Dr. Doyin Abiola, First Female Editor of A Nigerian National Newspaper

The print journalism industry in Nigeria is known to have a masculine atmosphere, just as in other parts of the world. Even when looking at the early history of the Nigerian press you would notice that women were absent in the scene especially at the level of newspaper ownership and managerial jobs. The scene was dominated by activist like Sir Akitoye Ajasa (who published the Nigerian Pioneer in 1914), Ernest Sese Ikoli (African Messenger, 1921), Herbert Macaulay (Lagos Daily News, 1925), Malam Abubakar Imam (Gaskiya Ta Fi Kwabo, 1939), and Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe (West African Pilot) among others. The industry remained pretty tight for women to exist in with difficulties in upward career mobility. It was not until 1980 that a woman set an exceptional, disruptive record in Nigeria’s print journalism landscape, becoming the first woman to be appointed editor of any national newspaper in the country. That woman is Dr. Hamidat Doyinsola Abiola. She was made editor of National Concord, was of the dominant national dailies at that time.

Who is Doyin Abiola?

Dr. Doyin Abiola (Nee Aboaba) is a journalist, publisher, editor and an administrator. She is the wife of M.K.O Abiola whom she married in 1981. She is one of the leading legends in Nigeria’s press history.

Education

Dr. Abiola earned a degree in English and Drama in 1969. She obtained a doctorate degree in journalism in 1979. She had earlier bagged her Masters degree in Journalism in the United States.

Journalism Career

Dr. Abiola’s journalism career is very eventful and exciting. Never a boring moment in the field at all. She started out as a reporter with the Daily Sketch from 1969 to 1970. There, she also tried her hands at column writing. Just as her weekly column, Tiro, was waxing strong, addressing sundry issues of public concern, including gender matters, she left for the United States to pursue her Masters programme in Journalism. When she returned to Nigeria after her Masters programme, she was offered the position of Woman Editor at the Daily Times. She saw this as an attempt to pigeonhole her talents and rejected the offer. This was kind of unbelievable happening at a time every journalist wanted to work with Daily Times which was Nigeria’s biggest and leading daily at that time. She was later employed as a Features Writer at Daily Times and rose to become the Group Features Editor. The Daily Times crisis of 1975/76 and the fouled atmosphere at the work place offered her opportunity to embark on her doctoral programme in Journalism so she travelled to the United States on study leave. In 1979, armed with her Ph.D, she returned to the Daily Times and was deployed to the Editorial Board where she enjoyed the company of the likes of Stanley Macebuh, Dele Giwa and Amma Ogan. It was, however, to be a short stay as the newly formed Concord Group of Newspapers soon invited her to be its pioneer daily editor. She then moved to the next phase of her career which was at the driving seat of the most robust daily newspaper in Nigeria at that time – Concord newspaper.

Exploits as Editor

Dr. Abiola was exemplary as editor of National Concord. She managed the men and resources in the newspaper in a manner that made it the envy of older newspapers and those who had thought partisan considerations would becloud the writers’ sense of judgement were soon disappointed.

In two years, she had proved her mettle and moved up the ladder as director/editor-in-chief. As The Nation Newspaper observes, when the pioneer managing director, Chief Henry Odukomaiya, a respected elder in the profession, had to bow out in 1984, his shoes were considered so large that a number of professionals wondered if the fortunes of the newspaper would not begin to decline. His successor would have to manage an array of achievers who had been assembled to produce a first-class newspaper. Dr. Abiola who was the wife of the publisher and proprietor of the vibrant group of newspapers was found fit and proper to run all divisions of the group as Managing Director/Editor-in-Chief. Her contributions to the growth of the newspaper made her to be highly regarded by all. Her positive exploits while running the newspaper and it became a reference point. Dr. Abiola’s career days at the Concord spanned three decades. From her privileged position as pioneer editor of the newspaper, she was, however, able to shape public opinion on a number of issues and guide Concord Group into public reckoning and respect. After her Concord days she did not just disappear into the society like some of her colleagues. She continued to lend her talents and time to the consistent effort to mould the Nigerian media into a respectable institution through column writing, training and mentoring.

Other Special Feats

Dr. Abiola has served in various capacities at remarkable events. She served as Chairperson of Awards Nominating panel at the Nigerian Media Merit Award when it was first established. She has also served as Chairperson of CNN African Journalist of the Year Awards. She was a member of Advisory Council,Faculty of Social and Management Sciences, Ogun State University. She was also recognized by Diamond Awards for Media Excellence (DAME) for her lifelong devotion to advancing the frontiers of knowledge and strengthening the media as a pillar of democracy. The Trustees of DAME unanimously approved her selection as a recipient of its Lifetime Achievement Award at the 24th DAME. She was the second woman to receive a DAME Lifetime Achievement Award (after Mrs. Omobola Onajide). When Dr. Abiola was elevated to managing director and editor-in-chief in 1986, she was also the first Nigerian woman to preside over the fortunes of a national newspaper group. Also, when she was selected for the Eisenhower Fellowship in 1986, she was the first Nigerian woman to participate. She is indeed a serial record breaker.

Trying Times

Dr. Abiola experienced trying times on her way to the top and while managing success at the peak of her career. Her strength of character was aptly demonstrated during the struggle for the validation of the mandate overwhelmingly won by her husband, the late Chief Moshood Kashimawo Abiola in the June 12, 1993 presidential election. The adversity faced by the family when the embodiment of the nation’s democratic struggles was locked up by the Abacha regime was enough to break the spirit of mean men and women. The regime put in place measures to frustrate the late Abiola’s businesses, including the newspapers; yet, the Concord manager refused to oblige them the pleasure of having the last laugh. She would neither betray her husband nor the struggle. She kept the flag flying, ensuring that the company remained profitably afloat.

Though she literally walked through the valley of the shadow of death in the days of the National Democratic Coalition (NADECO) resistance movement, she held on till the very end. As The Nation observes, heroes and heroines are made in a country’s difficult moments; Men of straw find it very easy to betray a cause they had hitherto professed, but, Dr. Abiola passed the test. She stood for Nigeria, would do nothing to put pressure on her husband to recant and rather gave him all the encouragement he needed. She is an epitome of loyalty, steadfastness in achieving a goal and strength of womanhood in trying times.

Finally!

Dr. Abiola is a special breed among legendary female Nigerian journalists. Having attained a height that is the dream of many as a career journalist, she convinced the Nigerian public that there was nothing about the office editor of a national newspaper that should make it an exclusive preserve of men. This was a landmark achievement in the country’s press history. She is truly a role model to up and coming female journalists who now have the belief that they could excel in a male dominated profession.

The Author

Chinenye Nwabueze

Nwabueze is a communication researcher with several years of lecturing experience in Nigerian universities.

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