•TRIBUNE MD, EDWARD DICKSON, Reveals
It is no longer news that The Tribune newspaper is 70. The celebration in on right now. And many people are happy that the newspaper that the late sage, Chief Obafemi Awolowo set up in 1949 has survived this long.
What is the success secret of The Tribune newspaper, City People asked The Tribune MD? “It’s been the Grace of God,” he explained in his office in Ibadan, last week. “Tribune has gone through a lot of challenges, a lot of ups and down in the last 70 years”.
“The paper has seen the good, bad and the ugly. It has seen good times and bad times and The Tribune has come out of it strong.”
Truly so. City People gathered that over the years, The Tribune has witnessed a lot of persecutions and stigma, largely coming from the political class, some of who, out of envy, despised what its founder, Awo, stood for. So, once they are opposed to Awo, they oppose The Tribune which they have erroneously seen as his mouthpiece.
And they have also gone ahead over the years, to refer to The Tribune dirisively as an Ibadan Paper, a regional paper, a Yoruba Paper, all because The Tribune is based in Ibadan and shares progressive thoughts with its founder. Because of this erroneous stigmatization, a segment of the political class has refused to support The Tribune with advertisements. Over the years, depending on the party in power, at the centre, The Tribune has been denied regular adverts from some government agencies and parastatals.
Ironically, The Tribune has been caught in the ethnic politics of Nigeria, as it affects the media. Whilst specific newspapers like The Sun and VANGUARD have benefitted largely from the huge patronage that comes from the different zones they represent, The Tribune which ought to have been the beneficiary of South-West support has not enjoyed that privilege. So, while The SUN which is seen largely as an Igbo Newspaper, and The Vanguard which is perceived to represent the South-South enjoy the patronage of the governments from this zone, in terms of advertising, The Tribune has not been getting the support of the South West governors, in terms of advert patronage.
But despite all these. The Tribune has survived against all odds. City People found out that contrary to what many think, the principle that has helped Tribune survive these last 70 years is embedded in the principles laid down by the late founder, Chief Awolowo. And that is the principle of non-interference in the editorial policy of the paper.
City People found out that Awo passed on the non-interference rule down to successive Publishers of the newspaper and they have kept it sacrosanct.
What has also helped The Tribune survive all these years is the high calibre of successive editors and managers it has had over the years.
The current MD of Tribune, Edward Dickson, who assumed office 7 years ago leads a formidable team of thorough bred professionals at the helm of affairs of the newspaper. City People found out that many of the senior editors and Management staff of The Tribune are Ph.D and Masters holders.
How does the MD/CEO of Tribune feel about The Tribune at 70? “It makes me feel good”, he says. “It makes me feel excited. We are talking of age 70. The paper started in 1949. That tells you the generations of people that must have passed through here. By sheer providence we are today celebrating 70th anniversary of The Tribune. It makes one feel lucky and fortunate to be here today to celebrate 70th. Honestly it’s a good feeling. That is the feeling really permeating the atmosphere of The Tribune itself and that of the owners and even for Nigeria and the media industry. It’s a feeling of joy. I think it was for that reason that the Nigerian Media Award gave us an Award of Merit to mark this auspicious moment. For all of us stake holders in the industry, it is a plus. We are all happy”
What will he call the success secret of The Tribune? What has made Tribune last 70 years? “Honestly People always ask me that question, “ he explained. “They will always ask you for the secret behind the longetivity The Tribune and the success story of the Tribune Newspapers. Of course, it is the only surviving privately owned newspaper today. As a matter of fact, Tribune qualifies to be a national institution because The Tribune predates the country’s independence. One of the success factors is the Grace of God.”
“The God factor. God must have been at the foundation of this particular institution. Apart from God, you have the human element. You must also be able to connect to this truth, that there is nothing associated with Chief Obafemi Awolowo that is not sublime.
At the foundation of The Tribune is what you call Sublimity, flowing from the founder himself, because history tells us that at the foundation of Tribune only 3 persons were there”.
Who are the 3? “You had Baba himself. Mama HID. Awolowo of blessed memory and Barrister Segun, the 1st son of Chief Obafemi Awolowo. The 3 were at the foundation of Tribune. You will also find out that the kind of discipline that Baba brought to bear on Public Administration, the tenacity of purpose, he brought all to bear on The Tribune. So if you are able to connect Baba’s organization acumen, you will also know what is at the foundation of Tribune. Of course, he transferred it to Mama. H.I.D Awolowo. To some extent, people will say Mama was actually the Obafemi Awolowo that we have been talking about. Mama brought out the truism in the saying, that behind every successful man, there is a woman. Mama took over the reins of administration at The Tribune and of course, she was also reputed for discipline and having the knack to recruit credible people to run this organization. To that extent, I believe they understand the media too.”
“It will shock you if I say this, I have been Editor of the various titles before I became the MD here, but it will shock you, I repeat, it will shock you, it will shock most Nigerians to know, that throughout Mama’s tenure here till date, the Obafemi Awolowo family do not interfere in the editorial direction of The Tribune. It is a no-go area. They don’t interfere. They read whatever you get to see in the newspaper just like any other reader, just like any other Nigerian.”
“So they wouldn’t call you to tell you that tomorrow this is what I want to see on the front page of the newspaper. That was handed over from Papa to Mama up to those who by the grace of God are running The Tribune today. The children of Chief Obafemi Awolowo who by the Grace of God are running the company today only get to read the newspapers tomorrow morning just like you, or any other Nigerian. They don’t tamper with the editorial policy of The Tribune. Infact, its like a taboo. It is tantamount to sacrilege. Baba instituted that. It is even a reference point. They talk about that at the various AGMs.”