Thursday, 9 March 2017

Why I hate the Nigerian Press—Osoba's book

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Aremo Olusegun Osoba in a tete-a-tete with Star Comedian Ali Baba

My George Sharp and Peter Pan columns…  
I did not just limit myself to editing. I used to do interviews as well. I wrote a political column called George Sharp. Then I also wrote Peter Pan, a column involving interviews with pretty women. Quite a provocative column. The Peter Pan column was becoming the most popular thing because I would tease my readers, conduct interviews and give the impression that I had been flirting with the girl. The readers thought I was a dashing bachelor. But the truth was I was married. But that didn’t show in these interviews.

Peter Enahoro....Also an Enigma like Osoba?
People got the impression that every week there was a new girl and Peter went to interview her and flirted with her. That’s how the Peter Pan column actually began.
It was getting tough for me to edit a paper and write three pieces, three different types of things. So, I gave up George Sharp. In any case, and the management told me later, I was making a new enemy every week for the paper. It was a column in which I imagined what a particular politician would be thinking or doing. I could write on the disappointment of a politician who failed to get a nomination. I would write a teasing thing about him, imagining what he was doing in the morning, what he was saying to himself, how he was taking his defeat. And through that I would do a bit of his personal life, his background and so on. It was very strong for that period and it was true that it created a lot of unhappiness among the political class because people were very sensitive to that type of writing at that time. So, I was advised to give it up. I gladly did in the end because the workload on me was too much. Having given it up, I stopped doing interviews as such in the Peter Pan column and started putting more and more comments into it. That’s how Peter Pan developed.

My Appointment as Editor of the Daily Times
Like Anthony like Peter Enahoro
Eventually, I was appointed the editor of the Daily Times, which I didn’t like at all. I have never really liked the daily paper. Because I don’t think it’s creative enough. You try and put the best that day into the paper but it is not like a weekly. I love the Sunday paper because you can plan it and think ahead and investigate. I have always preferred where I can think ahead and plan. It’s more creative. On a daily paper, you just report the news as it comes but on a Sunday paper, there is more room for details and background of the story. Busloads of people are killed on the Third Mainland Bridge in Lagos and the daily paper just reports the story. But a Sunday paper would go into their background, find out why the Molue caught fire, who are the people involved and so on. That’s why I like that. That’s my idea of good journalism.
Mike and Dimgba...They live for creative  journalism
So, when I was made editor of the Daily Times in 1962, it was not a happy period for me at all. Besides, I am not a bossy person by nature. I once saw a sign, which said: “Be a leader, not a boss” I don’t escape from leadership, but bossiness is not my nature. It offends me when somebody is bossy. But I found that on a daily paper, you have to be bossier than a Sunday paper because you are driving to get the best that day out, and it’s like that from day after day after day. And then there were political complaints. My elder brother was very much in politics in the opposition party and there were always complaints by certain politicians. One politician went to London to see Cecil King and said: “Why do you put that Action Group boy as the editor of the Daily Times? We are going to nationalize the paper”. That was the big stick that they held over the heads of the proprietors at the time.

How I changed the Daily Times
Elder Peter Enahoro
I changed the Daily Times as well. I am not boasting. It’s a fact. I gave it a tabloid look which survived till very recently. In fact, that was a decision I took without consulting the management. The shape had always been tabloid but Daily Times masthead runs across the top and it was at the time five columns. It was very difficult to pretty it up. So, I changed it to six columns which I meant that we could use photographs and cut them down. I wrote editorials on the front page, if it was strong enough like when we were fighting the press law in 1964. We campaigned.
Late Alhaji Babatunde Jose....The man who tolerated Elder Peter Enahoro @ Daily Times
Alhaji Jose, I must say, was very tolerant with me. I think he always had affection for me. I would often do things which now looking back as an older man, I consider rebellious. I was quite rebellious. I would do things and he would have to bell the cat with the management in London. But he always stood by me.
There was one occasion I said that ‘now that we are a republic, the Daily Times would no longer use the title of “Sir” for anybody. Quite frankly, I forgot Sir Francis Ibiam had been a director of the Daily Times. He was the governor of the Eastern region at the time. I also forgot that Lady Alakija was a serving director of the Daily Times. And they had not been informed.
The Osoba's Journalism Years book written by Mike Awoyinfa & Dimgba Igwe

So they picked the paper that either they were associated with in case of Sir Francis or, still were on the board of directors, as in the case of Lady Alakija, or they just learnt straightaway that beginning from that day, the Daily Times would no longer call them by their titles. The most powerful politician at the time was the Sardauna of Sokoto. He was a Sir. And I had decided that I would no longer call them Sir. A cablegram came from London saying that whoever took the decision for whatever reason, the decision must be rescinded.
The GDA speaks with King Mike Awoyinfa
We must go back to using the title. Alhaji Jose called me in and said: “Look at this. London says we have to go back to the use of Sir”. I said, “You know, I have been receiving congratulatory messages through telephone calls from people all week long. Now, if we go and change it would be obvious that the British proprietorial interest must have dictated it. We have always been accused of being an imperialist paper. We have taken a nationalist stand and if we go back on our word, it would not go down well with our readers; and what about the image of the company?”
So, Alhaji Jose said yes. He asked me what should be the response and I suggested that the response in my mind is just to sit it out and wait. Maybe another cable would come, let’s just pretend that we didn’t get it. I don’t know frankly what Alhaji Jose did behind the scene. I wasn’t in the management level, so I didn’t know. All i know is that the decision stood.

My Removal as Editor
Elder Peter Enahoro....The Man who edited Daily Times in Interesting Times
About two years as the editor of the Daily Times, I was kicked upstairs and made group editorial adviser. The management felt I was not bossy enough. The other reason was that there were lots of complaints about the fact that my brother was in the opposition. The Daily Times was too strong a paper and the investment of the British owners was such that they felt they were risking their investment to continue to put somebody who by family relationship was identified with the opposition at a time when the country was plunging itself further and further into a deep crisis as the editor of their paper, endangering their investment. I was kicked upstairs and my first title was group editor-in-chief. I was the first Nigerian to be appointed to the job.
The GDA speaking with Dimgba Igwe of Blessed Memory
It used to be a job for Europeans and what they did was to read through the final copies. At one time they were called legal advisers: to read for libels, read for grammar, spelling, and the man who saw the last page and who signed the last copy. But for me, I was a big shot with really nothing to do. I was not expected to read the final copies because Alhaji Jose read the daily and Sunday paper and approved the last page. As managing director he had taken over that responsibility. I got an office, a desk and a secretary but there was really nothing to do. It crossed my mind to leave the Daily Times and go into public relations but I said no, I will stay. Finding myself with nothing to do, I started writing the Peter Pan column. I wrote three times a week on Monday, Wednesday, and Saturday. And that was when Peter Pan really took off. In a way, the people who pressurized Daily Times to remove me did me a favour. Because, now I could concentrate on writing Peter Pan and it just became a bigger column all over the country.

My disappointment with Nigerian newspapers of today
Mike & Dimgba....The two revolutionalized Journalism in Nigeria with the Tabloid taste
More than a quarter of a century after I left Nigeria, one would have expected the standards of journalism to be much higher than what we had. I don’t think the standard is high enough now. It has not gone far enough for 25 years. Instead there has been a deterioration in some aspects where there should not be. Inasmuch as the English language is our official language, inasmuch as we are publishing in English, I think we owe it to ourselves and to our profession to try to write the language in a way the people will understand. Certain bad expressions have crept into Nigerian journalism and they do influence the public. You find the expression: ‘Mr. So and so assured that’. That is bad English. The correct usage is: You give an assurance or you assure yourself of something. But you don’t say when he is confirming something that: he “assured” that.
The Book Elder Peter Enahoro wrote
There are cases where Yoruba is literally translated into English. Take the case of a magazine quoting the mother of a detainee speaking in Yoruba. The magazine quoted the woman as saying: “Babangida should not kill my son for me”. It was used in bold headlines on the cover of the magazine. Another common mistake you find in Nigerian papers these days is “book launching”. There is nothing like that. The proper usage is ‘a book launch’. We launch a book. Not book launching. Such things annoy me when I see them because they show carelessness. We say: ‘At the launch of a book’. Not ‘at the launching of the book’. One can cite many examples.
Co-Author & Tabloid King, Mike Awoyinfa talks to the GDA about Journalism
Secondly, you don’t find the crusading spirit in Nigerian newspapers these days. You don’t have crusading newspapers. Thirdly, there are so many columnists and no star reporters.
We don’t have star reporters; everybody wants to be a columnist. Herbert Unegbu was to my mind the complete reporter. He wrote a column called “Unu Habib”
In those days when a big story breaks, there were star reporters like Herbert Unegbu and the late Rabo Abaide on the scene to report. These days you don’t find the stars of news reporting: the one who breaks the news, the one you identify with the big news, the one who investigates. When we talk of investigation, I think there is a tendency to believe that it has to be digging dirt. No. Let’s take the example of the Molue bus that got burnt on Third Mainland Bridge, claiming so many lives. In Europe, which is the standard I expect now, we would have known more about the victims. Reporters would go and dig into who they were and whom they left behind. They would put a human face on the story.
The GDA (M) with the Enigmas of Tabloid Journalism and Authors, 'Segun Osoba: The Newspaper Years', Mike & Dimgba
In my time, I reported on the plight of Nigerian laborers in Fernando Po (the present day Equatorial Guinea). Nigerian laborers were being recruited to Fernando Po and I got to hear that they were ill-treating our laborers there. And I flew to Fernando Po. I didn’t speak Spanish but I managed to investigate, took photographs of the ill-treated laborers. There were large plantation farms owned by absentee landlords in Spain. The Spanish landowners would send young Spaniards as foremen of the farms. At the weekend, these foremen will come into town, get themselves drunk, look for women and if they don’t succeed sometimes they return to the farms and demand the wives of some of the laborers.
Aremo Segun Osoba: The Enigmatic Journalist
It was ridiculous. I went, came back and reported the story and the Daily Times continued to fuel that story until it became an issue in the House of Representatives. The Nigerian government was forced to go and negotiate an agreement with the Spanish authorities. I believe in that sort of crusading originated by a newspaper report and followed up, not because some laborers had given me a brown envelope. The Nigerian press should identify with the so-called common men and try to right the wrong in the society.
The Back of the Book Shows the Authors
Lastly, there is not enough continuity of stories. We handle a story and between two, three days it dies. Three months later, nobody asks: “Whatever happened to that story? Let’s go and find out”
If I had a newspaper that I was editing, I would have said that that Molue story I mentioned above would run for two weeks minimum. There was enough in that story to write to persuade officialdom to do something about this constant problem of Molue accidents
(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)

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