I wish to pay homage to one of the greatest statesmen, visionary journalists and media leaders of the 21st century, Nduka Obaigbena.
“The Duke” as his contemporaries call him is today famous for introducing and sustaining the most influential newspaper in Nigeria, ThisDay. Before this time, he had introduced a number of innovations in the media space.
As the Head of Features in the mid eighties in The Triumph (Daily) in Kano, my then editor, Kabiru Yusuf, suggested that I and him go to Lagos for a meeting with a young, dynamic journalist who was coming up with a new publication. The idea was to explore new opportunities in our careers. Kabiru, who not long ago left his teaching job at the university for journalism and I, struggling to adapt to newspaper journalism after my initial start with TV attended, representing both of us.
He came back sounding a bit disconcerted. He met this team led by a seeming reckless upstart. After practicing journalism at home and a stint with Time Magazine, Nduka wants to lead this new team, in case we wanted to join to start TheWeek, fashioned after Time and Newsweek.
“I asked for a fall back position in case the paper crashed, and the guy (Nduka) said to me that ‘we are not worried about the future. None of us here is married.’ “
Kabiru and I agreed that we will not board the Nduka ship was building on his apparently “reckless “ voyage. How wrong we were.
Now, all that is history. Nduka today sits atop a successful media empire that includes a newspaper chain and a global TV network, Arise, the first of its type in Africa. He is the President of the influential Newspaper Proprietors’ Association of Nigeria, NPAN and the Nigerian Press Organisation, an amalgam of the professional media associations in the country. He pioneered in the debut of the full colour newspaper.
Kabiru Yusuf serves as Nduka’s Deputy on both organizations and chairs the country’s widest circulating newspaper, Daily Trust, published from a skyscraper owned by the paper in Abuja, and printed via satellite in four other cities across Nigeria.
Leading this vast media empire under his sole ownership, Nduka has changed the course of Nigerian and indeed the African history, becoming an inspiration for all those resisting the tide of mercantile adventurism across the world. He is an epitome of fearlessness, ingenuity, resilience, endurance, and wisdom.
I would like to convey my deepest admiration and respect for “My Chairman”, Nduka Obaigbena as he marks his 60th birthday. His commitment to the unity and wellbeing of Nigeria will forever remain a golden chapter in the annals of our nation’s history.
Shehu is a Senior Special Assistant to President Muhammadu Buhari on Media and Publicity