Uncle Sam at 80

•The Vanguard publisher has contributed immensely to national development and deserves the encomiums on him by Nigerians impressed by his unique style

TODAY, his address and identity come together in the Vanguard newspaper. The success of the newspaper founded in 1984 sums up the years of struggle and triumph of Mr. Sam Amuka-Pemu who chose the ostensibly dreary world of journalism as his passion when it held little prospect for young educated Nigerians. Then, it attracted those who saw it as the only profession available for them after trying others, and those who felt sufficiently challenged by colonial domination of their country. Uncle Sam joined those who applied themselves to the urge to use the media to champion the attainment of independence.

It now seems he has been the publisher and proprietor of the newspaper forever. This is not so. Mr. Amuka-Pemu is today the most outstanding professional media manager. He has been at it for more than five decades and keeps waxing strong. He has been a journalist of repute, an editor of distinction, a celebrated columnist and a media entrepreneur. In all the roles, he excelled and deserves the encomiums being poured on him by members of the media constituency, the government and the general public.

What are those things that stand out Uncle Sam, as he is fondly addressed? First is his simplicity. Uncle Sam has no airs around him. Anyone, even in his Vanguard empire, could stop him along the staircase for a hearty discussion. He is also a mentor of note. When he notices potential in any of his staff, many have attested to the detailed attention he begins to pay to him or her. He is said to invite even junior reporters for lunch in the company’s canteen and the senior editors and managers are periodically treated to dinner at his guest house.

As a publisher, the Vanguard brand has come to stay largely because of its unique, breezy style and liberal approach to issues. Uncle Sam may have positions on national issues, but he is not known to force them on his editors. As a successful businessman and influential newsman, he has friends in high quarters. Many of today’s politicians were fans of his column in the Daily Times and Punch. But, he is not renowned for pushing for contracts that could compromise the newspaper. This has made him, in person, a darling of the reading public, and his newspaper a respected brand.

Uncle Sam represents the values that Nigerians want in their leaders. Although an Itsekiri, he stayed out of the fray during the Urhobo-Itsekiri communal strife. His paper was not turned into a tool for prosecuting the war. In Delta State where the newspaper records its largest sales, the Vanguard publisher is not known to have teamed up with any political party or tendency.

At 80, Uncle Sam has paid his dues. He is a social celebrity who, in addition to being at home with plebians, is comfortable when clinking glasses with the social elite. This has made him a role model for upcoming leaders.

The legacy of this simple and unassuming man should be preserved. His admirers and protégés owe the society a duty to get a quality biography of his published as a guide for others and imperishable record of his contribution to the growth and development of the Nigerian nation. He also owes the society a duty of documenting his life history in book form. What motivated him to go into journalism? What characterised those wars he fought and how did they turn out? As one who covered the socio-political circuit in the First and Second Republics, was a publisher during the Third and Fourth Republics, he should tell the story of the various administrations as he saw them, and publish his diary of events that gripped and shaped the Nigerian state at various points in history.

We join millions of Nigerians who wish this icon well in his endeavour. This is one of those occasions when a sweet tale could be told by an octogenarian. Realising that his mother just died last year, we look forward to more years of fruitful contributions to national progress by this veteran journalist.

The post Uncle Sam at 80 appeared first on The Nation.

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