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Egbochuku: Passionate, active in journalism even at 71

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IMAGINE Stanley Nwakife Egbochuku, Editor-in-Chief, Orient Daily, as a fine artist. As a child, Egbochuku took interest in fine arts. His father, a respected educator, used to have many visitors that young Egbochuku would draw their cars and present the drawing to them as memento when they were about to leave. Appreciation of his work made his day. Perhaps, he was another Pablo Picasso in the making but God had another path for him.         

  Today, he has made his mark in journalism, not in mere name but in professionalism and integrity. The same approach he infuses into any organisation he administers. His middle name is integrity and professionalism and he shuns anyone that opposes or wants to work against the principle. Take every other thing away from Mr Egbochuku but don’t ever trifle with these two things because it will affect every part of his being.    

 Pious and humane Egbochuku is over 70 years of age and has never applied for any job all his life. At no point has he expressed such in written form, not even verbally. He is modest about it; not boastful or arrogant about it but attributes it to God’s mercy and love upon his life rather than his own making.

  The veteran journalist believes more in his untainted name than riches, a trait that he said runs in the Egbochuku lineage. It is a family heritage that his family has maintained over the years which he wouldn’t want to be the first to tarnish. So, he strives at all times to support that, likewise every member of the family. He recalled an incident with his elder brother, Nwachuku Egbochuku, a retired Commissioner of Police. Nwachuku told him that if he (Nwachuku Egbochuku) took a bribe from anybody, he (Stanley) should deny him.

  Son of a travelling teacher, who was at different times a headmaster and principal, his family’s constant movement contributed to young Egbochuku attending different primary schools, but that never diminished his love for education. The last leg of his primary school education was St. Michael Primary School, Ife. Besides being the son of an educationist, the hunger for higher academic pursuit took him to Ife Grammar School, Imo State, for his secondary school education.

  The common practice in those days for any pupil seeking academic pursuit into secondary school was to pass the Standard Six examination, which was of a higher standard than today’s examination into secondary school. Egbochuku scaled the hurdle in Standard Five such that his school management brought him to the podium at the assembly ground to celebrate his brilliance.

  The love for journalism overwhelmed Egbochuku such that after passing his WASCE, he enrolled for a diploma programme at the Nigerian Institute of Journalism (NIJ), originally owned by the International Press Institute (IPI), a Welsh training institute with headquarters in Cardiff, Wales. The institute in Nigeria was under the directorship of veteran journalist, Alhaji Lateef Jakande, who later became the first executive governor of Lagos State in the Second Republic.

  He passed out of the Nigerian Institute of Journalism as the best student of his set. Besides his academic proficiency, Alhaji Jakande took a liking for him and soon made him his Personal Assistant. Jakande had a Peugeot 404 car that Egbochuku was the only student privileged to drive, doing errands for him. Alhaji Jakande’s fondness and trust for Egbochuku was apparent. While at the NIJ, he wrote for many newspapers but in particular, the Daily Times. Alhaji Jakande’s influence made the Nigerian Tribune seek his services. He was at a time a reporter/researcher for the famous Afriscope magazine owned by the late Senator Uche Chukwumerije.   

  Egbochuku attributed his journey into journalism to the influence of people like Sam Amuka, a veteran journalist who later became the publisher of Vanguard newspaper. He also referred to the late Tunji Oseni, a former editor of the Sunday Times, whom he described as a respected journalist and disciplined writer. 

  The Daily Times eventually employed Stanley Egbochuku. “Tunji Oseni was a powerful influence, brilliant, soft-spoken, knowledgeable, considerate, and detribalised. I entered journalism when it was a popular profession, and if you were not at Daily Times, then you were not into journalism.”

  “Serious-minded people like Alhaji Babatunde Jose, the first Nigerian Managing Director of the Daily Times, often described as ‘the legendary doyen of Nigerian journalism,’ also influenced me with other journalists who took journalism seriously, unlike what we see today. Some people today think that journalism is a place to walk through; that is not the way. As a journalist, you have to read up, research, and write very well.”

  “As a journalist, if you are still only a writer, your skill is incomplete. Your skill should be wider than just writing. Writing is an aspect of journalism. You have other aspects, such as in-depth research and analysis. I don’t know how many are doing research now. They just write stories. Research helps to deepen your writing. I was one of those that chose the path of specialisation in journalism. I specialised in business journalism. I modeled my master’s degree thesis after the Financial Times of London model. I went to the Financial Times to work on my dissertation, supervised by Sarah Flanagan, and that helped me a lot.”

  “I don’t know how many people are serious with journalism today. Journalism offers so many good things and the older you are, the better. You are more amenable to analysis, understanding issues and interpreting developments as they come in. Journalism is a beautiful profession, but many people in Nigeria have bastardised it. We see it as merely a trade. In developed nations, they take it very seriously. Elsewhere, journalists are knowledgeable, intelligent, and brilliant people.”

  Egbochuku did very well as a journalist in Daily Times; hence, the paper sponsored him through school at Aberdeen, Scotland for a degree in Communication Studies. Returning to Nigeria while yet to resume work at Daily Times, Chief MKO Abiola who was looking for branded journalists to work for him in the Concord Group of newspapers came after his services.

  The Concord Group booked for him a flight to Germany to meet with Chief MKO Abiola. At their first meeting, MKO Abiola asked Egbochuku why he played hard to get even when he (Egbochuku) had never met him or the Concord newspapers management. Chief Abiola sponsored his master’s degree in International Marketing at the University of Strathclyde, Glasgow, the only university in the United Kingdom named the University of the Year twice. Chief Abiola asked him to return to Nigeria after his master’s degree to continue his work at Concord newspaper, where he rose to the position of Executive Director of Marketing and Advertising. He had earlier edited Business Concord  newspaper.

  The veteran journalist believes in instilling sense of duty into any assignment. He recalled MKO Abiola coming to Oraifite to appreciate him before his people. “MKO Abiola thought I was unique for how I diligently worked for him. He came to Oraifite to thank my people, telling them that he much appreciated me working for him. It’s just like telling the Oraifite Improvement Union Assembly that this is my beloved son whom I’m well pleased with.”

  Life to the Orient Daily boss is ephemeral; every human must strive to get the best result in any endeavour while upholding integrity, besides making life better for others. “We are here to be an example, demonstrating God’s love and fulfilling His purpose. Making money and enjoying ourselves is good but not the ultimate. We are to be a blessing to others. What we are doing here on earth is temporary; there is eternity.”

 Many would expect Mr Egbochuku to be on retirement given his age. For the veteran journalist who described journalism as an ultimate profession that touches lives and everything anyone can think of, journalism runs in him. “I love journalism and still live it. I’m over 70, but I enjoy what I’m doing because of love for humanity and of course, the desire to leave a legacy. I enjoy journalism and can continue to 80 and even to 90. Most of my friends in the United Kingdom are still in journalism at their old age. They enjoy journalism and write with pleasure.”

  Coming to Orient Daily, Mr. Egbochuku said he had one thing in mind; to chart a course that would transform Orient Daily to a must-read newspaper of repute. “We want to grow the business, we want this newspaper to be the biggest newspaper empire in the South East region, but wouldn’t give room to toxic people to ruin that. “Here in Orient Daily, they quote me as saying there are toxic people. When I say toxic people, I mean people who have a negative influence on the organisation. Before then, I was talking about the company being the ‘Oasis of Sanity,’ I want to make sure that Orient Daily becomes a model that cannot be ignored. There was once a staff that was a negative influence; he was into pilfering, gossiping, and all that. He was somebody we paid good money; we had to ask him to go away.”

  He was a bad influence. We don’t want more of those people to appear in the system. We want to grow. Why should we allow toxic people to be around us? They will not let the organisation chart the right course. So, you start early to safeguard that. I said it and I’m not regretting it. 

  “If you ask some people to carry out an assignment, they tell you that it’s not their job. If it is not your job, why then are you here? Some people don’t have the culture of organised setup, the culture of working in a well-managed organisation. If you have to come to work by 8 am, don’t tell the office that they should know that you are in school. I didn’t say one shouldn’t push further one’s education, earn extra income, or do other things, no. But nothing should interfere with your official assignment. This is why you are here in the first place.”

Nigeria is so dear to Mr Egbochuku that he wants people that understand the concept of development and what development is all about to pilot the affairs of the country, “What made the West great was that they insisted on achieving development. Development is important; it brings prosperity. In Nigeria, we concentrate more on politics rather than development.”  

Life to the veteran journalist is living for others, so that the society will be better for it.  “If you have the means, make sure that others have opportunities to grow. They can’t be bigger than you because you helped them to be where they are. Even if they are more financially stable than you are, accept them and wish them well. I like to see people excel and be financially stable.”

Mr Egbochuku described the pressure in the newspaper business as more than that of the radio and television. “The newspaper business is more rigorous. Radio is easier and very straightforward. For newspaper business, you must have a good team in all departments to succeed. As in the Olympics rings, there must be a good connection through the entire departments, and the connection must not be broken at any point, else it affects others.”

If it lies within Mr Egbochuku’s power to change one thing in the Nigeria polity, it would be to influence other people’s perception of the Igbo people. “Over the years, some have deliberately or consciously built the wrong notion of the average Igbo person for whatever reason which is incorrect. There are so much more from the Igbo person than the negative picture some people paint of them.”

Mr Egbochuku is married to Mrs Justina Egbochuku, who he sees as a woman God gave him to love, nourish and cherish. “She understands me too well, and I understand her as well.”

They are married with five children, all of whom have passed through university education and are gainfully employed.   

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