Toyosi Ogunseye: The magic of youth mentorship lacking in Nigeria by Odogwu Emeka Odogwu, PhD.

Toyosi Ogunseye, BBC West Africa

Nigerian Guild of Editors (NGE) was tasked to come up with capacity building programmes for its members, to improve professionalism in media practice in the nation. Vintage Emma Agu made the call in Lagos at the biennial convention of the NGE in Lagos, April 2017. He had said that the media should encourage professionalism over trade unionism.

Dr. Odogwu Emeka Odogwu

His exact words then: “Professionalism is the path to knowledge, respect and efficiency. To insist on trade unionism will continue to retard corporate growth, diminish individual ambition, breed quackery and erode respect.

“Like the accountants, lawyers and engineers, journalists in Nigeria should go the professional way. This entails a qualifying exam, a code of conduct and a set of sanctions for breaches of the code.

“By extension, it is in the interest of the media to have an effective media council that serves as an arbitrator in disputes, he said.
Agu explained that capacity building for journalists was important, so as to equip them with adequate knowledge for proper information dissemination, in order to shape the policies of government, as well as properly inform the public. This is part of mentorship and strengthening the profession.

Emma Agu was the Managing Director and Editor in Chief of Champion Newspapers when I sauntered into his office from Amanuke, Awka North Local Government Area. That was 2005.
Some ruffians in the name of religion were burning Churches for only God knows why and I challenged them on why such acts, unknown to me that religion isn’t same in the South as in the North. If I had ten others in my exuberance then, we would have countered them. I lost my job opportunities. . I left Dutse, Jigawa state midnight because it might result in something tragic.

At the young age, I was already Editor/Chairman of The Rock Newspaper Editorial Board and Acting Public Relations Officer of the Diocese of Dutse. Then Bishop of Dutse diocese, Anglican Communion, Right Reverend Yesufu Lumu was satisfied with my services and even planned to ordain me a priest. But, I lost that to some few outspoken fanatics, who believed not in one Nigeria. They took advantage, ruining people’s life and burning Churches over nothing. Religious intolerance at its peak.

Desperate for a new job, I applied for a position in some places in Lagos. None called me for an interview, but I left to Lagos to find out from the offices if possible on why I was not invited though there was no specific advertorial I saw when I applied, but Champion Newspapers, already ending the next day. It was not this era things are easier and cheaper to catch up with deadlines. Champion did not invite me because I didn’t do when advertised but applied through their address at the folio. As strange as it sounded, I headed to Lagos, determined to come home with a job. Luckily, I got three offers at same time, but I choose Champion.

The day I visited Champion coincidentally was the day they had interview and it was over by the time I arrived the office. But, before that, my host in Lagos made mockery of me over my daring attitude of leaving east to come to the west hoping to get a job. That discouraged me and knocked me off, but I didn’t relent. I emphatically told my host I will get a job. It happened that way.

Comrade Emma Agu after a thrilling encounter with me called the then Executive Director Publications, Ugo Onuoha who later became MD/EiC to interview me. God being kind, I was a voracious reader for the fun of it, even though not committing anything to mind. But at the interview, all I read came to play a big role. I was asked to name at least 20 Governors and their right titles among other questions. At the Oral interview, my certificate in French did its own magic as one of the panellists saw it and started speaking French to me. I was still in my element and my mouth clattered as if the language was mine. He was impressed, so others.

Emma Agu 5th from right beside Funke Egbemode with other Guild of Editors, NGE members with former Lagos Governor, Akinwunmi Ambode.jpg

I got the placement to be Awka correspondent from where I grew to become the State Correspondent of Champion newspapers in 2008. I recall with nostalgia great moments in Champion with Seyi Fasugba as the Editor, Group News Editor Thomas Imonikhet , and the Editors of the stables Justus Nwakama, Luke Okoro and Rose Moses. Iheanacho Nwosu, now Editor of The Sun was my Political Editor, while Charles Abbah of the Punch was on Education desk. And a host of others. Later Sam Ibemere rose to become the Managing Director.

Before Champion Newspapers, Anambra State Broadcasting Service (ABS) Awka moulded me, energized me, formed me, and opened my eyes in what the rudiments of Broadcasting and news gathering was all about. And, when I ventured into print media, the rudiments remained same with little variations depending on house style and medium. I remain eternally grateful to reporters and Editors of ABS, Awka. I honed my journalistic skills at ABS, Awka. My good, bad and ugly experiences in ABS Awka is a story for another day.

I still relate with the Publishers daughter and our overall boss in the organization, Lady Nwadiuto Iwuanyanwu several years after. There is nothing like Champion Newspapers. It remained the best. Whatever I am today is Champion Newspapers. It made me. It changed my history because the editors supported me without qualms. I roared like a lion. Ugo Onuoha told me that I was the MD/EiC in Anambra state and I should carry myself thus. Why did he say so? I told him that then Governor Peter Obi wanted to see MD’s. After that call, I became more responsible for my organization and I never disappointed. The only minus was at Champion newspapers, nobody was interested in compiling journalists works for awards, especially those from outside station who procrastination was always their lot then. I would have won some. 14 years after, Emma Agu may have forgotten but I remember and still relate with him.

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Between that time and now I have worked in more than 10 newspapers of National appeal and rose to become a Regional Editor in the last 4 years. In between, I have had some low moments and joyful moments. The greatest injustice was when I lost my job with the Nation Newspaper as my by-line appeared as lead story with over two pages inside in Sun Newspaper, shortly after Governor Willie Obiano assumed duties. Let me not bore you with the Federal Polytechnic Oko connection, village (Awka North) people and fate, a story for another day. The injustice was lack of fair hearing. Journalists still share stories today. Aren’t they? Chika Abanobi of the Sun who handled the piece probably mistook me for my vibrant younger brother doing the Sun proud. He won the future writer of the year of Promasidor Quill awards within that era or so.

Gbenga Omotosho now Information Commissioner in Lagos state was my Editor then. Victor Ifijeh was my MD/EiC. He insisted I must go. Former Governor Peter Obi, Governor Willie Obiano, just mention them intervened but to no avail. Joe Martins Uzodike was briefing me as well as Val Obienyem. Kasie Abonne was told pointedly by Simon Kolawole, a former editor of This Day newspapers, Nigeria and founder of Cable Newspaper online that it was a bad case. That ended the era. I bear no grudges against anyone because that sack was a huge blessing today in retrospect. I have moved on bigger and better. There are people I am indebted to in my pursuit of career, but I shall spare them a mention now. A future write up shall dwell on them because the cookies are yet to mature, and life is memorable when you have loved ones around. Are you part of my success story? Hold your breath for I surely shall name you.

As an intending member of Nigeria Guild of Editors, I was in Port Harcourt for the AGM during the 12th edition of 2016 All Nigerian Editors Conference, ANEC, organized by the Nigerian Guild of Editors (NGE), I met Ifijeh, we exchanged banters, even when I knew he must have forgotten me and I explained myself. We laughed it off and I moved on to connect with more Editors. I met Funke Egbemode, the NGE President and we had a brief chat though she had a tight schedule to listen to why I wanted a one on one chat with her, but she gave me another option for us to see. I failed as I ran out of cash. I ran back to Awka. Later, I called her, but her calls rang severally but not picking. Texts sent but no reply. The calls were never returned. I gave up. At the same, I met a social friend and MD of Sun by that year Eric Osagie, but he gave me an attitude of a low ranking personality while searching for attention of other considered personalities. Let me not tell you other big shots who gave me audience even if it ended there.

Who is a better role model? Who could I say is my Mentor? Looking back, I have not been stable in the last 5 years due to man’s inhumanity to man, but, I have over 50 student journalists I have mentored and 20 of them are doing great in the field today, some greater than I have done. But, I moved on and to the glory of God, I have repositioned myself for higher responsibilities now than ever.

My story is just a little illustration of how one could be given a helping hand and he or she blossoms. That’s why I am presenting the story of Toyosi Ogunseye, BBC West Africa Head and Multiple Awards winner as a perfect example of what journalists and media men should do to one another. But, the opposite appears to be the case as there is so much back biting and witch hunting in the media. If it is not lack of salary, it is frustration by your superiors by killing your stories unnecessarily. Some editors brag that it is their duty to kill your stories, and reporters or correspondents’ duty to fill them in for slaughter. Do, if they fail in their duties for the newspaper, but not out of mischief or wickedness. Some award winning stories were knocked out of shape by wicked superiors, while human and understanding superiors improve on works to enable it stand a chance at award ceremonies.

Toyosi Ogunseye, BBC West Africa
Toyosi Ogunseye, BBC West Africa

But, Toyosi a former Thomson Foundation Young Journalist Award finalist was lucky as she confessed to work where she was not only paid but supported all through even pleaded to file a story or have her assisted with story line. Reading her interview in Explore of Sunday Sun Newspaper August 11, 2019 sent goose pimples all over me. She started contributing to Punch while still a student and had a meteoric rise to the top in Journalism to become Editor Sunday Punch from where she was elevated as Head of language services at BBC World Service West Africa. And today she is the Vice President of World Editors Forum (WEF). Wait for Toyosi Ogunseye’s mentors unmasked.

Mentoring in journalism: Toyosi Ogunseye’s mentors unmasked by Odogwu Emeka Odogwu, PhD.
Last week, I wrote on the magic of youth mentorship lacking in Nigeria. I used my experiences, but trying to connect it to Toyosi Ogunseye, the Vice President of World Editors Forum (WEF). She is the Head of language services at BBC World Service West Africa. She was Editor Sunday Punch before moving to the international scene. She started contributing to Punch newspaper while still a student as editors then encouraged her. Today she is a world figure. Isn’t that amazing? She has won so many awards. A serial award winner and a former Thomson Foundation Young Journalist Award finalist, yet, she isn’t satisfied as she summed it, ‘I am just starting’. She wants to conquer more grounds.

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She read Biochemistry, but today heading all those who read Mass Communication and Journalism as their foundational course. What was her secret? Voracious reading, dedication to duties and eyes on excellence at all times as well as interest in self-development. Was she alone on this trend in the Nigerian media circle? But, how feasible was this in the Punch newspaper of today? How many other Toysosi’s have we in the media houses today? The magic of youth mentorship is indeed lacking in Nigeria, hence so many struggles by young school leavers. Again, quest for material wealth and lust have taken due diligence and learning the rungs away from our youth population. Easy ways to success mostly fraudulent ways are trendy.

Toyosi Ogunseye, BBC West Africa
Toyosi Ogunseye, BBC West Africa

Was it possible because she was a Yoruba Babe, resident closer to newspaper houses? Or was it about interest? Or rather because of her alma mater, University of Lagos where she received a bachelor’s degree in Biochemistry was in a city of newspapers? Was there something we are not told? She had post-graduate diploma in print journalism from the Nigerian Institute of Journalism, even with a master’s degree in Media and Communications from Pan-Atlantic University in 2010. She is on for her PhD in Politics and International Relations at the University of Leicester, United Kingdom. I envy you. ‘Who dash Monkey banana?’ I did my PhD at Unizik, the great University named after Zik of Africa.

Can Editors of today give a second year student of Biochemistry like Ogunseye an opportunity for her stories to adorn news pages unattached? What a blossoming way to start a career! ABS Awka did it or me under Oliver Ikegwuonu, Francis Okonkwo Idu late, Angus Iloka. They recommended me for employment but the MD then for whatever reasons turned me down, hence my movement to Lagos for employment. But, for Ogunseye, Musa Egbemana gave her a shot at reporting news happening in University of Lagos to be published on The Sun Newspaper at the time when Femi Adesina was the editor in 2004.

She later worked with News Star Newspaper as a senior correspondent in 2007. But, in 2009, she joined The Punch Newspaper as the sub-assistant editor for news and politics till 2012. Why was that so? She has garnered experiences working with the game changers in the media as Musa assigns her investigative reports and fine tune them for her. Consistent practices makes one perfect. And like play, she became an editor for Sunday Punch. She had worked as news editor and senior correspondent with special interest in crime. She was the first and youngest female editor at The Punch Newspaper.

Groomed to be a star, she has won over 25 media awards including the health category of the CNN MultiChoice African Journalist of the Year Awards in 2011 and 2013, which started her journey the international scene. She won also Nigerian Academy of Science Journalist of the Year 2013, The Future Awards Africa 2013, Child-Friendly Reporter of the Year by the Diamond Awards for Media Excellence (DAME). What a great star and model for ladies out there, but is she grooming anyone? If she benefited from grooming and mentorship and she fails to groom other youths, be them males or females , then she has failed the litmus test, for a star begets a star, even more. She extend a hand of fellowship to mentor Africans now that she is on the world stage. I am available for mentorship Toyosi, my world leader.

Little Toyosi of yesterday travels all over the world where her mentees didn’t reach and may never. Isn’t that the beauty of mentorship?
Toyosi is even undergoing another round of mentorship as her bosses in the World Editors Forum, WEF Board made up of impressive journalists across the globe put her name forward as Vice President, and went a step higher by voting her in without discriminating or stereotyping of any sort as obtainable here. I was below 40 when I contested to lead Anambra NUJ, full of vision and mission but age scuttled me that beautiful opportunity to unleash my exuberance positively having attracted the building of the state Press Center. I repeated after 40 but met the worst clannish minds ever. All my appeals and petitions to the zonal and national body yielded nothing. I relinquished the ambition and supported the ‘chosen’ ones in office. I stand by this any day.

Toyosi summed it up when she said she was ‘’inspired by their confidence in me and told myself that I was going to rise to the occasion. They voted overwhelmingly for me and I’m grateful’’.
Is Toyosi , the brightest and best of best in the media industry of today? She had a rare privilege of good mentorship and God’s grace and she is utilizing it judiciously like Financier of Aspire FC of Adazi-Ani, a medical doctor by profession, Dr Emeka Okeke who despite being the son of a Billionaire businessman GUO Okeke, has carved a niche for himself at a very young age in all ramifications as an international businessman, a medical doctor and social Entrepreneur.

Is Toyosi the only lady in the print media despite that most others are in the Broadcast media because of the print newsroom is masculine, coupled with rigour and long hours challenge. It is as well tough balancing family with journalism. Let me salute women who pull it off.

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Are other male journalists and media managers blind to gender like those Toyosi encountered? If they are not , who have they produced like Toyosi? Are there still women who are good news persons in the media with experiences in other beats like politics, business and investigations to enable them to be editors? She mentioned Musa Ebomhiana who gave her the first chance in the media, Mr. Femi Adesina, and Mr. Dipo Kehinde, Mr. Rotimi Williams, Mr. Casmir Igbokwe, Mr. Steve Ayorinde, Mr. Azubuike Ishiekwene, Mr. Joseph Adeyeye, Chief Ajibola Ogunshola, late Mr. Wale Aboderin, and Mr. Ademola Osinubi with nostalgia and each name played a remarkable role in her life. Have you played any role in someone’s life to be remembered in glowing terms?

Even today, Toyosi is still under nurture. Hear her: ‘’My current line manager, Solomon Mugera, who is a news guru, is clear about the BBC vision and expects me to lead Anglophone and Francophone West Africa to meet its part of the 500 million 2020 BBC target. This involves getting BBC Hausa, BBC Afrique, BBC Igbo, BBC Pidgin and BBC Yoruba, to deliver on reaching more audiences in West Africa. I was and I’m still properly trained by the best. So what you see today is both nature and nurture’. Should I ask Toyosi to give me a chance to understudy her for one month? Impracticable, you said! Far from it, opportunities abound for such mentoring because understudying is part of mentoring.

In spite of the challenges in the media industry though not with Punch, the best place to work in while the ride is smooth and worst to be remembered after the tide sweeps you away, she trudged on because some people had faith in her. The hire and fire knows no boundary.
Do our young girls still read books, novels and newspapers or bury themselves in social media channels doing nothing irrelevancies? Are the youngies still monitored by parents and mentored first before eternal mentorship? Do society care for the progress of children other than theirs as was obtainable before a decade ago?

Toyosi confirmed to the interviewer that her industry and success was attributable to her upbringing and her managers in the office, admitting that, ‘God hasn’t finished with me yet’. She said at home ‘every child’s excellence is the responsibility of everyone’. And in the office, ‘all my bosses were men who went the extra mile and there was nothing like excuses in their dictionary. They worked so hard, persevered and when they saw I was willing, they showed me the ropes’.

Her parents played their own role. But do parents of today play their own roles? Hear her: ‘’I grew up in a strict home and we were not allowed to watch television. My father bought three newspapers daily and I had to write a summary of the story that I liked the most. It’s no surprise that I became a journalist. I read novels so much that my friends wonder why I have not written a book. My dad bought me a small carton of novels weekly that I often finished reading the same week. There were two booksellers at Palm Grove Bus Stop and Marina that my dad would go to every weekend and bring me a small carton of books. Reading is my first love. I would listen to music and read novels round the clock…….’’

Imagine the then Saturday Editor of the Sun, Mr. Steve Nwosu, would not close his paper if he had not spoken to Toyosi, a 20 year old undergraduate?
Who is a mentor? You are this and that but nobody has thanked God because of you. What are you? Please throw away your ego and mentor a soul today. It does not matter your age. Impact on someone in any way possible for his or her career progression.

Mentee, you have to be humble and tolerate all to grow, but my dearest mentor , you have to be effective mentor to understand the mentee depends on you for guidance for a brighter carrier and opportunities. Don’t mess it up. Mentorship is a critical ingredient geared towards positive youth outcomes, so let’s embrace it today. It is a serious duty, so feel connected and see your mentee succeed better than you. It is only when your mentee is successful better than you that he or she can be of value to you in mentoring others you may refer. Mentorship is not only in career progression or employment but in empowering mentees to develop better their own strengths, beliefs, and personal attributes that will smash their imagination. This is because someone in a duty post may be wasting away but your guidance having known better catapults his progression holistically.

See how proud Toyosi was, calling names of Editors and MD’s who impacted in her life to become who she is today. What do you do for a living? Who and who have survived because of you in your chosen profession? What has selfishness and egocentricism achieved for you in your profession? Who will call your name in your profession and bless God?

Cornucopia is a weekly column of Odogwu Emeka Odogwu. Odogwu is a known Journalist, Editor, Media Consultant and famous Blogger, as well as Social Media Entrepreneur, Publisher and Conversationalist @ among others.

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