Yes, I died the day you died, Mike says at Dimgba's memorial lecture
My friend, my brother, my Ogbeni Dimgba Igwe. One year after your painful exit, the wound is yet to heal. And I don’t know whether or not it will ever heal, even though they say time heals every wound.
I was far away from you when the news of your death broke. Your death hit me like a thunderbolt, like the arrow of the unknown enemy lurking in the dark, like the bullet of an assassin. Your death was like my own death. Yes, I died the day you died. Except that the Good Lord took pity of my soul, revived me and brought me back to life, because He knows there is so much to do and the business you started with me must not be left unfinished.
Your death brought me a harvest of pity. Everybody was pitying me. Everybody felt sorry for me. Everybody was wondering: “How will Mike cope? How will Mike live without you, my bosom friend and my rock of ages?” I was down and out, screaming: “My pillar is gone, my pillar is gone. Who will be my friend now?” In my agony, I heard my wife consoling and rebuking me, saying: “Jesus is your pillar. Jesus is your pillar.”
I was angry with the same Jesus. Why did Jesus allow this to happen? Why must a man who served God with everything he had be allowed to die such a shameful and painful death? Why didn’t God intervene? These are normal questions or abnormal questions that people ask when tragedy strikes. We all question God. In certain situations, we question God. I am sure God will not blame me for questioning Him.
My friend, my brother, Ogbeni Dimgba Igwe. Our story is straight from the Bible. Our friendship is like that of David and Jonathan. You were like Jonathan. And I was like David. Yes, David. The same David. The king who saw a beautiful woman bathing from the balcony of his palace and went haywire. The king whose story would have hit the front page of the tabloids amidst screaming headlines. Oh, how I would have loved to write that headline!
I remember our days in the Weekend Concord. Oh, those glory days. We were the Kings of Tabloids. We were the masters of the art of casting headlines. The more sensational, the better for us. From Weekend Concord, we went to create The Sun, using our same winning formula. The Weekend Concord was the father of The Sun.
Without the Weekend Concord, maybe there would be no Sun today. Maybe, it will be a newspaper with another name, an entirely different name. We created the paper and the brand The Sun in Nigeria with our DNA and our stamp on it. We did our best. And the rest is history.
We gave our lives and our best to journalism. We loved journalism with passion. From Weekend Concord to The Sun, we proved that thunder could strike twice. We were not just journalists, managers but teachers of journalism. Together we wrote our first book, The Art of Features, which is being used in all journalism schools as a training textbook.
Today, our new book is being presented to the world. You are supposed to be here but you are not here, my friend. Your seat is empty. You were the one expected to stand on this podium, talking, explaining why we wrote this book. Now, I must do everything that you used to do.
L-R: Mike Awoyinfa, Late Dimgba Igwe and former Ogun governor, Olusegun Osoba
We used to play doubles in the tennis game of life. But now, I must play singles. It is not easy playing alone, all, all, alone. I feel so lonely, but life must go on. I must do all the things you did in your lifetime. I must play to win. And I must win for you and I, my departed friend.
So, the big question: Why did we write the book, 50 World Editors, the book we are launching today? It all boils down to passion, love and commitment to journalism, the only profession we know and are ready to live and die for.
It all boils down to curiosity, hunger and thirst for knowledge. For ten years, we travelled around the world, researching this book which we consider our magnum opus. We were like that philosopher who claimed to know nothing. And so he decided to travel around the world in search of knowledge. In our case, journalism knowledge. We wanted to meet editors of the great newspapers in the world, to hear their stories and to share in their journalistic wisdom. The idea is to come up with a book that the younger generation of journalists will read and be educated.
We wanted a book strong on practical experience of celebrated editors who had led a good life in journalism. We interviewed great editors like Sir Harold Evans, the editor of editors, the most famous editor of the Western world. We interviewed Jill Abraham, the woman who broke the glass ceiling to become the editor of The New York Times and the first woman to occupy that position. We interviewed another powerful woman, Charlotte Hall, the editor of Orlando Sentinel. We interviewed Hamid Mir, the brave Pakistani journalist who interviewed Osama Bin Laden a couple of times, at a time when no one knew where to reach him. In Nigeria, we interviewed Alhaji Babatunde Jose, the grand old father of modern Nigerian journalism and his protégé Segun Osoba, the reporter’s reporter. We interviewed Dele Olojede, the Pulitzer-winning Nigerian journalist. The list goes on and on. A list of 50 solid editors around the globe, with each editor taking a chapter of the book to talk about journalism, our beloved profession.
Most of these interviews were conducted when we attended journalism conferences around the world mainly IPI—the International Press Institute and WAN—World Association of Newspapers. While the conferences were going on, we had our own plans, to look for celebrated journalists and to interview them. The result is the book we are launching today.
I thank you all for coming to share with me this great occasion. I promise to keep alive the Dimgba Igwe dream. I promise not to disappoint or betray my friend. As long as Mike Awoyinfa is alive, Dimgba Igwe is alive. In his memory, I hope, by the grace of God to launch a book every September in his memory. The Dimgba Igwe Memorial Book Launch would be an annual affair.
For me, nothing has changed. Whether Dimgba is here or not, I will not allow his name to be forgotten. Death will not separate or break our friendship. Even in the grave, he will still be my co-author. Every book I write will bear his name and my name. That is how we started. And that is how we are going to end. Dimgba Igwe will live forever.
Thank you for coming. Thank you for all your prayers, particularly my friend Pastor Sam Aiyedogbon of Realm of Glory, a prophet sent by God to pray and minister to me in my hour of pain and sorrow. Thank you all and see you next September at another Dimgba Igwe Memorial Book Launch.