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

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.


(adsbygoogle = window.adsbygoogle || []).push({});

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.


(adsbygoogle = window.adsbygoogle || []).push({});

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)

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here