Saturday, 20 June 2015

My last Conversation with Dimgba Igwe – Mike Awoyinfa | Says “I now call on God of Dimgba Igwe when I pray”

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Mike Awoyinfa to Asabeafrika...'Pastor Sam Aiyedogbon has filled a vacuum in my life but Dimgba Igwe's shoe is too big for anyone to put on, even me'
A chanced encounter with tabloid Journalism legend and media great, Mike Awoyinfa is as good as meeting the Prime Minister of one’s nation. Yes, he is a Prime Minister in his own right. Prime minister of tabloid journalism!
This iconic journalist is one man who trilled an entire generation of media enthusiasts with his titanic skill of writing and his witty way with newspaper headlines.
A man of ideas, a media colossus and a journalism icon of yesterday and today’s journalism Mike Awoyinfa whose perfect friend, Dimgba Igwe died last year September 6, after a hit and run car driver knocked him down while jogging around his Okota, Lagos—South West Nigeria neighborhood has done it all in the world of media business. Meeting him for another encounter for me was historic because Mike Awoyinfa is a man of mystery. He and his late friend, Dimgba Igbwe lived a life sewn with the thread of myth during their over two decade of friendship and journalism adventure.
My first encounter with the two media icon was sometimes in April 2013, few months after their business partner and former boss, Dr. Orji Uzor Kalu suddenly relieved them of their high ranking position of Managing Director/Editor-in-Chief and Deputy Managing Director/Deputy-Editor-in-Chief of The Sun Publishing Ltd, a newspaper which was theirs in concept and idea. The removal from their position which was almost like a dismissal was something that came like a thunderbolt for Mike Awoyinfa and his late friend as they never envisaged such eventuality could take place with a project they willingly obliged to pilot with passion and vigor. However, they told me how the entire deal was tied from the beginning of putting pen to paper and the end of discussion at Dr. Orji Uzor Kalu’s Lagos mansion on that ill-fated Monday morning in January 2010.     
That experience of leaving The Sun in 2010 made Mike Awoyinfa miss his tabloid passion but Dimgba Igwe’s September 6th 2014 death made Mike Awoyinfa miss his friendship passion. Hear him “Without Dimgba, I don’t have an editor. I am my own editor, nobody edits me. I write and it goes like that. nobody to say ‘Well-done’, ‘Excellent’, ‘Fantastic’ or somebody to just say ‘This is rubbish, this is nonsense’. What is it, abeg!” Mike Awoyinfa confessed to this blog with a face strewn with emotional restrain.
The tabloid legend Mike Awoyinfa with late Co-Pilot, Dimgba Igwe

Even though the tabloid king wasn’t too disposed to talking to a blog nine months after his friend’s death but several requests with mounted pressure, the Nigerian godfather of tabloid journalism  open up on his last minute experience with his best friend and  things they both discussed on phone six hours to Dimgba’s death.
 He spoke on his decision to re-launch Billionaire Mike Adenuga’s biography and real reason why he closed down Entertainment Express Newspaper after Dimgba Igwe’s death.
On Tuesday September 8, 2015 “50 World Editors: Conversation with Journalism Masters on trends and best practice” will be launched in Lagos. The book is the last project done by the two journalist-authors and it is going to be launched before a cream of dignitaries from all walks of life to commemorate Dimgba Igwe’s first year anniversary.  Mike Awoyinfa spoke on the greatness of the project which he jointly did and finished with Dimgba before his untimely death on Saturday September 6th, 2014. Enjoy the excerpts only on your Africa’s number 1 Celebrity encounter blog Asabeafrika.
Mike Awoyinfa to Asabeafrika....'I spoke and discussed so many things with Dimgba from London a night before his death'

Let’s share our heartfelt condolence with you over the sudden demise of your brother and partner, Uncle Dimgba Igwe. It is nine months after that sad episode, we share your moment of grief with you.
Thank you.
Why I campaigned for General Muhammad Buhari
In recent time, the tune of your Saturday column Press Clips became political in honor of General Buhari, how did you feel when the General won the election?
Let me start by thanking you for coming to interview me. Each time I wonder why you always come to interview me. I feel much honored and I can say you are coming at a time of great hope and expectation for our leadership. A whole lot of damage has been done in this country and it is not easy rebuilding. The GDP has dropped, the foreign reserve has dropped and even the petroleum that is the bulwark of our economy is no longer bringing in the revenue and there is so much despair in the air and the fuel situation is so rash and it is so bad. For a man that came into office four years ago, he came, he saw, he didn’t conquer.  He left us with problems; he is a good man, I like him. He is good natured but that is not enough for leadership. Leadership is about finding solution to problems. I am not a very, very radical person. I am usually laid back, I am usually apathetic and apolitical but something that concerns us, concerns our children, concerns our great-great grand children, that is why I had to really come into the ring to route for Buhari and really fight that he became the president and I wrote a lot of things in his support. I campaigned for him with my column and I am so happy God answered my prayer. It was not easy, you know every column you write in honor of change, the supporters of Jonathan will just come like Bees stinging you gbam-gbam-gbam, abusing you; all kinds of abuses but I was not discouraged. I and my son, Femi Adesina we all put our neck on the block for Buhari. We campaigned for him and very, very happy that he got it, he is now in power. But the task ahead is very, very herculean. We all must support him, we all must give him time, and we must all pray for him, that he chooses the right cabinet. That he doesn’t choose base on sentiment. That he chooses men who can bring something to the table; men who can deliver value. Men who are committed to serve Nigeria not men who are in office because of what they will get. This is what this entire new regime is all about, it is about change. People are ready to work hard. I am very happy my son, Femi Adesina is now the spokesperson for our desired government. 
“The last day before he died, I was walking from a book shop in Ipswich, it took about 45 minutes journey, I was walking and enjoying the city, I was by the river band, I was walking and talking, I was giving him comments about the spot, I said ‘Oh, what a lovely city? Look at the river band; look at boats, yachts. I was giving him situation report, the kind of books I bought for him. A book on Jerusalem, a book on journalism, a book on Kenndy;

Mike Awoyinfa to Asabeafrika....'I thank God today that Femi Adesina one of my son is President Buhari's spokesman. I also have Eric Osagie, Dele Momodu & others doing great exploits.'

I am father of many sons
Mr. Femi Adesina told me in an interview few days to his appointment that you mentored him, how do you feel having him represent father’s land as a presidential spokesman?
It is the joy of every father that our children will be greater than us. God has answered my prayer and Femi Adesina is not the only one; Eric Osagie is also my son, he has also taken over from Adesina at Daily Sun as the Managing Director. My other son, Dele Momodu is far bigger than me. He is making waves all over the place, he has been presidential candidate, he has been everything and the sky is his limit. What else? I give glory to God; that is what leadership is all about. To create people, to build people and that is all my joy, I don’t have money. I don’t have anything but I have helped in creating people who create value and making meaningful impacts in the society. I thank God but I will tell you that it is not easy without my friend, Dimgba Igwe. It is not easy at all, it is not easy. What two of us used to do I am left to do it now and I can tell you it is quite uneasy.
The tabloid legend Mike Awoyinfa welcomes Asabeafrika's Gbenga Dan Asabe into his Okota, Lagos home

Dimgba Igwe in heaven
How has it really been having a Mike Awoyinfa without a Dimgba Igwe?
You know Dimgba’s shoe is so large that I don’t think anybody can fill it, not even I can fill it but there is God; and when God is on your side, you are not alone. My friend was a real man of God, very prayerful, very saintly and I have no doubt that he is in heaven and he is interceding for me in heaven, telling God, saying ‘this my friend, this my brother, don’t let him fail’ because I have this conviction that he is in heaven. It gives me strength. It gives me hope. It makes me belief; each time I pray I say ‘look, God of Dimgba Igwe, don’t disgrace me, don’t leave me alone, help me, help me, help me’ and God has been very, very faithful. Doors are opening and I can see a better future ahead and I am doing things that will not let him down. I am doing things that he (Dimgba) has always known that once Mike is there, it will be done.

The New Journalism Bible from the stable of the masters; Mike Awoyinfa & Late Dimgba Igwe

Last chat with Dimgba Igwe
There is this perception that maybe if you had taken him on your trip to London in September he might have escaped death on that very day since you both often travel together. Do you share this belief?
Yes, we do travel together but this one, only God knows. Even that trip I didn’t want to go, he was the one that forced me that I should go because his word is law. He said how can you pay so much money to put a boy in one of the best universities in England and he is graduating and you wont be there. He said ‘no, no, no, no, mba! Mba! Mba! Mike-you must go, you must go’. So, he convinced me and he could have followed us but you know there was so much to be done at home. There are so many books to be written and I said ‘Ok, you take care of the business while I go’ and this was strictly a family affair, it was an opportunity for me, my wife and my children to re-bond and be happy for the first time. Let’s travel together and he (Dimgba) didn’t want to intrude in our little re-union. He said “Mike, this is your family, go and enjoy yourself as I work here till you return’. And truth is that we were not apart, everyday we were always in touch via the telephone, talking. I was almost like a reporter, giving him a situation report, where I was, what I am doing and I will tell him ‘oh, I am enjoying this, I am doing this, we are at this’. The last day before he died, I was walking from a book shop in Ipswich, it took about 45 minutes journey, I was walking and enjoying the city, I was by the river band, I was walking and talking, I was giving him comments about the spot, I said ‘Oh, what a lovely city? Look at the river band; look at boats, yachts. I was giving him situation report, the kind of books I bought for him. A book on Jerusalem, a book on journalism, a book on Kenndy; I mean the kind of books I knew he is going to like and he said ‘Aah, wao, Mike, okay buy them for me and bring them home’. I had even bought him some under wears, that one I didn’t tell him I bought them. I just wanted to surprise him. I was getting ready to come but I was doing my little-little shopping. We talk, talk, talk, talk, and talk.
“He said ‘Call your house’. I said ‘Call my house for what?’ ‘Tell me, tell me. Whatever it is, tell me’. He said ‘No, it is not my mouth you will hear this’. I said ‘Haa! It is not your mouth I will hear it, Oya, tell me’. He said ‘It is about your friend’. I said ‘Which friend?’ He said ‘Which Friend do you have again than Dimgba?’ I said ‘Ehen, what happened to Dimgba?”

The Late Dimgba Igwe, Gbenga Dan Asabe & Mike Awoyinfa during first encounter with the GDA in 2010
(Cuts in) That was September 5?
That was 5th of September. He was to deliver a lecture on 6th of September, a lecture to his village people (Igbere) in Lagos. He was presenting a paper on the way forward and on how to develop the village and he was very excited about it, he was boasting that ah, he has done something very, very profound. That he is going to really, really Wao them, and I said ah, very good, very good, very good. He was telling me all the things he was going to do the next day; I mean we are that close, he was really my heart (Kept silence, spoke in between as voice drops low). And I was like ‘well-done, I trust you now’. For one hour my phone was hot, we talk, talk, talk, talk, talk, and talk. I told him about how my credit card was rejected in a bank in Ipswich. The card didn’t work and we had a problem. You know all this little-little chat. We talk everything as it comes, we discussed everything. There was nothing to hide (Losing voice intermittently and breaking in and out of emotion, almost moving to tears). We talked until I got home and that was it. I never knew that was going to be the last talk. I never knew it was our last discussion.

The GDA endorses the yet to be published Journalism Bible by Mike Awoyinfa & Late Dimgba Igwe
Dimgba’s death news, worst day of my life!
So, how did you get the September 6th news?
I was going to jog. I was wearing Chelsea T-shirt and jogging along the lake, the water side of Ipswich. I was wearing my jersey and I was surprised the Chelsea fans too will hail me and say ‘Heee! Blues! Blues!! They too were hailing me. I was very, very proud jogging. I didn’t know he too was equally jogging. I didn’t even know that as at the time I was jogging, I didn’t know he was already even dead because he usually goes out jogging too, very early in the morning. He comes out very early before me because he was the one that initiated me into jogging.  He was the one that pushed me into it.
Mike Awoyinfa to Asabeafrika...'Since Dimgba Igwe's demise, i have found it dificult to do things alone'
(Cuts in) So, you didn’t know there was a kind of corresponding activities going on in Nigeria?
I was just doing my thing; so, I came back from my jogging and I don’t know weather I even took breakfast. I was just there when I just got this call from Lagos and they said ‘something has happened in your house’. I said ‘My house? What? Is my house on fire?’ He said ‘No’. ‘Has my house been bugled?’ he said ‘no’. If it was all these ones that happened, I will even be able to manage it psychologically’. ‘So, what has happened?’ He said ‘Call your house’. I said ‘Call my house for what?’ ‘Tell me, tell me. Whatever it is, tell me’. He said ‘No, it is not my mouth you will hear this’. I said ‘Haa! It is not your mouth I will hear it, Oya, tell me’. He said ‘It is about your friend’. I said ‘Which friend?’ He said ‘Which Friend do you have again than Dimgba?’ I said ‘Ehen, what happened to Dimgba?’ ‘Ah, something has happened o, it is not my mouth you will hear, go and find out what happened’. To cut a long story short, the person just delivered the bombshell “Your friend is dead”. ‘Haaaaa!’ I said ‘No, no, no, no. it can’t be true. I said this person must be joking. Dimgba dead?  For what! He died in his sleep?, He didn’t wake up or what?’ he said ‘Just call the house, call the house’. So, that was how I called my son. My elder son, Ayo, I said ‘Ayo, what has happened in the house?’ he said ‘Nothing’. What happened in Mr. Dimgba’s house?’ He said ‘nothing now’. At least that re-awakened my hope again; I said if something drastic like this has happened and my son has not heard, then maybe this person that called me earlier is just pulling my legs. Maybe it is April fool in September. So, I instructed my son, ‘Oya, go to the next door, don’t cut the line. Just be going, let us be hearing you, as he was going, we were hearing everything and to cut a long story shot, it was true. My son called Dimgba’s Mai-guard and even his Mai-guard didn’t know. Until finally the news was broken and all of us were rolling on the floor; I mean, my family, everybody was wailing, screaming, I mean, it is not a day I even want to remember at all because I have never seen a bad day like that in my entire life. It was a terrible day; I quickly went through the Bible he gave me. I took the Bible and read through some quotations
(Cuts in) Oh, you mean Uncle Dimgba gave you a Bible?
Yes, he gave me a Bible that he want me to be reading and it was the Bible I saw and there were things he wrote there, that ‘Mike, turn to the Lord bla-bla-bla’, I didn’t know that was a last message to me.
“The book is like a Bible of journalism. For the first time I can boast and say ‘this is the greatest journalism book ever’. We have never seen it anywhere in the world; a book, a compendium of editors of the greatest newspapers in the world”
Mike Awoyinfa to Asabeafrika....'I thought my house was on fire when someone called on Sept. 6 to tell me that something happened in my house during my sojourn with family in the UK'
You took the Bible on your trip?
Yes, the Bible is a gift he gave me when I turned 60. He urged me to trust in the Lord with some Bible passages written in his handwritten that I should get closer to the Lord. I mean, it was quite touching and instructive.
Dimgba Igwe’s last wish
From his urge towards you to get close to God, do you think your friend had a premonition that he was going to die?
No, no, no, I don’t think death was the next thing. Ah, ah, death ke? Death was the last thing. Ah, ah, no, no, no, no. We had so many plans, big dreams. When we went to Banana Island for the first time and we returned, he said ‘No, this place is not for us’. That we should work hard and move to Banana Island; I didn’t know his own Banana Island is another place. Somewhere in heaven; I have no doubt, if there is heaven and if people go to heaven, I know my friend is there and that really, really gives me a sense of hope and happiness.

Mike Awoyinfa to Asabeafrika....'On September 8, we are launching Nigeria's biggest journalism book to honor Dimgba Igwe's memory'

Dimgba’s unfinished Fashola project
 When the former Governor of Lagos, Babatunde Raji Fashola came for condolence visit he became emotional and said you guys were working on a book. Have you finished the book?
It has been edited from the (Former) Governor’s side and everything is ready and we are packaging it to turn it into a book. Weather he is in office or not in office, the book is still relevant. Fashola is a good study in leadership and the story is a very, very, inspiring story. It is a story that is very unusual. I mean, he (Fashola) is a real child of destiny. He is a child of destiny and anybody that reads that story will know that there is hope and nobody should be written off.  Nobody should be written off no matter the condition and the circumstances of birth and whatever. The story is a great story, a very great human angle story, a very good spiritual story. A good case study in leadership; when the book is ready we will let the world read about it. We have another book to be launched by September 8 at the institute of international affairs. We are trying to present our other book; it is a book called 50 WORLD EDITORSConversations with Journalism masters on trends and best practices. It is a book that involves interviews with editors all over the world. Editors we met during the course of our travels.

Mike Awoyinfa to Asabeafrika....'Life is all about building leaders which i and Dimgba Igwe did by creating a crop of young journalists'.

About the Book; 50 World Editors
Like how many of them
Fifty editors, all around the world, telling their stories; telling their journalism journey and how they made it and talking about journalism generally, about editing and stories that defined them and how they became editors and what they did in their time as editors. The book is like a Bible of journalism. For the first time I can boast and say ‘this is the greatest journalism book ever’. We have never seen it anywhere in the world; a book, a compendium of editors of the greatest newspapers in the world; Newyork Times, Washington Times, Chicago Tribune, Times of London, The Guardian, CNN, Reuters, The Mirror, The Sun, BBC, Associated Press, editors past and present. These are people who are repository of journalism wisdom, sharing their thoughts and sharing their ideas. People think when we travel, we just go out, travel for fun and pleasure but they don’t know there is no pleasure in it, when we travel, we travel for business and when we go for this conferences and people are talking, you will see us, with our tape recorder just like you do. Singling out people worthy of interviews, those were the things we did for ten years or so. We combined it into a book and the good thing is; Dimgba saw the book before he died. The book is finished, it is already in and he saw it before he died. He was part of the planning of the design of the book and everything. He saw the book, he held it and he was very, very pleased and happy with the book. So, that is the book we are to launch on September 8th 2015 at the National Institute of International Affairs, in Victoria Island, Lagos.
That will be just two days after Dimgba Igwe’s death?
Yes, and we are hoping everybody will be there. We are hoping to bring President Muhammadu Buhari there as the Special Guest of honor. We are dreaming that Mike Adenuga will be our chief launcher.  
Oh, that is the busy man that no one sees else his works…
We are praying and hoping there is nothing God cannot do. We are hoping governors will come. We will do everything possible to make it a befitting book launch that my friend, wherever he is, would be proud and fulfilled to have been part of such a great project. It is not just a celebration of a book; it is a celebration of an icon, a great man, a pastor, a saint, a friend, a brother. That is his day. A day we will remember him a year after. We are going to pull every string and we are hoping you will also support us to make it a glorious day. It is not just a book launch; it is a celebration of an icon. Dimgba Igwe can never die as long as I live. He can never die, I have said it.
Mike Awoyinfa to Asabeafrika....'Writting for CHANGE came with lots of challenges as GEJ's E-warriors attacked me like stinging bees'

The Man who wants to fill Dimgba Igwe’s vacuum
In your column of recent, we have noticed this Pastor Abraham Sam Aiyedogbon coming to console you at all times, who is he and why is he getting so close to you?
He read my column after the death of Dimgba where I was asking, ‘Pray for me’. And he saw the column as very spiritual, that it was not me that wrote it; that it was God that inspired me to write it. So, he came here and prayed for me and he equally gave me a prophetic message and he said since there is a vacuum in my life that he wants to fill that vacuum. Everything that my friend did, he wants to be my next friend. He was very, very touched. That God is saying he should be there for me. And who are my, to say I don’t want a friendship from such a very renowned man of God?  It is not like a “re-marriage” because nobody can fill the shoe of my friend Dimgba Igwe but Aiyedogbon has been there for me.  He has supported me and I thank God for meeting such a great man of God. I count myself blessed, I count myself lucky and everyday we exchange test messages, praying for each other, inspiring each other. He is a very, very busy man and for such a man to have my time, I don’t take it for granted o. I mean, he pastors a great church Chapel of Glory  in Lagos and for such a man to really, really humble himself to say ‘Look, this iniquity man, called Mike Awoyinfa, I want to be your friend’, ah, it is God o. It is God.
The GDA, Late Dimgba Igwe & Mike Awoyinfa during first interview ever with the tabloid geniuses

Why I resuscitated Mike Adenuga’s biography
What has his consolation done to you?
No, he always asks me what I am doing. He always want to know what I am doing and how are my progressing and I told him about the Mike Adenuga biography, the unfinished biography that we are re-writing and he gave me an advise and even volunteered himself to write the foreword. There are three people writing the foreword, I think he is one of them. Babangida is part of the foreword, Wole Soyinka is part of the foreword and on the spiritual side Pastor Aiyedogbon is writing the foreword of Mike Adenuga’s book.
Mike Awoyinfa to Asabeafrika...'When the news of my friend's death was eventually broken to us in London, the entire family went down, rolling & wailling. It was the saddest moment of my life'

I was actually going to ask you what really happened to the Mike Adenuga memoir that was to be published with his 60th birthday. I think some of us saw the finished copy three years ago but we learnt the man ordered you not to publish?
Well, let’s just forget the forgettable. Let the past just be the past. All I am telling you is that I was going through the manuscripts of the interviews I did and the fire rekindled in me and I said ‘no, no’ no’, this is a great man. I cannot just let him go like that; the world must hear his story. His story is a story that is very, very inspiring. It is a story that must motivate the youths of today that there is hope in Nigeria. So, I have re-focused and re-strategized. Rather than making it a book told from my own and Dimgba Igwe’s perspective, I want the book to be told from the perspective of everybody that has encountered Mike Adenuga. I call it “The Guru: Eye Witness Biography of Mike Adenuga…One of Africa’s Richest Men”. That is it. Babangida will tell you his Mike Adenuga story, Wole Soyinka will tell you his Mike Adenuga story; David Jemibewon will tell you his Mike Adenuga story.
Mike Awoyinfa to Asabeafrika...'I used my column to campaign for General Buhari because my children's life was at stake the way the country was going'

David Mark too….
I didn’t interview David Mark; we spoke to great people around Mike Adenuga. People who helped him to establish a bank, a former business partner who told a very, very moving story of Mike Adenuga who was his friend and business partner. How he was loyal, honest and like I wrote in my column that he reminds me of Dimgba Igwe; that he is a man you can do business with and you can go to sleep without fear. He can go and do business outside and he will make some money aside and he will still bring it and say “Egbon, I did this kind of business o; this is your own cut’. So, that kind of story should be told.
I was equally surprised and disappointed with the fact that you guys couldn’t release the book because we all needed that inspiration as well. We asked why Mike and Dimgba should dump such an inspiring project.
No, no, no, we can’t dump such an inspirational work. Like I said in my earlier column that Mike Adenuga’s life is a continuous inspiration for me. Once he has a project in mind, he never gives up. He is always persistent, the inspiration I draw from him is what has brought back the resuscitation of this book. I tell you it is a good book, it is an inspiring book. It is a positive book. It is not a negative book.

(Watch out for Part 2 of the Mike Awoyinfa’s Exclusive tagged Why I stopped Publishing Entertainment Express after Dimgba’s Death on this blog in 24 Hrs time. Kindly Re-visit)

Gbenga Dan Asabe

Africa's Number One Celebrity Encounter Blog


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