By Bashir Adefaka
Felix Adenaike retired from active journalism in 1991 as Managing Director of Tribune.Â Before his retirement he had served the Daily Times, home and abroad. He alsoÂ served asÂ Managing Director ofÂ The Sketch newspapers.
He will clock 70 this month.Â In this interviewÂ he reveals why Daily Times went under. Enjoy it:
There was the trio of journalists: Chief Segun Osoba, Mr. Peter Ajayi and yourself.Â Mr. Peter Ajayi is now late, and you mustÂ miss him greatly?
Oh, very much.Â Â I miss him every day.Â You know a friendship that has been on for about half a century is almost a lifetime.Â I miss him so much.
Can youÂ rememberÂ the thingsÂ Â youÂ did together ?
Well, you know, friendship underlines everything.Â We are professionals,and in the course of our profession we became friends and family friends.Â When we were both younger,Â myself and Peter Ajayi,Â did virtually everything… and everything that young men did, which you do in your generation (laughs).Â As we were growing, we did things that older people did.Â So, we are now old.Â I am the youngest of the three: Peter died at 73, Osoba was 70 in July 15, last year and this month I will be 70.
We are aged.Â But we were professionals and good friends.
How did you startÂ as a journalist?
Yeah, before journalism, I started life as a teacher.Â I was reading Daily Times in those days. It was one and a half pence and so I used to buy it as a teacher.Â It was a big paper because no other paper then.Â That was in the 50s.Â And I, therefore, used to write short letters to the editor.Â He published my letters and I was excited.Â When I was in the elementary school, there was the central school where we did Standard 3 and 4.Â So, we had to go to another school for Standard 5 and 6.Â I came first in Standard 3 to 4; then, Chief Obafemi Awolowo was Premier ofÂ Western Region and leader of the Action Group.Â Chief Ladoke Akintola was Deputy Premier and deputy leader of the Action Group.Â Chief Awokoya was Minister of Education of the Western Region.Â They came to our area and distributed prizes.Â So Daily Times published the story.Â My aunties in Lagos bought copies and they sent a copy to me, I saw it and kept it for a while,but I canâ€™t find it any more.
So, I developed love for journalism.Â But my elder sister and brother were teachers. They went to Teachersâ€™ Training College.Â They were the role models and so,I trained to be a teacher,but withÂ interest to be a journalist such that, at that time they told me: You could only train to be a journalist in the United Kingdom at the Regent State Polytechnic, where the likes ofÂ Chief Bisi Onabanjo, Chief Olu Adebanjo and the rest of them trained.Â And it was necessary to learn shorthand and typewriting.
What did I do?Â Because I wanted to train there, I went to Federal Training Centre on Broad Street, Lagos.Â There were three: One in Kaduna, one in Enugu and one in Lagos.Â That was 1966 and I went to train as a stenographer so I could write shorthand and also type.
While I was doing that, I was on the payroll of the Federal Ministry of Establishment because, we were being trained for the civil service.Â But I didnâ€™t want to work in the civil service; I only wanted to acquire typewriting and shorthand skills.Â So in the meantime, I saw an advertisement for reporters in Western Region Ministry ofÂ Information.Â That time I had my Oâ€™Levels and Aâ€™Levels and so they selected me.Â When I joined we were trained in-house.Â In the meantime,I was practising as a reporter in Ibadan.
WithÂ whichÂ paper?
No, with the Western Region Ministry ofÂ Information.Â There was a Diploma programme in Mass Communications at the University of Lagos (UNILAG) and so I applied and went for it.Â Before then the International Press Institute did short courses for journalists in UNILAG. They also did it in Nairobi, Kenya.Â So, I wentÂ toÂ UNILAG for my Diploma in Mass Communications, came back and still worked as a reporter.Â Â Three of us in the class had distinctions and they now said those of us who had Aâ€™Levels GCE would go to second year.Â We were the first set of degree programme students in Mass Communications in UNILAG.
So, because we had Aâ€™Levels GCE we went back and the Diploma programme became concurrent Diploma on first year of the degree programme. We migrated therefore to year two, and that was how we finished.Â I wroteÂ articles for Daily Times when I was in UNILAG and the editor then was Henry Odukomaiya.Â He invited me to Daily Times and said he had inquired about my background and said, come and work for us when you finish.Â I said thatâ€™s alright, and so when I finished, I joined Daily Times.
From Daily Times I was seconded to West Africa magazine in London from December, 1972 to March, 1975.Â Daily Times was to buy West Africa but the arrangement collapsed and they didnâ€™t buy it.Â And so, Alhaji Jose said: You remain there, gain more experience by which time Daily Times had founded Times International.
When a colleague, Dr. S. E. Idowu became Editor of Times International, Alhaji Jose said you stay, cover Europe for Daily Times while based in London.Â I did that for the whole of 1975.Â By the endÂ ofÂ â€™75,Â I was seconded from Daily Times, London, to Sketch as the Managing Director .I was there till 1978Â when I went back to Daily Times where I became District Manager.Â From there I went to Tribune and from Tribune I retired in 1991.
Was the reason for your secondmentÂ the same reason Osoba went to Ilorin ?
Yes.Â Let me tell you, when Murtala Muhammed and Olusegun Obasanjo came, they wanted to strengthen statesâ€™ newspapers.Â So they seconded me and Tola Adeniyi to Sketch; they seconded Osoba to Herald; David Attah was seconded to Standard in Jos; late Martin…. was seconded to Statesman in Owerri; then Chief Effiong Essien was seconded to Chronicle in Calabar.Â We were all from Daily Times. They seconded us to those papers to strengthen them,andÂ breathe life into them .
What then happened after Sketch?
I went back to Daily Times.Â All of us that I mentioned to you were on the staff ofÂ Daily Times seconded to those companies to strengthen them.Â So, I went back to Daily Times and from Daily Times, on December 1, 1980, I joined The Tribune.
Why did you leave Daily Times for Tribune?
Chief Awolowo sent for me and said that he wanted me to sort Tribune out for him; that Tribune wasnâ€™t doing well and that he had consulted and that all my colleagues were unanimous that it should be me.Â I couldnâ€™t say no to him.Â He sent his now late Private Secretary, Biodun Falade to me and he also sent the now late Bola Ige to me.Â So, I couldnâ€™t say no to him.
ItÂ means somebodyÂ wasÂ thereÂ as Chief Awolowoâ€™s Private Secretary before Odia Ofeimun?
Oh, long time. Odia came very much later.
Hope death of Peter Ajayi has not weakened the relationship between you and ChiefÂ Osoba?
You know Peter and I had always lived here in Ibadan.Â We lived here for a long time.Â Chief Osoba was the MD ofÂ Sketch, he went to Daily Times.Â He is a Lagos man; heâ€™s always been in Lagos.Â He went to Herald from Lagos and went back to Lagos to become the MD ofÂ Daily Times and from there he retired into politics.
Yes, we are close but we are not physically together.Â It is a different ball-game from the relationship between Peter and I, because, before he died, we used to see each other on a daily basis unless the other person was ill.
What is your own accountÂ ofÂ how the Daily TimesÂ collapsed?
Daily Times was the training ground for Nigerian journalists.Â It pioneered unique graduate programme early in
â€˜70s.Â As a matter of fact, before then, Alhaji Jose made a policy to send reporters who were qualified to go to university and take degrees because he said he projected Daily Times to be of the future; such that graduates would have to edit the paper in future.
He didnâ€™t stop with first degrees: Second degrees, third degrees also.Â In all the departments; in management, in journalism, in engineering, in technical services, in legal services.Â Olu Onagoruwa was Legal Adviser.Â Late Dr. Tosho Oguniyi was Chief Executive, Management Services: He was responsible for training.Â Educated people! Masters in engineering, masters in statistics; we had people from different disciplines.Â That was what we had in Daily Times.
So Daily Times was the training ground and the corporate practice of the paper was patterned on Daily Mirror of London because, Daily Mirror actually owned Daily Times.Â It was in 1974 under General Yakubu Gowon that printing and publishing came under hundred per cent indigenisation.
That is, publishing had to be owned by Nigerians.Â So Daily Mirror had to sell its shares in Daily Times.Â As members of staff, the company lent us money to buy shares in Daily Times and we were not given our shares certificates until we finished paying.Â They were deducting money from our salaries to pay for the shares and the dividends also went into paying for the shares.
It was MuhammedÂ and Obasanjoâ€™sÂ government that seized Daily Times sixty per cent shares.Â They took sixty per cent including my own shares for which they didnâ€™t pay.Â That is why it was Obasanjo who came later as civilian President and buried Daily Times.Â This is so because under his privatisation there was an offer from the management of Daily Times and staff, those of us ex-Daily Times staff, who owned shares, to buy shares under Obasanjoâ€™s privatisation.Â He said no.Â As a matter of fact, there was a reserved price by the Bureau of Public Enterprises, we knew that.Â The offer for management to buy out was higher than that.Â But Obasanjo said no.
I think he was bent on killing Daily Times.Â So, he sold the paper for less than what the managers and former staff were offering.Â He sold it to Folio Communication whose members nobody heard about.Â We never knew any of them.Â If you have been conversant with the newspapers, Daily Times has been in the news lately.
Daily Times has vast estates in London and all over Nigeria: In Kaduna, in Onitsha, in Lagos, in Abuja you name it.Â And so, they have been stripping the assets as if that was the attraction.Â They just wanted to strip the assets of Daily Times because they had not got the management expertise to run it; they had not got the experience to run it and so they were interested in its property not in reviving it to come in tune with the dream of its founding fathers.
How do you feel about that?
How do you want me to feel?Â Daily Times was an institution: That was the best newspaper in Africa, South of the Sahara.Â The biggest and the best.Â They still have The Graphics in Ghana, they have The Nation in Kenya.Â All these other newspapers owned by Daily Mirror in colony Africa are still thriving.Â They are no longer owned by Daily Mirror but they are still working.Â It is only in Nigeria that Daily Times is dead. Daily Times was the leader and so you had a government that killed that.
Why should NigeriaÂ remain backward in the presence of plenty?
Well, since independence we have not had people in government who can manage our resources.Â We are well endowed but everything we heap on Almighty God.Â Nigeria is not the only country where creatures of Almighty God reside.
They are in all the countries of the world.Â We have not given a good account of the endowment in terms ofÂ human beings, in terms of natural resources, in terms of cheer size of the land called Nigeria.Â We have not given a good account of the use we have made of that.
We have hadÂ in government: Selfish people who are not self-respecting.Â There is no limit to what they want to steal.Â Otherwise, how much does anybody want to steal?Â There is enough to go round this country to benefit every Nigerian; so we donâ€™t have poverty.Â No Nigerian has the right to be poor.
Before oil we had agriculture, natural resources: We had rubber, we had oil palm, we had ground nut, and we had cocoa.Â It is all gone because, we canâ€™t manage ourselves.Â That is the problem.
But we have had journalists in government, your close friend Chief Segun Osoba is a good example.Â Would you say they have been able to correct some of these wrongs, although they were only governors and not President?
The journalists who have been in government have given a good account of themselves.Â You wouldnâ€™t say Osoba didnâ€™t succeed in Ogun as governor or that Jakande didnâ€™t succeed in Lagos.Â These are excellent people, excellent managers.Â They gave a good account of themselves and they have not been indicted of any wrong doing and corruption.
Journalists had always served at Federal level: Tony Momoh was a minister.Â He has not been indicted.
So, as a body, we have given a good account of ourselves.Â But as a Nigerian, I feel aggrieved each day I remain on the surface of the earth that I have to provide electricity for my house.Â I own two generators, which I fuel.Â I am retired, I donâ€™t have pension; I didnâ€™t work for government.Â So, I still have to look for money to fund myself. I have to eat, I have a wife, the children are educated. They are out of the university, they are working but I canâ€™t wait for them before I eat.Â I must fee my wife and fee myself.Â This is my old age and this is what Nigeria has turned out to be.
Nigeria was not like this when I was a kid!Â When I finished university things were not like this.Â Each country gets better but this one is getting worse and worse in terms of corruption, in terms of profligacy at government level; bad governance, people are shameless! Those who are running our government at all levels are not like human beings.Â Because if they are, that is, self-respecting, cultured, they wonâ€™t be stealing money.Â Have you ever heard about a Ghanaian leader salting money abroad?Â Have you ever hear about an Indian leader hiding money in Nigeria?Â Have you heard such about British?
We steal money here and export it.Â If you work for the money, why hide it?Â If you make the money legitimately why are you hiding it?Â The corruption bug in the public sector has eaten into the private sector.Â Look at what has happened in the banks.Â Why should a man steal one hundred billion naira?Â To do what with it?