TODAY, June 19, 2017, commemorates my birthday. In celebrating it, I have chosen to recollect one of my most glorious moments as a communicator. The epic of my inimitable professional ascent was my editorship of a midweek four-page pullout in the Daily Times of yore called Midweek Times. You want to know my age? Just under-50, officially.
I will also use this commemorative golden opportunity to mention some colleagues and friends of mine who have departed ahead of the rest of us. It is my own way of celebrating with their bereaved and other survivors.
First, in this anniversary miscellaneous, I want to remember some of the past editors of Midweek Times: Mrs. Lola Olakunrin, Mrs. Zuwaira Gambo, Tunde Olusunle, Vincent Ezima, the late Imokhuede Ogunleye and the late Miss Edna Agwuocha. All these gentlemen of the Press laid the foundation on which I am built upon. They should share in whatever credit that comes the way of this defunct magazine.
Also, the glory of the resuscitation of the pull-out after a long stoppage goes to Mr. Dapo Aderinola (Editor of Daily Times in its heyday) and Edwin Baiye (Features Editor of Daily Times in its glory now in the US). Both of them conditioned the return of the rejuvenated magazine under my intellectual editorship. Without being immodest, indications were that they were not disappointed at my output. Neither was my affable Managing Director, brother, colleague, friend, mentor and Wordsworth fan, the late Mr. Tunji Oseni, “Mr. White”.
I must not forget to mention the copious letters of commendation and cash awards that I received in those good, old days. Such financial and moral support elicited more commitment from me. I thank all my critics, admirers and readers. I enjoyed every bit if it.
Perhaps, it is germane to restate the philosophy behind MIDWEEK TIMES as espoused by the writer at the outset. Equally worth reiterating is the essence of WORDSWORTH: It seems a lot of people misunderstood the concept.
The idea of MIDWEEK TIMES was to give readers facts in an interesting form that facilitated reading. These facts were amplified with study, research, and interviews, to instruct, guide, or, most importantly, entertain readers who knew about the subject as well as those who did not. The articles somewhat dramatized by appealing to readers’ imagination. The style of writing was vivid description with a measure of stimulating exposition.
MIDWEEK TIMES cover stories were mostly human interest issues written with some philosophical touch and comprehensiveness, devoid, as much as possible, of the writer’s opinion. The stories were put in a leisure form—without prosaic pedestrianism though.
There were other segments in the pull-out like poems, quotes and snippets. Occasionally, too, personality interviews were featured. These dealt with the innermost details of people and character of prominent and successful folk, especially those who achieved success in very unusual circumstances. At times, those not yet in the limelight were included—as a source of inspiration to those who might have lost hope.
One of the quintessential aspects of MIDWEEK TIMES was WORDSWORTH which generated a lot of mixed reactions. But, generally, it was a wonderful experience. The notion behind it was to strive after professional excellence. It was not my intention to ridicule anybody or parade unnecessary snobbish scholarship. My approach was simply correcting some of the blunders that appeared in Nigerian publications and the errors broadcast on radio and TV. I did not normally go into minute details in order to avoid undue intellectualization of an otherwise soft matter.
I must also mention my diligent and delectable columnist, a fellow Great Akokite, Mrs. Bose Eitokpah (Daily Times Deputy Woman Editor then) who anchored JUNIOR TIMES. Madam Bose was also scribe of the Anglophone West African Women’s Caucus. She performed creditably despite her stupendous work schedule and exacting spousal and maternal demands from her “boys!”
The readership of MIDWEEK TIMES was such that advertisers needed to reach out through the racy pullout. From the responses received, I doubt if there was any serious-minded, educated—not just literate—Nigerian who did not subscribe to DAILY TIMES on Wednesday (most especially) because of the multi-disciplinary nature of the bumper midweek platform.
I also enjoyed literary, moral and advertorial support from corporate bodies and blue-chip institutions
It is equally worth adding here that the four-page weekly intervention was for exchange of liberal ideas. So, contributions in any form (comments, observations, critiques, articles, poems, cartoons—and even WORDSWORTH—just anything of interest that could be published) were welcome. I doubt if any publication today has a similar package.
All in all, it was been an enterprising challenge, almost intimidating initially. My ultimate goal was to make MIDWEEK TIMES an independent publication—not just a pull-out, but, somewhat, it did not really work out as I was redeployed to Owerri as the youngest acting Area Manager (South East and South South) of the Daily Times PLC. On my return from Owerri to Lagos after my tour of duty at the Imo State capital, I was posted to Times Journalism Institute (TJI) as a senior lecturer. Again, thereafter, I moved on to other occupational engagements.
My sources of inspiration: Al-Bishak, Barrister Ndu Ughamadu (the Group General Manager, Public Affairs, NNPC), the late Bayo Oguntunase, Ndaeyo Uko, et al.
MIDWEEK TIMES’ readers could not be numbered: a random sampling showed an audience statistic that may never be surpassed in Nigerian newspapering. I stand challenged.
As I soberly mark my birthday today, I give thanks to God for sparing my life despite my frailties. In the same breath, I remember few colleagues and friends of mine who are, sadly, no more with us: Michael Ekwuribe, Nat Amogu, Blessing Onumajuru, Moses Ezulike, Ogbonnaya Amadi, Abayomi Ogundeji, Paul Ohia, Anene Ugoani, Emmanuel Omorodion, Imokhuede Ogunleye, Chinaka Fynecountry, Tunde Sadiq, Samuel Odamo, Kelly Ujoh, Emmanuel Egesse, Chukwuma Onuekwusi…the list is interminable! May their souls and those of others not listed here continue to rest in peace. At another time, I will strive to mention as many names as possible.
Pray and rejoice with me wherever you are on this special occasion of my birthday!