By Prisca Sam-Duru

Nigeria’s Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, Thursday described the Nigerian media as being instrumental to the birthing of Nigeria. He made the assessment at the launch of a book on The Guardian and posthumous award to Mr. Alex Ibru, founder of The Guardian Newspaper which took place yesterday at the Federal Palace Hotel, Lagos.

Tracing the history of the Nigerian press and of the Guardian Newspaper, the Vice President said, “To grasp the significance of The Guardian, it is important to situate its odyssey within the larger Nigerian story and particularly in the context of the evolution of the fourth estate in our country. The Nigerian press has deep roots going back about 150 years. Indeed, the Nigerian press came into existence before Nigeria itself and was instrumental to the birthing of this nation.”

The Vice President eulogized Ibru, the founder of the Guardian for gathering a cast of insightful thinkers with a profound understanding of the Nigerian media landscape who were eager to make a change. “But the change could not have happened,” he said, “without an entrepreneur who shared that vision, a co visioner, Chief Olusegun Osoba. While Dr. Stanley Macebuh, Dr. Patrick Dele-Cole, Mr. Lade Bonuola, Mr. Femi Kusa, Dr. Eddie Iroh, later joined by Dr. Yemi Ogunbiyi and Mr. Nick Ndukwe, formed some of the core team of thinkers behind The Guardian. Mr. Alex Ibru was that visionary-investor that was courageous enough to trust the thinkers.”

Osinbajo said it was exceptional an feat to find a businessman that could trust a group of intellectuals with editorial freedom in the treacherous sociopolitical climate of the time as Alex Ibru did. “His calm deportment belied his understanding of the terrain, his foresight and his propensity for risk-taking. He truly typified the idea of the capitalist driven by conscience. His courage of conviction exemplified in the actualization of The Guardian will remain indelible.”

Assessing the role of the media Osinbajo in a democracy, the Vice President said It is the role of journalists to tell the truth even when it is inconvenient, saying this mission has a special resonance in this day and age:

“Even as we strive to make governance more transparent and accountable in its workings, and to abandon the habits of secrecy and opacity that became deeply ingrained during the era of military rule, we have realized that abuse of state power is not the only threat to the liberal tradition. Right now, we also have to deal with issues such as the proliferation of fake news.

“Almost daily, fake news or mischievously manipulated news is trafficked with the clear intent of warping the perception of reality and inducing conflict”.

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Earlier in his remarks, the Chairman of the occasion, Aremo Olusegun Osoba, who thanked the VP for honouring the occasion disclosed that he and late Alex Ibru began the idea of The Guardian about 40 years ago and grew up in Yaba.

He relived memories of his association with the late Guardian founder, describing him as a deep intellectual in approach adding that due to his ingenuity, The Guardian became the first paper with not just news but analysed, gave background to the news and made commentaries.

“Ibru never interfered with the professionals in The Guardian. He tolerated what they wrote. He never dictated to the columnists,” Osoba said.

Chief Osoba commended the authors for documenting the history of The Guardian and life of a great and young man; a man of ideas and intellectual capacity.”

He however frowned at the attitude of Nigerians who have made giant strides but fail to document them. “The unfortunate thing is that we don’t write. Jakande died without writing,” he said, stressing that there are historical facts that the late Pa Jakande would have documented so that people would tap from his achievements and wealth of experience.

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