Why I hate the Nigerian Press—Osoba’s book

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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