Home Highlights THE ROLE MODEL SERIES :AKINROGUN OLUSEGUN OSOBA – DOYEN OF INVESTIGATIVE REPORTING

THE ROLE MODEL SERIES :AKINROGUN OLUSEGUN OSOBA – DOYEN OF INVESTIGATIVE REPORTING

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A German media practitioner, Herman Ziock painted graphically the role of the media practitioner in the publication: “Man and the Press; German Opinion on Problems of Today’’ the Press has two different responsibilities: it can be either the “bringer of light” or the “root of all evil, depending on those who make the press. “It sounds flattering when Jasper writes: “Great journalists beget great veracity”. But not everyone can be a “great journalist”. “Nonetheless, no one is prevented from striving for veracity’’ Even Emperor Napoleon recognized this very crucial role and designated the press as the “fifth great power’’

PERSONAL ENCOUNTERS: I got a feel of part of the personality of Akinrogun Olusegun Osoba for the first time in the early 1980s, through a physical encounter at the defunct Sketch Press Ltd, Ibadan where he held sway and Managing Director. He came to the newspaper on a salvage mission from Nigerian Herald Newspapers, Ilorin that he similarly revived and repositioned for better operational standards.  We met at by the staircase. Quite naturally, I gave way to allow him to take the lead. He motioned to me to move.  I complied and made my way to late Chief Peter Ajayi’s office to interview him on the implications of the palace coup of 1985.  I couldn’t have enjoyed this type of passage in the civil service of the early years where you dared not meet a senior official in the elite Administrative class on the staircase.  I remember an incident at the Government Secretariat, Ibadan in 1980 when a GL 12 Administrative Officer ran back from going on the staircase because Princess Tejumade Alakija was descending the staircase. Mama Alakija was the Head of Service. I asked the officer why he reversed with speed after Mama Alakija departed. He told me they must hold such bosses in awe. I noticed that wasn’t the case with journalism and the newsrooms.

A PERFECTIONIST: I noticed that Chief Segun Osoba was characteristically restless, going here and there on the premises – the trait of a perfectionist and a journalist with nose for news. I later went to meet another first-class journalist, late Chief Peter Ajayi, whom I actually I went to interview.. The next physical contact with Segun Osoba was at the Dodan Barracks, Lagos; the then seat of Nigeria’s Head of State/Military President. I think in was in 1985, at an important event. Akinrogun Osoba was already high up there in the media industry. We were there for a media briefing. Quite naturally, nobody would drive Osoba back from Dodan Barracks and similar high places because they knew him, his worth, integrity and versatility.  In spite of his position in the media industry,  he came to the Dodan Barracks gate to help us – reporters – junior to him by all standards, who were there battling for accreditation. I don’t think I saw him again physically till he attended a convention of the Redeemed Christian Church of God as governor of Ogun State in 2002. God Almighty was kind to have elevated me to be accommodated on the raised platform for VIPs. In his speech at the event, he sang praising God for not allowing any storm to blow the congregants away in Yoruba: O ye ka dupe, o ye ka dupe, ara san, ategun fe; iji ja ko gbe wa lo, o ye ka dupe. However, the political storm of the year 2003 elections never spared the great investigative journalist who was then governor of Ogun State.

THIRD GENERATION OF MEDIA MANAGERS: Akinrogun Segun Osoba belongs to the third generation of influential Nigerian journalists and media executives whose notable achievements have entered the positive pages of history. In the class of first-generation journalists were Herbert Macaulay, Nnamdi Azikiwe, Ernest Ikoli, Obafemi Awolowo, Anthony Enahoro, Dutse Mohammed Ali, Mokwugo Okoye, Ernest Ikoli, and Cecil Rhodes. Soon, others appeared on the scene. These are notables like Akinwande Savage, Magaji Dambata, Babatunde Jose, and Labban Namme,  Lateef Jakande, Abiola Aloba,  MCK Ajuluchukwu, and  Peter Enahoro.. The third set of media managers include Segun Osoba who entered in an era of post-independent press that played the role of canvassers for development, with a little dose of militancy. Others in that class were Areoye Oyebola, Sola Odunfa, Gbolabo Ogunsanwo, Felix Adenaike, Tunji Oseni, Peter Ajayi, Sam Amuka Pemu,  Others who followed in the ‘’golden days’’  were  Stanley Macebuh, Olatunji Dare, Sola Odunfa, Idowu Sobowale,  Dele Giwa, Ray Ekpu, Dan Agbese , Onyema Ugochukwu, Lade Bonuola,  Tola Adeniyi and Ogunbiyi.

THE BEGINNING: It was Joseph Pulitzer, founder of the Pulitzer School of Journalism at Columbia University who once submitted that “the only position that occurs to me that a man can successfully fill by the simple fact of birth is that of an idiot….“The born editor, who has succeeded greatly without special preparation is a man with unusual ability and aptitude to his chosen profession, with great power of concentration and sustained effort’’  Segun Osoba fell headlong into the journalism profession where he proved his mettle within a few years. He had a meteoric rise. He joined the Daily Times as a trainee reporter in 1964, covering crime stories and by 1966,  he was the diplomatic correspondent of the newspaper. He was promoted news editor in 1968, deputy editor of the Sunday Times in 1971 and deputy editor of the Daily-Times in 1972. He moved up the ladder to be appointed the Editor of Daily-Times in 1975.

REWARD SYSTEM: Daily-Times newspaper of those days was one of the largest news media organizations in Africa. Those were the days when professionalism, hard work, efficiency and ability to meet set goals and objectives were yardsticks for promotion, in addition to qualification.  In any case, a journalist must be more knowledgeable than the audience that he/she attempts to inform. Therefore, Osoba attended a series of professional courses after high school graduation from Methodist High School, Lagos. He obtained a diploma in journalism at the University of Lagos. He proceeded to the United Kingdom for a one-year course sponsored by the Commonwealth Press Union in 1967.  He attended Indiana State University, Bloomington, where he studied journalism. In 1974 he won the Nieman Foundation Fellowship for journalism for postgraduate study at Harvard University, United States as the first Nigerian to win the fellowship,

CHARACTERISTICS OF A HIGH FLYER:  Jose, a household name in journalism in Nigeria joined the paper in 1941 as a technical trainee. He was soon promoted to reporter, then regional correspondent and eventually assistant editor. Cecil King appointed him editor in 1957. Jose became managing director in 1962 and chairman in 1968. 1965 he established the Times Journalism Institute, to trainable hands. In terms of commitment and doggedness, Segun Osoba followed the footsteps of Ismail Babatunde Jose, who himself joined the Daily-Times from the lowest rungs of the ladder and took the newspaper to the zenith.  The Independent of London in its tribute on the death of Jose wrote that:  ‘’He (Babatunde Jose) was not a graduate, but he was sounder than many professors. He encouraged intellectualism in Nigerian journalism… Jose produced an array of highly successful journalists… many of whom have also gone on to establish their own newspapers and produce many other journalists.”

REMARKABLE ACHIEVEMENTS: One the strongest desires of a newsman of that era  was to rise to be the Editor of his/her newspaper.” Segun Osoba became the Editor of the Daily Times of Nigeria, then left the firm in November 1975 to take up the task of General Manager of the Ilorin based Nigerian Herald. He returned to the Times in 1984 as the managing director. Internationally, he worked as a stringer or local correspondent for the following organizations: The British Broadcasting Corporation(BBC), The Times of London, Newsweek Magazine, United States, United Press International News Agency (UPI). He was the chairman of the Governing Board of the Nigerian Institute of Journalism and Member of the Executive Board of the International Press Institute representing Black-Africa from 1984-1992. He was a member of the Nigerian Constituent Assembly in 1988. He is also a member of the Commonwealth Press Union, London and the Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ).

LEADERSHIP STYLE: Segun Osoba is a servant-leader in the journalism profession. When he was in active service as Managing Director of Newspapers, he still served as reporter, not ashamed to file in stories to his newspapers’ newsroom. He never liked the master-servant relationship.  He doesn’t tolerate tardiness and expects a reporter to be abreast of situations, diligent, and mix freely. Osoba was (and is still) addicted to scoops  (exclusive stories) that is the hallmark of professionalism. For the lazy and liars, Osoba of the newsroom had a short temper. He would shout at the indolent and slipshod annoyance but forgets easily immediately subordinates adjust positively.

AS AN INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER: It has been posited and established that media practitioners should ideally be more knowledgeable than the public they are trying to inform. Information management, processing, and dissemination are, therefore, highly sensitive tasks, which must not be left in the hands of feeble minds. Segun Osoba was bold and daring. It was he who discovered the decomposing bodies of Prime Minister Abubakar Tafawa Balewa and Minister of Finance, Okoti-Eboh on the Lagos-Abeokuta road less than two years of functioning as a reporter.   Babatunde Jose recognized the enormous potential in Osoba and, therefore, created a special interest in him, groomed him and rewarded him for outstanding performances. It was also Segun Osoba that gave the Daily-Times an edge in reporting the the Murtala/Obasanjo coup of 1975, an effort that later threw him up to the prized rank of Editor. He went ahead to cover the Nigerian Civil War and got many exclusive stories for the Daily-Times. Osoba was not shy to compete with younger reporters for scoops, like moving to Maiduguri as the reporter of Sketch newspapers when he was MD to report the case of a Nigerian politician from Borno State, and a contemporary of the late Sir Ahmadu Bello who was wrongly deported for allegedly not being a Nigerian.

DEEPLY RESPECTED The role of a reporter demands and commands constant surveillance on the society, in an attempt to ensure that people follow the accepted norms, values, and procedures which that are right in the eyes of the right-thinking members of the society. Segun Osoba socialized with notable personalities without compromising the ethics of the journalism profession, as well as his own pedigree. He maintained a close relationship with First Republic politicians like Nnamdi Azikiwe and Obafemi Awolowo who named Segun Osoba, Felix Adenaike, and Peter Ajayi: ‘’The Three Musketeers’’ They were media chieftains who did everything together, apart from ensuring high professional standards wherever they worked. Segun Osoba most probably would not be as respected as he is today if he loved to act based on pecuniary considerations.  It is not a bad idea for younger professional journalists and students of mass communications in tertiary institutions to read about the evolution of media chieftains and how they conducted and comported themselves. Appeal to then not to go home in the fullness of time without they disgorging their theoretical and practical experiences through lectures, seminars etc. They are still around: Segun Osoba, Sam Amuka Pemu, and Felix Adenaike; and others who came on the scene as world-class feature writers: Olatunji Dare, Ray Ekpu and others.

POLITICS: Osoba was twice governor of Ogun State between 1992-93 and 1999-2003. His policy as reported in Vanguard newspapers is that: ‘’’While in government, I only cautioned myself not to get used to what I cannot afford when I’m out of government; not to misuse public funds; to spend public funds the way I’ll spend my own money. This is my philosophy. Anybody that has been in government must be ready to answer questions after office on how he managed the affairs of the government. If you have been sincere then there’s no need to worry but one thing that is worrisome to me now is that we, the media are becoming a tool in the hands of the contending forces for political space in Nigeria. It is a saddening situation, the way we are going about our current situation’

FOLLOWING IN THEIR FOOTSTEPS: Herman Ziock, a German journalist in the in his publication: ‘Man and the Press: German Opinion on Problems of Today,’ published in 1970, explains the demanding nature of the profession in very clear terms. Ziock argues that “Anyone who wishes to devote himself to the press must be able to forgo much. His life consists of exhausting, grueling work; the comforts of everyday existence are denied him. It requires a strong dose of idealism to devote oneself completely and wholeheartedly to the journalistic profession. Only one who is in a position to identify man and deed will be able to make his own way.” The foregoing is confirmed by former Governor Osobo in an interview with the medium cited above. Osoba confirmed the foregoing this way in the newspaper cited above ‘’people often said he was impatient and that he had a volcanic temperament, which he said he got from the newsroom, as one could not be in the newsroom and not be temperamental. “The pressure of the newsroom acts on your system. Newspaper production of my time entailed working late into the night to get the first edition out and following up with developments to ensure the second edition was even fresher. That way you stayed ahead of the competition. The result is that my sleeping pattern is distorted. Up till today, I cannot sleep before 1 or 2 in the morning. And it has affected my children, too. Nobody in Osoba house goes to bed before midnight. The pressure cooker of running a newsroom has so affected my life that I am very impatient, I can’t suffer fools gladly.

MRS DERINSOLA OSOBA SAYS SHE IS THE ONLY ONE WHO CAN BEAR THE SITUATION

“It even got to a point where my wife granted an interview to a magazine saying there is no other woman who can live with me as she is the only one who can cope with Segun Osoba. She said that for many reasons. At that time, monitoring radio, particularly foreign radio stations was a daily habit that had almost become an addiction. Foreign radio was a major source of news for newspapers. By 6.30 in the morning, I will be on BBC, VOA monitoring news while she was still sleeping. Of course, I disturbed her sleep daily with the buzz and crackling sounds of the radio. And late in the night, I am still on radio, on BBC, VOA and other foreign news source, because in those days, there was no CNN, on BBC TV, no Sky news, no Aljazeera in our time. So she was always feeling that I was a thorough nuisance-or “newsance” if the pun can be permitted.

TERRIFIC HEADLINES ON INFORMATION MANAGEMENT: As may be perceived, image management is not all glamour. Yes, image/media managers receive attention and their names get mentioned in the media and they enjoy other forms of media attention. However, processing and managing information is a very sensitive and delicate task that commands and demands proper focus, management, and handling. A minor slip on the part of an information manager could prove too costly for an organization or even a nation. Think about the possible effect of a slip or minor mistake on the part of the spokesman to the United Nations Secretary-General, or the Commonwealth Secretary-General. In a jiffy, the whole world or at least, a part of the world could be disturbed by such a terrible development. A World War could even be provoked by such costly error of misinformation fed into communication channels for global consumption. It would be most illuminating to observe the importance of information management to the success of a microscopic or infinitesimal human unit.

INFORMATION MANAGEMENT – LET’S AVOID FAKE NEWS:  Management and filtering of information are processes conducted even within a family unit. For instance, not all issues are discussed for diverse reasons. A lot of activities going on in the background, which must be properly managed in the interest of the society or organization.  There are employees charged with the responsibility of coordinating human activities in practically all spheres of human endeavour. They also exist in business organizations.  The beauty of the arrangement is that these coordinators, leaders, governors, and chief executives are in office to carry out the wishes of the greater majority of people who periodically choose those to represent their interests. In representative democracies, these coordinators hold offices at the pleasure of the citizenry. In business organizations, they are appointed or elected by the shareholders/stakeholders to manage the establishment in accordance with laid down regulations to which all stakeholders have agreed to uphold.  Coordination starts with the family, a small unit of the polity that is headed or governed by a person we may call ‘’daddy of the house,’’ or the head of the family who is assisted by the ‘’mother of the house,’’ another personality that could be classified as deputy-governor in the hierarchy of a family unit. This command structure is in operation in all societies and contributes phenomenally to the sustenance of order and harmonious co-existence. Information management is too important to be taken for granted. Has anybody bothered to imagine how a home, society, places of work, and even nations would look like without rulers, regulators of systems, or those who exercise authority? Without any doubt, the resultant chaos is better imagined than felt.

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