Nigeria’s press history reflects a robust and competitive environment where indigenous or local language newspapers had little chance of survival. Though the first Nigerian newspaper was a local language newspaper, Iwe Irohin, the media landscape at the beginning was dominated by English language newspapers published by nationalists for championing self rule and independence. Yet a number of indigenous language newspapers share in the credit of developing a vibrant newspaper industry in the country. 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. Fiercely competitive business environment of the newspaper industry in Nigeria and the growing interest of publishers to establish English language newspapers contributed in stifling numerous local language publications that came up after Iwe Irohin. Despite the toughness of survival for indigenous language newspapers, a number of them played crucial roles in making the print media industry in Nigeria colourful and vibrant.
While Yoruba and Hausa language newspapers existence in large numbers in Nigeria’s media landscape, only a few Igbo language newspapers showed up in the news stands. Most of them could be described as pretenders because either they were short-lived or they existed as pullout inserts in English language newspapers. The lack of interest in publishing Igbo language newspapers could be attributed to the following factors: lack of interest by Igbo speaking Nigerians in reading Igbo language literature; difficulty in reading and writing Igbo language by many Igbo speaking Nigerians; difficulty in finding journalists who can report in Igbo language; and other general factors that affect newspapers such as lack of adverts, publication cost, among others. However, a few Igbo language newspapers existed in Nigeria’s media landscape. One of such classic newspapers in Ogene, the first and biggest Igbo language newspaper in Nigeria.
Ogene was the first Igbo language newspaper in Nigeria. It was published in the early 1970s by East Central State government. This was one of the introductions at that time to reintegrate the Igbos into mainstream society and give them a sense of belonging after emerging from a brutal war that cost them a lot. Just like Rangers International football club and Daily Star newspaper which were also created at that time, Ogene newspaper was regarded as the pride of the Igbo speaking people of Nigeria and it was hugely popular and successful among readers in the South eastern part of the country and beyond. The newspaper was then inherited by the old Anambra state government after it was created in 1976. It was popular among the audience for some years but gradually began to decline as the competition in the industry became stiffer even for English language newspapers. Ask any Igbo-speaking person who had attained adulthood in the 1970s and 1980s about Ogene newspaper, the person will tell you good stories about the publication with nostalgia. Ogene was the most successful Igbo language newspaper in Nigeria’s press history.