TODAY, having braved countless odds and weathered multiple storms, the Nigerian Tribune, Nigeria’s oldest surviving newspaper, clocks 70 years. It has, to say the very least, been a long journey paved with thorns, pains and smiles, but the paper has been richly blessed by God, the rich and abiding ideals of its founder, Chief Obafemi Awolowo (SAN, CGFR), and the passion and commitment of readers, members of staff, and an established clientele.
Given Nigeria’s decidedly hostile political, economic and social climate, of which the many casualties in the media pathways over the years are an eloquent testimony, attaining 70 years of newspaper production is no mean feat, and it is no wonder that across the land, there will today be celebrations and felicitations with the Tribune family.
Yet it is not open to question that the celebrations, deserving as they may be, are circumscribed by the still potent existential threats to the ordinary people for whose emancipation this medium was established, and on whose behalf it continues to fight for a more equitable, fair and just society.
But the perennial failures of the elite, including massive and pervasive corruption, a dearth of vision and positive ideas and moral and intellectual decay, not to talk of the perpetual illogic at the very essence of Nigeria’s current experimentation with nationhood, can only make the Nigerian Tribune even more committed than it has ever been to the unmasking and condemnation of the iniquitous status quo in all spheres of national life.
It is true that from the colonial era until now, the newspaper has served as the mouthpiece for Chief Awolowo’s populist welfare programmes, a venture that has over the years set it on a collision course with the powers that be. Like all great newspapers, the Nigerian Tribune faced such a sustained opposition from political forces that many thought that its end was only a matter of weeks, but it ploughed on. It is a fact of history that the Tribune House has been invaded numerous times and its editors jailed just for telling truth to power,
Time was when vendors needed to hide copies of Nigerian Tribune under their clothes because the police and thugs could attack anyone found with it. Over the years, stung by the uncomfortable truths that it published and the candour in its presentations, governments at regional and the federal levels quickly established mediums for the sole purpose of curtailing its influence. But their antics, deep and vile as they were, came to nought.
Today, the Nigerian Tribune has probably the richest library in Nigeria, and has been the subject of extensive research by academics of various persuasions. Widely seen as a heritage of the Yoruba ethnic nationality even while remaining a big player on the national stage, it has remained consistent in the advocacy for a truly federal republic in which the component units will have the opportunity to develop at their own pace, harnessing their natural and human potentials for optimum growth. And its triumph over the vicissitudes of the environment has made it the torchbearer for robust and efficacious journalism in Nigeria, standing as a monument to perseverance in the quest for the noblest in national and human affairs.
As we celebrate 70 years of our rigorous existence, we pay tribute to the towering vision of our Founder and the exertions of all those who have worked to not only pursue and translate the vision into reality, but have sacrificed to sustain it in spite of many obstacles and setbacks. And we move into the future with the assurance that we would continue to stand by the lofty ideals that have sustained the Tribune newspapers as the mouthpiece of the people for a just, egalitarian, humane and progressive order at the local, state, national and global levels, ensuring that we continue to serve as the platform for the quest for the best attributes and conditions for human existence at all times. This is our pledge.