You cannot be into journalism, especially in Nigeria, and not know about Mike Awoyinfa and Dimgba Igwe. Theirs was a partnership like no other; a partnership made in heaven. As a matter of fact, they got dubbed journalism’s Siamese Twins at some point. Hardly apart and forever doing things together, death, sadly, separated them on Saturday, September 6, 2014, when it took away Dimgba.
Mr. Awoyinfa, since that sad incident, has been all alone and operating solo. A kind of life that he obviously never bargained for. Amidst preparations for the first anniversary of the death of his closest friend, business partner and adviser, YES INTERNATIONAL! Magazine Publisher/Editor-in-Chief, AZUH ARINZE, visited him on Wednesday, August 19, 2015 – and with so much emotion, the journalism great and renowned author who once edited Weekend Concord as well as managed The Sun poured it all out. From their final moments to how he’s been coping, his regrets about Dimgba’s sudden demise to how he plans to immortalize him and more. Awoyinfa, one of the lucky few blessed with a set of twins, also talked about their new book, 50 World Editors – Conversations With Journalism Masters on Trends And Best Practices as well as his passion for the journalism profession. Enjoy…
What kind of stories must a journalist not write?
Ah! Me; I write any kind of story, but I will not write any story that will put me into trouble, neither will I write any story that my children will read and they will say ah, no! Daddy, how can you be associating yourself with this? You are a grown up man. Even my wife! She has to edit my work. There was a day I went to eat at Police College, where I eat Amala, Ewedu and other things. I went and ate and I bought take-away for my wife. But I forgot the take-away. So, another time when I came back, the old woman just spotted me. She said ah! Daddy, you forgot your Amala. Let me give you another round of Amala. I said ah; why are you giving me? She said no, no, no…I don’t want haram. I don’t want to eat something that doesn’t belong to me; you are my customer. I was so touched and I decided to write about it. The reporter in me decided to talk about that woman, interview her, how she got into the business of selling Amala – one of the hottest Amala joints in Lagos. I was so excited; I showed my wife, I said ah, this is the story I’m going to do. My wife said lai-lai, over my dead body! (laughter). How can a whole you be writing about Amala? You want people to be laughing at you? I said what’s there? Am I not a human being? Don’t I eat Amala? So, my wife is also my editor now that Dimgba (Igwe) is not around. And I won’t write any story that will endanger the life of my country or the life of my family. Those are the stories, and I won’t write any story that is unethical. So, I cherish my name, my reputation and my family. I won’t do anything that is negative.
What is the best way for a journalist to get exclusive stories?
You just have to think out of the box, you just have to use your brain, brain, brain…Ask yourself, what is it that I will do that will give me an edge, what is it that I will do that nobody will ever do? I mean, this thing is like football. It’s highly competitive. I like to out-think the other journalist, I like to use my brain; to think what is it that nobody else will do? I mean, the desire to think out of the box, to think exclusively is what gives you an edge and that has dominated my career throughout – ability to out-think others. Normally, I have to think and strategise. I’m going for a joint assignment, what is everybody going to write about? I analyse that one. Having done that, I go in the opposite direction and that has been my guiding strategy, throughout. I don’t follow the crowd. When we came with Weekend Concord in those days, we decided not to follow what everybody was following. I mean, I remember one story; it’s our second edition. It was on an Easter day and I wanted a story that is in sync with the mood of Easter. So, there was this lunatic that used to wake up early in the morning, gbagan, gbaram, gbaram; repent, kingdom of God is at hand. I sent my reporter, Omololu Kazeem; I said go after this man, whatever it is, get me a story. So, he trailed this man at dawn. They followed him, did interview, went to his den, I put it on my cover. Behold! Nigeria’s John The Baptist (laughter). I put the mad man there. The whole of Concord was raving, they said ah-ah, how can you be putting us in a bad light, how can you…But the paper sold! So, that’s me. Ability to do something differently. That is the mark of journalistic excellence.
To write well, what must a journalist do?
You must read well, you must read vastly and you see, writing is like playing a musical instrument. You need to practice, practice, practice…You have to write always. Even in your sleep, you are writing. You must write constantly and you must not try to impress anybody. Whatever you do, put in your mind the idea of story-telling – you are going to tell a story, because people love stories; people want to hear you tell a story. Like this Amala story that I’m telling you now. You were so excited about it. You know, try to tell your story. It’s your story, so you are the custodian of that story and you are going to tell it very, very well. Nobody else will.
Who is a good journalist? What makes a good journalist?
A good journalist is a journalist who understands his craft the way a musician understands his musical instrument. I mean, ability to give the readers the kind of stories they want to read on a sustainable level and ability to give it the right headline, because that matters too. If you don’t give your story a great headline, chances are a whole lot of people will not read it. The headline is there to attract you. What people know me for is headline and it’s all about creativity…
What is the best way to cast headlines that people can’t resist? Overtime people have come to identify Mike Awoyinfa with irresistible headlines…
It’s all a question of creativity. I mean, God-given talent. You don’t want to create your headline the way everybody does; you want to be different. I remember those days in Weekend Concord, when the Alafin of Oyo (Oba Lamidi Adeyemi) was caught in a drug mess. He was traveling abroad and they arrested him and so on. Everybody had reported it – They said Alafin Arrested! I said no, no, no…This is not my headline. I said oya, go to the library, bring all the Alafin’s pictures. Let me see, let me see…They brought all the pictures and I was looking, I was looking…I saw one. He was laughing and my brain was working, my brain was working – Alafin, Alafin…And I said ‘Not A-Lafin Matter!’ I put the Alafin laughing on the cover. I mean, some of these things I will say is creativity; I will say it’s a God-given talent. I just like to be exceptional, And I remember when May Ellen Ezekiel died. I just put a picture of her, then I just screamed, just one headline – ‘Oh Mee!’ And the paper sold. At times, you really have to play with pictures and words. You don’t say a lot. When Diya (Gen. Oladipo) was arrested for coup, I just let the picture do the talking. I put a picture of Diya in chain and then I said – ‘Oh Diya!’ You know, dear and Diya, they have that kind of rhyming connotation. Those are some of the things that we did. I like the aggressive type of British journalism a lot. The tabloids. So, I really study them a lot. In those days, I used to buy a lot of British newspapers. Even if I don’t buy, I will go to the airport or bookshelf, I will just be leafing through, looking and getting ideas. I have this fascination and this passion for casting good headlines and the very moment people recognized me as a good headline master, I became more like Floyd Mayweather (laughter). Nobody is going to beat me on headline. In those days, all the African Concord people, Bayo Onanuga, all of them, when they need a headline, they will come to me. When they hit a brickwall and they can’t get a headline, they just come to Mike. Ah, Mike, this is the story we are doing, can you give us a headline? And before you knew it, babababa, the headline will come.
What constitutes a good story? When can a story be said to be good?
A good story is one story that is unperishable. Many, many, many years after, people still remember it. I was just telling you about the death of May Ellen Ezekiel, Diya’s own…A good story, I mean, lingers in the memory of the reader for a long time, and the subject matter should be very, very captivating. It should have a kind of universality. I remember this man’s story. What’s the name? This boy that won the Pulitzer – Dele Olojede. He went down to Kigali, where the Hutis and Tutsis or whatever they call themselves were killing themselves. There was this woman that had a baby, but the baby was based on rape. She was a victim of rape. There was this inter-tribal war, Hutus and Tutsis fighting. So, this woman was raped by the other side. And the woman can’t just reconcile that she’s carrying the baby of the enemy. So, she had this kind of conflict. At times she will love the baby, at times she will hate the baby. Conflict! Conflict! Conflict is also one of the things that shapes a good story. A good story is not necessarily a question of length; it might be a short story, but at least, it must have an everlasting impact in the way you tell it. Going back memory lane, in Weekend Concord, we had so many stories like that. Those I can easily remember: Like the one Femi Adesina did. A man who went into the lion’s den, he said he’s Daniel. Those stories; at times they break and the way you report them, people remember them for a very long time. So, it depends.
You write a damn good column. What makes a good columnist?
In writing a column, I try to be myself. I try to be a reporter, I try to be a feature writer; at times I even try to be a pastor in my column. I mean, everything. I wrap everything together. It all boils down to creativity and the desire to be different. I just want when you are reading Mike Awoyinfa’s column, even without his name there, you will know that this is his column, this is how he writes. It’s a question of style, ability to tell a good story. People like hearing stories. Putting yourself on the cross or making fun of yourself and letting the whole world know. Anything that will make my readers happy, I do. I’m ready to put myself on the cross for my readers. Like when my son went for a night party, he came back; I have a dog here called Bobby. Bobby knows no foes. I mean, he has no friend, no foe. He just pounced on him like that, gbooam! I just heard Bobby! (voice rises) in the night. The dog attacked my son! So, I wrote a story on my column based on that. It’s a story. It’s reporting, it’s drama and at the end of the day I had a moral lesson to teach.
What makes a good editor?
(Laughs) – A good editor is one who edits well, who edits a good newspaper. So, you have to ask yourself what is a good newspaper? A good newspaper is a newspaper that people want to read, a paper that gives readers stories that they want to read. It’s not enough to fill the pages of your paper with anything. You have to know what your readers want to read and give it to them on a sustainable basis. It’s like marketing. Know what the market wants; ability to preempt the market. So, it’s a question of experience, it’s a question of creativity. Everything comes in a mix. But I think some of these things are in-born and some of these things too, you educate yourself; you prepare yourself for it and you learn from masters, from mentors. People like Dele Giwa. Yes, I learnt a whole lot from him. You learn from people who you work under.
What makes a good publisher?
A good publisher is one publisher who is ready to accept that the paper he has, he doesn’t own it; it’s the society that owns it. So, the interest of the society comes first. Just like the Ghana proverb which says when a cock crows in the morning, it doesn’t crow for the owner of the cock, but it crows for the whole community. So, a good publisher is the one that is very, very patient, that is very, very tolerant, that doesn’t push his own personal agenda, that keeps himself away or herself away from the paper. These days, publishers have become part of the news. I mean, in the traditional sense of the word, a publisher should come in just like an eclipse. Maybe once in a blue moon. It’s not regular, regular. I’m not pointing at anybody; you asked me a question and I’m telling you. But a good publisher should distance himself from news, from the pages of the paper. Just as a good editor too should distance himself. It’s not every time that you put yourself on front page or anything.
Why is it that we have too many journalists who are poor?
Maybe we don’t have that business acumen. I mean, journalism is like teaching profession. Once we get into the profession, we just get sucked up and before you know it, you just keep going and going and going. You are so much consumed with the profession that you don’t even have time to think of how you are going to make ends meet. At times some of us regret when you look at how much people that went into banking, the kind of money they are making. This society has not been fair to our profession and I think the profession doesn’t pay as much as other professions. Journalists get paid well in the Western world, but not here.
So, what is the best way for a journalist to make money?
I don’t know. But you have to do your work meticulously and conscientiously. But even that is not enough. From our own experience, you have to venture into writing books, which is what Dimgba and I did. In those days when we were in Sunday Concord, we just looked at the whole structure, the ladder and we said ah, look at us, when can we ever grow to become editors? We became so ambitious and that was how we met one day and said look, if we stay here, we will stay here for long. Let’s do something. That’s why we came together to write The Art of Feature Writing. From Art of Feature Writing, we progressed to 50 Nigeria’s Corporate Strategists and that was where we got the money for this house. You know the book was selling for N10,000 per copy. We interviewed CEOs, asking them how they run their businesses, the secrets of their success and what it takes to manage business in Nigeria. It became a big best-seller and I will recommend that to journalists. Write books; books that are relevant. It’s not just any book. Books that people cannot ignore. Because that is the trend all over the world –journalists write books.
What do you like best and most about being a journalist?
The freedom, the opportunity that opens up for me to ask anybody any question. I mean, the ability to dream questions, just as you are dreaming questions now. The ability to ask questions. As an author, I can go anywhere. I mean, if I want to interview an engineer, I don’t need to know what engineering is all about. All I need is the ability to draw (up) questions that will help me to know about engineering. So, by the time I sit down, research and ask you questions, I also end up as a partial engineer (laughter). That is the thing I enjoy about journalism. Whether it’s about oil drilling, whether it’s about going to space, rocket science or whatever, all I have to do is just go and do my research and that is it. So, the freedom to ask questions, is what I enjoy about this job.
What don’t you like about being a journalist?
Hmmm! What don’t I like about being a journalist? People still see you as a journalist. You know, they still see you as a small boy. A journalist never grows up. People still look down upon you wherever you go as a journalist.
Journalism has done a lot for you, what has journalism not done for you?
What has journalism not done for me? Journalism has tried for me, but I wish I had more money to go and be living in Banana Island (a highbrow estate in Lagos). I wish I had more money to be able to do whatever I want to; to be able to set up a foundation for my friend (Dimgba), to be able to solve problems of the society. I wish I had more money.
What is the commonest mistake that most journalists make?
Commonest mistake? Well, I don’t know…(laughs). I haven’t thought of that.
In your career, you’ve written thousands of stories. Which is the most memorable story that you have written? One that stands out?
There are so many stories I have done, but the one that…It’s the people that I met. Those are the things that I really, really remember. Like the night I met Nelson Mandela in South Africa, Jo’burg, with Orji Kalu…
(Interruption) – Can you remember the date exactly?
Em…That’s about 2005 or 2006.
Was there any unique thing that happened that night?
I couldn’t sleep (laughter). I couldn’t sleep. I was just waiting for the day to break. That was also the first time I sat down to pray; I said God, let me ask good questions. You can see my picture with Mandela there (points to their photograph in his sitting room). It’s an experience of a life time and I can’t forget that. There are other people I’ve met too – Amos Tutuola. (author of The Palmwine Drinkard). Yes, yes…I met him too. I met Soyinka (Prof. Wole) too in his early years.
You have done a lot of interviews already. Who would you like to interview that you haven’t been able to? One person…
(Thinks) – Hmmm! If Jesus were alive, I won’t mind interviewing him (general laughter). I won’t mind interviewing Jesus, I won’t mind interviewing Hitler. And this man, Piers Morgan. I really wanted to interview him. I mean, he’s also a king of the tabloids in his own sense. But I met him and he rebuffed me. I mentioned it in my book. He didn’t grant me an interview, and because of him I travelled from Nigeria to London, hoping I will get him. He was at the height of his game then, but he said no, no, no…my friend, I don’t grant interviews and it was a very, very painful moment for me. Up till now, I’ve not forgiven him (laughter). No, I haven’t! Because I believe journalists should be…we are of the same tribe. We should open up to each other.
What is the greatest lesson that journalism has taught you?
Journalism has taught me that with journalism, you have the power to mould public opinion. Whatever you say, people take you very seriously and so, you have to be very, very careful in what you say and what you don’t say. And in journalism, the whole world is your oyster. There’s nowhere you want to go that you can’t. The sky is your limit. What lesson has journalism taught me? That to be an author of repute, you have to really, really understand reporting, because everything in life boils down to reporting, and journalism is also about marketing. I mean, marketers have lessons to learn also from journalism. There should be an angle to every product, there’s an exclusivity, some unique value and that unique value is what we call news; something new; something novel.
Let’s deviate a little now. In the next couple of weeks or even days, it’s going to be exactly one year that you lost your brother and closest friend. How has life been without Pastor Dimgba Igwe?
(Silence) – It’s been very, very traumatic and very, very tough, because Dimgba was almost like my everything – my heart, my soul, my life. He was my manager, he was the one that keeps the cheque book, he was the one that was in control. The day he died was the day I also died. But the only difference is that me, I resurrected that day. It was very, very painful. I think I was abroad, in Ipswitch, where I had gone for my son’s Masters’ graduation. I didn’t want to go, but he was the one that was telling me that I should go, I should go. That how can you invest so much; this is a father’s proudest moment. My friend, go! You know, anything he says, for me, is law. We might be friends o, but he’s someone I respect a lot. To some extent, I fear him (laughter). No, no, no; it’s true. When he died, I was saying look, look, my pillar has…You know, I was just muttering, my pillar of support is gone. My wife was saying Jesus is your pillar. I mean, I’ve never ever had this kind of experience. But we thank God now. God has been very, very faithful. God has been there. Each time, I just put myself in Dimgba Igwe’s shoes, and I say what would he have done if he had been around? And he continues to inspire me even in the grave, because I feel I should not let him down. Suddenly I discovered I’m a free man. I am free to do whatever; but I miss his presence. Freedom, like I said in one forum; too much freedom is dangerous. Everybody needs a master, everybody needs someone to correct you. He was the only person who can call me and say anything to my face; that look, Mike, where are you going? Get back! He’s that kind of person.
What do you miss most about him?
His friendship and then his editing. Usually when I finish my column, he’s the first person I would send to and in 30 minutes time he would have edited it and made my script better. So, I miss his editing skills. I mean, the work load that we used to do together, I’m the one doing everything now. It hasn’t been easy at all.
Has he ever appeared in your dream since he died?
I keep opening myself up so that he will visit me. I’ve not seen him, but I just wish he will come to tell me what happened on that day, because I know the day he died; that September 6. They said he was lying on the floor. I can read his mind, just like he can also read mine. He will be saying where is Mike? Where is Mike? If I didn’t travel, chances are that he might not die. You know, something would have happened. But, well, God knows best. I know where he was lying down, I will be the first person he will call and say look, Mike, it has happened o! Come o! Because when it happened to me, where we were writing in a hotel and I had this injury (shows us a scar in his mouth), he was the first person I called. You know, he’s always the one that is harbouring fear of something happening to me. But life is full of irony.
How often do you remember him daily or these days?
Every day! (stresses it). Every minute, every hour. I mean, Dimgba Igwe will just not leave me. At times I will say look, I won’t mention him again in my column. Before you know, he will creep in. They will ask me to come and deliver a lecture, before you know, I will tailor the lecture around him. I didn’t even notice; it was my wife who was just telling me oh, so it’s your friend again you went to talk about? It happens, it has become…This is one wound that can never heal, no matter how.
What are your regrets about his death?
That I wasn’t around to save him! That I wasn’t around that day. Maybe if I had been around, maybe something would have changed. Maybe he wouldn’t have gone out to jog that day, maybe we would have even gone out to jog together and before we know it, the car that hit him must have passed and gone. I mean, with faith, everybody has his own destiny. I think that is the way his life was destined. You know, a brief candle, to play his part and go. Like the people of God used to say, maybe God didn’t want him to be polluted, because if there is heaven, if there is heaven, I know Dimgba is heaven or he will go to heaven because he was a righteous man. He was a good man, he was a Godly servant of God, a servant of God and I have no doubt that he’s in heaven or that he will make heaven.
What lessons has his death taught you?
Ah! That death is a reality, that death can happen any time, to anybody; that one should live everyday as if it’s the last. That is it. That if I have something, I will never, never say I will do this tomorrow. I don’t procrastinate anymore. Anything I have to do now, I will do it and I’m very, very cautious and careful. In those days, I could be very, very reckless. I will just say I’m taking one way; one way! But right now, I know taking one way, another person could just come and hit you and…I mean, death can just come from anybody. So, I am very, very, very, very cautions and his death has also improved my spiritual life. You know, I have to keep on begging God and praying to God that if a man of God can just die like that, what of me, the king of iniquity? (General laugher).
He called you that in his last interview on earth with YES INTERNATIONAL! Magazine.
Yes! That’s what he calls me (more laughter). I mean, this world really, really scares me. I feel very, very…I take nothing for granted now and any day I wake up right now, I’m so happy. So, I see every new day as an opportunity; that God has given me another chance to be a better man, that God has given me another chance. That’s it!
If the Lord should allow him to visit you for 24 hours, what will you say to him? What and what would you want to do with him or for him in 24 hours?
Ah! I will wish to meet him o! But the Bible tells me there’s no interaction between the living and the dead. I will want to meet him, but I don’t want to offend the Bible or to say look, I want to go and join him there, because there is so much to be done. I won’t want to interact with the dead for now because it’s against my religious belief. But as a reporter, yes! I will let him tell me what happened that day and why. Because before his death we had spoken all through the night and throughout the evening. I was telling him about the books that I bought for him, he was telling me about the lecture he was going to give and bla, bla, bla. So, this world is a very, very mysterious place.
You had a fantastic relationship with him. Can you recollect your fondest moment with him? Just one…The one that you can never, never forget?
Hmmm! Fondest? Well, there are so many happy moments in our lives. So many! But the one that comes to mind was when he saw this book on World Editors. I mean, he was so happy. He shook my hand. That’s the only one that comes to mind because this is one book that took us 10 years to write and I’m so happy that he saw the book. If he hadn’t seen the book, if he didn’t see the preview of the book, at least, I would have really, really felt bad. But I’m happy he saw the book.
Now that you’ve talked about the book, 50 WORLD EDITORS, let’s take the interview there. Tell us about this new book that gives you so much joy…
It’s a book that started many years ago. I started it. I love journalism so much and I’m so passionate about editors. Even before I became an editor. When I became editor of Weekend Concord, I felt I should know much about editing. So, I went round interviewing editors. I did a book called Editors Talking Journalism, which was my own initiative. But when we started Sun, I lost that manuscript. But the passion for that project was still there. So, every year, we used to travel out for conferences. There’s this International Press Institute, IPI conference and there is World Association of Newspapers. When we go to these conferences, we just don’t go there to listen to conference and all that. I mean, we had in mind that we will write a book where editors, particularly from the biggest newspapers in the world, would share their stories and experiences with us. I was the one that co-opted him into it. I was the mad man. Everywhere, I will just carry tape. You know, people will be doing conferences and I will be moving from editors to editors. When it comes to things like that, he’s shy. He will allow me to start my madness. Like when I saw that CNN man. I will go there and put my tape and start asking questions. Then, gradually, he will just sneak in and come and join me. Because he believes I’m a lunatic. So, as I ask my questions, he too will start shipping in and bringing in his own questions. Particularly when I run out of questions, he will just fill in. That’s how we started this book that we have now.
What stands this new book, 50 World Editors, Conversations With Journalism Masters On Trends And Best Practices, out from the other books that you have written?
This is it! This is the height of my professional achievement. This is the book that makes me so proud to be a journalist. This is the book I’ve always dreamt of, the book that features interviews with all the editors of the best newspapers in the world. Name any newspaper; be it the New York Times, Chicago Tribune, Los Angeles Times, Denver Post, Hindustan Times of India, Financial Times, the tabloids of England and the tabloids of New York and the news agencies – Reuters; CNN, BBC. All their top guns. You know, when they come for these conferences to present a paper, immediately they finish, I will go there and corner them and I will say oya, please I’m from The Sun in Nigeria, can I interview you and we will start asking all the basic questions – how did you become an editor; these questions you are asking me. What makes a good reporter, what are your defining stories, what does it mean to edit, what does it mean to report. Above all, what is news? So, those are the questions, and I believe any journalist, any young man wanting to go high, reach the top as a journalist should read this book and for me, this is the Rolls Royce of our industry. N10,000! I’m not removing a kobo from the book. Anybody that says it’s expensive, leave my book for me, because it’s not about the price. I want serious people; people who are serious, so that when you look for N10,000 to buy this book, you will have to read it. It’s a compendium, an encyclopedia, containing interviews with 50 editors around the world.
We understand there’s going to be a public presentation of this book. Where is it happening and when?
Yeah, it’s at the Nigerian Institute of International Affairs, Kofo Abayomi Street, Victoria Island, Lagos, and on September 15th. I wish it fell exactly on the day he died. September 6th happens to be on Sunday and the subsequent weeks are booked. The only free day we had was September 15th and I don’t think it makes any difference. We’ve invited everybody, all his friends – Dangote is Dimgba’s very close friend. Wherever he is, he picks his calls; Adenuga is Dimgba’s friend and na my friend too! So, we invited Mike Adenuga, we invited Fajemirokun, we invited Dangote. We even invited Buhari. You know Buhari was here when he died and that’s one of the reasons I rooted for Buhari, because I know my friend has always been a pro-Buhari person. I was impressed by the man’s compassion and for coming here, I told him that look, if you become a leader, we need a change in this country; we need a country where when somebody commits a crime, there are cameras that will be able to detect who are the criminals and I’m happy he’s moving towards that direction of putting cameras to be able to track down dangerous people.
All the books you’ve written, you wrote with Dimgba Igwe. When are you going to write an entirely Mike Awoyinfa book?
When I become great enough! (laughter). When I begin to feel I’ve become as great as Soyinka and I know the market will want to read that. I can’t be deceiving myself to think I will write a book about myself and people will buy. Yes, they can read about me in my column, but as for a book, eventually, I will write it. But right now, I don’t feel I’m that big to warrant an auto-biography. I’m still a work in progress.
Most of your books are best sellers. What is the best way to write a bestselling book and also what sells a book?
It’s the same thing that makes one to read a newspaper. For us, a book is an extended newspaper. It’s a form of what we call higher journalism. So, you must look for news, you must look for a niche, you must look for a niche in the market place, you must look for a book that people cannot ignore, no matter how you price it. So, I think you don’t just write a book to satisfy your whims and caprices or your fantasies, or that I just want to be recognized as an author. We don’t write books for writing sake. We write books that we know the public wants to read. We know that anytime we write a book on Mike Adenuga, people will want to read because he’s a very mysterious man. People don’t know about him, they want to read about him. We know that when we write a book on Dangote, people will want to read because he’s the richest African. Right now, we are writing a book on Boardroom Leadership and Corporate Governance. I mean, there are some board room leaders, some board room gurus who have stories, who have not told their stories, which happen right in the board room and that is the book I’m writing now. I know a book that Dimgba Igwe will very, very much like, because he likes very, very hard issues, tough issues. Anything that is tough, that is difficult. That is what Dimgba Igwe likes and he will tell you if it is hard, if it is tough, it means it is good. I was just thinking like him that what book will he be happy to want to see? Whether I write it alone or whatever, he will still be writing with me. His name will still be on the book, whether as co-author or dedicated wholly to him. Whichever way, we will find a way. But his name will never, never disappear from print.
You made your name as the editor of Weekend Concord, what fond memories of your days as the editor of that hugely successful paper can you share with us?
Ah! The memories; they are too many…
Okay, let’s just pick one. Your fondest memory…
That I was able to bring together a team of young creative minded-men who were ready to learn from me or with whom we were able to do something together; something that is different. We decided to shift the paradigm. We approached journalism as if we were doing literature. I mean, when I remember the Weekend Concord days, I think those were my best years. You know, ordinarily thinking of the team that we assembled. People like Dele Momodu, who is now a big gun; Femi Adesina, who is now a big gun; Eric Osagie, who is now a big gun. Name them! They were all part of the team and what else is leadership? Leadership is the ability to create leaders. That is the only thing that makes me happy. I may not have money…
What fond memories of your days in The Sun can you remember?
For me, each time I see The Sun shining (I love that sir), it brings me memories that we did the right thing. We thank God, we thank God that the sun is shining…
Do you have any regrets about the way you left? So sudden, unexpectedly…
No, no, no…No regrets!
It’s obvious that God has been nice to you, what more do you want from God? What has He not done for you yet?
We are all Oliver Twist in this world, we all keep begging Him. The richer you are, the more you still want. But I keep praying to God to give me long life, so that I don’t die untimely like my friend and so that I will be able to accomplish all the dreams, all the things we left behind, so that people will not say ah, these people…if I die now, they will say we have a pact and we don’t have any pact. My only pact is to be able to go and meet him in heaven eventually and when I die as an old man. There’s so much to do on earth and I’m not ready to go and join him now.
Away from work, what do you do for relaxation?
I play guitar, I watch football, I’m a Chelsea fan to the core. I like Jose Mourinho and what he’s doing. What else do I do? I jog! I used to jog outside, but now I jog within the confines of my compound, so that people will not be pointing fingers and say look at the man that his friend died; see him, he’s still jogging (general laughter). I don’t want to be pitied or fingers pointed at me and I don’t want to go and die on the street like my friend.
Let’s take the last question. We know his family is just over there – it’s just this fence that separates both families. How often do you see his family, how often do you visit them to know how they are doing?
Well, I’m the father of the two houses, I’m the keeper of the two houses and my wife does more of the interaction. My wife is the one that should answer that kind of question. She is very close to Mrs. (Oby) Igwe and me, from time to time, I call to know how she’s faring. And she will say daddy, I’m fine. That kind of relationship. Father and daughter kind of relationship. She’s a very strong woman and it’s not easy for her to forget her husband, which is to be expected. But with time, God will heal her and give her the fortitude to endure her husband’s death.