Olusegun Osoba is Nigeria’s foremost journalist and governance guru whose life mirrors the story of an energetic leader who can impact different spheres of human lives. From the newsroom to the boardroom, and into mainstream politics, he has placed himself at the epicenter of many defining moments in the post-independent Nigeria. As an editor with the Daily Times, his meritorious service as a journalist remains one of the long-standing reputation he has earned for himself. His political pieces as well as compelling commentary on Nigeria’s polity, at several times in his illustrious career as a journalist, has won him national acclaim as a progressive and conscientious writer. Not only in journalism did he leave a mark, but also in his sojourn in politics, defined as it were by his unrelenting services to Ogun State, Nigeria and at different levels of statesmanship. The octogenarian’s enviable achievements is both sterling and commendable.
Birth and Education
Olusegun Osoba was born to Jonathan Osoba on 15 July 1939 in an Egba settlement in Osogbo, Osun State. In 1947, he started primary education at the African Church School in Osogbo, and finished in 1953. However, he did not continue school until 1956 when he was admitted to the Methodist Boys High School in Lagos, having moved to Lagos by that time. In 1961 he completed secondary school and was to go to the university for further studies, but other plans were to redefine his career path. He had been influenced in his childhood days by the plays performed in towns around the then University of Ile-Ife, by notable Nigerian dramatists like Ola Rotimi and Wole Soyinka, and had aspired to pursue similar career, towards the end of his secondary school, he had his heart set on a career in journalism. Upon the completion of his A-levels, he joined the Daily Times in 1964 as one of the three founding employees, and there he learned the rudiments of in-field-journalism under the tutelage of Guy Wall, a British expatriate from Daily Mirror, London. His potentials for excellence, which was observed by the Managing Director of the firm, Mr. Babatunde Jose, got him a nomination to study journalism at the University of Lagos in 1965. He proceeded to the University of Lagos to obtain a Diploma in Journalism, and in 1967 obtained a Commonwealth Press Union scholarship to attend a one-year course in journalism at the Bouverie House in London. Between 1969 and 1971, he also studied in the Journalism department of the Indiana University, Bloomington, USA. He would later win the prestigious Nieman Fellowship Award for Journalism for postgraduate studies, being the first Nigerian to ever win the award. He went ahead to study at the Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA, between 1974 and 1975.
Osoba began his journalism career in 1964, as a Trainee Reporter covering crime stories for the Daily Times newspaper. Even while still studying for his diploma at the University of Lagos, he continued on his job. He worked as a reporter, until 1968 when he was promoted to become the Diplomatic and Political Correspondent of the Daily Times. This time he had written himself to prominence, covering exclusive political stories across the different regions in Nigeria. Osoba was at the forefront of the brutal civil war that engulfed the nation between 1967 and 1970, recording, reporting, and creating awareness on the gruesome scenes and tragedies of the war. He also covered to a professional standard the surprise visit of Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe’s visit to Lagos at the time. These events saw his rigorous engagement with political commentaries, building him into a journalistic icon with very few equals in Nigeria’s history of the profession. In 1968, he had sweated his way up the ladder, to become the Acting News Editor and Editor of the Lagos Weekend beat.
In 1971, he was promoted to the position of Deputy Editor of the Sunday Times segment of the newspaper and by 1972 was the Deputy Editor of Daily Times, occupying this position till 1975, when he was promoted to the position of Editor. As Editor, Osoba managed and ensured the accuracy of all reports, helping to build for the newspaper an impeccable image on the Nigerian landscape. During his short time as editor, the Daily Times produced insightful news pieces and editorials, especially in the areas of politics and public governance.
Just under one year of being promoted as Editor at the Daily Times, he moved to the Nigerian Herald, Ilorin, as General Manager between 1975 and 1978. In 1979, he moved on to become the Managing Director of the Daily Sketch newspaper in Ibadan, and acted in that capacity till 1984 when he made a return to the Daily Times as Managing Director. From 1984, he superintended over the affairs of the Daily Times till he left in 1989. The ingenuity he displayed in leadership earned him international debuts as a local correspondent with prominent news agencies including the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), The Times of London, Newsweek Magazine, USA, and United Press International News Agency (UPI).
Since 1984, Osoba had been a Council Member of the Commonwealth Press Union. He was also a member of the Nigerian Union of Journalists. He had also done some journalism work for some international news agencies as correspondent. He was also former Chairman of the Nigerian Institute of Journalism Governing Board, and a former President of the Newspapers Proprietors Association of Nigeria (NPAN). He was a member of the International Press Institute executive board between 1984 and 1992. He was also in 1985 a member, board of directors, Nigerian Newsprint Manufacturing Company (NNMC), Oku Iboku in Akwa Ibom State. At some point in his illustrious career, he ventured into publishing a community newspaper called Community Magnet in Abeokuta. By 1988, He became a member of Constituent Assembly, and this signaled the beginning of his foray into politics.
In no time, Osoba brought the managerial skills and leadership skills which he had honed in the newsrooms and boardrooms to play in his political roles. In the early 1990s, He became involved in politics at the grassroots, as well as state and federal levels in Nigeria, and had his first political shot when he ran as the Governorship candidate of Ogun State under the umbrella of the defunct Social Democratic Party, and was elected. As the Governor of the state, he clearly articulated policies that tailored positive impacts to the lives of the people of the state. His desire to set Ogun on the path of sustainable progress made him constitute a first-rate governance system and he proceeded to run an administration reputed for strengthening Nigeria’s democratic structure as well as the culture of service. His tenure was put to an abrupt end in 1993 due to the rude disruption of civil rule in Nigeria occasioned by the so-called ‘Palace Coup’ carried out by the late Nigerian military despot, Sani Abacha; who snatched power from the interim government of Chief Ernest Shonekan. . When Nigeria returned to civil rule in 1999, he was re-elected as Governor of Ogun State largely for the progressive strides he made, as the erstwhile Governor. Osoba facilitated infrastructural development across the state before the completion of his term in 2003. The landmark achievements during his service paved way for his exaltation to the seat of unflinching statesmanship in Ogun state and beyond. Despite finishing his term as Governor in 2003, his involvement in national affairs did not wane. In the year 2014 he forged a strong network with his political fellow, Bola Ahmed Tinubu to form the All Progressive Congress (APC), the party that eventually ousted the ruling People’s Democratic Party from the seat of the Presidency. He was also the representative for Ogun State at the National Conference which was held in Abuja, the nation’s capital in the same year. Osoba’s service has joined him with the league of journalists who have succeeded in Nigerian politics.
Olusegun Osoba holds the National Honours of the Commander of the Order of the Niger. In 1974, he married his wife, Aderinsola Adeyemi, who holds the chieftaincy title of Beere Awujale of Ijebuland. Their marriage is blessed with four children, two boys and two girls: Kemi, Olumide, Oluyinka and Tobi. Osoba likewise holds the chieftaincy titles of the Otun of Ago-Oba; Akinrogun of Igbore; Akinrogun of Egbaland; and the Aremo Awujale of Ijebuland. He was also honoured with The Sun, Lifetime Achievement Award in 2018. On 15 July 2019, he celebrated his 80th birthday with much fanfare. The event was graced by many highly-placed persons in the nation, including Nigeria’s Vice President Professor Yemi Osinbajo. As part of the events leading to his glamorous birthday celebration, on July 2019, he held a public launch of his memoir titled, Battle Lines: Adventures in Journalism and Politics in Lagos.
The life of Osoba is an illustrious demonstration of a personality that continually seeks the platform for national integration in an ethnically diverse state like Nigeria.