I will die a reporter… and continue in heaven, says Osoba
Lists virtues of becoming great journalist at UNILAG’s lecture
The maxim that experience offers better platform for learning with practical hints that can’t be found in any text book drove the over two hours lecture last Thursday at the Department of Mass Communication, University of Lagos.
The occasion was the second edition of the History Series of the Association of Communication Scholars and Professionals of Nigeria (ACSPN) parading former Editor and Managing Director, Daily Times and former Governor of Ogun State, Chief Olusegun Osoba as guest speaker.
Held at the seminar hall of Biodun Shobanjo Centre of Excellence in Multimedia and Cinematography Building of the Mass Communication Department, in the audience were the officials of the ACSPN such as the Chairman of the Advisory Council, Prof. Idowu Sobowale; Secretary General, Prof Nosa Owens-Ibie; Chief executive officer, Diamond Award for Media Excellence (DAME), Mr Lanre Idowu; provost, Nigerian Institute of Journalism (NIJ), Mr. Gbemiga Ogunleye; chairman of the occasion, Prof. Ralph Akinfeleye; Head of Department, Associate Professor Abigail Ndisika Ogwezzy, other lecturers in the department including Ph.D/M.Phil and Masters students among others.
The profile of Chief Osoba also as former chief executive officer of The Sketch and Herald newspapers enriched his presentation, as he rolled out some of the outstanding reports that catapulted him to the peak of his journalism career.
The presentation took off on a lighter mood when he affirmed his description as reporter in the introductory remarks by the director of the programme, Mr. Kunle Ogedengbe and other earlier speakers, while adding, “I will die a reporter and when I get to Heaven, I hope to continue as a reporter, since Prof. Akinfeleye has confirmed that the only earthly profession available in Heaven is Journalism” in reference to the Communication scholar’s inaugural lecture in 2003.
Osoba, who was armed with both relics and pictures of his field experience, maintained that to be an outstanding journalist cum reporter requires being passionate, dedicated, committed and possession of high intuition. This is in addition to having magnetic brain that can store proceedings of events accurately.
In narrating his experience, especially how he broke stories that got him popular as a reporter, he embellished each of the above listed qualities in his narration, as he recounted his experiences, highlighting how they helped him come by exceptional stories, which hit the front page of some of the newspapers he worked for, sometimes for days.
He insisted that a reporter must have nose for news, which he claimed couldn’t be taught in the classroom. “Though a reporter must be a specialist in the field, he must have a little bit knowledge of everything. A reporter has no working hours. You sleep, eat journalism. A good reporter must nurture his contacts,” Osoba stated. He also feels a reporter must be bold and courageous, as well as being a good mixer among people, whether high or low calibre. One of the pictures he brought was where he was dancing with Yeye Oge of Lagos, Opral Benson at a party in the 60s.
He revealed that he had an edge over some of his colleagues because he had a scooter and a telephone line at home besides keeping and courting good sources of news. “So, as a reporter, you must be mobile and have a reliable means of communication with your sources at all times,” he said.
He however felt that the traditional media would not die, especially newspaper, which would be distributed free and community based. He said that professional media practitioners must go online to occupy the space so that it could drive out those who are operating in that space unprofessionally.
Despite the unprofessional conduct of many of those operating online media, Osoba said that regulation of any form is not the way out, but self-regulation by the professionals which would be through quality and credible reports. He maintained that would drive out those practicing unprofessionally as readers would no longer take them seriously and their platform would not just suffer credibility issues, but readership will drop.
Though he noted that journalists of today have no reason not to do better than his generation because aside they have opportunities of being better trained, he however noted that motivation is a huge minus as many media houses do not pay their staff while those who pay are not paying well. In tackling poor remuneration and none payment of salaries, he called on Newspaper Proprietors Association of Nigeria (NPAN) and Nigerian Guild of Editors (NGE) to meet to fashion out a way forward on the issue, as it is embarrassing for the profession reason some reporters are unethical in their conduct and reportage.
Osoba said he was happy to be back at the university, as it was home coming for him. He buttressed his statement with his graduation picture after he completed his diploma programme in Mass Communication in 1965. “I feel very proud when I came in today,” he said. The former Ogun State Governor disclosed that he was probably one of the most trained journalists in his era, listing how he went to about three A-list universities including Harvard University. He also disclosed that in their era, many got trained on the job starting with collecting Police reports for news, then graduating to reporting the Magistrate Court, and then to the High Court and up to Supreme Court and the Parliament.
He said the first loan a reporter gets is to buy a typewriter and he showed the typewriter he used in typing many of his outstanding copies. One story that many often associate him with is the scooping of Tafawa Balewa’s body in the aftermath of the 1966 coup inside the bush around Otta area of Ogun State. He stated that the breaking of the story of the location of Balewa’s corps was not by accident, but through his contacts.
The former Managing Director of Sketch Newspaper also revealed that his breaking of Dimka’s capture transformed Herald newspaper to become a national newspaper, as none of the national newspaper then had the story initially, with the story running for almost ten days. He said it was same experience when he got to Sketch newspaper.
During the Question and Answer session moderated by Prof. Akinfeleye, the guest speaker provided detailed responses to some critical issues that have been in the public domain concerning his elevation to the post of Managing Director at Daily Times; why he didn’t become pioneer Managing Director of The Guardian; as well as his recent return to the All Progressives Party (APC).
In his welcome address, one of the partners in organising the History Series, the CEO of Diamond Award for Media Excellence (DAME), Mr. Lanre Idowu said that it was a pleasure for him to be part of the programme and be present. He promised it was going to be a well-spent time because the guest speaker was not just a big name in the media industry but also in Nigeria.
The Deputy Vice Chancellor, Academics and Research, Prof. Oluwatoyin Ogundipe who stood in for the Vice Chancellor, Professor Rahman Bello, who declared open the lecture, said he was proud to see his former governor. “I am sure we would learn one or two things that would help improve our skills,” he said.
On his part, the representative of the Dean of the Faculty of Social Science, Professor Browne Onurah, said that Nigerian journalists just like other professionals could stand their own anywhere in the world. He however argued that to be a deep mass communicator requires having some knowledge of political science, sociology and philosophy.
For Professor Idowu Shobowale, Osoba does not pretend when he said he is a reporter, and many young journalists would have a lot to learn from him sharing his experience.
The Secretary General of the ACSPN, Professor Nosa Owens-Ibie said the association was delighted to have the guest speaker especially as he showed the values practitioners could tap from. He said the whole idea behind the History Series is not only to marry the town with the gown, but also to provide rich content that will lift teaching and practice of journalism in the country.
The Acting Head of Department, Mass Communication, University of Lagos, Associate Professor Abigail Ndisika Ogwezzy, said guest speaker did an excellent job by giving an excellent report through his lecture.
Before the take off, Prof Akinfeleye had led the guest speaker to a courtesy call on the Vice Chancellor as well as facility tour of the department.