Prince Nduka Obaigbena, the Duke of Nigerian journalism was 60 in July, and would be expected this gentleman from Owa in Agbor, Delta State rolled out the drums to celebrate. Nduka has done well to mark the milestone. In the first place life in our society is nasty and brutish, the economic space is virtually closed and the common things people take for granted in other climes that make life comfortable and worth living are all near absent in our society. Those who know put life expectancy in Nigeria at 53 years. So to stay healthy after all the hassles and clock 60 is a big achievement.
It was good that Obaigbena decided to celebrate and very gratifying to see that distinguished personalities from the country and beyond saw a good reason to rejoice with the Duke of Journalism Kingdom. Nduka is not just a phenomenon, he is one of uncommon kind. He has an electric mind, ever busy, thinking out new ways of doing old things. He may not have invented the wheel anew but from the black man’s perspective he has done enough to give vent to the belief that with innovation and little creativity the black world can recreate not only their history but their situation in world affairs. One of the banes of journalism practice in the country, and perhaps across the Black world, is that journalists give all their lives to lift and celebrate others while relegating their own stars, who in many of the cases are some of the best brains you can find anywhere in the world.
That tradition is dying away gradually for good. Few weeks earlier, it was the turn of Chief Olusegun Osoba, then Obaigbena and few days later, Alhaji Lateef Jakande; these are great developments. Our colleagues have also celebrated their heroes by their various write-ups. Veteran journalist, Ray Ekpu’s outing under the title ‘Two journalism giants’ was the most striking. He mentioned that it was remarkable for Obaigbena to have established a newsmagazine at the age of 27, he stopped there and never gave the objective. Yet, it is in the objective that you could see why Obaigbena is a phenomenon. Before he came up with the idea of the magazine called “ThisWeek” of which this writer was a part, Obaigbena had made enough money working with foreign newsmagazines that all he would have done was go into economic exile probably in America, remain there and enjoy his life, but he didn’t follow that line of least resistance. Rather, he chose to work the hard road staying here in the country and working things out.
It is very instructive that he took that option when it was popular to leave our shores and jump abroad. He saw the sense in replicating in the country the things he saw out there in the developed settings; this is what I call right thinking and it is a prescription all Nigerians still need even till tomorrow. ThisWeek magazine was a beauty to behold. The esthetics was something else and the content was rich and in-depth, written in the best of prose. ThisWeek was a statement and the black man’s reply to Time and Newsweek magazines of the American world. ThisWeek’s organization itself is a testimony of Obaigbena’s mind about the country and the black man in general. The staffers were mainly young men and women with high grades from our universities and polytechnics, persons who were convinced they could change the ugly national narrative using their ingenuity. The Jesus model was in application; visitors could hardly distinguish the bosses from their subordinates. It was a free atmosphere yet everybody knew what his responsibilities were.
Eagles don’t walk with chickens, they fly with eagles. ThisWeek was a house of excellence. Sonala Olumhense was there, till today he is a force in journalism. Pini Jason, Amuzie Akpaka and Lanre Idowu were there also. Akpaka left to become a manager in an advertising company and Idowu up till now is a major ombudsman for the Nigerian media and we all appreciate his work. Tunji Lardner, Ndaeyo Uko, Chido Nwakama, Ugo Onuoha, Emma Onyejena, Maxim Uzoatu, Madu Onuora, Lawson Omokodion, Greg Obong-Oshotse, Taiwo Obe, Ken Tadaferua, Wilson Onyeibe, Sam Egburonu, Clement Lucky Okoobo and Stanley Ogunedo, were some of those in the team and they all made a statement. It was the same spirit most of us carried as pioneer staff to ThisDay Newspaper, one of the leading newspapers in the country and even Africa today.
Now to the main point: our society will never develop, not to talk of making global impact, if the political class continues to leave the media out of plans to move the nation forward. Lack of ideology and absence of a theme for the media to run with are some of the factors stalling our march to greatness. Nnamdi Kanu has a portfolio radio but our information ministers have fully fledged communication setups, yet the former has larger and more effective audience, why? The developed nations are holding the under developed countries down not by use of military force as used to be the case, but by the power of communication. Some of us who know had thought that our country would have force of communication and the media taking full leadership control of Africa and to some extent re-write the often negative stories and stereotypes pushed against the Black man and especially force the world community to listen to our stories, as told by us, using our platform. This is power and it goes with immense benefits.
Our minds have not gone that way so we have ended up losing what should have been a big gain. The void we have left, South Africa is using DSTV to fill, even though not in the exact manner some of us would have wished. Motivated by Whites the South African effort is devoid of politics, economics, and deep cultural expositions. This is where professionals come in. It is the same reason none professionals should not man critical information policy and dissemination positions. Proper information management is far beyond taking and reacting to public affairs, the most important part is to catch a vision like I have enunciated above and to have ability to bring it to reality.
Obaigbena has a cable TV station by the name Arise, which can be accessed worldwide. It runs on DSTV on channel 416, take a look-in and you will marvel that a Nigerian can put such together. Because it is running as a one-man private business, so the political, economic and social verve is not there; that is the vacuum we can fill using Nduka. He can keep his own while we make him Minister for Information and charge him with the mandate to rebrand Nigerian Television Authority (NTA) and Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria (FRCN), and make them our answer to British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), Voice of America and Cable News Network (CNN), DSTV, Aljazeera, Press TV of Iran and CGTN of China. It is time the Federal government put together our media heroes and creates a channel for them to put their brains to work on behalf of the rest of us.
That is the challenge. Obaigbena is a great man, a prince with honour at home and abroad. He is a man that also has frailties and I am sure he knows one or two that are frequently said, beyond all that he is an asset. He taught us how to start. He is a visionary, has tenacity, very kind, patriotic and wants the best for Nigeria and the Black-man. Happy birthday my lordship, may your days be long.