Sunday, September 5, 2021 11:00 am
By Raphael James
I celebrate Dr Stanley Macebuh, the man who had a dream and his dream – The Guardian Newspaper – lives on after he has gone.
In 1975, the Federal Military Government announced the take over measures of the Daily Times and Ambassador Patrick Dele Cole from Abonema in Rivers state was appointed the Managing Director of the newspaper.
In 1977, Macebuh caught the attention of Dr. Patrick Dele Cole, the then Managing Director of the Daily Times, who encouraged his return to Nigeria to enhance the then nationally predominant Daily Times of Nigeria, Dr. Macebuh left City College of New York as an Assistant Professor of English as well as an Associate Professor of English at Columbia University, New York, United States and returned to Nigeria as he was invited to Daily Times Newspaper to be the Editorial Adviser and chairman of the editorial board of the Daily Times. He became the first Nigerian to have been designated Chairman, Editorial Board of a print media industry. He brought to the position his intellectual prowess, and his return attracted people such as Dele Giwa to come back to Nigeria too.
The Daily Times, then, was under the control of the ruling party, the National Party of Nigeria, (NPN). Editorial decisions were sanctioned by the party before they could be carried out. On one occasion, Dr Macebuh had assembled his team of reporters to go with him to interview Mr. President, Alhaji Shehu Shagari, in 1979, when Alhaji Shehu Shagari became the president of Nigeria, Dr Macebuh, Dele Giwa and Doyin Abiola were on that team, Dr. Macebuh was to handle the political questions, Doyin the family life angle and Giwa was to take charge of his profile, eventually the NPN government, felt that Giwa was going to ask questions that may embarrass the president and his name was removed, in fact the names of Giwa and Doyin were replaced with that of Rufai Ibrahim and Ronke Akinsete.
Macebuh a professional to the core, could not work under such conditions, the last incident that convinced him that, his Daily Times days were over, was the day he stumbled by accident into Alhaji Umaru Dikko’s office to pick a forgotten item, and he met Dikko rewriting with a red biro an editorial, he Stanley, had just passed for final publication. He convinced himself, that the time had come, to move ahead and set a paper that will be free of interference and will be able to deliver to the public the truth and nothing but the truth. So from the Daily Times, Dr. Macebuh left in 1981, to found what he had intended from day one to be not just a great liberal newspaper but a flagship of Nigerian journalism, to meet the taste of time.
He discussed his dream newspaper to some friends, including Dr. Patrick Dele Cole, who later introduced him to Alex Ibru, a member of the influential Ibru family who was willing and prepared to finance the dream. That was how “The Guardian” was born and delivered at the premises of the organisation at Rutam House, along the Oshodi-Apapa road.
He visited places across the nation gathering materials and bringing together the very best of hands to come and work with him. He spent times in his private library, studying documents and styles of how to present a solid paper. As the founding managing director, he had a formidable team of editors including: Femi Kusa, Lade Bonuola, Andy Akporugo, Herbert Ekwe-Ekwe, Edwin Madunagu, Ted Iwere, Nduka Irabor, Amma Ogan, Ashikiwe Adione-Egom and Greg Obong-Oshotse. Pius Ayan who also retired from the Daily Times few days after Macebuh, was invited to join in the Guardian dream. He also brought together among the best brain we had in the land to be part of his dream in the Guardian, acclaimed scholars, writers and thinkers, including Prof. Chinweizu, Prof. Femi Osofisan, and Prof. Onwuchekwa Jemie, Dr. Yemi Ogunbiyi, Prof. Godini Darah and Eddie Iroh. The Guardian was conceived on a visionary scale of a true flagship of journalism. Its driving motto was anchored on a priceless dictum controversially attributed to the founder of the Sokoto caliphate – Shehu Uthman Dan Fodio.
Macebuh became the first Executive Editor and Editor-in-Chief; the first Chairman of its Editorial Board, and its first Managing Director, starting from February 1983, when the newspaper took off first as a weekly, and later daily. His editorial team worked tirelessly to produce the first edition of the Guardian Newspaper, after then, the paper grew from strength to strength and became the most authoritative newspaper in Nigeria. Dr. Macebuh rotationally deployed members of the Editorial Board who visited the production departments in the middle of the night, just to make sure that the paper came out error free. After some time, he introduced an Ombudsman, who was in charge of monitoring the paper and update on quality-control standard. He also introduced the “Simply Mister” title under which all Nigerians, except four, were to be stripped of honorific, when mentioned in The Guardian newspaper, everybody was seen and addressed as Mr. This or That.
In the early years of the paper, an interview section was introduced that was anchored by Dr. Yemi Ogunbiyi, it handled interviews with world leaders, and for a while, they both lasted in The Guardian, Dr. Ogunbiyi and his team member, the Publisher, interviewed about ten world leaders, including: Prime Minister Shimon Peres of Israel, Col. Mamman Gaddaffi, Thomas Sankara, Julius Nyerere, Kenneth Kaunda and Robert Mugabe. The Guardian launched a financial, evening and weekly news magazine under his direction and also introduced ‘The Guardian Literary series’, which ended up being published every Saturday for two and half years and the ‘Guardian Books Limited’ which was headed by Dr. Yemi Ogunbiyi.
Nothing good last for ever, not long after, challenges emerge in The Guardian, mostly between the Financier , Chief Alex Ibru and the Managing Director, Dr. Stanley Macebuh, among them was the clash between Chief Ibru and Macebuh, involving the movement of Amma Ogan; the first female Sunday editor at the Guardian from the editorship of the Sunday Guardian to the deputy editorship of The Guardian. Macebuh also complained about, Ibru’s intervention in the administration of the Guardian which was contrary to their arrangement at inception and on the other hand, Ibru complained that Macebuh was not briefing him enough about the daily activities in the Guardian. Ibru, after then used the services of one of his security men, who was actually employed by Dr. Yemi Ogunbiyi for the Guardian to trail Macebuh and Ogunbiyi, his report to Ibru was what led to the events of Wednesday, January 25, 1989.
Maybe, If Dr Macebuh had not returned to Nigeria to join the media here, maybe he may still be alive today, just maybe. I respect him, I am proud to have been associated with him and I am also proud to be the brain behind his book.
*Dr. Raphael James is the Director General, Center for Research, Information Management and Media Development, (CRIMMD), Lagos.