Iwe Irohin! Oldest Nigerian Newspaper

Iwe Irohin Fun Awo Ara Egba Ati Yoruba, which means “Newspaper for Egba and Yoruba people” was the first Nigerian newspaper and also the first indigenous language newspaper in Africa. It was established in 1859. Known in its short form, Iwe Irohin, this newspaper was established in 1859 by Reverend Henry Townsend, a missionary of the Christian Missionary Society (CMS). The first edition hit the news stand precisely on December 3, 1859. The newspaper began as a forth nightly having only Yoruba language edition, but the English language edition was added a year later, in 1860, after which the newspaper became a bilingual weekly publication. Just one newspaper was published consisting of 12 pages, 8 of them in Yoruba language and 5 in English language. In 1866, the English and Yoruba language editions were separated into two different publications.

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One copy was sold for 120 cowries. The primary contents of this newspaper focused on religious activities, births, deaths and some political activities going on around Abeokuta. The newspaper was printed using crude technology which was what the publisher could afford at that time. The newspaper had no pictures and the pages were divided into two columns. The basic aim of establishing Iwe Irohin was to encourage Egbas and others to read. The paper also championed the anti-slavery movement of the time. The proprietor, Henry Townsend became influential in Abeokuta and other parts of Egba land. The newspaper became a platform for Egba people to express their views on different political developments affecting them at that time.

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IweIrohin existed for 8 years and ceased publication on October 3, 1867 after a popular local uprising that led to the destruction of libraries and the printing shop where the newspaper was published.

The New Iwe Irohin

It was resuscitated in 2012, 140 years after its demise on the initiative of the Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ), Ogun State Council.

The Author

Chinenye Nwabueze

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

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