50 World Editors: Conversation with Journalism Masters on trends and best practices, was launched on Tuesday, September 15, 2015, at Nigerian Institute of International Affairs, Victoria Island, Lagos.
The book was written by journalism giants, Mike Awoyinfa and Dimgba Igwe of blessed memory. ENCOMIUM Weekly took Mike Awoyinfa up on life without his friend, what the book is all about and much more.
One year after Dimgba Igwe your friend and colleague, what else do you miss about him?
I am missing a lot of things. It was my friend that used to do everything. He was the organizer, the letter writer. I put everything in his hands but with his death, I had to wake up. I had to grow and do all things he used to do. I am really missing him in that respect. As we were preparing for the book launch, he would have handled everything. He was the talker, God knows best. I will miss a lot of things about him. I am missing him every minute. I am always wondering why a righteous man will go like that.
Recalling your experience with him in the early years of The Sun Newspaper, how best will you describe him as a journalist and a colleague?
He was a very righteous man. He had integrity. He did not cheat. He was a bundle of wisdom. He knew virtually everything. He had a deep knowledge of everything.
He was more of the leader of our partnership. I gave him the leadership both spiritually and secularly. He would bring a cheque and I would sign it without looking at it. I had faith and trust in him. We were very close. We travelled the world together. Dimgba was also a good editor. I would send my column to him and in 30 minutes, he would return it after adding value to it. He liked tough assignments. Anytime I complained of a tough task, his response would be, ‘Oh, it is tough, that means, it is a good story.’ He was a thorough person. He was hard working. A very calm person. I don’t know how he managed the church and journalism. If people like Dimgba don’t go to heaven, I don’t know who would. He gave me a Bible when I turned 60. I didn’t open it till he died. He told me to draw close to God. His death is a wound that will never heal. A cancer that will never go. I try to spend each day now as if it is my last.
What was your immediate reaction the day you heard of his death and the circumstances behind it?
I was in England when I heard of his death. For me, it was like the end of the world. It was like my own death. I didn’t want to go on that trip at first. Virtually every trip I embarked on, we went together. I didn’t want to go but Dimgba insisted I should. My son finished his MBA, Dimgba insisted I should go that it is the pride of every father to see his son do well in school. In a way, I feared Dimgba. He had his way of enforcing his authority. He would put his feet on the ground and say do this and I will comply. In our kind of partnership, it didn’t matter who wrote the book, yet it would have the names of the two of us.
The book, 50 World Editors, was a research between you and him. How do you feel that the book will be launched without his presence?
It was a mixture of feelings. I am happy and I am not happy. I feel lonely. I believe his spirit would be present on that day. Though Dimgba is dead, he is still alive, all the books I will publish will have his name in them. We are sharing byline. Death cannot hold down his dreams.
What informed writing the book?
We started writing it a long time ago. I will call the book the Bible of journalism. It is a book that represents our passion for journalism. We love journalism very much. We feel the need to teach the younger generation on what journalism is all about. Who else can teach it better than the editors of great newspapers around the world who have lived a full life of journalism?
Theory is not enough, we want a practical experience. We interviewed different editors. When we met the editors, we asked them, why journalism, the story they broke as a journalist, their mentors, how to become an editor, the role of an editor. Virtually everything they will not teach in schools. We spoke with great editors like that of New York Times, Washington Times, New York Post, Chicago Tribune, The Guardian of London, Wall Street Journal, a lot of them.
Who are the Nigerian editors featured in the book?
We tried to pick the best. We featured Babatunde Jose who was a legendary journalist, the founding father of Daily Times. He mentored so many people. We were lucky to interview him before he passed on.
We also interviewed Segun Osoba, who was a crack reporter. His greatest story was when there was a coup in Nigeria and the Prime Minister was killed. He discovered the corpse in a bush in Ogun State. Osoba smells news. We wrote a biography of Osoba as well.
Bayo Onanuga of The News is also there. He is the father of Guerilla Journalism. His story is interesting. He survived the era of Abacha.
We featured Olojede, the first Nigerian to win America Pulitzer Prize. He was our contemporary but left during the heat of Abacha’s crisis.
Nduka Obaigbena, publisher of This Day, also has a story to tell. We interviewed John Momoh on the electronic side. He is Nigeria’s answer to CNN. He has a story to tell about journalism and entrepreneur. 50 World Editors is the Rolls Royce of journalism. It features everybody and it will be sold for N10,000.
Why N10,000, it means it is not for everybody?
We are not begging anybody to buy it. We want people who will buy it to value it. It is not easy to use that amount to buy a book. If you do, you will value it. It is not a book for journalists alone. It is a book for everybody. Our mission will be accomplished if people buy it and read it. If you want to know how editors think, you will read it.
Why did it stay long before you launched it?
It took 10 years to write. We travelled far and wide to get the people we interviewed. My happiness is that, my friend saw it before he passed on. We were planning to launch it earlier but we never knew he would leave this early. It is so sad really.
Why an elaborate launch?
Dimgba deserves it. If the table turned and I am the one that died, he would have done an elaborate thing too. I remembered when I was 60, he pulled the whole world to Sheraton Hotel, because of me. I wanted something small. I was looking forward to celebrate his 60th but death struck. The book means a lot to us. We have written different books. 50 CEOs was the first book we wrote. It sold like hot cake. We used the proceeds of the book to build our houses and it was also N10,000. We have written biographies, Mike Adenuga’s, Fashola’s and Dangote’s which is in the pipeline.
What will you use the proceeds of the book to do?
We are a company. We have a company called Corporate Biographer Limited. Whatever we get will go to the company. I am just a chairman, Mrs. Igwe is the Vice Chairman. We are all on salary. We will sell through direct marketing. I believe some institutions will like to get the book for their libraries but it wouldn’t be sold on the street because of pirates.
Is there any other way you are planning to immortalize Dimgba Igwe?
Every September, we must have a Dimgba Igwe Memorial Book. We are also working on some other books such as 50 Boardroom Gurus. He was writing a book entitled, Nigeria Corporate Ceasars. An elaborate profile on them. I still have the manuscript with me. I will finish it and launch it. There is another book he was working on, it is a book on the richest businessman in the East, Ibeto. We will complete that as well. I will say those are some of his unfulfilled dreams.
Since his death, how much have you been in touch with his family? How much succor comes from your end to the family?
When I was 60, Dimgba was reading a tribute to me, he said, ‘Mike is an honest man. If today I go to bed and do not wake up, I will be rest assured that Mike will finish the race.’ For now, it is almost as if I have two families. It is my responsibility to do whatever is to be done. We operate our business 50/50. I have to give his family whatever should go to him. His wife is the Vice Chairman of our company. She is placed on a salary. All our books will also bear our names.
What was the best kept secret between the two of you?
We don’t have any best secret. We were open and operated transparently.
You are the brain behind Entertainment Express, what is happening to it now?
We are now online. With the climate now, it is like journalism is an endangered specie. The internet has eaten into our business. We didn’t have enough capital to sustain the business. We started selling at N50. We were getting adverts but, it wasn’t just enough to bankroll the expenses. We didn’t have that kind of money to sustain it. From my experience, I pity the person that wants to go into entertainment paper now. It is hard to make it as a sole paper if you are into entertainment.
The paper did well for the first three years but we are online now. A lot of people are online too, we are not alone.
With the recent challenge in print media, what is the future of the print media?
It is a scary scenario. It is not unique to Nigeria. It is a global issue. As we are trying to address it, some other nations are also trying to resolve it.
Online journalism is not the purest journalism in the right sense of the word. Any rumour they pick from the gutter, they just paste it. The irony is that a lot of people believe it. I don’t think print journalism will die. There are challenges, yes. I still believe we will surmount them. The internet has its positive and negative side. I want journalists to take advantage of it. They help to enrich journalism from a research point of view.
I am still optimistic that newspapers will not die. This is not the first time newspapers will be facing such challenge. There are inherent advantages of print media. This challenge should bring out the best in us. We need to be more creative and professional. We need to be exclusive and think outside the box.
– SHADE WESLEY-METIBOGUN