Charles C. Anyiam, Honorary envoy for a few Indian Ocean Island nations in the United States of America, west of the Mississippi, and Publisher/Editor-In-Chief The African Times=USA, relives his early days as a young reporter with the old Daily Times of Nigeria and currently his ever busy schedule on many fronts, his views about his native Nigeria and the future. Nduka Nwosu reports:
When Charles Anyiam who is a special envoy of some of the Indian Ocean Island nations in the United States, west of the Mississippi, and Publisher of the Los Angeles-based The African Times-USA, a national US news journal left the shores of Nigeria more than 30 years ago, little did he know he was going to be an important voice in the African-American constituency’s perennial push to gain political, business and social relevance in the American milieu. Using the influential platform of The African Times-USA, Anyiam has gone a long way in fulfilling that purpose. Looking back now, the veteran journalist can gladly say that his American experience has been a fulfilling journey, mimicking the narrative from the Eddie Murphy block-buster movie: ‘Coming to America.’
You will not be wrong if you were to liken Anyiam’s experience to the big dream in the description of the river in Ben Okri’s The Famished Land: “In the beginning there was a river. The river became a road and the road branched out to the whole world. And because the road was once a river, it was always hungry….A dream can be the highest point of life.” Indeed Anyiam’s American dream has become the highest point of his life by way of goal driven objectives, especially after making a comparison between what he left behind and what lay before him or more precisely what he has been able accomplish in America.
Anyiam weighs his Nigerian and American experiences and presents the two sides of the coin to a discerning reader. As he put it: “My American journalism experience is totally different from the one in Nigeria. In America, I have been more on the management side as a publisher while also doubling as the editor-in-chief. However, under my watch, The African Times-USA has carved a niche as a journalism brand in the US. Though it is listed as part of the ethnic press in the leading PR & Advertising trade journal – the Standard Rates & Data -, The Times has always had a unique selling point as a news journal that reports Africa and the Africa world to the American readership. We are currently reorganizing the enterprise in consonance with the new digital world. Our new-look portal is currently under construction by a team of digital managers “
Apart from the all-encompassing challenges in his media outfit, Anyiam is also the managing director of Saba Media Group, integrated public relations consultancy/advisors; managing partner of the Africa Consult Group, the Think-tank arm of The Times; and the managing director of AfrikUS, a start-up marketing and investment firm with offices in Mauritius, South Africa and Beverly Hills, California. He is also a board member of the Southern California Chapter of The Africa Travel Association (ATA). Prior to that, he had served as the Chairman of the Advisory Board of the Africa Resource/Refugee Center in Los Angeles.
How has this ascendancy to the life of a publisher been like with all the glitz and razz matazz? What is the story of The African Times-USA? Pioneering a publication like The Times, he says, has been challenging in terms of positioning within the highly competitive American advertising industry. However, he adds, “we have had a successful run with niche advertisers including the airline industry, tourism boards across Africa, money transfer companies, courier services, among such specialised sectors.”
Apart from publishing in a foreign land with all the attendant difficulties for a beginner, Anyiam consolidated his base once he expanded his territory by other means. For example, he found himself acting as envoy or honorary consul in Los Angeles to a number of Indian Ocean Island nations. What does this translate to in real life? Does it approximate to being an ambassador of the Seychelles? His response: “Part of the collateral benefits of working in a medium such as ours is the demand on your expertise in connecting the US and various African countries at various levels – economic, political, social and humanitarian. For now, I represent a few Indian Ocean Island nations such as Seychelles, Mauritius, Madagascar and Comoros Islands in America, west of the Mississippi at various levels – tourism, direct capital investment, entertainment and other sundry assignments. “
His early beginnings tell the story of a future full of promises. “I formally joined the Daily Times editorial department in 1978 and was assigned to the crack Evening Times team under the editorship of the late Martin Iroabuchi and later, Mr. Ben Lawrence with the late Titus Soyombo as his deputy where he had the onerous opportunity to work under perhaps Nigeria’s best crime reporter of all time, the late Mr. Chinaka Fynecountry as the news editor. Under Chinaka, I learnt the art of crime reporting while doubling as the lead entertainment editor for the Evening Times. In that process, I was also required to work as sub-editor which was daunting but prepared me for a greater tomorrow”.
Those were the days the name Charles Anyiam dominated the headlines and became synonymous with Evening Times. “My stories were equally published by the other Times’ publications – Daily Times, Sunday Times, Lagos Weekend and Spear Magazine. These were exciting times. By way of national exposure from my incessant bylines, this literally earned me a sizeable national following and notoriety.” he recollects. As a result, I earned a place as a member of the pioneer panel of the trail-blazing monthly Top 10 best-selling musical recording in Nigeria organized by Radio Nigeria-2 alongside the likes of the late Tony Ibegbuna, Benson Idonije (Ben Jay), the late Willie Egbe, Jones Usen, Phil Ushie, etc. “
It was only a matter of time before Anyiam got a foreign invitation to the US. He was to be a part of a group of journalists from the developing nations in the world invited to participate in the Los Angeles Times’ Minority Journalism Program. That was the one opportunity on whose wings he perched and found himself residing in the Los Angeles area of California State in 1986. Series of events, he discloses, led him to foray into publishing with the founding of The African Times in 1989. The title became the flagship of a number of two other titles – Africa Quarterly, and “I’m New in America– a Survival Guide for new African Immigrants” published in partnership with money transfer giants – Western Union and MoneyGram. He later added an Awards event – Africa Achievement Awards – to the stable of The Times. “Under aegis of The African Times-USA, the Africa Achievement Awards hosted at the Beverly Hills Hotel in Beverly Hills, California started in 1991 has honored a pantheon of notable individuals and organizations that include Presidents Bill Clinton, Nelson Mandela, Olusegun Obasanjo, Abdoulaye Wade, Stevie Wonder to the National Geograhic, Nollywood, Ethiopian Airlines, among many others etc.”
Back in the days in Nigeria, Anyiam had worked under the tutelage of thorough bred journalists such as, Tony Momoh, George Okoro, and Ben Lawrence and Titus Soyombo during his stint with the iconic Evening Times. Anyiam dominated the headlines and had a nose for investigation, which set him apart from his colleagues. Newsbreak was the Breaking News of those days, and as the quintessential society man, Anyiam had more than enough to chew journalistically. As he put it, he had a penchant that identified with key players in the industry. “My penchant for current affairs informed my familiarity and admiration for the leading journalists of the time, Udo Awa, Peter Pan Enahoro, MCK Ajuluchukwu, Alade Odunewu (Alade), Sad Sam Amuka, Segun Osoba, Adaora Lily Ulasi, among many others in the print journalism space, and Horatio Agedah, Ikenna Ndaguba, Emmanuel Omatshola, Ralph Opara, Ishola Folorunso. In print, radio or broadcast journalism, Anyiam connected easily with anyone who was someone in the society.”
To many of us, it was a bit of a surprise when he decided to relocate to the US shortly after a well-attended society wedding with the late Chief M.K.O. Abiola as the chairman when he got married to a former air hostess with the Nigerian Airways. His love for journalism, like many others, had its roots in the romance with the written word at a very early age. As a youngster, Anyiam was fascinated by the written word and the newsmakers. He was fascinated by the writings of Alade Odunewu, Peter Pan Enahoro and Tony Momoh, Udo Awa, among many others. This was the elixir that motivated him to pursue journalism as a career At an early age, he gobbled the content of the newspapers of the day such as the Daily Times, the West African Pilot, the Eastern Nigerian Guardian, the Nigerian Outlook, the Observer, etc.
Anyiam further recollects how as a child growing up he fell in love with the printed word: “From an early childhood, I was a tad precocious with strong interest in the literary world, public affairs, politics. I devoured all the publications of that era in the 1960s. While in the secondary school, at the iconic Awomamma Educational Project, a comprehensive institution founded and run by one of Nigeria’s best and brightest politicians, a philanthropist, educationist and entrepreneur, the American-trained, late Dr. Bernard Uzoukwu Nzeribe. I spent the better part of my “pocket money” subscribing to such publications as the Daily Times, Nigerian Outlook, Daily Sketch, and magazines such as Drum, Flamingo, Newsweek, Ebony, etc.”
About his pedigree, Anyiam was born to a former senior civil servant, a mechanical engineer with the defunct Eastern Nigeria Development Corporation (ENDC), “Clement Ejiogu Anyiam from Nkwerre, Imo State, and a homemaker, Grace Ahushie Anyiam, an ideato, Imo State princess, both of blessed memory. The oldest of seven children, my upbringing was in a humble homestead with parents who were strict disciplinarians and emphasized education. “
What forces finally brought him into the newsroom, the immediate decision to join the guild? “My foray into journalism started from my secondary school days when I gained the reputation as an avid newspaper reader. Even the local vendors knew me. To express my journalistic talent, I would do reports on soccer matches involving our school, and post them on the school’s notice board with my fellow students lining up the following day to read my stories. During the Nigerian civil war, it was almost providential, that I was deployed to the public relations unit of the Biafran Commando Strike Force where I served till the end of the war. “
On leaving secondary school, he followed the footsteps of his wartime friend, Tony Nzotta, another ace Daily Times alumnus to work without pay for a provincial newspaper The Trumpet located in Aba, Abia State and run by the Cookey family. He followed his friend Tony Nzotta to Lagos after he was employed by the Daily Times. “So in love was I with journalism that I abandoned my clerk’s job with the Federal Cabinet Office to work literally for no pay for an advertising trade journal run by a Mr. Nwuneli. From there, I headed to the Nigerian Institute of Journalism for a Diploma program with a stint as a freelance sports journalist with the Daily Times, specifically working under such brilliant sports editors as the late Samuel Babatunde Osuntolu (Esbee), Robert Dum, Yinusa Akee, Toyin Makuanju, and others. “
What has the social circuit been like while exposed to the glitz of publishing? His response: “With the notoriety that came with a high visibility job as a journalist, female friends and admirers were in no short supply. I married my first wife, Mabel Amene, an air hostess in 1983 – a marriage that ended in 1988 in the US. We have a son from the union. An alumnus of the famous French culinary school – Le Cordon Bleu, Charles Jr. is now a successful chef in Las Vegas Nevada. I remarried in 1990 with a daughter who is a graduate of UCLA. That marriage also ended in a divorce. I’m not proud to say that have not been too successful in that department so far. I guess my professional success took a toll on the marriages.”
Going forward what does the future hold for Anyiam? “ For now, I’m committed to working to join forces for the birth of a new, peaceful and homogeneous Africa that will become an economic powerhouse. I’m currently working with the likes of the former Africa Union Ambassador to the United States, Dr. Arikana Chihombori Quao who is currently leading the charge in the new Africa awakening alongside Professor Patrick Lumumba to right the wrongs of Africa’s colonial past. My focus now is devoted to driving investments into Africa, transfer of technology, increase awareness of the African space and empower the future generation to compete fairly in the control of our destiny as Africans.
What are his views on Nigeria? “I am unapologetically pro-Nigeria. Even with its loads of challenges, Nigeria can still rise again. However, this will never materialize until the country as it is presently constructed is politically rejigged. “
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