Dr Yemi Ogunbiyi on newspaper leadership, the Stanley Macebuh way – The Sun Nigeria

My friend Dare Babarinsa was the first to warn me. His warning was backed up by Professor Emeritus Femi Osofisan who said: “I must warn the potential reader in advance: this is one of those books that once you start reading you won’t be able to read it again. put away before reaching the final. period.

With my appetite honed, I searched everywhere for a copy of Dr. Yemi Ogunbiyi’s new memoir The Road Never Forgets and couldn’t find a copy to buy. Then miraculously, he sent me an autographed copy of this literary masterpiece. As a biographer, you know a good book when your eyes turn green wishing you had written the book. Dr. Ogunbiyi has raised the bar of memoir writing with this classic filled with so much news, honest and daring to be honest. Don’t let me waste all my bullets praising this book in a single column. There is so much to write next. Let me start with this captivating tribute to Dr. Stanley Macebuh, a late newspaper editor and a giant of our profession.

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In in the hands of the late Sunny Obazu Ojeagbase, aided of course by Sam John, Mitchel Obi, Chris Ogwu, among others, sports reporting became an art, an art that evoked (or perhaps even surpassed) the legendary Cyril Kappo (Ceekay), who was a sports editor at the Daily Times for almost 30 years.

But the rarest breed of all was Stanley Macebuh, whom, as I said earlier, I first encountered in 1966. When our paths crossed again in the 1970s, I was simultaneously studying for an advanced degree at New York University.

As I have written elsewhere, these years were an exciting time to live and study in the New York area as a Nigerian. Ambassador Leslie Harriman was at the United Nations as a permanent representative, while Ambassador Deinde George held the office of the Consulate General. Joe Okpaku’s Third Press, located at 444 Central Park West in Manhattan, was booming and dozens of Nigerians, who were later to play critical roles in Nigeria’s future, lived in and around the city at this time. , among them, Chuba Okadigbo, Ibrahim Gambari, George Obiozor, Tunde Adeniran, Moyibi Amoda, Walter Ofonagoro, Dele Giwa, Ore Soluade, Kayode Ojutiku and many others. We all seemed to work and study hard. But we also partied, dissolving our nights in the fumes of human self-indulgence. Stanley was a dynamic part of this experience. He then published his highly acclaimed book on James Baldwin, James Baldwin: A Critical Study, which remains to this day one of the most incisive analyzes of Baldwin’s work in the English language. He had also met his future wife, Maggie. And then they finally got married on that wintry evening in December 1976, it was a big Nigerian party where I remember switching roles between emcee, arranger, steward and Mr. Fix It!

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But it was my encounter with Stanley at The Guardian newspapers that redefined the fundamental nature of our relationship and fostered an enduring bond of friendship that lasted for the rest of his life. The atmosphere and experience created by Stanley’s leadership and vision at the Guardian has shaped my entire media career. It was leadership that was embodied, not only in the razor-sharp brilliance of his fertile mind, but also in his ability to bring all of us, most of whom he had debauched from varied backgrounds, into passionately entering in the Guardian’s dream as if our lives depended on it.

Stanley was one of the brightest people I have ever met. His conduct of the editorial board conferences was a pleasure to watch. His ability to succinctly summarize in minutes several hours of intense brainstorming at editorial board conferences in a way that captures the essence of the arguments being made was pure genius. Usually, at the end of the deliberations, a cigarette between the fingers of his famous elongated, fine cigarette filter, his eyes darting over the smoky room, he patiently assigned editorial topics to team members, reminding them that the comments of Guardian editorial were far too important to dwell on because, in his own words, “when the Guardian says it, everyone, including the government, listens!” That’s how seriously we took ourselves at the Guardian under Stanley.

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His qualities as a leader were reinforced by the fact that he was an endearing intellectual, in the most refined sense of the expression. His effortless fluency in the English language stemmed in part, I suspect, from his strong foundation in the classics. This background imbued it with an exceptional and refreshing brevity of style. This influence of the classics manifests itself in his writings, not only in form but also in substance. Consider, for example, his fundamentally brilliant and crisp article on Bola Ige, titled “Cicero at Agodi”, in which he resurrects Chief Ige’s former nickname as an undergraduate at the old University College of Ibadan. , and draws implicit parallels between Chief Ige and the ancient Roman philosopher, lawyer, orator, and political theorist, Marcus Tullius Cicero. But Stanley’s choice of the Cicero parallel may have been inspired by a less flattering consideration than that perceived by many when this piece first appeared. For example, Cicero, whose career as a statesman was marked by inconsistencies, was also a sensitive and impressionable personality prone to overreactions to crises. Stanley saw a similarity in the careers of Chief Ige and Cicero and explored it in a way that made an oblique statement about Chief Ige’s own equally complex and challenging political career. In other words, Cicero’s choice in the context of this play invoked much more about Chief Ige than could have been said in words. This technique sums up an essential aspect of Stanley’s style; at the same time erudite, cerebral, lucid and profound.

In March 2010, the Nigerian media industry lost one of its best when he passed away. His impact was unassailable, his commitment to the media industry profound. Many, like me, owed him far more than we could ever have repaid in a lifetime. In my case, for example, if he hadn’t literally dragged me out of college when he did, my life would have been different because my media career would never have happened. His place in the development of the Nigerian media industry will not soon be forgotten.

(Excerpts from The Road Never Forgets)