The sudden resignation of Segun Olatunji, erstwhile managing director/Editor-in-Chief of Nigerian Tribune, last December, has triggered a series of management changes at the country's oldest surviving newspaper. Curiously, the newspaper's editor, Rauf Abiodun also resigned his appointment few days after Olatunji. Authoritative inside sources attribute Olatunji's departure to "political in-fighting within the highly political Tribune environment."
Other Tribune sources, however, quote Olatunji as saying he was "going to answer a divine call." In the case of Abiodun, one Tribune reporter says that, he probably felt "he has seen it all, and decided it was time to leave." And few months earlier, Emma Ebong, then Nigerian Tribune's controller of commercial had also abruptly resigned his appointment.
But the Ibadan-based newspaper's owners, the well-known Awolowo Family, led by Mrs. HID Awolowo, who is chairman of African Newspapers of Nigeria Limited which publishes the Nigerian Tribune titles and her son, Oluwole Awolowo who is vice-chairman and publisher, have moved quickly to douse the tension caused by the infighting among the newspaper's top brass. An authoritative source close to the situation says that, "all the issues involved have been satisfactorily resolved."The Awolowo family also moved quickly to appoint a new managing director/editor-in-chief, in the person of Sam Adesua, formerly the Tribune's senior manager, Special Duties to replace Olatunji.
Like Olatunji, the new helmsman, Adesua, is a pastor. He is also an old hand of the defunct Sketch Newspapers, which is a favourite head hunting ground for the yet strong Nigerian Tribune newspaper. Awolowo has since appointed a new editor, Edward Dickson for the flagship Nigerian Tribune daily. Other appointments have subsequently being made by the newspaper's management .They include that of Sunday Olajide who has been named managing editor, Weekend titles. Debo Abdullahi, appointed Editor of Sunday Tribune, Wole Efunuga, associate editor, Sunday Tribune, Idowu Samuel, Deputy editor, Tribune Saturday and Tayo Lewis, appointed features editor of the Nigerian Tribune.
Abdullahi, a mass communication graduate of Ogun State Polytechnic had been associate editor before his elevation to edit the Sunday title. Efunuga another mass communication graduate of the Ogun state Poly had been features editor before his latest appointment. Samuel a sociology graduate of University of Ibadan had been group political editor of the newspaper, whereas, the new features editor, Omotayo Lewis is an English studies graduate of the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife. She joined the Tribune in 1994 as a features writer.
As in every such shake up there are winners and losers. Omodele Idris, the Tribune's erstwhile News editor has been moved back to his former position of Group business editor. But now, he has to share the same position with Lanre Oyetade who had been tapped from Daily Independent Newspaper where he was a senior correspondent, two years ago to replace Idris. Idris has been re-designated Group business editor (Economy) while Oyetade is Group business editor (Finance.)
Tribune insiders say that, the Awolowo family has been trying to restructure and re-position the newspaper for several months now. They say the publication has witnessed several restructuring efforts in recent years all aimed at re-positioning the 49-year old newspaper founded by the venerable late politician and statesman, Chief Obafemi Awolowo.
The changing dynamics of Nigerian politics in recent years and the waning of the political influence of Awolowo's political lieutenants seem to have rubbed off negatively on the fortunes of the newspapers. In response, the newspapers' management has tried to inject sweeping changes such as a switch in editorial focus to more business issues and broadening the political coverage beyond the papers old guard Yoruba bandwagon .To be fair, the newspapers management has recruited better educated journalists, breaking away from the past when the main credential for recruitment was a passion for Awo-style politics. More modern printing presses have also been installed, and the newspaper re-designed and re-packaged to improve its appeal to corporate advertisers. The Tribune has also opened additional marketing offices in strategic locations such as Lagos to ensure easy access by advertisers. Inside sources say these moves have begun to yield fruits and it appears the newspapers owners are not yet done with their repositioning efforts.
To be sure, the Tribune titles yet enjoy good patronage especially in the South West area of the country, although challengers such as The Westerner, The Nation and lately, National Compass Newspapers have been nibbling at the Ibadan-based newspaper's market share in recent times. "The Awolowo family has managed to restore equilibrium at the newspaper house," says one inside source who declined to be named.