By Kola Animashaun
Be not afraid of greatness: some are born great, some achieve greatness and some have greatness thrust upon them – William Shakespeare, Twelfth Night

Mike Awoyinfa an Dimgba Igwe did all of us a good turn in their new book: Segun Osoba: The Newspapers Years.  The language was impeccable and not like the general run of biographies. But they have all told the story of the master story teller.

In the book they also teach all that they would have taught in journalism schools – in theory and in practice: through the mouths of the teachers we all love and trust.

From the mouths of the venerable discoverer of talents, Babatunde Jose, to Lateef Jakande, Peter Enahoro, Sam Amuka and the Alade Odunewu.

Through nineteen colleagues and contemporaries and three others, Awoyinfa and co told the story of Segun and more.

I would rather tell some of them talk about Segun through some of them and will leave you to buy the book and read the rest of the story. From the authors they reported: Osoba enjoys a unanimous accolade from his peers, senior and junior associates as the “reporters’ reporter”.

“A man who has distinguished himself as a media turnaround manager. A man who as the general manager of the government-owned Herald, (Kwara State) and Sketch (the Western State) turned these chain-pipe newspapers into cash cows that were not only self-supporting but profitable.

A man who later initiated a massive re-engineering of the octopus Daily Times Group, again delivering the company from losses and subsidies into profitability while under the grip of a military dictatorship.”

Babatunde Jose was very proud of Segun. He beat his chest and declared: Osoba took after me!

He wrote: I knew James Olusegun Osoba when we were looking for bright young men with good mastery of English. Young men with credit in school certificate English. Young men with a flair for the profession. Young men who had incisive minds. Young men who are probing. Young men who are observant and who would make journalism their first love.

Jose set Osoba and he passed.  Jose asked: If you are going home, if you leave the office at 8pm at the end of a day’s job and you are going to your fiancé and on Carter Bridge, you come across the story of a man who has jumped down the bridge into the lagoon in a suicide bid, what would you do?  Some said: “Well, I would go to the nearest telephone.”

Jose asked a second question: “If you are making love with your wife and you hear a bang outside followed by a scream, what would you do?”

Another answered: “Oh, I would disengage. Then I would take a shower.”

But Osoba said: “I won’t shower. I would just put on my pants and trousers and go.” And that was how Segun acted and even now when duty calls.

Jose wrote: Overall, Segun topped the list of those who were impersonal, who showed the love for work transcends personal conveniences.  He was that kind of man.

In his report card, Jose wrote: We found that Osoba’s report were better and more detailed than the reporter he was accompanying.

He quickly developed the cynicism of a journalist. He would not take anything for granted. He would test information. He would cross-check information. He would not rush to press with unverified stories. He was meticulous in investigating stories … and he wrote with flair.

Jose wrote: Osoba was the iniquitous reporter who was everywhere with his scooter. He was a man about town, who knew a lot of people. He had a telephone at home even in those days that such facility was considered as a luxury and with it he was able to build a network of news resources and contacts.  A good reporter must have contacts. For every story you must know whom to link up with to get you more facts on the story.

No wonder Osoba broke two very big stories and many other big stories.

The toppling of Yakubu Gowon and the installation of Murtala Muhammed.  And the coup of January 15, 1966 which led to the death of Tafawa Balewa, the Nigerian Prime Minister.

Both were classic in whatever way you look at it. And in any clime. And fortuitously in the Muhammed case, General Abisoye who was then living in Yaba got to his house at about 4pm and got details of what transpired.

In the case of the January 15, 1966 coup, Peter Enahoro had this to say: “I remember on the day of the coup that claimed Prime Minister Tafawa Balewa’s life, a naval officer and some others were gathered in my house and Segun came.

It was from him that it was confirmed to me that Balewa was dead. He told me that Balewa had been killed and that he knew where his body was. And I said, “Alright, go an get Peter Obe and two of you, go to the spot and take a photograph.”

There are more about Segun on Alade, Jakande, Sam Amuka, Prince Odukomaiya and Tony Momoh.  And more.

The book is to be launched on Thursday 22nd March.

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