Why I left Governor Adams Oshiomhole’s job—Eric Osagie | + “What People don’t know about me”

Asabeafrika’s Gbenga Dan Asabe with Eric Osagie, MD, The Sun Publishing Group

We hereby serve you the concluding
part of the Eric Osagie interview
which was conducted inside his posh office at Coscharis Estate, Kiri-kiri road, Apapa-Lagos penultimate Tuesday
evening. Here, the debonair Managing Director of The Sun Publishing Ltd who took over from Presidential spokesman Femi Adesina in June revealed what
makes him thick and why he thinks most young journalists need to chase the work
and not the money.

He equally revealed the story behind his short stay in Edo
state as Governor Adams Oshiomhole’s
SA on Public Affairs and Strategy. Enjoy the excerpts on your Africa’s number 1
Celebrity encounter blog Asabeafrika.

Eric Osagie to Asabeafrika….’A columnist should be a good commentator & Analyst

You have been a famous columnist in
the last 20 years; can you tell me the difference between being a columnist, an
editor and a media CEO?

They are
interrelated like an orchestra. Like they say ‘You can’t whistle a symphony’. So,
as a columnist, it comes with its own challenge. You look for a topic then you
now decide to then deliver it, you need to learn how to deliver the killer
punch. For me, I try to balance both sides. You know there is a subject, there
is a thesis and you must locate the conclusion of the story. Being a columnist
comes with its own challenge. Sometime you suffer writer’s block. Sometimes you
don’t know what to do. And anytime I put something out and I have abuses, it
means I have delivered. And if I have some praises, it is fine. But if nobody is
commenting on what I have done, it just simply means I have not done anything
at all. If you are a columnist and nobody is either angry or happy with you, it
means you have not done anything. And if everybody is happy with what you have
done, you have just done PR. But if you have done something and some people are
screaming your head out and wanting to stick a punch to your stomach, it means
that you have done well and they accuse you of all kinds of things. That is the
challenge; some will say ‘Oh, they have bought you, they have paid you’ but
when you do something right in their face you now ask them ‘did you pay me for
that?’ no. Then as a columnist you get notices and some doors are opened for
you and privileges come but those are by the way. 

The GDA with Eric Osagie’s Chairman, Dr. Orji Uzor Kalu

Public commentary is a very
hazardous business because you can’t please everybody, and you are a public
person, some people want to abuse you, some people want to hug you but at the
end of it all, what is very fundamental is the way you deliver. I like to look
at myself as a stylist. There is a difference between being a public
commentator, an analyst and a columnist. Column is about style; column is not
putting your photo there and writing, you are just doing analysis. But a
columnist can combine both public commentaries and analysis together in a
beautiful way. You must be entertaining, you must play with words. So, I am in
that sense a stylist. I want to entertain because I want you to read something
that is a bit breezy. That is for the column. Being an editor or editor in
chief, right now I really don’t do much of editing except when it is a Page One,
I have to see it, and I have to take decision on the first page because that is
the is the summary of the newspaper. I have to see the editorial, I don’t
breath down on people but I give direction on where we are going and what needs
to be done to get there. I don’t know who said it, that ‘democracy begins and
ends in the newsroom’. What it means is that you can shout democracy in the
newsroom but there is nothing like democracy.

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Another of Eric Osagie’s mentor Alhaji Aliko Dangote with the GDA
“He is my Governor and he remains my
friend and boss for life. When we met recently, I said to him ‘there is nothing
like former boss. Once somebody is your boss he remains your boss for life’ and
he is doing his best because the wrought that was on ground was simply
enormous. So, the fact that I am not there does not make him a bad governor”.

Everybody can have their say but
the editor-in-chief has his way most times but not all the time, you must let
those who you have saddled with duty also do their own job for at the end of it
all, you take the responsibility for the good and the bad. So, it is a synergy
when you are editor-in-chief. When people come up with ideas which appear good,
I don’t breath down and say because I am editor-in-chief I want this, but I
will give you the reason why mine may be superior argument. But if yours is
superior we take it. Talking about the management side of the media I can say I
am also a business man, by the time you become the Managing Director, you worry
about the salary, you worry about the way bill, you worry about other inputs.
You worry about everything about the company; for an editor, he worries
basically about the paper but as the Managing Director, I worry about the paper
and the organization. But today we are training editors to also look at the
business side of the business. It is not that we are training them; they now
know that they have to worry about it because it is a business unit. So, my
duty as MD/E-in-C is to lead the company to the part of profitability. What I
do basically is to coordinate the different arms from editorial, marketing,
circulation to the least of our asset bearing entity to ensure that we have
profitability and ensure that the company continues to stand. Like I told you,
DAILY SUN has continued to enjoy support from both the Nigerian public and the
chairman and the founder of the group to the first founding fathers and pioneer
MD. I am the 4th Managing Director here and I tap from the
experience of all of them because they all brought unique dimension to running
the office. When I finish my own tenure I will hand over to the next person
because you can’t be there for ever, it is like ruling a country; you do your
best and leave the rest.

Eric Osagie MD & E-in-Chief, The Sun Newspaper

There was a time you got a political
appointment with Governor Adams Oshiomhole of Edo state as SA on Public Affairs
and Strategy only for you to drop the job shortly and return to the newsroom;
if the opportunity re-present itself, would you take it?

In life you
never say, never!; you can never say never because at the time I went to Edo
state it was also in a sense, a rescue mission. The comrade Governor is a
friend and he is still a very good friend. And by the time we supported him in
our own little way to go to Edo and rescue the place, by the time he won it was
like ‘look you guys encouraged me to go there. Now, I have won and you are not
going to sit there in Abuja and tell me to go on. So, come’. I went in there
and for one reason or the other, there was no animosity or quarrel but I just
felt that I needed to come back to the terrain I know and I became wiser for it
because I learnt so much there. The kind of experience I got within those 9
months of serving was second to none. He is my Governor and he remains my
friend and boss for life. When we met recently, I said to him ‘there is nothing
like former boss. Once somebody is your boss he remains your boss for life’ and
he is doing his best because the wrought that was on ground was simply
enormous. So, the fact that I am not there does not make him a bad governor. He
is working very hard and I keep supporting him in whatever way I can. Our duty
is to support the government to deliver to the people. I am from Benin in Edo
state. It is our vision.
Eric Osagie to the GDA….’I dont take grudges to bed

You have not answered my question;
will you ever go that way again?  

Like I
answered, you never say never in life. Anything is possible but that is not my
immediate priority. My priority is to give my best shot to this job which has
been entrusted to me by the chairman of this company Dr. Orji Kalu, a great Nigerian and a wonderful person.  That is the job I am doing at the moment, who
knows tomorrow? But that is not a priority for me. I have just gotten in here.
I was at Telegraph for 9 months and
I gave my best shot. I am here at the moment giving my best shot. I just give
my best shot at any time and leave the rest. Let God decide the rest.

“If I am angry with you, you know. If
I am happy with you, you know. I am an open book. I can scream my head at you
but the next moment I have forgotten because I don’t take a grudge to bed. I
was reading somewhere that the reason people hate is because hating is free, if
people need to spend money to hate, they will not hate anybody;

Eric Osagie to the GDA…’I love hardworking people’

A lot of people see Eric Osagie as a
no nonsense columnist/public commentator but who are you by you? Can you tell
us who the real Eric Osagie is?

One, I don’t
think I am a celebrity.
(Cuts in) But you are not to decide
that, that is done by your fans across the world
Well, I am
not. I am just myself. I am a very simple person. I am strict to the extent
that I like procedures. I like things done well. In all the places I have
worked, those who have problem with me are those who don’t work hard. I don’t have
problem with those who work hard. If you work hard, you become my friend. We
can go and share a drink after the work is done. As a person, I don’t keep
grudges. If I am angry with you, you know. If I am happy with you, you know. I
am an open book. I can scream my head at you but the next moment I have
forgotten because I don’t take a grudge to bed. I was reading somewhere that
the reason people hate is because hating is free, if people need to spend money
to hate, they will not hate anybody; you can say I am a very simple,
straightforward, easy going person, devoted to his work, devoted to his craft
and I can tell you that journalism is serious business. Media is serious
business. Business is serious business. What I do basically is when you have a
job you must do it very well and that is the challenge I bring on board as the
helmsman here.
One of the People Eric Osagie admires, Dr. Seye Kehinde, Publisher of City People with the GDA
Eric Osagie…’I am like an open book’

Do you have a role model?

I admire
people who have gone from difficult situations to great admiration. If you talk
of role models, for example I like the doggedness and creativity of Seye Kehinde (Publisher of City People
Magazine) Why? A young man saw an opportunity when nobody gave him a chance and
built a brand. That for me is somebody I will admire. But before that, Mike Awoyinfa is somebody we will
continue to revere, why? He is a creative stylist. In those days at Weekend Concord, if you wanted to please him, you give him a good story and
he will take you up and have lunch and introduce you as his friend, you have a
drink. In those days, we use to leave the office and we are just having a drink
and ideas hits us; and when the idea hits us, tomorrow it is the next cover.
And we were very spontaneous in it. So, a man like that will qualify as one of
my media heroes. He taught us virtually the tabloid thing. Whatever inherent
talents we had he brought them out. So, you will continue to admire a man like
that, who created a brand. Before him, there was no Saturday newspapering of
such magnitude and he did it with his late twin brother (Dimgba Igwe). So,
people who create something from nothing are my heroes in the business. People
who expand the frontiers of journalism are my heroes. So, how would you not
admire a man like Seye Kehinde who
created a brand in the soft sell media? There are others who have their very
best in the business. Mayor Akinpelu
also did his best by organizing a team that brought FAME and of course Dele Momodu also created a brand with
the OVATION thing.

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Yet another Eric Osagie’s mentor, Nasir Ahmad El-Rufai with the GDA

These for me are respectable people; people I admire and you
can’t help taking away something from them which is doggedness, resolute and
faith. I like creators, people who find their paths where there is no path.
Anybody can go to government and take government money to do things but what
did you create? I like the entertainers, I like pioneering spirit. Those who
will say ‘it can be done’ when many say ‘it can’t be done’ I love challenges. Telegraph
was not where it should be and it was a challenge that I was called to
come and re-brand it. I could have sat in my comfort zone as Deputy MD but I
said let me take up the challenge. Today, people are beginning to see the light
at the end of the tunnel and the person who took over I am sure will do her
best because she is a hard nose professional as well. I admire people who from
nothing got to something. I admire a Mike
Adenuga,
I admire an Aliko Dangote.
They said per second billings can’t be done and Glo did it; I admire people who take up hard assignments. Somebody
like Nasiru (El-Rufai) somebody like
Aminu Masari and even someone like President Buhari who tried for four
times until he won. Some people would have given up. I am not making a
political statement I am also saying I admire dogged people who achieve what
many feel cannot be achieved.

If you find your self with 1500 up
and coming journalists in a ball room today, what will be your chief message to
them?
Be
passionate about this business; don’t be passionate about money. If you pursue
the business well, other things will follow. Seek ye first the kingdom of news
and other things will follow.

The GDA with Eric Osagie

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