. I will set out from Lagos on a Sunday to go and investigate a legend, write the story, take photographs. By Wednesday, I would be back. And on Thursday go to work and then Saturday, come home to unwind and life started again. That’s why I say we lived a life. It was a style of life. At the later stages, I was married but the work pattern didn’t change much, which could not have been easy for my wife at that time.
|The GDA with the Authors 'Segun Osoba: The Newspaper Years' Mike & Dimgba in very relaxing mood|
(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)