As Ijeoma Nwogwugwu Joins the Golden Club…

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Arguably one of the best around, the Editor of THISDAY, Ms Ijeoma Nwogwugwu, joined the ‘Golden Club’ on Wednesday, December 14, and chose to have the day pass like any other in the mood of the nation, but not without this deserving mention by Olawale Olaleye

Like the model civil servants, who are allowed to be seen but not heard, journalism too tries as much as possible to discourage its practitioners from undue media exposure and or needless spotlight. Although this practice is fast thawing with the changing world, the Editor of THISDAY, Ms Ijeoma Nwogwugwu, still belongs to this category of the classic. She is extremely private and does everything humanly possible to duck all that could bring her out of her cocoon.

In many years of knowing her, the first time she was literally forced out of her crust – seemingly so – was during the recent burial of her mother, Mrs. Elizabeth Chinyere Nwogwugwu, sometime in September this year, in Lagos. That was an unavoidable exposure to which she gave her very best. Indeed, the crème of Nigeria’s business, political, social and of course, the media circles “stomped her yard” to identify with this woman of no small means.

To therefore think she would let her 50th glide away like any other day was unbelievable. But she did. This is not the best of time for obscene display of opulence, perhaps. With a hopelessly rough economy that could further slip into an ugly depth in the coming days, it is no doubt the time to spend less and save more. This is why this tribute has become imperative to at least, acknowledge one of the most influential women in today’s media world.

IJ, as she is fondly called, is not your archetypal lady. There is more to her genetic make-up than you find in an average woman. She competes on the turf ordinarily conceded to men and does so with just one notion: staying on top. Having risen from business reporting to becoming the Business Editor, Saturday Editor, Sunday Editor and now, the editor of the nation’s frontline newspaper, THISDAY, the fact that she comes with requisite experience to the job is not subject to debate.

For the record, she is the third person and the only woman to have edited the three titles of the newspaper, coming after Mr. Eniola Bello, now the Managing Director, and Mr. Olusegun Adeniyi, the newspaper’s current Editorial Board Chairman.

With over two decades of experience, coupled with a background that embraces both the private and the public sectors – as a banker, financial analyst, business strategist, and journalist – there is hardly anyone, who currently comes close to her in terms of experience and the ability to effectively drive the chain of editorial command in a newspaper organisation.

In addition to her degree in Accounting from the University of Lagos, IJ has a post-graduate diploma in International Housing Finance from the Wharton Business School, Pennsylvania, USA, and had attended several management and professional training programmes in Nigeria, Europe and the United States.

A member of the Nigerian Union of Journalists and the Nigerian Guild of Editors, she has also sat on the board of the Nigerian Security Printing and Minting Company, Daily Times of Nigeria Plc and the National Hospital, Abuja, the nation’s capital. In editing THISDAY, practically all the line editors and others under her command are always on the edge. IJ is not one to call you and you answer your phone at one ring. Doing so could mean serious trouble. You first must run a quick check with your other colleagues to see who she had called and why? Two, you need to have a copy of the day’s edition with you, rush to your section and be sure all is well with your production before daring to call back or answer whenever she calls back. We always have an excuse for not picking at the first dial anyway.

She is very fastidious about excellent reporting and near-flawless productions. From your choice of stories to the headline, the focus, the depth, your grammar (she is annoyingly hooked on that), the choice of photographs, the planning and the total production exercise, she always roots for the best. Her taste for excellence is innately irrepressible and perhaps, the reason she devised different stages of quality control for each section of the newspaper just to make sure one or two other persons are readily on guard watching a certain back, editorial wise.

She takes no prisoner in the course of delivering on her job. She would scream at the top of her voice and compel you to do that which is right. Like any editor, who’s worth his salt, she is no less a dictator. She cares less about what and how you feel at that point in time. She has a job to do and it must be done whichever way, with result to flash. She is ever willing to help you deliver on your assignment if you genuinely need one but will neither condone indolence nor impudence. IJ is poised to push you to the very limit of anticipated delivery.

But guess what? Her screaming and raising the roof always end at the point of the disagreement. She moves on almost immediately and expects you also to do the same. “You mean you are still sulking?” she sometimes queries, wondering how men could still brood for so long a time after an engagement in collective interest, because that’s the way she sees it.

At other times, to prove there is nothing personal in charging at you, she hauls whoever it is to lunch and surprisingly, discusses something else entirely at the lunch with no reference to the disagreement. She is very kind, compassionate and generous. Whatever her personal failings as do all humans, she makes up for with her kindness, simplicity and the fear of God.   

One of her favourite lines is a quote from an old English Philosopher, Sir Francis Bacon, which says: “Reading maketh a full man”. This she says often at editorial meetings, sometimes banging the table aloud for emphasis. “You guys have too limited vocabularies and it is because you don’t read. Read, please read…reading maketh a full man,” she would say to a quiet room full of colleagues, mostly men, often after spotting a serious error during a review of the day’s edition of the newspaper.

And after such heated meetings, a majority of the guys would leave the room grumbling and later whisper to each other at a ‘post-meeting convergence’: “Dis ur girlfriend sef na wa o. Make she leave us alone na. Who tell am say we no dey read?” It’s often a direct statement to me, given my closeness to her, somewhat. In fact, I openly jocularly call her my girlfriend and she too, sometimes when in her best of mood, calls me “Wale baby” and we would go on chatting and gossiping, most of the times, politics.

IJ is very versatile and typifies that familiar classroom admonition in journalism, which encourages ‘knowing something about everything and everything about something’. She is widely read and still does so with fervent candour. She could do an essay on any topic of choice, no matter what it is. Small wonder, she is naturally attracted to intelligent people and encourages the quest for knowledge. Her survival is arguably knowledge-based and does not hide that for a fact. She is not the type of woman any man, no matter who, can refer to ‘the kitchen or the other room’. These are places she would rather at will.

She has moved to that point in her life, where she now calls the shots – far away from the kitchen and the other room. Urbane, educated, schooled and highly cosmopolitan, IJ has made good of her editorship and career by taking THISDAY to an all-new level in newspapering and sound reporting – validating newsbreaks and situating issues in their apt contexts.

Fifty is a milestone and breasting this awesome number in good health and comfortability is worth all the thanksgiving. This, however, does not mean rolling out the drums in sheer wastage. A quiet moment with one’s creator makes all the difference, which of course IJ must have done, at least, knowing what her disposition could be about things like this.

That said, my dear editor fantastic, although you have consciously denied some of us a second opportunity, which naturally availed itself like we had in September during mama’s burial to come and have some good wine, escorted down the oesophagus with the best of menu, I, consider it a personal responsibility to wish this amazing, yet enigmatic “girlfriend” of mine a blissful and most fabulous 50th!