By Ikeddy Isiguzo, Chairman, Editorial Board
DR. Stanley Nkwachinekenkwerenneyaemezula Macebuh, who passed on Saturday night, could aptly be tagged the progenitor of what has become known as the intellectual flank of Nigerian journalism. He could not have brought less to a profession in which he inspired many by his profound thoughts and an intellectual fecundity that permeated the media in the past three decades.
His background was the academia, including teaching stints at universities in the United States, from which his friend Dr. Patrick Dele Cole, a first class graduate of the University of Rutgers in New Zealand, brought him to join the Cabinet Office of the Obasanjoâ€™s military administration in the 1970s. It was from there that he moved the Daily Times.
The transition from government to journalism was met with expected criticism of the media establishment, especially those who saw him as usurping their place in Daily Times.
Dr. Macebuh, a renowned teacher at City University of New York, once told the story of how some Daily Times employees spread rumours that his friend Dr. Cole brought him to the Daily Times to save him from roaming the streets of New York.Â Some alleged that Dr. Macebuh was not a Nigerian. He took these with his strides. Dr Macebuhâ€™s involvement with Daily Times as Editorial Adviser, Chairman of Editorial Board, columnist and the intellectual power house introduced him to the Nigerian public.
He however came from way back. Most of the mentions about him internationally are on his works as a teacher in American universities. His publication, James Baldwin: A Critical Study, a criticism of James Balwinâ€™s 1965 book Going to Meet the Man enjoyed huge reviews as far back as 1975. Critics agreed that the book was a major contribution to the short story form.
Part of Dr. Macebuhâ€™s position that received rave international reviews stated, â€œNearly every word, every gesture in it, adds up toward the meeting of form, theme and meaning. The meaning of the story is to be found in its structure. . . . of a blues song in which there are no profundities of thought or events that are in themselves of cataclysmic import, but simply a ritualistic repetition of feeling, emotion and mood.â€
Years later, Dr. Macebuh teamed up with the Ibru family to found The Guardian where intellectualism grew, where everyone was proud to follow in the inspiring steps of the intellectuals who joined The Guardian at his prompting.
The list included Dr. Jemie Onwuchekwa, Eddie Iroh, Sully Abu, Dr. Yemi Ogunbiyi, Professor Femi Osofisan, and Chinweizu, who in time invited other colleagues to stamp the authority of The Guardian as Nigeriaâ€™s foremost intellectual newspaper. He introduced the â€œSimply Misterâ€ title under which all Nigerians, except four, were to be stripped of honorific, when mentioned in The Guardian.
One example of the way we were communicated to in those days would suffice. Iroh as Managing Editor had to deal with complaints about office allocations after The Guardian moved to the basement that still serves as its newsroom.
â€œNo further disputations or altercations would be entertained on the matter of office allocations,â€ Iroh wrote in a 1984 memo that drew lots of guffaws in a newsroom noted for its hilarity and propensity to make light of any issue.
The Guardian dream for Dr. Macebuh died in 1989 when he disagreed with the Ibru family and left. He tried his hands at business. Between 1994 and 1995, Dr. Macebuh also had a stint in Kaduna at The Sentinel newsmagazine which he pioneered and a briefly managed before it went out of publication. His next call was at The Post Express which he left in 1996.
He was famous for his one liners, great listening ears. He believed in delegating his powers, something some of his subordinates abused. At The Guardian, he was a god, revered, feared, yet he was the easiest person to deal with. His humour, his deep intellectual bent meant that you only took a matter to him if you were sure of our facts.
Dr. Macebuh at a time was the only name anyone who had issues with the government needed. He was so Spartan in his lifestyle that he never personally used his connections in the bizarre manners people who have access to government do these days.
He was appointed a Senior Special Adviser to President Olusegun Obasanjo on Public CommunicationsÂ but left in controversial circumstances. Some said he made a statement on Charles Taylor that embarrassed the government.
Others claimed that he was pooling resources to start a newspaper, something the President abhorred.
Journalism was his forte, though he was not to be found professing his strength in it, nor his abilities that spread beyond the realms of the media. His connections were strong in high places. Governments depended on his advice, but he was not one for dropping names, for they served him no purpose.
At the height of his youthful exuberances, his cigar and cognac were trademarks that he handled with intoxicating ease. Many wondered how he managed them and it was the same wonderment that many of us learnt that he had become born again, giving up all these for the promised eternity.
He was generous with his compliments, he infected people with his moves, moods and moments. He gave far beyond his limited means. He was one for whom life was not about possessions in the physical sense.
Dr. Macebuh would be truly missed by an army of those whose lives he still inspires.