Being a speech by AMBASSADOR (DR) OLATOKUNBO AWOLOWO DOSUMU, Chairman, African Newspapers of Nigeria (ANN) Plc, at the foundation laying ceremony of the Tribune House, Isheri, and flag-off of activities to mark Tribune’s 70th anniversary, on Friday, November 16, 2018.
Papa Obafemi Awolowo, and other great personalities like him in history, lived their lives not just to inspire their people. Their voyages were compassed in the direction of the greater goal of societal development and progress. They lit the path of great enlightenment with their vision and tremendous courage and bequeathed lasting legacies to the generations that would survive them.
While Papa’s tremendous accomplishments as one of Nigeria’s founding fathers are still visible everywhere, one of his outstanding legacies,which has continued to weave substance into the lives of Nigerians and ensure that the downtrodden have a voice, is the Tribune newspaper.
69 years ago today, on Wednesday, November 16 1949, the first copy of the Nigerian Tribune rolled off the press at exactly 1.25am.
A few months earlier, African Press Limited, (APL) was incorporated as the publishers of the newspaper, with a distinguished Board of Directors that included Oba Adesoji Aderemi (Ooni of Ife), Mr. Obafemi Awolowo, Mrs. H. I. D. Awolowo, Mr Rabiu Jagun and Mr Johnson Omi?ore.
The pioneer Chairman was Oba Adesoji Aderemi and the pioneer Managing Director/Editor-in-Chief was none other than Mr Obafemi Awolowo.
They were joined by a stellar cast of administrative personnel and writers, some of whose children are here with us today.
That first edition carried a lead story titled, ‘CHEMISTS PROTEST’, a story about the protest by students of the Pharmaceutical School, Yaba, against what they considered insufficient subsistence allowance. The paper also carried a picture of its first corporate headquarters, a rented house in Adeoyo, Ibadan.
The company eventually moved to its own property at Imalefalafia, Ibadan, in 1978. Fast forward to 2017, we commissioned our Abuja office and production.
Today, to mark our 69th anniversary and to flag-off our year-long programme of activities in celebration of our 70th anniversary, we are gathered here to lay the foundation of our new office in Isheri, Ogun State.
Words are inadequate to describe my joy as you have all made time to join us as we keep a date with history today.
At the debut of the Nigerian Tribune in 1949, it faced serious competition from the Lagos daily newspapers like West African Pilot, Nigerian Daily Times and Daily Service. Yet, within a short period it was able to carve its own niche in the market.
Three reasons accounted for this feat. First, the paper’s solid management foundation and hardworking editorial team. Second, its clear focus and an editorial policy which completely identified with the aspirations of the people. Third, it stood fearlessly in defence of justice, fairness and freedom from oppression and exploitation.
The foundation of the Tribune was not built on mercantile and/or pecuniary grounds. It was laid on the solid ground of service provision to the people of Nigeria in terms of enlightenment, mobilisation and integration.
The paper has become a national institution not because it is the oldest surviving newspaper in Nigeria today, but because it has added value to our country, symbolizing as it does the true Nigerian spirit. It has clearly redefined the notion that nothing good can come out of Nigeria. It has weathered all storms and survived even the most pernicious leadership and stifling economic vicissitudes.
“History is hereditary only in this way: we, all of us, inherit everything, and then we choose what to cherish, what to disavow, and what to do next, which is why it’s worth trying to know where things come from.” (Jill Lepore)
And as Albert Einstein said, ‘bear in mind that…all this is put in your hands as your inheritance in order that you may receive it, honour it (and) add to it…’.
So, here we all are, inheritors of a worthy legacy. We, members of the Board, Management and Staff of ANN PLC, have today decided to extend the frontiers of the company’s operations. We have decided to honour, and add to, our legacy by establishing our very own historic, significant physical presence as close to the important economic hub that Lagos is as possible. We are convinced that this will go a long way to ensure the company’s survival for the next 70 years and beyond.
All our subsequent 70th anniversary programmes are deliberately designed to reposition the African Newspapers of Nigeria for the future. Details will be unveiled in due course and we hope you will respond to our invitations to participate, in whichever capacity.
To us, this project is not just about erecting a befitting office for the Tribune. It is about extending the legacy newspaper’s crusading outreach by exploring its capacity, unique history and wholesome image as a national institution to propagate its prescience objectives of educating the masses and integrating the people toward building an egalitarian society that every Nigerian will proud of.
On a personal note, I feel so blessed that providence has given me the opportunity of a vantage position as we, together, drive the process.
It is my prayer that all our aspirations for this company will come to pass, in Jesus’ name. Amen.
Thank you for honouring us with your presence at this foundation-laying ceremony. I certainly look forward to welcoming you all to the commissioning of this building next year.