By Enyeribe Ejiogu
DIMGBA Igwe’s life was shaped by two major influences: The revealed word of God, the Bible, and the written word in books and other news-related publications. He loved the bible and the printed word with unbridled passion.
It was a lifelong romance that started in childhood. And the love affair never waned until it was gruesomely cut short on that despicable and horrible day when a hit-and-run driver killed him on Saturday morning, September 6, 2014, as he jogged in his Okota, Lagos, neighbourhood. Imagine a person jogging regularly to improve health and sustain life, and then having the same life taken away by a veritable “scampy rascal” as Igwe would say in a jocular way, unique to him.
Talk about diligence. Talk about focus. And you could just be talking about the late Pastor Dimgba Igwe, a widely acclaimed successful journalist and bible scholar. Like Apostle Paul, Igwe loved to teach the word of God, freely sharing the insights and revelations that the Spirit gave him. You could not spend 10 minutes with him and not learn something new, either in the bible or about secular issues of life.
Talking about learning from Igwe, one person, among the many thousands that Igwe impacted on in his lifetime is Pastor Iheanyi Ejiogu, a motivational speaker and peak performance coach, who is also the senior pastor of Liberty House, the Lekki branch of Evangel Pentecostal Church, Lagos, where Igwe was the Deputy General Overseer.
Recalling how Igwe helped to set him on the path that has led him to success, Ejiogu said: “I remember when I was 19 years and I wrote him to be my mentor. Surprisingly, he replied favourably and that was how it all began for me. He taught me to know that the only way to improve mentally was by the quality of the materials one feeds his or her mind with. One of the last things he taught me was in his statement to me was: “Study, study, study, then practise, practise, practise! I will always be grateful.”
That in essence is a reflection of how Igwe himself was forged. From childhood, Igwe decided to build his life around the written word: To seek it, know it, consume it, live by it and give it back. All the while giving the glory to God.
In the book, The Alchemist, the author, Paulo Coelho, said that if a person believed very strongly in a goal, the universe would conspire to help him achieve it. The seed of Igwe’s rise to national prominence through the written word was actually sown after the death of his father, and paying school fees became a stifling challenge for his mother. Probably seeing into the future, his mother had assured him that he would be able to read all the books he could ever read in this life despite the great setback of having to withdraw temporarily from school. Through his own efforts, Igwe literally pulled himself up by the straps of his own boots, using every opportunity he got to read the printed word.
He focused on becoming a writer and diligently pursued this goal by going into journalism. It was a long, drawn out process that eventually led him to the Nigerian Institute of Journalism. With determination, tenacity and singleness of purpose, he made his mark at the Concord newspaper after passing through the tutelage of notable and renowned journalists like the late Dele Giwa. Then providence provided him with the opportunity to team up with Mike Awoyinfa, who later became the pioneer Managing Director/Editor-in-Chief of and now a Director of The Sun Publishing Limited, chose him as his deputy, and together they worked, with a stellar group of energetic journalists, hungry for success, to birth the super-successful and award-winning Weekend Concord, which ‘baptised’ Nigerian newspaper readers into tabloid journalism.
of the Concord family and was somewhat instrumental to the forging of the unique bond between Awoyinfa and Igwe, in the sense that she provided the platform by initiating the creation of the Weekend Concord that brought the duo together, recalled those days in a tribute she wrote when Igwe was killed in 2014. She said: “Mike, as the designate editor for the new title was given the chance to pick his own deputy. Mike chose Dimgba, as his deputy and they made history with Weekend Concord in style, content and circulation. In short, Weekend Concord became the largest circulating Nigerian newspaper, with a million copies sold on Saturday nationwide.”
Similarly, Mrs. Wale Sokunbi, the current and first female chairman of the Editorial Board of The Sun, who is also a ‘daughter’ of the Concord family, captured the relationship forged between Awoyinfa and Igwe in the effort to birth and build Weekend Concord as a successful newspaper brand: “I, alongside many of the old Concord newspaper tribe, met and worked closely together with Mr. Igwe in the 1980s and 90s. The Weekend Concord newspaper, where we worked directly together, was a lovely and interesting place to be. The visionary Mike Awoyinfa, was the ‘heart’ of Weekend Concord, while Dimgba Igwe was the ‘head.’ As a visionary and creative thinker, Awoyinfa almost permanently had his head in the clouds, bubbling with outstanding story ideas and headlines, which he usually first sounded out on his deputy, Dimgba, before bursting into the newsroom to tell us about it. While Awoyinfa daily wined and dined with the mysterious journalism spirits, who gave him uncommon insights that produced blockbuster stories, Dimgba was the one who had his feet firmly planted on the ground. He was the one who always faithfully guided the editorial process, which brought their joint dreams to reality in the form of outstanding and unforgettable stories. It was that shared thinking and responsibility that gave birth to the Weekend Concord in the first place. It was also the magical formula that informed the birth of The Sun newspaper, and made it the roaring success that it is today.”
It was from those days of Concord that Igwe developed a deep, strong bond never before seen in Nigeria between two people from different ethnic groups and somewhat contrasting personalities. Back in those days, while Awoyinfa was the unabashedly fun-loving fellow, Igwe came across as the taciturn one with a deep Pentecostal hue. Notwithstanding their different spiritual attitudes to life, they became so bonded that professional colleagues began to describe them as the journalism twins from different mothers. Not even their respective wives could come between them!
While still piloting the Weekend Concord, Awoyinfa and Igwe published their first book, The Art of Feature Writing, which has been highly acclaimed by journalism scholars.
On the wall of a church building not very far from Jakande Estate Gate, Ejigbo, is this inscription: “God uses setbacks to move us forward.” Again, the bible says “all things work together for good to them that trust the Lord, and who are called according to his purpose.” For Igwe, the setback came when the Sani Abacha military regime proscribed Concord Newspapers Group in the wake of the agitation against the annulment of the June 12 election, won by the late Moshood K.O. Abiola, who was the publisher.
Suddenly cast adrift in the sea of unemployment, Igwe and his twin brother took their journalistic art to the higher realm by becoming biographers. This gave birth to 50 Nigeria’s Corporate Strategists. CEOs Share Experience In Managing Companies in Nigeria – a well crafted incisive, rich 816-page book that became a bestseller and garnered rave reviews across Nigeria. Even this reporter for one year, between 2001 and 2002 lived in Abuja, where he engaged in selling the book to keep body and soul together after also suffering a setback. That book was like the Rolls Royce of Nigerian business biographies. It was followed by some other successful books, namely: Orji Kalu: Leadership Lessons From A Master Strategist; 50 Nigeria’s Marketing Memoirs, Mike Adenuga, Africa’s Business Guru, Segun Osoba, The Newspaper Years and the more recent 50 World Editors. Several other books are in advanced stages of compilation, including the biography of the former governor of Lagos State and current Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola, which is undergoing editorial finishing touches.
Ask Igwe, when he was alive, the key to the success he achieved, his prompt answer always was: “Jesus, of course, who else? The best thing that ever happened to me is not journalism or writing books. The best thing that happened to me is deciding to give my life to Jesus in 1982 and deciding to serve Him with all my heart. It is often easy to lose sight of the source of all skills and blessing and focus on individuals. But for me, whatever I am doing right happened because of Jesus, my source.”
After featuring in 50 Nigeria’s Corporate Strategists and the subsequent book, Igwe and his twin brother wrote about him, Orji Kalu tapped on them to make his desire to own a newspaper materialise. This resulted in the establishment of The Sun, through which Awoyinfa and Igwe re-enacted the magical success of Weekend Concord. The Sun is still blazing in Nigeria’s newspaper firmament and has even given birth to other newspapers.
When their active management of The Sun came to an end, they moved on to set up Entertainment Express though Igwe also moved up to become the Vice Chairman of The Sun Publishing Limited, a position he held until he was killed by the driver from hell.
Igwe did not look at people through the prism of ethnicity. It didn’t matter to him if you came from the moon, as long as he was convinced that you were competent to deliver on goals. This reflected in the appointments he and Awoyinfa made in the formative days of The Sun, as they followed in the footsteps of the Publisher, Orji Kalu, who has people from all ethnic groups and races, working in his global conglomerate. More than 70% of the pioneer editorial, printing and pre-press staff of The Sun came from the old Concord family, as editors, line editors and correspondents. The majority of the other 30% also passed through Concord before working in other newspapers, from where they joined The Sun. Today, the staff profile remains the same. Clearly, Igwe didn’t manifest tribal tendencies. He lived out the meaning of the scripture in 2 Corinthians 5:17: “He who is in Christ is a new creature; old things have passed away; and all things have become new.”
This newness of life was abundantly displayed at Evangel Pentecostal Church, where he was a founding member, church secretary, pastor and later the first Deputy General Overseer. Held that position until the Black Saturday morning of September 6, 2014, the day he died.