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All set for unveiling of the making of the Nigerian flagship

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All is now set for the launch of the book: ‘The Making of The Nigerian Flagship: A Story of The Guardian’ on Wednesday, April 7, 2021, at the Balmoral Events and Conference Centre of Federal Palace Hotel, Victoria Island, Lagos.

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The book, authored by Aaron Ukodie and Seun Ogunseitan, tells the story behind the creation of the paper and its founding publisher, Alex Uruemu Ibru. The 600-page book captures first-hand memoirs of experiences by former staff, narrating what went into the creation of the iconic brand that is called The Guardian.

It has 39 chapters with topics that include conception and birth of a dream, the making of a flagship, the editorial structure. The substantial minority, the building of a unique team, the battle for space academicians in Rutam House thoughtful editorials, distinctive exclusive stories, classic reflections of the era, muses in the flagship, the sacking of Macebuh and Ogunbiyi, revenue issues, focus on some Rutam House Greats, recreating The Guardian

In chapter 1, Conception and the birth of a dream, the authors reveal that the Ibru family of five notable Nigerian brothers, with diverse business interests locally and abroad, were involved in the newspaper’s establishment.

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“The Ibru brothers, Michael, Felix, Bernard, Goodie, and Alex, had all shared a dream of adding a newspaper to their business empire. They took their time in looking around before going ahead to collaborate with the very best of seasoned newspapermen, who had registered their imprints in the industry within and outside Nigeria.

“The detailed story of the founding of The Guardian is somewhat disparate. But that should be understandable, considering that the main participants were essentially a different group being asked to recall specific details of events that happened more than forty years earlier. Even at that, there were many single streams of accounts on which virtually all the foundational actors agree.

“Today, a good four decades after the founding of The Guardian Newspaper, the late Alex Ibru’s family is indisputably the owner of the media organisation. They run the paper, assisted by a board of Directors.”

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They noted that though The Guardian Newspaper started as a weekly publication on Sunday, February 27, 1983, the newspaper did not begin production with its own machine at inception, disclosing that its first copies were printed at the Sketch Newspaper Press in Ibadan, while The Guardian Newspaper waited for the arrival of its own printing machines.

“Chief Segun Osoba had offered the Sketch press to print The Guardian as part of its external commercial jobs for which Sketch charged fees. And this continued until July 2, 1983, when the newly-installed Guardian printing machines were ready. However, while the printing was done at the Sketch’s Ibadan facility, Pre-press (typesetting/lithography) and editorial production was done at the Punch Newspaper’s Printing Press in Ikeja.”

The making of a flagship was the title of Chapter 2. The writers state that the atypical blend of men from diverse intellectual and professional backgrounds, with un-identical experience and exposure in newspaper production, gave birth to a publication with a unique tradition in style and content.

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“Perhaps, this is the best way to capture the skilled contributions of the trio- Dr Stanley Macebuh, Mr Oyinlade Bonuola, and Mr Nick Iduwe- the brains behind the roll-out of the first edition of The Guardian on Sunday, February 27, 1983.

“Macebuh, the exceptionally gifted, American-trained writer and teacher of the English Language, was the ideologue and thinker behind the newspaper. Bonuola was a thorough-bred newspaperman and one of the finest in editorial production back then, while Iduwe had a niche and technical prowess in management of newspaper production process.”

Providing insight into the making of The Guardian, they said for almost three years before the auspicious February 27, 1983 date, Ladbone was assigned the task of studying the strengths and weakness of all major national and provincial newspapers in Nigeria to his slightly younger, exceptionally detailed and creative long-time ally at the Daily Times, Mr Femi Kusa.

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“He was mandated to identify and know all there was to know, about all major Nigerian newspapers then, relating to their news production and presentation styles, as well as the aesthetics of the newspaper. Kusa, without any doubt whatsoever, delivered resoundingly too as The Guardian emerged a definite cut above other newspapers it met on the ground at its launch in 1983, and for the following 10 years.

“From the very beginning, all the five dreamers who berthed The Guardian had resolved to produce a quality paper, different from all others that were circulating in the country. They set out to change the face and pace of the journalism profession in Nigeria and align it with the very best of global newspapering standards, within the constraints of a third-world country. Their vision was to produce the leading newspaper in Nigeria and match the standards of global brands such as The New York Times and The London Times. That, however, was a tall dream.

“The maiden edition of The Guardian had 40 pages. It was reduced to 24 pages few weeks after, due to complaints from readers that there was too much to read and also as a result of scarcity of newsprint and printing challenges. Notwithstanding the newspaper remained on the newsstands every Sunday, until Monday, July 4, 1983, when it published its first-ever daily edition. The daily edition was also 24 pages.

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“The newspaper, however, grew in pagination to nearly four-folds on some days, to as much as 84 pages, due to what could be described as an explosion in advertisement patronage. It became difficult maintaining the agreed average ratio of 40 per cent adverts to 60 per cent editorial content.”

On how The Guardian was able to build a unique team, which formed the crux of chapter 7, the authors note that one of the chips of paper’s success was the quality and diversity of the human resources, which influenced the passion that fired their performance.

“No newspaper before it had such an assemblage and array of the workforce. And not even after, has any newspaper in Nigeria been able to assemble such quality of manpower that gathered at Rutam House, to help actualize The Guardian vision.

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“Both intellectuals from tertiary institutions and core professionals who have made their marks in the best tradition of journalism created a perfect mix that produced stories and cast headlines that aroused the curiosity of the average reader, challenged the intellect of the educated, and sent students of English to their dictionaries. Naturally, there was an air of anticipation, as everyone looked forward to the next morning for what The Guardian was going to offer.

“The Guardian managers travelled distances to get the right people, once they identified them, as it did to Sully Abu, who was sent an Ibru vehicle to be brought down to Lagos, from Kano. Before then, he had been impressed by the prim outlook of Ted Iwere, the first Guardian Newspaper reporter he had encountered. Iwere had gone to Kano to interview the governor of Kano State, Alhaji Abubakar Rimi, whom Sully Abu served as Press Secretary. Rimi was governor of Kano State from 1979 under the umbrella of the People’s Redemption Party (PRP) led by the maverick socialist politician, Alhaji Aminu Kano. Iwere, who had turned up in a smart white long-sleeve shirt with a matching tie and trousers, made a good impression on Abu.”

Chapter 38, with the title, Recreating The Guardian dwelt on how the paper can rekindle its fire. The authors said: “The Guardian grew to become a true media institution, in every stand, and its managers flaunted its accomplishments. At some points, those who made the paper an institution were seen as just numbers that could be replaced with new sets that could fit in into an already oiled machine to roll.”

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At the unveiling on Wednesday, expected as guests are state executives that include Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, the special guest of honour, who will deliver the keynote address, and Lagos State Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu. He is attending as chief host. His Delta State counterpart, Ibru’s state of origin, Ifeanyi Okowa, is co-host. Chief Segun Osoba, a former Governor of Ogun State, who wrote the foreword, will be the father of the day.

Chairman of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF) and Ekiti State Governor, who was a former staff of The Guardian, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, would also grace the event along with Kwara, Kogi, Enugu, and Rivers colleagues; governors AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq, Yahaya Bello, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi and Nyesom Wike.

Also expected at the event are media entrepreneurs, opinion moulders, managers, and journalists are among the more than 250 guests billed for the presentation that vividly captures how The Guardian was made and became the Flagship of the Nigerian media, especially in its first 10 years covering 1983 to 1993.

Among the top media men gracing the ceremony include Member of Editorial Board and founding member of The Guardian, Dr. Patrick Dele Cole, pioneer editorial board member of the medium, Prof. Femi Osofisan, and anchor of the Good Morning Nigeria Show on Nigerian Television Authority (NTA), Kingsley Osadolor.

Others are Publisher of Premium Times, Dapo Olorunyomi, Chairman, Editorial Board, ThisDay, Segun Adeniyi, Deputy Managing Director, ThisDay Newspaper, Kayode Komolafe, and Managing Director, Sun Newspapers, Onuoha Ukeh.

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