Why we wrote a book on Segun Osoba — Authors

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


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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?


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“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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