Who is a reporter? In Praise of Segun Osoba, Reporter @ 81 By Mike Awoyinfa and Dimgba Igwe

By Mike Awoyinfa and Dimgba Igwe

WHO is a reporter?  He is the storyteller who tells us every day, every week, the uncomfortable truths, the daily peccadilloes of the great and mighty, the famous and the infamous.  He is the storyteller who tells every day, every week, something new, something we never expected, something that would interest us, something that would jolt us, something we are ready to pay our hard-earned money to read, something worthy of news.  A reporter is the quintessential newsman, that bundle of courage and curiosity always daring to go where even angels fear to tread.  

He is the one we count on, the one who carries us mentally to the scene of newsbreak.  He is our eye.  He is our ear.  He is our mouthpiece.  He is the one who reports events from our perspective, in a language that we understand.  He is a man we trust, a man of integrity, a man we rely on to tell us the truth, who would not fake stories just to sell his newspaper.  He is the man with clouts, who probes behind the official version of what is taking place to tell us the hidden truth behind.  He is the man working against deadlines, against all odds and doing everything possible to get his story across on time.  A reporter is a throwback to the marathon runner of ancient Greece who would run miles and miles to deliver the news from faraway.

Osoba is everything a reporter is and more.  His unique attribute as a reporter is best captured by Alhaji Babatunde Jose, the former chairman and managing director of the Daily Times and Osoba’s mentor: “Segun Osoba was the ubiquitous reporter who was everywhere with his scooter.  He was a man about town, who knew a lot of people.  He had telephone at home and with it he was able to build a network of news sources and contacts.  A good reporter must have contacts.  For every story you must know whom to link to get you more facts on the story.”

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A reporter is the chronicler at the forefront of history, recording history and presenting it hurriedly in form of news.  When you read a newspaper, you really are reading history viewed from the perspective of the present.  In a way, a reporter is a historian.  From the hundreds and thousands of events that happen every day, newspaper reporters and editors must, as a daily ritual, sort out what in their perception is the most important.  They have to decide instantly which events are historically significant and which are not.  

At times, when reporters are reporting history, they end up being part of the history.  Osoba’s footprints on the sands of history are there for the younger generation of journalists to see and emulate.  He made history when as a reporter at the Daily Times, using his investigative skills, found the corpse of Nigeria’s first Prime Minister Abubakar Tafawa Balewa.  The Prime Minister had been assassinated with other politicians in the wake of Nigeria’s first coup d’etat in 1966.  There was confusion and uncertainty in the air.  Nobody knew where the corpse was.  Then all of a sudden, Segun Osoba by sheer serendipity got the biggest exclusive story of his entire life.  A contact had tipped him off on the whereabouts of Balewa’s corpse.  He obviously sped to the place, combed bush and luckily saw the gory sight of the Prime Minister’s corpse in all its awfulness.  A world exclusive that would make every reporter proud!  An emotional story that would make any reporter feel like the first man to walk on the moon.  That is one big story that was Osoba’s defining moment as a newspaper reporter. 

A reporter is forever looking for drama and reliving the drama of life in the form of news.  And sometimes he is also caught in the drama, making news himself.  Osoba made news when in the wake of the coup d’etat he braved all odds to go to the office to produce the newspaper of the day with his managing director while his editor stayed at home, unfortunately.  He was rewarded with editorship which triggered off the Daily Times crisis, an event that is part of Nigeria’s media history.  

From editorship, Osoba moved up to distinguish himself as a newspaper manager at the Herald, Sketch and latger the Daily Times.  From the newspaper house, Osoba moved over to the Government House where he was elected twice the Executive Governor of Ogun State.  What special edge does a newspaper reporter brings into governance?  Eminent journalists like Alhaji Lateef Jakande and Alhaji Odunewu answered the question in this book—veteran journalists who once served in government.  Jakande as the governor of Lagos State earned the tag of “Action Governor” for his achievements as governor.  

To see this book as simply a newspaper biography of Segun Osoba is to limit it.  This book goes far beyond Osoba.  It is also a book about journalism history and practice from different eras, from the eyes of some of its leading practitioners.  In celebrating Osoba, they are celebrating journalism excellence, they are celebrating good reporting against the backdrop of modern falling standards in journalism where many occupy the editor’s chair without first paying their dues as reporters.  

Celebrating Osoba is celebrating reporting which is the heart of journalism.  It is a celebration of a man who is an all-round newspaperman, a man who loves journalism, a man who has journalism in his blood.  

From these tributes to Osoba by his professional colleagues, you will see Segun Osoba as a study in leadership.  From the journalism point of view, he is a news leader.  His success in every other sphere of life including his political life is derived from his success as a journalist—a veteran reporter.  Even as the general manager of Herald, Sketch and managing director of Daily Times, he remained a reporter at heart.  

Leaders are people to look up to.  They inspire others.  They are ambitious.  They dream dreams and also explore their dreams.  They are believers in people.  They are willing to take risk and are committed to excellence.  Leaders don’t suffer fools gladly.  Leaders leave their mark on the sands of time.  Osoba is both a leader and a reporter.  Like the great Ziks, the Awos, the Onabanjos and Jakandes before him, Osoba showcases today, the great possibilities in journalism.  For a profession that has always been haunted by the spectre of its veterans who spend their twilight in the cold hands of penury, the Osobas of this world show that all is not lost.  Behold, it is morning yet on creation day.  We can still sing a new song, after all!

(Culled from Segun Osoba, ‘The Newspaper Years’ By Mike Awoyinfa and Dimgba Igwe)

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