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Remembering Dimgba Igwe, ace journalist, publisher and mentor

08/09/2014 20:05
The death of Dimgba Igwe, Vice Chairman, The SUN newspaper, in the ealry hours of Saturday, September 6, has continued to reverbetrate through the length and breadth of the Nigerian media landscape. It's still really hard to come to the reality that such a great journalist, and mentor of not a few, is gone. 
Dimgba, ace journalist, publisher, author, biographer and pastor, was knocked down by a hit-and-run driver while he was jogging (apparently to keep fit), at Okota, a suburb in Lagos State. In a country where there are no CCTVs on the streets, the killer of Dimgba may never be found.
For many who know Dimgba, his death is a big blow to journalism in Nigeria.
Dimgba who was born on May 16, 1956 had great plans for the Nigerian media industry, including writing a book about founding a newspaper, and nurturing it to greatness.
I had the opportunity of being on a small panel of three journalists who interviewed him in March 2012. It was the first and only time of meeting him. A most cherished meeting it was for me.
Among other things, he spoke about his love for journalism, sharing a bit about his experience being a founding editor of The SUN newspaper, as well of his strong desire to have one of his sons follow in his footsteps as a journalists.
Journalism in Nigeria needs a re-awakening - Dimgba Igwe
Considering your love for the journalism profession, do you per chance have any of your children following your footsteps as a journalist? If not does it make you sad?
Igwe: My two girls are in the sciences – one is doing medicine the other is doing biochemistry. For the boys none of them has indicated interest in journalism, but the last one has actually written a small book still being edited. Who knows, I keep praying quietly that let this one develop interest in writing. But for now none of them has indicated interest in journalism. That will be sad if none of them do. But, what can we do.
Thoughts on The SUN newspaper with regards to creating a newspaper from the scratch or reshaping it?
Igwe: Creating a newspaper from the scratch is apparently exceedingly very challenging. It is so, because you have to conceive the idea, you have to choose a positioning peg. Positioning in the sense that you have to find what kind of paper should I come out with in consideration of other newspapers in circulation. But, we’ve actually done this on a couple of occasions, and surprisingly succeeded in those occasions. But I think it’s a choice between would you rather renovate a building or will you rather build it from the scratch. I think architects will be in the best position to give an answer, but I think it depends on the state of the building and what you want to achieve. Some buildings, the renovation may be more difficult because you will be dealing with entrenched problems that need to be first of all broken down, but in some other cases it’s not the case and same applies to a newspaper house. So it depends on the degree and extent of dilapidation, and so each of them is very much very challenging.
On his relationship with Mike Awoyinfa
Igwe: It might have started over 28 years ago. When I joined the Sunday Concord, we were working under Dele Giwa as our editor. Mike was there ahead of me, and he was the person I was looking up to when I joined the paper. But I found out that he had this extreme humility, to the extent that he always shared the lead of his story with me and ask me ‘is it good?’. So I used to be struck by the fact that this man that was already established ahead of me used to still come and seek my opinion. That was how it started, and so we became close, and along the line we discovered we had certain degree of symmetry – emotional and journalistically speaking. So that drew us together. I think the togetherness was fostered the more the moment we began to feel frustrated on the job. So we decided to channel that frustration to a project, which gave birth to the book, The Art of Feature Writing. So we did the book, and it was very successful. Also there is this pattern in our lives. We finished the manuscript in 1987, and in 1989 we were asked to start Weekend Concord. So it was just a translation of what we had written into a product. Afterwards, we wrote the book, 50 Nigeria’s Corporate Strategists. The book came when we thought that at a point in our journalistic career we don’t understand business. A time came when we felt that we may get fed up with working at the Concord and we may have to go into business, so how do they do business. That was the genesis of the book. By this time we were no longer just journalists, but journalists with sharp business perspective. Now who profited from this, of course The Sun. Because after the book, when we were to start The Sun, we were coming there as journalists, businesspersons and as people that understood market strategies. That was how The Sun was able to achieve feats like being the fastest newspaper to break even, and it has ever been profitable. All these are evidences of the marriage of the elements. So in this process you find that over the period we could then audit our skills.
Can we expect a memoir that will be like a bible of founding newspaper and nurturing it?
Igwe: I think it is to be expected. We will write our newspaper story, ultimately. But, maybe it’s not something you will expect immediately. We would have done that for Mike’s 60th birthday coming up on July 23. But two considerations stalled it. One is that the events surrounding The Sun are still unfolding as it pertains to us and we wanted to watch a few things more. Two is also the issue of timing and we don’t want to write a wishy-washy memoir. We want to come out with a work of excellence, which will require time. You don’t want to do that when you are still a bit upset. You want to do it sober, so that your judgments are fair without driven by the heat of the moment. But there’s no question about it, we are putting together things. But for Mike’s birthday, we are doing a book titled World Editors – conversations with journalism masters on trends and best practices. It’s a book we’ve been working on around 2004, basically it involves interviews with iconic editors of New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Los Angeles Times, International Herald, CNN President and all that. It’s basically for them to share their journalistic skills including journalists from Asia and Canada. But for our own, maybe the market will still have to wait. In fact, initially I didn’t think we were worthy enough of any story at all. But since people are asking for it, it reminded me that it’s something much more useful than we have hitherto thought of and so we are thinking of it.
It is said that in the newsroom there are three main evils in the newsroom – smoking, drinking and womanizing? Which one is yours?
Igwe: Incidentally, that’s where I find myself lacking. I was unable to smoke, or drink and being born again for over 30 years womanizing didn’t happen. Surprisingly, I discovered that even without that I was able to get by and do my job as a journalist.

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