Wednesday, 15 February 2017

How Segun Osoba rose to power in Daily Times + Office intrigues that nearly marred his career

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Veteran Journalist-Politician, Chief Olusegun Osoba with the Oluwo of Iwo, Oba Abdulrasheed Adewale Ilufemiloye (Telu 1)

When we started the Lagos Weekend, it was another person we appointed as editor. We appointed a man whom we judged to be a very good reporter as editor. We appointed as editor the late Isaac Babalola Thomas. There was another reporter by name Chief Theophilus Ola. He is also deceased. He was a better reporter than Isaac Thomas, but he was not a leader. He was a better reporter in the sense that if anything happened in Ikoyi or in Surulere or in Agege, he had so many contacts who would inform him. If a reporter was arrested last night, before this morning, before Ola got to the office, somebody would have told him. He had that kind of contacts. He had friends in politics as I had in my time. So he was a better reporter but he was not a leader.

Everybody knows there is a difference between a columnist and an editor. A columnist can spend an hour in the office. He may have written his column at home, he comes to the office, spends an hour, discusses with the editor and walks out. The editor may not see him for the day. But the editor is a manager, he is a leader, he is a team player. So we did not choose this man and he was not pleased with me. I had to sit him down and explained the situation to him.
Alhaji Babatunde Jose of blessed memory....The Seer who saw the Osoba in Chief Segun Osoba
I said: “Ola, I employed you as a reporter in Enugu when I was a regional representative. You have been working with me. You came to Lagos with me. I sent you to Ibadan as chief correspondent but your problem is that you are not a team leader. You are not a team player. You are a better reporter but Isaac
Thomas as the sports editor of the Daily Times has shown skill as a team player and the editorship of the Lagos Weekend requires a team player. He would be collecting stories from various reporters and at the end of the day, by midweek he determines What is going to be the lead, the back page, which stories he is going to give emphasis to. This is why I have appointed this man editor. Editorship is not only about being a good reporter. You must have managerial skills, leadership skills, be able to manage people and motivate them. This is the edge Thomas has above you.”
I had to sit Ola down and explain all that to him. As the pioneer editor of the Lagos Weekend, Thomas did a good job.
The Book that told the entire story of the Life of Nigeria's greatest News Reporter
After doing it for 18 months, we asked him to go on vacation, because he was getting tired and he needed a holiday to freshen his mind so that his battery would be recharged when he comes back from holidays. While he was away we looked for an enterprising reporter who is also a team player to take his place. We picked Segun. As a reporter Segun also had proved himself as a team player. He knows what story is good. Oftentimes he would go to the editor of the Sunday Times and say: “This story is good for Sunday. I am holding it for Sunday. If you use it for Sunday, it would sell your paper”
Chief Segun Osoba....The Reporter-Manager

He has a nose for news as well as good news judgement. On that score I told him: “Segun, go there and act for one month as editor of the Lagos Weekend.” In that one month, he transformed the paper. We started Lagos Weekend as a paper for training fresh reporters. Our objective was that newly recruited reporters either with degrees or Higher School Certificate would use it as training ground. They would write their stories in triplicate to be examined by their teacher and the other to be published. It was a paper that specialized mainly on divorce cases and crime. In one month, Segun had changed the character of Lagos Weekend.
Mike Awoyinfa & Dimgba Igwe....Authors 'Segun Osoba; The Newspaper Years'
We continued to use it for training, we didn’t bother if it would make money or not, but Segun changed the character of the paper. So unbelievably that the paper was being read by young people, by secondary school children. So when Thomas came back from his holidays we welcomed him but told him we have a better editor. That was how Segun got the editorship of Lagos Weekend. And the circulation of the paper rose, rose and rose.

The Daily Times ‘Coup’ that brought Osoba to power…
Late General Murthala Mohammed...His Coup brought Chief Osoba to power at Daily Times
I have stated in my memoirs, Walking The Tight Rope, my account of what is now referred to as the Daily Times crisis and of which Osoba was a key actor. He took a big risk professionally.
You don’t have coups every day. And when machinery such as a newspaper is set in motion, any average man or any editor can stand by it while it is working. It is only a man of initiative who can say: “This machine, the sound is changing. Something is wrong. Something has gone wrong somewhere. Something ought to be done to rescue the situation. Osoba is that kind of man”.
Mr. Mike Awoyinfa (Tabloid King) talks to the GDA....
So, when a man is on leave, any average man can hold fort for him and make no change but a man who can make positive changes that is so obvious for all to see, is uncommon. An editor must be capable of making a difference out of the ordinary, which is to say he must be extraordinary.
As a background to the crisis, there was a coup, a curfew was imposed, roadblocks were mounted but Osoba risked his life to come to my house at Ikoyi. He had received details of the decision of the Supreme Military Council, (I think from General Emmanuel Abisoye who was a member of the SMC) and had rushed to the office to write the story only to discover that the office was deserted. His editor was nowhere to be found. Meanwhile, telephone services had been cut off by the soldiers, so there was no way he could contact me or his editor.
Mr. Dimgba Igwe of blessed memory with the GDA..
Our office then was at Kakawa Street, his editor lived at the mainland while I lived at Ikoyi. On his own, ·Osoba cannot change the paper without authorisation. He decided it was closer for him to come to my house rather than head back to the mainland to contact his editor. When I saw him, I was surprised and asked how he came since by then, the curfew has started. He said he came with copies of the first edition of the paper with which he was giving out to the soldiers at the checkpoints to gain his passage. I told him that in that case, let’s go to the office. And when we got to the office, he changed the paper and published an extraordinary edition, a late edition. And naturally, I was in the production room with them until around midnight.
Aremo Olusegun Osoba
In the early morning after production, when I was going home, I left a note for my secretary: “Please type a circular, make it signed by the chairman: I congratulate, I praise all those in production and editorial that worked long hours to produce a special edition of yesterday’s paper, the evening paper and today’s paper. Every one of them would get a bonus. I deplore the attitude of those who for fear of risk absented themselves from office. The executive directors should meet me at 10 o’clock in the boardroom.”
Chief Segun Osoba with ex-CJN, Justice Dahiru Musdapha
So at the boardroom I told them the story and at the end of the meeting they asked what I was going to do. I told them there would be structural changes. “We must reward initiative”.  I said. “It is not every day that we have a coup. But the man who can show self-sacrifice and can handle uncommon situations is a leader. Therefore, Segun becomes editor of the Daily Times”. That was in July. Earlier in June, I had unfolded a succession plan to the board at a meeting. Then, I had told the board that by December of that year, I would be 50. When I am 50 in December, I will relinquish the editorial directorship for Areoye Oyebola who was then the editor of the Daily Times. Two years after, Laban Namme who was four years older than me would have retired as the deputy managing director to pave the way for Emmanuel Adagogo jaja. My plan was to resign as the managing director at 50 and Jaja would become managing director. I would only keep the chairmanship post. But while Oyebola becomes editorial director, Gbolabo Ogunsawo, editor of the Sunday Times would become editor of the Daily Times. Segun Osoba would become editor of the Sunday Times. I had made that succession programme because Daily Times had a sound management succession programme. We had a full-time manpower development programme. So, I felt that my programme had not been put to test. But with the development, I made Oyebola managing editor and Osoba editor of the Daily Times. And that was the beginning of the crisis that led to my retirement.
Chief Osoba the Reporter with Late Obafemi Awolowo & Chief Osoba the Politician with Alhaji Shehu Shagari

 The editor’s reason for not showing up on the day of the coup was that he misplaced his car key and couldn’t find it. If you look at my memoirs, they are all there. Some people at the inquiry said Osoba was an opportunist. But let’s look at it this way. You wake up in the morning as a journalist and you hear there is a coup. You felt that the paper must be changed for the coup story to be on the front page. In the first place he demonstrated leadership by responding to the coup story, by coming out of his house and going to the house of the managing director, the man who had the power to make the final decision as to whether the paper should be changed or not. He understood the Daily Times culture that if somebody as high as Zik had died in Onitsha, the reporter in Onitsha would have phoned me first to say: “Chairman/ MD, I can confirm to you sir, that Zik is dead. I have been to the palace of the Obi of Onitsha to confirm the story”.
He knows a story of that magnitude is a front-page story tomorrow. He knows that if he phones his editor there is a chance that something may happen and the story may not come out. So as a kind of insurance, he would phone the managing director. By phoning the managing director, he knows he is dealing with a man who was a reporter himself and knows the value of that kind of story.

My Life as Daily Times MD…
Alhaji Babatunde Jose of blessed memory....He knew Osoba was a leadership material

Daily Times is an institution which I was, and is still part of its history. I joined the company as a technical trainee in 1941. I left in May 1946 to go to the Comet and came back in 1948 as a senior reporter and I represented the paper and the company first in the West, then in the East and in the North. When I became
editor I was told by the board on December 1957 that, “your country is now approaching independence. People say the paper is foreign controlled. We want this paper to be independent with the country. We want an editor who knows this country and who would lead it to independence and after independence.”
As editor, I had to strive through editorial presentation to disabuse people’s mind and change the perception of the paper as being His Majesty’s voice. I had to stamp my personality on the paper. You can run the UAC or any other corporate organization on Presbyterian democracy. For example, at that time, you can run the Nigerpak, a Daily Times subsidiary on management committees, you can run the Times Press on management committees, but you couldn’t run a daily newspaper with its associated weekly and evening papers on Presbyterian democracy. Somebody has to have the last word. Somebody has to be the captain. The buck has to stop somewhere.
Aremo Segun Osoba; A cosmopolitan Journalist-Politician
Remember these were crucial times in the history of Nigeria, 1957 to 1960. We were attending constitutional conferences, on the political scene were Zik, Awolowo and Sardauna, conflicting personalities, the first five years of independence, all the crises that were there, then the Nigerian Civil War. Somebody had to be in charge. Somebody had to give the paper leadership and editorial direction. So I stamped my personality on the paper. We published a paper that was trusted by readers. To be trusted, you have to show the integrity of a leader. The people know that I have no political ambition. I had access and was consulted by highly placed government functionaries, prime ministers, presidents. So they know that whatever we did, it was not because I am a Yoruba man. They have seen the paper openly attacking Awolowo. They know I am not contesting an election. All the years I was working for Daily Times, from 1948 when I was a reporter up till the time I left, I did not vote in any election. Because Daily Times was an independent newspaper.
Back of the Book...Unveils 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)

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