Print journalism industry in Nigeria, just like in other parts of the world, is known to have a masculine atmosphere. The history of the Nigerian press at its early stages was dominated by men. If you go through the history again you would notice that women were absent in the scene especially at decision-making positions in newspapers, including newspaper ownership and managerial positions. After Rev. Henry Townsend established the first newspaper in Nigeria in 1859, a plethora of other publications began to spring up by the day. 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.
Though the upsurge of nationalism consciousness gave rise to the establishment of other newspapers across the country, journalism practices at this early stage remained the sole domain of men; as if it was their birth right. For many decades, women were nowhere to be found in the practice of journalism in Nigeria.
Shortly after, the world began to witness an increase in global agitation for gender equality and empowerment in all sectors of the society. This led to changes in gender role in journalism practice as more women oriented stories started appearing in Nigeria newspapers of the early 1950s. Women started venturing into journalism practice in the 1950s, though they were restricted mainly to women and domestic issues. In some cases they even had to write under pseudonyms to hide their identity mainly because of the prevailing social and cultural challenges of that period. When Daily Times was established it gave women a little breakthrough as more of feature stories were published in the newspaper with more women having bylines.
Despite the shaky and limited opportunities for female journalists, they have made steady progress both in number and contribution to the growth of the profession. From just being women or gossip columnists, many of them have into mainstream genre of journalism and some have gone to become editors and publishers. There is the story of Ronke Ajayi who was appointed editor of Nigerian Daily Herald in 1931, though some people saw the appointment as a joke because rumour had it that she was a friend to the publisher. That was how gender stereotypes affected women in journalism at that time. Culture-based stereotypes were such that people didn’t believe women were strong and dogged enough to own, or edit newspapers.
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.
Women began to break through the thick wall formed by the masculine atmosphere that made journalism in Nigeria seem like a profession customized for men. These women were among the early pioneers the Nigerian media, opening up the landscape for more women to move into the profession;
1. Adora Lilly Ulasi – Women’s page editor of Daily Times
2. Theresa Ogunbiyi, – succeeded Ulasi as Women’s page editor at Daily Times
3. Ronke Ajayi, – editor and publisher of the Nigeria Daily Herald
4. Dr. Doyin Abiola, – first female editor of a national newspaper (National Concord)
5. Lizzy Ikem, – editor, Home Studies (under Daily Times group)
6. Modupe Ajayi, – editor Weekend Times
7. Agbeke Ogunsanwo, – editor Health
8. Toyin Johnson, – editor Woman’s World
9. Medlin Tador, – editor, Poise magazine
10. Lola Olakunrin, – editor, Poise magazine
11. Amma Ogan, editor – the Guardian on Sunday
12. Harriet Lawrence, – deputy editor, feature desk, the Guardian
13. Kehinde Young – Harry NTA Network News
14. Remi Ojo
15. Rose Umoren, – editor, Business Concord
16. Nkechi Nwankwo, – deputy editor, Daily Champion
17. Hajiya Bilikisu, – editor, New Nigeria and Citizen Magazine (first female editor at the Sunday Triumph, Kano)
18. May Ezekiel Mofe-Damijo (MEE), – editor and publisher, Quality magazine
19. Chris Ayanwu, – editor and publisher, The Sunday Magazine (TSM)
20. Comfort Obi, editor and publisher, The Source magazine
21. Tosin Dokpesi, – M.D., AIT
22. Lara Owoeye Wise, – Director, AIT
23. Funmi Treasure, – G.M. NTA
24. Zainab Suleiman Okino, – E.D. Blueprint Newspaper
25. Maiden Ibru, Publisher, – The Guardian
26. Ibim Semenitari – First editor of Broad Street Journal, publisher Business Eye
27. Janet Mba-Afolabi – Co-publisher, Insider Magazine, Publisher, The Scroll Magazine
28. Ijeoma Nwogwugwu – Editor, Saturday Thisday
29. Funke Egbemode – Editor, Saturday Sun, Saturday Post Express
30. Oluwatoyosi Ogunseye – First female Editor in The Punch Newspapers (she was Sunday Editor)