GUEST Column by DR. BISI OLAWUNMI
In the days preceding the July 15th, 2019 celebration of the 80th birthday of Aremo Segun Osoba, distinguished journalist and two-time governor of Ogun state, the media had been awash with his reminisces as well as excepts from his memoir, Battlelines : Adventures in Journalism and Politics, The book title captures his battles in the Newsroom and much later, on the political turf. My first encounter with Mr. Segun Osoba. as he was then, was in the summer of 1973 when, as a mass communication student at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, I had a vacation job with the Daily Times newspaper, before subsequent full time employment between 1976 and 1977. He was the Deputy Editor, Daily Times. What strikes you on first meeting the dashing Segun Osoba of those days was his panache – trim build, stylishly dressed, gregarious and of course, the swagger. He walks jauntily into the Newsroom, carrying an aura with him. He was simply a charmer. And I think that contributed to his battles at the Daily Times. The Editorship of the Daily Times was a coveted prize which pitted him in battle against the graduate class. At the time, Alhaji Babatunde Jose who ruled at the Daily Times with imperial authority as executive chairman, had brought university graduates into the Daily Times, a very bold move then, when the main qualification for journalists was the secondary school certificate. But that innovation led to battle lines being drawn between Town and Gown – the non graduates versus the graduates. I remember the pioneer graduates of that era to include Prince Tony Momoh, Areoye Oyebola, Idowu Shobowale and Femi Sonaike, both of whom later became Professors of Mass Communication, Dr. Hezy Idowu, wordsmith Gbolabo Ogunsanwo, Martins Iroabuchi and Doyin Aboaba, later Dr. (Mrs.) Doyin Abiola.
On the non graduates corner were Alhaji Jose himself, Segun Osoba, Alhaji Odunewu, a celebrated Columnist, Peter Osugo, Pa Alabi, a master sub-editor and production guru, and irrepressible Chief Ola , the News Editor, with his permanent company of a big bottle of stout. They were all thorough, hands-on, on-the-job trained professionals. So, the battlelines were not so much about competence but more of ego – the educated versus the ‘illiterates’, the arrogance of the graduate class and its putdown of others. I want to believe that Segun Osoba was in the eye of that storm largely due to his persona – his confident carriage was offensive to many of the graduates. The attitude was like Who does he think he is ? Osoba was a field man, go-getter journalist who assiduously cultivated the power elite, raking in exclusive stories and scoops and orchestrated his journalistic exploits to blunt the arrogance of the graduates who were not field men, but mostly on the sub editing desk or features unit. The battlelines were also a clash of style. While Osoba, the crack reporter, was a man about town, virtually all the graduates were rather subdued in persona – no boisterousness about them, which was the Newsroom trademark. You won’t find them at the journalists’ watering hole, the New Can Can, opposite Times office at Kakawa Street in Lagos island. Oyebola, who was a teacher before Alhaji Jose drafted him, could not shed his provincialism of the village teacher, Dr. Hezy (PhD) exhibited professorial aloofness, Prince Tony Momoh, though friendly, projected a royal distance from the crowd. Doyin Aboaba, still single then, seemed to carry a burden and generally looked distracted. The one who came closest to matching Segun Osoba in terms of vibrant presence was Gbolabo Ogunsanwo, handsome, with an engaging smile, an eminent columnist, unarguably Nigeria’s most successful editor to date who took the Sunday Times, of which he was editor, to an unprecedented circulation of 500,000 copies weekly. But, sadly, Gbolabo Ogunsanwo’s brilliant career crashed at the battle lines in the Daily Times as he became one the biggest fall guys in the tsunami that swept many of the graduates away in the epic battle for control of the Daily Times in the late 1970s and eventual takeover of the newspaper by the federal government. Segun Osoba, an establishment loyalist, was properly aligned in the battle line formation and survived the tsunami to later become Editor and Group Managing Director of the Daily Times. Thus, in his adventures in journalism, Aremo Segun Osoba broke through the battle lines to victory.
Dr. Bisi Olawunmi, a Public Affairs analysts and Daily Times alumnus, is former Washington Correspondent of the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) Email : firstname.lastname@example.org Phone :SMS ONLY : 0803 364 7571