By Jimoh Bashir
Kwara State Printing and Publishing Corporation (KWSPPC), publishers of The Herald Newspaper, clocks 50 years today, October 19th, 2023. The Newspaper came into existence through the Kwara State of Nigeria Decree No.3 of 1973 dated January 1, 1973.
The edict establishing the Corporation empowers it to disseminate knowledge of and to encourage interest in the State and to give guidance to the public upon any matter of public interest.
Recall, Kwara State was created on May 27, 1967 as one of the twelve first generation states in the country under the General Yakubu Gowon regime. At inception, it was known as West Central state and later renamed Kwara state.
It has the great River Niger flowing through it southwards to form a confluence at Lokoja, where it meets River Benue and together flow southwards through many states of the federation into the Atlantic Ocean. The Hausa name of River Niger is Kwara, thus its acceptance as the new name for the State of Harmony.
After its creation, the State, under the leadership of the then Colonel David Lasisi Bamigboye realized that no one could care for the business of spreading information and education in the state better than the state itself. With such realization, it became necessary for the state government to organize publicity for its work and progress.
The state of things as far as publicity was concerned could not be allowed to continue, especially in the light of the devotion and patriotism which the vast majority of the people had shown in the cause of the state’s creation.
When the edict establishing the Corporation was published, the state’s Military Governor indicated that the newspaper to be published would enjoy all the freedom to which the press was entitled, adding that its purpose would be to help enlighten the public and to act as a venue of information between the people and their government.
Another objective of the newspaper ab initio was to help create an atmosphere of peace and brotherly affection in which the peoples of the state, as among themselves and as among other nationals of Nigeria, would be able to live and develop their resources in concord.
The first edition of The Nigerian Herald was launched on October 19, 1973 at a historical and colourful ceremony. One major event that marked the occasion was the naming of the first child born same day the first edition of Nigerian Herald was published.
Mrs. Nwakaego Heraldeen Oke (nee Uwabor), who will also be celebrating her 50th birthday today, was born on a warm, sunny day in October 19th, 1973 in Ilorin.
The events and circumstances of her birth were both fortuitous and dramatic. Just like Anita Brookner quipped “all good fortune is a gift of the gods, and you don’t win the favour of the ancient gods by being good, but by being bold”. But in the case of little Heraldeen, she won the favour by neither being good nor bold. It was purely the act of the Supreme Being that favour and fortune greeted her. Soon to be inaugurated Herald newspapers was hunting for a new child to be born at exactly 2pm to mark the launch of the Corporation and maiden publication.
That was when the top echelons of the newspaper walked into the precincts of Ilorin Maternity Hospital, Amilegbe, where she was just escaping from her mother’s womb and behold, she was just born at their feet at exactly 2pm.
Heraldeen was born to the humble family of Late Chief John Uwabor and Mrs. Bernice Uwabor of Obior in Aniocha North LGA of Delta State. She spent most of her formative years in Ilorin under the tutelage of her disciplinarian parents and six (6) other siblings.
Mrs. Heraldeen is today, a social businesswoman and former senior banker based in the ancient city of Agbor Kingdom in Delta State.
When late Bamigboye, one of the first generation Military Governors under the Yakubu Gowon regime set out to establish The Herald, then known as NIGERIAN HERALD, many people doubted if a newspaper was by any means a priority for the state.
But The Nigerian Herald, which made its debut on October 19, 1973 as a national daily soon justified the hope of the government and in no time filled the vacuum which had existed for a long time before its establishment.
With the launching of the paper’s first edition on October 19, 1973, opinion from all over the country and abroad rated it very high as one of the leading newspapers in Nigeria.
It was soon discovered that apart from its coverage and reportage of activities across the country and beyond, no one else could have spread information and education in the state through effective publicity of its activities other than the state itself.
Mr. Abiodun Aloba, then a Newspaper Consultant (later the first General Manager of the Corporation) and Mr. Michael Asaju, then a well-known newspaper correspondent and leader of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) in Kwara State, undertook an extensive tour of the state and discussed with a cross-section of the community the proposed newspaper. Interestingly, it was realized that the kind of newspaper which Col. Bamigboye proposed was exactly the kind the people indicated they wanted.
With the publication of the newspaper under the editorship of Mr. Peter Ajayi, aided by a number of others, among whom were Messrs. Yakubu Abdulazeez, Ahmed Hameed, Isacc Lare, J.O. Akinfala, A. Adeoti, Alhaji M.J.A Baruwa and Mr. N.C. Olowo, the newspaper was soon to justify the hope of the military governor.
Apart from enlightening the public and serving as an avenue of information between the people and their government, the newspaper has continued to promote, encourage and stimulate the study of Mass Communication.
Before its establishment, no tertiary institution in the state offered Journalism or Mass Communication as a course.
The newspaper has continued to contend with the influx of students of Mass Communication on the Students’ Industrial Work Experience Scheme (SIWESS) and industrial attachments, both from within and across the country on a yearly basis. The newspaper has also continued to serve as a veritable platform for grooming cub reporters into reputable journalists.
The Nigerian Herald was later renamed The Herald Newspaper.
The newspaper was a toast of every curious reader, analyst, opinion molder and members of the intellectual community. In fact, the paper was a hot cake that was used to sell other newspapers at inception.
The newspaper has gone through numerous challenges over time, one of which was that, it was off the newsstand completely during the Colonel Baba Adamu Iyam’s administration in the state but it was to the credit of the administration that despite its nonappearance on the news stand, the corporation still enjoyed monthly subventions while the administration lasted.
Another setback for the newspaper was the demolition of its Corporate Headquarters, a five-star edifice with a befitting Mosque along New Yidi Road, Ilorin by the Abubakar Bukola Saraki administration.
The edifice which was started by the Shaaba Lafiaigi administration was completed, fully equipped and supported with seven vehicles for distribution by the Mohmamed Alabi Lawal administration. Unfortunately, the Abubakar Bukola Saraki administration demolished the edifice in one swoop. The workers were sent packing back to the same quarters where it began -a borrowed property.
Earlier, between 1994 and 1995, Colonel Baba Adamu Iyam closed down The Herald newspaper against popular wish. Colonel Peter Ogar eventually re-opened the newspaper in 1997. Iyam closed down The Herald thinking that the best solution to the crisis the newspaper was facing then was to wind its operations down. It was with great pain that Kwarans watched the disappearance of the newspaper from the newsstands.
Col. Peter Ogar made the newspaper thick by reviving it and ensuring that it was back to the newsstand, using Consultants that recruited Alhaji AbdulRaheem Adedoyin as Editor In-Chief, and Alhaji Isiaka Aliagan as Editor Daily.
During this period, the newspaper pioneered colour newspaper publication which other newspapers in the country copied. Before then, newspapers were published in Black and White format in the country.
The Socio-economic impact of The Herald newspapers cannot be over emphasized.
A better understanding of this requires going back in time to 1967 when the state was created. Since its creation, the state has undergone various developmental efforts.
Appreciating the socio-economy of the state cannot be complete without understanding the historical background of the state and the development of its economic structure.
On its part, the economic structure can be viewed from key socio-economic perspectives such as agriculture, industry, education, rural development, transportation, health, water supply etc.
In an effort to develop and improve upon the existing resources, the government laid emphasis on the development and improvement of the education, health and other sectors. There were also various development policies and programmes introduced at different times aimed at improving the socio-economic impact of the people. All these developments were reported by the Nigerian Herald which helped create awareness about the state in the scheme of things especially those that require mass participation of the people.
For example, if there is need for the populace to participate in registration of voters exercise or enrolment into the various primary, secondary and tertiary institutions, the media was involved to mobilize the people for the exercises, thus exhibiting its socio-economic impact in the society.
It is common knowledge that communication is the basic social glue that binds people together as individuals and groups. And the closer one observes the workings of the media, the more it turns out to be hinged on a complex network of specialized personal and social influences.
It is a fact that all governments depend on communication. The role of the media to provide the much needed information to the populace is crucial while the decision makers require feedback.
Communication is the nerve center of any government. Therefore, despite many hitiches The Herald newspaper has continued to disseminate information through effective publicity of government activities, policies, programmes and desires, thus closing the wide vacuum that would have been created had the newspaper not been established.
The society therefore, relies on The Herald to access government information that affects day-to-day existence.
Such communication has been crucial to an individual’s efforts to gain greater quality of life, because it affects not only his personal expression but his social needs and aspirations.
The newspaper was also used in mobilizing the populace for different immunization programmes, voters’ registration exercise, verification of permanent voter’s cards among others while in the agricultural sector, it was used in sensitizing people on the availability of improved seedlings and other innovations in the sector.
As a tool for mass mobilization, The Herald has continued to be the mirror of society.
The renewed aspiration was to make The Herald a very strong regional newspaper of note in such a way that it will be a reference point. It is also the intention to resume as a daily newspaper with strong grassroots coverage, through hard copies, e-copies and the website.
The Herald cannot pretend to be a national newspaper in this age of information and Communication Technology but could maintain a regional stance and become an authoritative source of authentic information in this era of social media where everything goes.
Government would need to rescue the corporation from the civil service bureaucracy which is threatening its growth as was the case when it began. A situation where a Corporation Secretary is posted from the Office of the State’s Head of Service, instead of the provision for a Corporation Secretary/Legal Adviser as provided for by the Edict establishing the Corporation is not good enough for newspaper business.
The Chairman and Board of the Corporation should also always be made up of seasoned journalists who know the business of newspaper while the Board should be supreme as provided for, and serve as a bridge between the Governor and the Corporation in any matter affecting it.
*Bashir is the Acting Head of Sports Desk, The Herald Newspapers, and Chairman, The Herald Chapel of NUJ