Patrick Dele Cole: A significant brilliance
Till date, Dr. Cole remains significant in the eyes of those who would like to remember Nigeria as the black man’s pride. So, we continue to borrow from the brilliance of a man who practically demonstrated that journalism is truly a multi-disciplinary profession. During his memorable days at Daily Times, he established the premier editorial board in Nigeria. Later at The Guardian, through his influence, the editorial board membership became classy and influential. Dr. Cole is not only a visionary but a good judge of men. He prevailed on Dr. Stanley Macebuh, this newspaper’s first Managing Director and Executive Editor, to leave his teaching job in a New York University and return to Nigeria, just as he did with Dele Giwa. He convinced both men to work for the Daily Times, arguably beginning the era of superstar journalists.
At the Daily Times, Dr. Cole became acclaimed. He has been recognized by the pioneer editor of this newspaper who knew him in Daily Times as an astute manager of men and resources. As the story goes, sometime in 1975, the country’s oldest newspaper, the then more than four decades old Daily Times was rocked by a severe internal crisis. So serious was the intra-organizational eruption that not many had thought the newspaper, a veritable national institution, could successfully wade through the rough waters. Not only had about nine top executives been forced to resign, Alhaji Babatunde Jose, the resourceful incumbent Managing Director and associate of the newspaper for nearly three decades was forced into voluntary retirement.
Moreover, the federal military government had arbitrarily acquired the majority (60%) equity shareholding in the newspaper company. So, when in 1976, the Murtala administration announced the appointment of Dr. Patrick Dele Cole, then an administrative officer at the Cabinet Office as Managing Director of Daily Times, not a few were skeptical about his ability to see the newspaper through the turbulence at the time. In the first place, the image of the civil servant at the time was at its lowest nadir. This was partly due to the massive purge of the service by the Murtala regime. The service was also then perceived with ailments such as inefficiency, ineptitude, red-tapism, and corruption. Against this backdrop, many were persuaded then that a civil servant was the least desirable to head the famous and influential newspaper at the testy time.
But Dr. Cole was to prove all the cynics wrong. Not only did he stabilize the situation within the company, in the next four years of his tenure, but the Daily Times also grew exponentially. Drawing strength from his intellect, charisma, and executive intelligence, he attracted public intellectuals and top journalists to the newspaper’s stable.
Therefore, part of the critical success factors, which gave the Daily Times added prestige was a large gathering of intellectuals there as a result of a deliberate policy enunciated by Alhaji Jose in his human capital development project. That Dr. Cole continued with and improved on the policy remarkably raised the tone of the newspaper. So successful was the introduction of the editorial board at the Daily Times and later in this newspaper, that the tradition continues today. Most newspapers in the country now boast of well-constituted editorial boards.
It has been written that Dr. Cole in his simplicity and humility, regarded the experience in DTN as a learning process and he learned fast, to the extent that all associates in the stable loved him. In his pronouncements and carriage, there was sincerity in all his purpose, which resonated well at all levels in the company. He never forgot the initial misgivings and apprehension that the government had planted him there to suppress the dreaded freedom of expression at the Daily Times. In time, he became so credible with both staff and readers, and disappointed cynics as he defended Daily Times and its editorial independence until the democratic government of Alhaji Shehu Shagari arrived and got him and his team to step aside. By the time he left Daily Times in 1980, he had, all told, achieved his stated intention to “leave Daily Times stronger than I found it”.
He was later to lend his weight to the emergence of The Guardian in 1983, where he still serves as a consultant to the Editorial Board. Dr. Cole was soon on a diplomatic turf as he was in 1987 appointed Nigeria’s ambassador to Brazil. As it has been repeatedly noted, although he has straddled every visible sphere of human endeavour, from being a university lecturer to being a politician, businessman, and diplomat, there is no service that has afforded him the opportunity to be in his best elements than journalism. Dr. Cole will forever remain a landmark in the newspaper industry and indeed the Nigerian society.
Born on August 4, 1940, Dr. Cole, who hails from Abonnema, in Kalabari Kingdom of Rivers State, Nigeria, began his education career at St. Bartholomew’s School, Enugu, between 1946 and 1953. He also attended Baptist High School, Port Harcourt, and Ibadan Grammar School, between 1954-1958 and 1959-1960, respectively. In 1962, he went out of Nigeria in his quest for higher education. He was a student at the University of Otago, Dunedin in New Zealand from 1962-1965, and the University of Cambridge in England (1966-1970). Between 1970 and 1973 he was a Fellow at King’s College, Cambridge University, where he obtained his doctorate degree in History. He later became a visiting professor at the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, United States from where he was recalled home to join the federal civil service. At 80, he has served and finished very strong.
He rightly deserves 80 happy cheers!
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