The adventures of Olusegun Osoba
Olusegun Osoba, who turns 80 today, has been, for decades, the journalists’ journalist. As an on-the-field-reporter, thinking on his feet, quick on the draw, breaking the news or breaking new grounds, he has few equals in Nigeria’s history of the profession. As a manager and leader, he built successful newspaper businesses in all spheres across the country and won laurels at every stop.
From the Daily Times as a reporter to The Herald in Ilorin, Kwara State, The Sketch in Ibadan and back to the Daily Times Group, as a manager of men and resources, Osoba was simply excellent. Indeed, there is no exaggeration in saying that he came into journalism, acknowledged as ‘the best profession in the world’, vigorously shook the table and dominated it over decades, from the newsroom to the boardroom.
As a politician, he is the quintessential man of the people, attentive and caring, propelled into the office of governor twice by the people of his native Ogun State.
Currently savouring his role as one of the frontline leaders of Nigeria’s ruling party, the All Progressives Congress, APC, he has packed into his eight decades, so many troubles and triumphs, that his journey is something of a mirror on those two most important sides of the coin of the life of a nation: journalism and politics.
When, fifty-five years ago, in 1964, 25-year-old Olusegun Osoba walked into the office of the old Daily Times with a mission to begin a career under the then high priest of journalism, the late Ismail Babatunde Adisa Jose, little did he know he was on a journey into history. For Osoba, that encounter became the beginning of a flourishing career as a journalist which would culminate in his emergence as the reporter and newspaper manager who has affected the profession and business in significant, positive ways.
As he clocks 80 today, having been born on July 15, 1939, Osoba is celebrated as one man who has deployed journalism in the service of humanity, especially Nigerians and played politics to make life better for the people. He is on point in his newly-presented autobiography, ‘Battlelines: Adventures in Journalism and Politics’ by inviting Nigerians and, indeed, humanity “into my world of people, press, politics, and places.”
Though he calls it “the story of how my life as a pressman and politician meshed to shape my interactions and encounters with people in different places,” it is, indeed, “a story of hope, drive, ambition, and success. It is a story of human foibles, jealousies, persecutions, and setbacks. It is a story of vision and enterprise, a chronicle of plots and betrayals. It is a tale of high-mindedness and pettiness. It is a story of God’s abiding grace.”
An eternal reporter, even at 80, Osoba would declare to whoever cares to listen that “I am still a reporter and reporting is my life,” an acknowledgment of how journalism is not just his life-long passion but, indeed, his life.
In fact, according to him, “to be called a reporter is the greatest accolade. Reporting is the soul of journalism. To report is to be the eyes and ears, the nose and voice of a news organization. It is to bear witness.”It is very important to note his self-admitted everlasting joy, which is that “newspapering has been good to me. It has offered me a passport and a visa to see the world. It has forged many rewarding friendships for me.”
His gratitude to the profession, having taken him to places he never imagined he would go; made him to meet people – the high and mighty – all over the world; and brought him in contact with the lowly and the weak, is a testimony to his depth of love for his chosen calling. To generations, Osoba’s insights into the common humanity of all peoples of the world and his meeting interesting people with different perspectives on life should be compelling lessons.
In the mold of his heroes, Herbert Macaulay, Nnamdi Azikiwe, and Obafemi Awolowo, he has proven that journalism practice is a great training ground for life in politics and leadership. His counsel that “journalism frees and opens the mind” is unassailable as “it opens you to different narratives and perspectives.”
It is, for the records, noteworthy that Osoba is in eternal gratitude to the legendary Ismail Babatunde Adisa Jose, whose unique love and leadership quality shaped his destiny in journalism. In his own words, Jose “mentored and nurtured my journalistic career.”
Jose, the legendary chairman and managing director of the Daily Times Group sponsored and exposed Osoba to some of the best institutions in the world to make him one of the luckiest and perhaps best-trained in the profession. From the International Press Institute course, through the University of Lagos to the Commonwealth Press Union Course in the UK, to the training in the Indiana State University in Bloomington, USA to the Nieman Fellowship Programme at Harvard University, Cambridge Massachusetts, Jose ensured his protege was well-groomed as a journalist and media manager.
Osoba had his elementary education at African Church School, Osogbo, (1947 -53) secondary school at Methodist Boys High School, Lagos, (1956 – 61). He thereafter obtained a diploma in journalism at the University of Lagos in 1965 and went for a one-year course in the United Kingdom on the scholarship of the Commonwealth Press Union in 1967. In 1969, he studied in Bloomington, USA at the Indiana University’s Department of Journalism. From 1974 to 1975, he was at Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA.
He began as a trainee reporter covering crime stories in 1964 at Daily Times. He became Diplomatic & Political Correspondent in 1968. He served briefly as Acting News Editor in 1968; Editor, Lagos Weekend, (1968 -1971); Deputy Editor, Sunday Times, 1971; Deputy Editor, Daily Times, (1972 -75); and Editor, Daily Times in 1975. He left the Times Group in November 1975 to be the General Manager of the Ilorin-based Nigerian Herald. He returned to the Daily Times in 1984 as Managing Director.
In his remarkable journalistic journey, he also worked with the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), the Times of London, Newsweek Magazine, U.S.A, and the 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, the Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ) and a Fellow of the Nigerian Guild of Editors (NGE).
Osoba took over the mantle of leadership of Ogun State as Governor first on January 2, 1992 and enunciated clear policies that targeted impacting positively on the lives of the people of the state. His desire to set Ogun on the path of sustainable progress made him constitute a first-rate governance system and he proceeded to run an administration reputed for strengthening Nigeria’s democratic structure as well as the culture of service.
Following the restoration of civil rule in 1999, Osoba was elected, once again, governor of Ogun State and served meritoriously for another four years. As he turns 80 today, Nigeria celebrates, not only a great journalist and politician, not only an uncommon repository of knowledge, not only a man who has been at the battlefront of journalism and politics, but also a dogged fighter still in the trenches, slugging it out, for the progress of his country.
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