The media landscape in Nigeria benefited immensely from indigenous language newspapers in terms of development and readership expansion. The first Nigerian newspaper was a Yoruba language newspaper, Iwe Irohin, which was also the first indigenous language newspaper in Africa. It was established in 1859. So many other indigenous language newspapers came into existence but could not survive the fiercely competitive and difficult newspaper business environment in Nigeria, especially in the face of numerous English language newspapers. Most publishers prefer to establish English language newspapers which they see as having more prospects and wider audience base. In these times when people are practically running away from publishing indigenous language newspapers, one man took the bull by the horn, establishing and maintaining a publication that has grown to become the king of Yoruba language newspapers in Nigeria today.
Alaroye was first published in 1985. It was published by World Information Agents, and organization run by Musa Alao Adedayo. The publisher, Adedayo, was then 25 years old when he began publishing Alaroye, while still a staff of Nigerian Television Authority (NTA), Tejuosho, Lagos. Today, Alaroye,a weekly newspaper which means “The Explainer”, is the most popular and most widely read Yoruba language newspaper in Nigeria. After it first hit the news stands in 1985, the newspaper ceased publication for a while due to lack of finance as the publisher was still running the publication alone. The newspaper returned in 1990 but disappeared from the news stands again after just about two years. Another attempt was made in 1994 to resuscitate the publication but it could not last after a few editions. It came back stronger in 1996 and gradually rose to become the most visible and most sought-after Yoruba language newspaper in the country. It became the largest local language newspaper in circulation publishing about 150,000 copies every week.
World Information Agents is an organization widely known for publishing popular Yoruba language titles which were added as a result of the huge success recorded by Alaroye. It also had other popular titles on its stable such as Iriri Aye Alaroye, a human angle stories monthly publication and Akede Agbaye, a weekly entertainment magazine which was popular for information that projected Nollywood stars and artists, especially the thriving Yoruba movie industry.
The emergence of Alaroye marked a turning point the development of Yoruba newspapers in Nigeria. This newspaper came out with innovative cover design, head line casting, page layout and news presentation techniques that took readers by storm. These striking innovations popularized newspaper readership in Nigeria, with Alaroye becoming one of the very few indigenous language newspapers in West Africa to reckon with English language publications in a country.
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The publisher of Alaroye, Adedayo, in an interview with Vanguard, described the newspapers as “a language” among the Yorubas. This is an indication of the huge success the publication has attained which no other Yoruba language newspaper has attained. He also said the newspaper has unique contents which were responsible for its popularity among Yoruba language newspaper readers. “I thank God that today, Alaroye is seen not as a happenstance, but a planned revolution in the newspaper industry in Nigeria. And it is so because no Yoruba newspaper has been so successful because most of the earlier issues, people have said, were translation of English newspapers or repetition of news items already carried on radio and television. Alaroye is original for its thorough analysis, research works and investigative journalism that many have appreciated as having put the newspaper on a very high pedestal. It informs, educates, entertains and analyses events as they unfold through the Yoruba culture. For this, it circulates in Nigeria, wherever Yoruba domicile, with the print run sometimes as high as 150,000 copies per week. I have the reason to really thank God today because, in Nigeria, particularly among the Yorubas, Alaroye is a language. It is a culture.”
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In recognition of the impact Alaroye was making in the society, the Nigerian Minister of Information and Culture, paid a courtesy visit to the newspaper’s head office in Ikosi-ketu, Lagos in February 2016, as part of government efforts to partner with the publication to publicize government policies at grassroots level. This recognition is a huge feat most indigenous language publications rarely achieve.