Yemi Ogunbiyi brought intellectualism into journalism, says Osoba
Former governor of Ogun State, Chief Olusegun Osoba has described former member of Editorial Board and Executive Director, Marketing and Corporate Affairs, Guardian Newspapers Limited, Dr. Yemi Ogunbiyi, as a great Nigerian who brought intellectualism into journalism.
Osoba spoke at the presentation of the book “The Road Never Forgets” and fundraising for Yemi Ogunbiyi Anglican Schools, Sagamu, Ogun State as part of activities to mark Dr. Ogunbiyi’s 75th birthday in Lagos recently.
An elated Osoba, said, “I’m happy for his success in life. Yemi was my successor as The Managing Director at Daily Times. He continued to create profitability when he succeeded me. When I went into politics, the remark I got from my rivals was that, ‘Yes, Osoba was a great journalist but everywhere he went, after he left, everything collapsed.’ But this is false because Yemi Ogunbiyi continued to create profitability when he succeeded me as the Managing Director of the Daily Times and I am happy that he achieved better than I did.”
He added, before then, Yemi was in The Guardian and was part of the team that brought intellectualism into journalism. He also recalled, “I told Mr. Alex Ibru that if you want to produce first class newspaper, you must let the intellectuals and professionals handle it. The good thing was that he listened to me and I’m happy that the memory of Alex Ibru is still on. Despite pressures from the government, he never interfered with the editorials in The Guardian and he paid the price.”
Speaking further, he said, during their time, there was no Editorial Board. He added, “Alh. Lateef Jakande used to be the Editor-in-Chief and would write editorials in Tribune. But when Dr. Patrick Dele Cole came, with the likes of Stanley Macebuh and Dele Giwa they brought the idea of Editorial Board.”
Concerning the autobiography, he described the book as factual, intellectual and educative.
Recounting his experience with nostalgic feelings, Ogunbiyi, in his memoirs noted, “Looking back now, it is a marvel that I was able to juggle the commitment to my marketing briefs with a whole range of other activities that could not afford to wait. I do not recall any other time in my professional life, either at the university or the media, even in my private business, that I was as busy as those six years of my life at Guardian Newspapers. It was an absolutely crazy schedule! And in retrospect, it wasn’t as if the pay was fantastic. The remuneration, which didn’t come, for instance, with perks like an official car, was modest. With hardly any social life that competed for my time, I gave the job all I had. I usually got back from work almost everyday, tired and exhausted. Yet, I gladly looked forward to going back to work the next day. I enjoyed every minute of the challenge of those years.”
Speaking further, the septuagenarian continued, “by mid-1986, our combined editorial and marketing efforts had started to bear tangible results. In The first- ever scientific and authentic Audit Bureau of Circulation of Nigeria newspapers on Sundays, conducted by Newspapers Proprietors Association of Nigeria (NPAN) by Coopers and Lybrand, a firm of Chattered Accountants, The Guardian, then only three years old in the business was ranked second largest selling newspaper in the country after the then sixty-year old Daily Times.”
He said the survey significantly boosted the company. According to him, “we knew we were the “flagship” of the Nigerian press because we said so ourselves. But now we had some proof!”
He further recalled, “my intense marketing exposed me to the nitty-gritty of the newspaper industry in ways that no textbook could have done. In the process, it provided me with valuable insights into the workings of the mind of the Publisher, Alex Ibru. The more I learnt, the more I discovered that the profit margins in the capital intensive world of the newspaper industry were marginal and almost intangible.”
Looking into the future, he said while it is difficult to fully evoke the optimism about the hope of the Guardian during the early years, “it gives me great satisfaction to note that the “flagship” has continued to thrive in the troubled waters of a struggling industry. Between dwindling media resources, the assault from the internet, the “new media” and global financial crisis that have been compounded by COVID-19 pandemic, the future of print journalism has never seemed in greater peril. All who love print journalism can only hope that the demise of the newspaper-on-print, in whatever form it takes to survive, is not likely to happen soon and that a newspapers singular “uniqueness,” which remains unmatched by technology, the efficient way the eye can scan the newspaper page, or the way a newspaper can be folded up and carried around,” would see it through a most challenging future.”
However, he said it is also gratifying to note that The Guardian has taken another lead in the industry by seeking to diversify its operations in the face of mounting competition from social media.
To him, by setting up Guardian Television, Guardian Films and Guardian Radio, The Guardian publisher, Mrs. Maiden Ibru, is taking bold strides that could redefine the media industry in Nigeria and, in the process further secure her husband’s place as, indisputably, one of the significant figures of Nigerian journalism.
In his speech, Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo opined, “I think that by and large, for anyone who has read this book or will, you will notice that all that Dr Ogunbiyi wants to achieve in this book is to tell a story, not just of himself, but of our country. I must confess that in this book, not only does he discharge that obligation, he has also shown that he is one who is capable of telling a story without embellishments.
Former Commonwealth Secretary-General, Chief Emeka Anyaoku stressed the need to elect leaders that would transform the country. He counselled, “as the country is now gearing up towards 2023 elections, I urge all the prospective candidates to commit themselves to prioritising the reformation of the country and more importantly, I urge our citizens, the electorate not to vote for any candidate who fails to pledge to do so. We are to arrest the daily killings of innocent citizens; the latest example being the killing of over 80 people with the abduction of further 70 and the burning of several houses in Plateau State.”
Nobel Laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka described the autobiography as a book of love. He said he was happy that a school had been named after the authour. He homourously added, ‘I wrote a book titled, “The Road,” there is no way Yemi Ogunbiyi could persuade me that he did not steal the copyright of The Road and I am willing to negotiate with him and I donate whatever I extract from him to this worthy cause of universal education.”
Some notable dignitaries present at the function include, wife of the author, Iyalode Folasade Ogunbiyi, publisher of Guardian Newspaper, Lady Maiden Ibru, Managing Director of Guardian Newspapers, Martins Oloja, Prof. Femi Osofisan who reviewed the book, Governor Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti State, Governor Dapo Abiodun of Ogun State, former Governor of Ogun State, Gbenga Daniel, former governor of Cross River State, Donald Duke.
Others are, former governor of Osun State and Minister of Interior, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola, General Manager/Editor-in-Chief, Vanguard Newspapers Gbenga Adefaye, Vice Chancellor Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife Osun State, Professor Eyitope Ogunbodede among others.