Òzísà! Popular Igbo Language Newspaper in Nigeria’s Press History

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 flashed past the history of the Nigerian press. One of them is Òzísà, the most regular Igbo language newspaper published by a Church in Nigeria.

A publication of the Catholic Arch Diocese of Owerri, Òzísà is another Igbo language newspaper that was part of Nigeria’s press history. Though the circulation was very much limited to Imo state and occasionally some of other parts of South East Nigeria, Òzísà is among the Igbo language newspapers that spent time on the newsstands before going off circulation. It had an advantage as a publication of a church which ensured that Catholic faithful in Imo state patronized the publication. This ensured that the publication did not suffer the heat in the fiercely competitive journalism environment in Nigeria. Òzísà disseminated diverse information about the Catholic Church and other topical issues in the society.

 

The Author

Chinenye Nwabueze

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

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