I had waited for a credible source to debunk the viral news of your shocking passing on Tuesday’s afternoon as some fake news and that all is well with our amiable media doyen, Dr. Samuel Ibiyemi. But I cringed further and quickly dropped the forlorn hope the moment I saw your picture, beaming with a rapturous smile as it donned the cover page of the Wednesday’s edition of Nigerian NewsDirect, a multiple award winning national newspaper you started to publish 13 years ago.
The reality of your hard-to-believe departure and the obituary on your own cover struck the bone marrows. I was forced to draw in some air to fuel the many thoughts that began to simmer in a rush.
To start with, my mind journeyed back to our very first encounter in March 2016 when I landed the role of Business Correspondent (as you often insisted we introduce ourselves at official events) with the newspaper. It was my first full-time job in journalism post-NYSC in 2015. My background in Engineering notwithstanding, Dr. Ibiyemi reposed a great deal of confidence in me to succeed in the role, covering Real Estate and Environment for the medium, having asked after the many published copies I had written in The Nation Newspaper as a campus journalist with the flagship student page: ‘CampusLife’. Sooner than later you began to saddle me with the responsibility of writing cover page stories, investigative articles and features from politics to energy, environment, insurance and whatnot, something I took on with gusto.
From that time on, you came across as a rare Chief Executive who knew how to hunt for talents; where to deploy such human resource as well as train and nurture them to growth. This you repeated with many young reporters, business executives and colleagues under your tutelage at the time and continuously until your sad departure. Publisher would encourage us to take independent initiatives and push the frontiers, making us to unearth ground-breaking stories from national issues that were hitherto considered as regular and obscured. I later joined The New Diplomat as an Online Editor in 2017. However, the hardworking and professionalism traits imbued by your persona stuck still and attracted many wins.
Secondly, I recall our editorial meetings with you alongside the then NewsDirect Group Business Editor, Mr Ayo Fadimu; robust debates on story ideas and the casting of cover page headlines late into the cold nights just before going to the printing press for the weekly copies and later daily edition to be circulated nationwide before dawn. Sometimes, I considered you to be a miracle worker running this tedious daily cycle as print journalism is increasingly becoming a tough call for publishers nowadays. But you soldiered on like a dogged fighter that you were and a combat man who had started out in life as a personnel of the Nigerian Airforce.
Besides writing outstanding copies, you taught members of your editorial team so many nuances in journalism including the business aspect of the pen-pushing profession. How about the morning prayer session before daily routine commenced? Ah! Staff dare not miss it! In case you don’t know, Dr. Ibiyemi — a staunch believer in God and praise enthusiast wears many caps as a clergyman, Ile-Ife-born Prince, hotelier, Rotarian and community leader who immensely contributed to the development of Ota — Ogun State industrial hub — and later politician. You’re such an industrious and brave business personality who lived out his rallying mantra ‘no-possibility’ often targeted at pushing staff and associates beyond their comfort zone. Not many people can match your work rate, energy and the much devotion you brought to your craft.
Ibiyemi, 54, bagged a degree in Economics at Obafemi Awolowo University in 1995 and later proceeded to University of Lagos where he earned a master’s degree in Economics in 1998. He left the Nigerian Airforce on June 30, 2000 to kick-start a career in journalism, joining the Financial Standard of yore where he was Deputy Editor until 2009. Same year Ibiyemi joined Nigerian Tribune and served as Group Business Editor of the Newspaper between 2010 and 2011. In March, 2011, the late media CEO established the Nigerian NewsDirect, a newspaper that is widely reverred by the reading public for its business oriented style of reporting (keep it simple and direct, the publisher would often say) and unique takes on national issues.
The devastating loss of Ibiyemi leaves a void in the Nigerian media landscape. His absence will be felt not only by family members, associates and the newspaper he dedicated his life to but by the industry as a whole. And since his death Tuesday, the outpouring of condolences have not been in short supply.
“Ibiyemi was passionate about journalism profession and played his part in various newspapers before birthing his publication, Nigerian NewsDirect, some 13 years ago. He was a committed member of the NGE, and we take solace in the fact that he made his mark in the profession, as a reporter, editor and publisher, before his home call. His legacy, NewsDirect Newspapers, has continued to make impact with its rich content: informing, educating and entertaining readers, since it was created,’’ President, Nigerian Guild of Editors (NGE), Eze Anaba said in a statement mourning Ibiyemi’s exit.
Also, the Lagos state Governor in a condolence message issued by his Chief Press Secretary, Mr Gboyega Akosile, the governor said, “On behalf of the Lagos State Government, I sympathise with the Ibiyemi family, the management, and the staff of Nigerian NewsDirect over the death of an accomplished journalist and Publisher, Dr. Samuel Ibiyemi.”
“We had thought that a beautiful and loving soul that the great Ife Prince was would be with us for a long while, but it has pleased the Almighty God, the unquestionable one to take him home for a deserved rest,” the Ibiyemi family had said in a statement announcing his death after he passed on at the Babcock University Teaching Hospital, Ilisan, Ogun State, where he was undergoing treatment.
The Acting Inspector-General of Police, IGP Olukayode Adeolu Egbetokun while expressing heartfelt condolences on the shocking demise of Dr Samuel Ibiyemi, recognized the significant loss caused by his death in the journalism community and the nation as a whole.
Police spokesman, CSP Olumuyiwa Adejobi in a statement Thursday, revealed that the IGP was deeply saddened upon receiving the news of Ibiyemi’s passing, noting “the invaluable service Dr Ibiyemi rendered to the nation through his media platform, NewsDirect, and his relentless pursuit of truth and accountability. His absence will be deeply felt, and his legacy will continue to inspire aspiring journalists for years to come.
IGP Egbetokun prays for “solace and strength during this difficult time, and urges his family, loved ones, and friends, as well as the journalism community to continue upholding the values of professionalism and integrity that Dr Ibiyemi exemplified.”
Definitely Ibiyemi’s astute insight, unparalleled journalistic expertise, and unwavering dedication will be sorely missed. However, his legacy is firmly embedded in the hearts and minds of those he influenced, and his impact will be carried forward by the next generation of journalists and executives.
You’re a dogged media CEO who took on all life courses with sheer determination, unflinching resolute and carriage, yet always maintained a humble demeanour. You’ve inspired a generation of journalists, business executives, media professionals and young people with brilliance, courage and raw passion. Your newspaper publication has shunned out deluge of robust and exclusive stories that shaped the business and political landscape and even became a toast of business stakeholders and captains of industry, particularly in the Nigerian energy sector due to NewsDirect’s rich local content and the publication’s knack for telling down-to-earth grassroots stories that are not likely to enjoy wide coverage in the media. Adieu and rest in peace Publisher and former boss. May your light continue to shine on like a million star.
NB: ‘Dotun Akintomide, a former Editor of The New Diplomat, is a journalist, content strategist, HR professional, Int’l education advisor and currently works as Director of Strategy at Pan-Atlantic School of Business and Management (PASBM-UK; panatlantic.org). ‘Dotun can be reached at (firstname.lastname@example.org).