They may not be there to laugh or clap as tributes poured in from colleagues, many of them those who learnt at their feet, and others their friends who still missed them. In fact, some of them were long gone so that even if the dead could hear what is said of them in the hemisphere where they once straddled, the echoes would probably have been lost. But the images of the nine legends loomed large in the hall where the event was held in their honour. And it was a great event, which attracted Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, two governors, a deputy governor , a former governor, one first class traditional ruler, who flew into Lagos for the event, and the living legends in the media industry in Nigeria. The subjects of the honour on Friday in Lagos were media icons who had died.
The venue was the Muson Centre, Lagos, and the event was titled “Afternoon of Tributes for Departed Media Leaders”. Remembered were Ismaila Isa, Wada Maida, Bisi Lawrence , Gbolabo Ogunsanwo, Sam Nda-Isaiah, Eddie Aderinokun, Ben Egbuna, Tony Momoh and Lateef Kayode Jakande. The event was hosted by Kabiru Yusuf, President, Nigeria Press Organisation, NPO and Newspaper Proprietors Association of Nigeria, NPAN.
The deceased had contributed greatly to the development of journalism in Nigeria. The tributes further confirmed that the institutions in the industry today are there to the credit of some of them. For instance, Jakande, a former Governor of Lagos State, was pioneer president of the Nigeria Guild of Editors, NGE and Newspaper Proprietors Association of Nigeria, NPAN. He edited the Nigerian Tribune, the oldest private newspaper in the country. In his days as governor in Lagos, he was called the Action Governor, and 38 years after leaving office, his legacies still endure. Jakande also served at the federal level as minister of works and housing.
Momoh, a former Minister of Information and Culture, was in his lifetime one-time President and Secretary-General of Nigerian Guild of Editors,NGE. He stood out as one of those who sustained the legacy of the founding fathers of the old Daily Times Newspaper; and Ismaila Isa, publisher of The Democrat Newspaper, was Life Patron of NPAN.
Egbuna, a former Director-General of the Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria (FRCN) was also a former Executive Director, Voice of Nigeria (VON), while late Nda-Isaiah, publisher, Leadership Newspapers, the youngest of them all, having died at the age of 58, was as exemplary as the others. Also honoured was Ogunsanwo, ex-publisher of New Nation and former Editor, Sunday Times.
Lawrence was a former General Manager, Lagos State Broadcasting Corporation, (LSBC) and columnist, while Aderinokun was former Editor, Daily Express. Maida was a past President, NGE and former Managing Director and Chairman, News Agency of Nigeria (NAN).
Those who gave tributes recalled their days as columnists, editors, media administrators and publishers.
In his tribute for Ismaila Isa, Sam Amuka-Pemu, publisher of the Vanguard Newspaper, said the deceased was unfairly regarded as an undue beneficiary of government favour. He said Isa’s company, Bullet Construction, had been in good business before he became noticed as friends of heads of government. The tribute was read on his behalf by Gbenga Adefaye, general manager of Vanguard, and incumbent provost of Nigeria Institute of Journalism, NIJ. Adefaye led the team that organised the event.
Ray Ekpu, a founding director of the Newswatch Magazine, and now a director of May Five Publications, gave testimonies about Momoh who he said towered above many others in his time and also fought for the freedom of the press.
Olusegun Osoba, former governor of Ogun State, also a former chief executive of Daily Times, wants the family of Jakande to check his library for materials that could enrich a memoir in honour of a man who was the grandfather of journalism in Nigeria.
Osinbajo, in his keynote address, enjoined media managers to come together to battle the menace of fake news. He acknowledged the role of the media in nation building, and said that the dedication of the media was even more needed at this critical time of the country’s history.
Representatives of families of the departed leaders were presented with plaques. Mrs. Nda-Isaiah thanked the organisers on behalf of all the beneficiaries.
Dignitaries at the event included governors of Lagos and Ekiti States, Babajide Sanwo-Olu and Kayode Fayemi respectively, Ajibola Ogunsola, former chairman of Punch Newspaper, Nduka Obaigbena, former president of NPAN and publisher of This Day Newspaper, Mrs. Maiden Ibru, publisher of The Guardian, Lade Bonuola, media consultant and columnist.
There were also Noimot Salako-Oyedele, the deputy governor of Ogun State, and Funke Egebmode, former president of NGE, now Commissioner for Information in Osun State.