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 and are still playing various 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, it might be worth mentioning the few Igbo language newspapers that flashed past the history of the Nigerian press. Here’s a list of Igbo language newspapers in Nigeria’s press history.
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.
This is the second most successful Igbo language newspaper in Nigeria’s press history. One major reason was that the newspaper was already associated with success even before it came into existence, by virtue of the fact that it was published by Concord Group of newspapers, one of the leading media organizations in Nigeria at a point in the nation’s history. Concord group, publishers of Concord newspapers, was owned by renowned billionaire business man and politician, Chief M.K.O. Abiola. Udoka was one of Chief Abiola’s campaign tools to penetrate the South Eastern part of the country, just as he also had Amana, a Hausa language newspaper, published by his media organization and also thriving in the Northern part of the country and among Hausa speaking readers across the nation. Udoka thrived in the 1980s and was next to Ogene in terms of popularity and huge audience base.
3. Ka Ọ Di Taa
Published by Anambra Newspapers and Publishing Corporation, Awka publishers of ‘National Light’ newspaper, Ka Ọ Di Taa made its debut on the newsstands in August 2017. The newspaper had the defined mission of disseminating news and current affairs to Igbo readers while also projecting the usage and sustenance of the language. The newspaper started as a pull-out section of National Light Newspaper, the company’s main all, became a stand-alone publication in 2019. Ka Ọ Di Taa became the most regular and professionally produced Igbo language newspaper in circulation 30 years after the first Igbo language newspaper in Nigeria, Ogene, went out of circulation. Though the newspaper is facing readership challenges, it could be described as the most serious Igbo language newspaper on the newsstands.
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.
5. Ikoro Igbo
This newspaper was launched in 2016 by Imo state government under the administration of Rochas Okorocha. The publication was funded and sponsored by the Imo State Government, and was targeted at covering the five South-East states and other Igbo-speaking parts of the country. However, the newspaper was more of a political tool to score points than a serious local language publication aimed at standing the test of time. The paper disappeared almost immediately after it was launched. The state government launched the newspaper as part of its efforts to ensure that Igbo language will go extinct. The newspaper was more of a ceremonial package than a serious publication.