Monday, 13 February 2017

Why we wrote a book on Segun Osoba — Authors

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Chief Segun Osoba and Veteran Comedian Ali Baba

Let’s pause for a minute’s silence for the three men who featured in this book, but never lived to see its completion: Alhaji Babatunde Jose, Prof. Femi Sonaike and Peter Ajayi; may their gentle souls rest in peace.
Like most of our books, this one started at a period of crisis, when Concord Press of Nigeria, the newspaper company where we worked, was closed down by the military junta during the anti-media repressions of the ’90s. To channel our anger, energy and creativity into something worthwhile, we set out to explore the unwritten story of Segun Osoba, the great newspaperman who had distinguished himself as a reporter, editor and newspaper manager par excellence.
We started with the notion of a media biography of Osoba, but indirectly ended up with a collection of the biographies of the finest newspapermen from Nigeria in the last half of the century.
Mike Awoyinfa & Dimgba Igwe (In their Lagos library)
In recounting their media encounters with Osoba, each icon starts with personal recollections of their own newspaper odyssey and

in the process, revealing seminal tips, famous encounters and anecdotes about the craft and practice of print journalism in Nigeria which you probably may not find in any written material anywhere. The challenge of documenting these unique individual experiences was certainly enormous, but we thank God for finally
bringing the book to pass.
The Book; 'Segun Osoba; The Newspaper Years'
Without doubt, our first gratitude goes to the chief subject of the book, our esteemed friend and senior colleague, Aremo Osoba and his wife Derin for supporting this project, even though, we started it without their knowledge. Osoba only got to know about the project after we had gone a long way with our interviews and his friends alerted him about two journalists nosing for information about him-something enough to ring an alarm bell in anybody’s system. Great hunters, they say, don’t like anybody waving even
Mike & Dimgba....Great Journalist-Authors
a wooden stick near them in case it turned out to be a gun! But when we explained what the project was about, Osoba gladly bought into it and gave his full support, including suggesting some names of people he thought we missed out.
The GDA with the Authors of 'Segun Osoba; The Newspaper Years' Mike Awoyinfa & Dimgba Igwe
This book would not have been possible without the co-operation of a long list of people all of whom we thank, starting with “The Patriarchs”: Alhaji Babatunde Jose, Alhaji Lateef Jakande, Peter Enahoro, Sam Amuka, Alhaji Alade Odunewu, Prince Henry Odukomaiya and Chief Tony Momoh.
Next are the “Media Academics” namely: Prof. Olu Obafemi, Dr. Yemi Ogunbiyi, Dr. Doyin Abiola, Prof. Femi Sonaike, and Dr. Idowu Sobowale.
Then the “The Musketeers”: Felix Adenaike and Peter Ajayi of blessed memory.
We thank Ray Ekpu, Mohammed Haruna, Ajibade Fashina-Thomas and Lade Bonuola, who were all featured under the section “Media Icons”. Truly, icons they are. Mohammed Haruna probably deserves a double mention. For years, we had abandoned the manuscript, almost forgotten. “Dimgba, whatever happened to the Osoba book?” he asked one day in a phone conversation. That singular question from the blues triggered a reactivation of the project. The result is the book in your hand.
Dr. Mike Awoyinfa (Dr. of Tabloid Journalism)
You may call it our sense of humor or whatever, but in constructing Osoba’s media profile, we also had to talk to non- journalists, a category we described as “The Outsiders”. With the exception of Kunle Elegbede, a former editor of the Sunday Times and one of those who honed their professional skills under Osoba’s watch, “The Outsiders” were not journalists in the professional sense, but were included on account of their close encounters with Osoba, especially in his early years. They include: Dr. OO. Finnih, Rasheed Gbadamosi and Titus Sokanlu.
The GDA & The Newsmakers, Mike Awoyinfa & Dimgba Igwe

“They are the firefighters who must speed to the scene of breaking news to capture events in transit and present them exactly as they happened, without coloring them with their own views. They are the hunters hunting for truth and facts in a forest of falsehood, rumors and misinformation”.

Without our assiduous personal assistant and manager, Gloria Oriaku, who put in so much sacrifice to organize this book and proofread it as many times as possible, perhaps this book would have been caught up again in the web of our busy schedules.  

Beyond the call of duty, Samuel Edema who planned the book and designed the book displayed unusual dedication, accommodating our endless corrections and adjustment until we came to what we agreed was a befitting product.
Dimgba Igwe of Blessed Memory....A Call from Haruna Mohammed made him search for the Script of the book 'Segun Osoba: The Newspaper Years'
Finally, we thank our families for their prayers, their support and their understanding as wives and children of authors. It’s not often easy being married to writers. We thank everybody who contributed one way or the other but whom we didn’t remember to credit. Despite efforts made to rid the book of errors, we recognize that some errors might have escaped our notice. Whatever the error-factual, grammatical or otherwise-we plead guilty.
 Segun Osoba: In Search of the Reporter
Aremo Segun Osoba....A Politician News maker?

“All my reporting life, I have thrown small pebbles into a very large pond, and have no way of knowing whether any pebble caused the slightest ripple. I don’t need to worry about that. My responsibility was the effort. I belong to a global fellowship, men and women, concerned with the welfare of the planet, and its least protected inhabitants. I plan to spend the rest of my life applauding that fellowship and cheering from the sidelines ...”
-Martha Gelhorn, wife of Ernest Hemmingway.
Chief Segun Osoba with the Oluwo of Iwo Kingdom, Oba Adewale Ilufemiloye (Telu 1)
“God is for leader writers, I am a reporter”, says a character in Graham Greene’s novel, The Quiet American. His Excellency, Chief Olusegun Osoba, a two time executive governor of Ogun State, the man whose monumental newspaper life is being celebrated in this book, might as well ascribe this quotation to himself and declare with all professional pride: “I am a reporter”.
Mike Awoyinfa....A Professor of Tabloid Journalism talks about News Reporting and it science to the GDA

Osoba in the technical sense is not a leader writer, not a feature writer and not, strictly, a sub-editor. Sure, in his days, the reporter was expected to do a bit of all that. The reporter who covered the breaking news could also write a feature story on the event. In the heat of production, he could roll up his sleeves to sub the story, if it came to that. The typical newsman was versatile to that extent.
Chief Segun Osoba & Family
But notwithstanding such seeming generalization, Osoba was and still is quintessentially a reporter. His special niche is reporting. His “core competency” as management experts would say, is news reporting. He is in the special league of reporters who took the noble art of news reporting to an Olympian height. In a trade that is professionally stingy with praise, where praise is often derided as sycophancy and peer rivalry, although ultimately benign, is often eternal, Osoba enjoys a unanimous accolade from his peers,  senior and junior associates as the “reporter’s reporter”.
The Man who discovered Aremo Segun Osoba
Well, then, so what? What is so special about being the archetypal reporter, especially for a man who has climbed all the professional mountains?
A man who has climbed every peak in journalism; rising from a reporter to become the editor of the Lagos Weekend and later Daily Times; a man who has distinguished himself as a media turnaround manager. A man who as the general manager of the government-owned Herald, (Kwara State) and Sketch (the Western states) turned these drain-pipe newspapers into cash cows that were not only self-supporting but profitable.
Aremo Segun Osoba; Born to hunt News?
A man who later initiated a massive re-engineering of the octopus Daily Times Group, again delivering the company from losses and subsidies into profitability while under the grip of a military dictatorship. For such a man, wouldn’t there be any better source of professional acclaim than being heralded as a reporter? Why not ‘Osoba the great editor’, ‘Osoba the turnaround manager’ and so on? Why the reporter’s reporter? What’s the big deal about being a reporter? Everything!
Mike Awoyinfa with the GDA
The reporter is as crucial to journalism as news is vital. In the newspaper world, reporters are the real journalists, the news technocrats, the news explorers and the arrowheads of journalistic enterprise. No matter how vital all the other departments and personnel are to the news business, they are more or less appendages, albeit essential appendages. The others may be everything else important but the reporter is the soul of the business. At the heart of journalism is the reporter. An Osoba, the news hound, the ever curious and restless cynic with his ears to the ground, sniffing out every whiff of news-whatsoever is of public significance, whatsoever is topical, whatsoever is timely, whatsoever is hidden, whatsoever somebody tries to hide, and whatsoever somebody wants to read about.
Dimgba Igwe of Blessed Memory with the GDA
The others may write their features, editorials, analysis or opinions, but they are incidental to news reporting. Without news, there would be no editorial, no news analysis, nothing topical to express an opinion about. And, as the circulation man would say, it is news that sells the paper. If in doubt, try something else to your own peril. As the Americans would say, it is the news, stupid.
Mike & Dimgba tells GDA....'Journalism is about reading'
Of course you know it already-all things topical are news!
Anybody can express an opinion but not everybody can gather and report news. It is indeed an art; you need to be initiated to be among the elect. In journalism, many are called but only few end up among the chosen. So many others may be called into the news business, but the reporters are the chosen. They are the elects, the sacred cows, and the hard-nosed cynics trained in the intricate art of news gathering and reporting. But for some that turned out great reporters, something more than mere training counts.
Aremo Segun Osoba in a cheerful mood with Ali Baba
Something intrinsic interned in their nature by the Creator counts far more than academic laurels. No doubt, academic training-whether formal or informal-is an asset. Yet, the unusual curiosity, the overdose of creative cynicism that takes nothing at face value, the adventurism, the networking spirit that comes from being extroverted, the sense of justice and objectivity, the understated intrepidity that at times border on the suicidal, among others, are things that are often more inherent than learned. And these are the hallmark of the great reporters. They are those with the hound’s natural instinct who can sniff out a line of news even from the haystack. And Osoba belongs here. The news hound! The reporter!
Meet the Reporter & the Reporters
The GDA talking to Dimgba Igwe as Mike Awoyinfa looks on
Again, who are reporters? They are the ones who have been trained formally and informally to report the news without which there would be no newspapers. Reporters are the soldiers of the news business, the infantrymen who go out daily into the field to battle for the news. The archetypal reporters are the not-so-gentle “gentlemen” with their legendary brim hat, a swashbuckling gait and a razor sharp nose for the unusual. They are the men on the beat who must file in stories to the newsroom from their own corners-the beats. They are the firefighters who must speed to the scene of breaking news to capture events in transit and present them exactly as they happened, without coloring them with their own views.
"Reporters are News Hunters"--Mike & Dimgba
They are the hunters hunting for truth and facts in a forest of falsehood, rumors and misinformation. They are the folks, who bring into light the hidden things of darkness; who beam the searchlight of truth and facts into whatever things are shrouded in darkness or what is only whispered in utter secrecy. They are the ones paid to expose what others are paid to hide, what others would rather payoff to conceal from light.
They are the ones who know that news is what somebody somewhere is prepared to hide at all costs; everything else is PR.
Mike Awoyinfa shares a joke with the GDA
Who is a reporter? He is the storyteller who tells us every day, every week, the uncomfortable truths, the daily peccadilloes of the great and mighty, the famous and the infamous. He is the storyteller who tells every day, every week, something new, something we never expected, something that would interest us,  something that would jolt us, something we are ready to pay our hard- earned money to read, something worthy of news. A reporter is the quintessential newsman, that bundle of courage and curiosity always daring to go where even angels fear to tread.
Dimgba Igwe of Blessed Memory shares a joke with the GDA
He is the one we count on, the one who carries us mentally to the scene of newsbreak. He is our eye. He is our ear. He is our mouthpiece. He is the one who reports events from our perspective, in a language that we understand. He is a man we trust, a man of integrity, a man we rely on to tell us the truth, who would not fake stories just to sell his newspaper. He is the man with clouts, who probes behind the official version of what is taking place to tell us the hidden truth behind. He is the man working against deadlines, against all odds and doing everything possible to get his story across on time. A reporter is a throwback to the marathon runner of ancient Greece who would run miles and miles to deliver the news from faraway.
 So, who is Osoba?
Chief Segun Osoba: The Reporter's Reporter
Osoba is everything a reporter is and more. His unique attribute as a reporter is best captured by Alhaji Babatunde Jose, the former chairman and managing director of the Daily Times and Osoba’s mentor: “Segun 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 telephone at home 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 to get you more facts on the story”
Aremo Segun Osoba; The Newspaper Man
A reporter is the chronicler at the forefront of history, recording history and presenting it hurriedly in form of news. When you read a newspaper, you really are reading history viewed from the perspective of the present. In a way a reporter is a historian. From the hundreds and thousands of events that happen every day, newspaper reporters and editors must, as a daily ritual, sort out what in their perception is the most important. They have to decide instantly which events are historically significant and which are not.
Chief Segun Osoba....The Newsman as a Friend of the Political titans (With ex-Jigawa Governor, Sule Lamido)
At times, when reporters are reporting history, they end up being part of the history. Osoba’s footprints in the sands of history are there for the younger generation of journalists to see and emulate. He made history when as a reporter at the Daily Times, using his investigative skills, he found the corpse of  Nigeria’s first
Prime Minister Abubakar Tafawa Balewa. The Prime Minister had been assassinated with other politicians in the wake of Nigeria’s first coup d’etat in 1966. There was confusion and uncertainty in the air. Nobody knew where the corpse was. Then all of a sudden, Segun Osoba by sheer serendipity got the biggest exclusive story of his entire life. A contact had tipped him off on the whereabouts of Balewa’s corpse. He obviously sped to the place, combed the bush and luckily saw the gory sight of the Prime Minister’s corpse in all its awfulness. A world exclusive that would make every reporter proud! An emotional story that would make any reporter feel like the first man to walk on the moon.
Chief Segun Osoba: The News man as The Politician (With Dimeji Bankole)
 That is one big story that was Osoba’s defining moment as a newspaper reporter.
A reporter is not just a historian. He is a seer who sees today what others would read or hear about tomorrow. He is a leader, a knowledge leader, an informed leader, and an opinion leader with a rich databank of information from which he can always tap.
A reporter is forever looking for drama and reliving the drama of life in the form of news. And sometimes he is also caught in the drama, making news himself. Osoba made news when in the wake of a coup d’etat he braved all odds to go to the office to produce the newspaper of the day with his managing director while his editor stayed at home, unfortunately. He was rewarded with editorship which triggered off the Daily Times crisis, an event that is part of Nigeria’s media history.
The GDA with Mike Awoyinfa & Dimgba Igwe in a chatty session
From editorship, Osoba moved up to distinguish himself as a newspaper manager at the Herald, Sketch and later the Daily Times. From the newspaper house, Osoba moved over to Government House where he was elected twice the Executive Governor of Ogun State. What special edge does a newspaper reporter bring into governance?
Eminent journalists like Alhaji Lateef Jakande and Alhaji Alade Odunewu answered the question in this book-veteran journalists who once served in government.
Jakande as the governor of Lagos State earned the tag of “Action Governor” for his achievements as governor. To see this book as simply a newspaper biography of Segun Osoba is to limit it. This book goes far beyond Osoba. It is also a book about journalism history and practice from different eras, from the eyes of some of its leading practitioners. In celebrating Osoba, they are celebrating journalism excellence; they are celebrating good reporting against the backdrop of modern falling standards in journalism where many occupy the editor’s chair without first paying their dues as reporters.
The GDA in the hot room with the tabloid guru & Book Authors extra-ordinary
In Osoba’s days, that would have been tantamount to a journalistic heresy. In these days when veteran reporters like CNN’s Christianne Amanpour lament the “demise” of journalistic orthodoxy where news is the supreme driving force rather than the “irrelevant, super-hyped sensationalism”, Osoba’s media years looked like the golden age of Nigerian reporting.
If as Amanpour quotes a veteran colleague as saying, “news and journalism died in the nineties” and many newsrooms these days are populated by reporters who would have a hard time recognizing news, not to say, reporting it, then the objective of this collection would be well served if it helps to rekindle the zeal for quality reporting. For as many veterans have often lamented, despite the great leaps in technical quality and at times, even quality of writing, many strangers have invaded our trade, prancing like kings and wearing their inexperience like a crown for all to see. Celebrating Osoba is celebrating reporting which is the heart of journalism. It is a celebration of a man who is an all-round newspaperman, a man who loves journalism, a man who has journalism in his blood.
Aremo Olusegun Osoba....A life of News & Newspaper
From these tributes to Osoba by his professional colleagues, you will see Segun Osoba as a study in leadership. From the journalism point of view, he is a news leader. His success in every other sphere of life including his political life is derived from his success as a journalist-a veteran reporter. Even as the general managers of Herald, Sketch and managing director of Daily Times, he remained a reporter at heart. Naturally, as a state chief executive, Osoba, we are told by many, has not changed. Like an aging boxer, his reflexes have remained that of a reporter who takes nothing for granted, who takes nothing at their face value, who is impatient with bureaucracy and red-tapism, who trims off wastes like a merciless budget director, who not surprisingly knows how to play the media game.
Chief Segun Osoba with Former American President W. Bush and late Nigerian President Umar Yar Adua
Leaders are people to look up to. They inspire others. They are ambitious. They dream dreams and also explore their dreams. They are believers in people. They are willing to take risk and are committed to excellence. Leaders don’t often suffer fools gladly.
Leaders leave their mark on the sands of time. Osoba is both a leader and a reporter.  Like the great Ziks, the Awos, the Onabanjos and Jakandes before him, Osoba showcases today, the great possibilities in journalism. For a profession that has always been haunted by the specter of its veterans who spend their twilight in the cold hands of penury, the Osobas of this world show that all is not lost. Behold, it is morning yet on creation day. We can still sing a new song, after all.

Why we wrote Osoba’s book like this…
Mike Awoyinfa & Dimgba Igwe....Nigeria's Best Authors who published 'Segun Osoba: The Newspaper Years'
 Once again, we are relying on first person narrative and the subjective voice of Osoba’s contemporaries to paint a kaleidoscopic portrait of Osoba and as well document their own media odyssey within the ambit of the Osoba media era. Basically, it is a friendly portrait, hence the apparent reluctance of the various voices to say uncomplimentary things about Osoba. It was not for lack of trying on our part. Usually, we asked. We know that even Osoba, after all, will be first to admit that he is not an angel. But then, this is not a full character portrait but only a subjectively objective portrait of the man’s professional life. The good thing is that most of the time, media life is an open book-anybody can read it. Critics-if any-who think that Osoba’s colleagues, have been too generous in their compliments; certainly know how to exercise their intellectual or literary liberty.
Dimgba Igwe of Blessed Memory....showing the GDA some of their best works in their book library
Ours is the reporter’s role. Like in our books, “50 NIGERIA’S CORPORATE STRATEGISTS-Top CEOs Share Their Experiences in Managing Companies in Nigeria” and “NIGERIA’S MARKETING MEMOIRS- 50 Case Studies”, our preferred reporting style remains the first person narrative approach, a style that has been dubbed by the media as our form of higher journalism. As lifelong reporters, we are comfortable with that approach. In any case, how better do you report about a reporter than by employing a reportorial genre? If at the end of the day, we are credited with evolving-or merely drawing attention to-that genre, our dream would have been realized. 
Mike & Dimgba with the GDA (A life of Books is a life of Leadership)

(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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