In this unit, the issue of press development is revisited but this time, the Nigerian society before independence in 1960 is given special attention. The direction of our discourse will reflect a blend of two important trends. While you will read about the kinds and number of papers that sprang up at every stage of our discussion, you would also notice that such developments are discussed side by side with the propelling political and economic interest of the participants of those periods or eras.


On successful completion of this unit, you are expected to:

  1.  Identify the major publications of the eras under study 
  2. List the key personalities/players during such era
  3. Describe the major roles and contributions played by the owners and participants in the press business


3.1 The Period of Missionary Journalism

The history of Print Journalism began in Nigeria with the installation of the Printing Press at Calabar by the Presbyterian Mission in 1846. The presence of the printing press had a religious undertone, in the sense that books, pamphlets, short essays and short stories that were produced had their contents focused primarily on religious matters and other cultural interests. Although, this development did not last long and has often been left out in the chronicles of print development in Nigeria, other missionaries and religiously inclined business conscious men took a cue from the Calabar experience. Consequently, Rev. Henry Townsend, a missionary journalist, established a printing press in Abeokuta in 1854. Five years afterwards i.e. in 1859, the “WE IROHIN FUN A WON ARA EGBA ATI YORUBA” was founded. The newspaper translated into English Language means “Newspaper in Yoruba for Egba Yoruba people”. The newspaper was published forthnightly but later and became bilingual in 1860, when the English version was added to the Vernacular edition. “Iwe Irohin” was purely a religious newspaper, publishing news about church activities, particularly, the establishment of new churches, the arrival and departure of missionaries and even the death of religious dignitaries and traditional rulers.

The newspaper’s (Iwe Irohin) primary objective was to cultivate good and appreciable reading attitude among the people of the area and even beyond. As a result of this, the newspaper expanded its news coverage to cover non-religious events such as those about trade and commerce, exhibitions, sports, health, hygiene, moralistic, educational and other news items of national consequences, crime reports, immoral news abstracts, alcoholic promotions, etc.  Although “Iwe Irohin” ceased to exist in 1867, as a result of ‘IFOLE’, the popular uprising in Yoruba land that saw many Europeans feeling or expelled from Abeokuta, the newspaper was said to be unique in several ways. Omu (1980) writes that Iwe Irohin was the best organised of the mission papers at the time. It was also the first paper to be published in African Language.

Rev. Henry Townsend’s trial at newspaper publishing could be called the “Preliminary period in the evolution of the Nigerian Press”, while Hope Waddell’s attempts could be described as the evolution of the “Commercial Press in Nigeria”.

The characteristics of Townsend’s “Iwe Irohin” were equally remarkable. It had a cover price of 30 cowries per copy, while English edition was sold for one penny, the It had a crude technical production, since the modern press technology was yet to become known. Its layout was crowded and dull, and without pictures. The newspaper had two large columns running down from its masthead and filled with text in uniform types.

The Iwe Irohin regularly carried anti-slavery editorials and many of its religious publications were either slanted or coloured to promote the crusade against slavery. The paper actually spear headed the attack on slavery. However, other publications of the early missionaries as documented by

Nwuneli (1985) were:

  1. The African Gleamer published in 1917 by the African Church Organisation of Nigeria (ACON) – English Language. 
  2.  African Hope (1919) by ACON – English Language. 
  3. Leisure Hours (1918) by CMS – English Language. 
  4. Nigerian Baptist (1923) by Nigerian Baptist Convention, English and Yoruba Language.
  5.  Nigerian Methodist (1925) by the Methodist Church – English Language. 
  6.  African Challenge (1934) by Sudan Interior Mission (SIM) – English language. 
  7. African Christian (1930) by African Church Organisation – English language, 
  8. African Chronicles (same as in No.7.) 
  9. Catholic life (1936) by the Roman Catholic Church – English language. 
  10. Labarian Ekklesiye (1947) by the Muslim Society of Nigeria – English and Arabic languages. 

The contributions of these missionary papers were summarized by Fred Omu (1978), as having significant influences on West African Society. The newspapers introduced the first generations of educated Africans to what has become an intrinsic part of enlightened society in Europe and other continents. Their examples gave inspiration to Africans who then exploited the business (news papering) and employed it as the chief weapon of exercising power as well as participating in government.

Self Assessment Exercise 2.1

What are the main features of ‘Iwe Irohin’ that you have read?

3.2 The Period of the Alien-Dominated Press

The alien dominated press simply covers the period non-Nigerians enjoyed the freedom of publishing newspapers for Nigerians. The first recorded impression of this era was initiated by Robert Campbell on June 6, 1863. It was called the ANGLO-AFRICAN newspaper. As a weekly newspaper, Anglo-African had a circulation figure of between 30-50 copies and was sold for three pence. The primary interest of the publisher, Robert Campbell was to exploit the growing interest western education and enlightenment in Lagos, by providing cheap and in accessible material, which would educate, inform and entertain its readers. Robbert Campbell’s publication was Nigeria’s second newspaper to be launched after Townsend’s attempt. Campbell’s “Anglo-African” devoted its front pages to publishing, advertisement, notices, and announcements. It carried local and overseas news, and a lot of editorials dealing with the issues of those years. It was ahead of Townsend’s “Iwe Irohin” in news coverage and editorial issues. The newspaper later ceased to exist on December 30, 1865 due to financial constraints. That the Anglo-African ceased to exist did not mean that other aliens were discouraged from venturing into the business. In fact, conditions or factors engendered greater interest and zeal in the minds of certain the aliens. Some of the factors were identified as:

  1. The uncompromising difference between the teachings of missionaries and their overt behaviour and practices. This was primarily evident in the increasing difficulty to reconcile missionary protestation of Christian ethics or doctrines with the evidence glaring hypocrisy exemplified in Henry Townsend’s desperate fight of against Ajayi Crowther. 
  2. The educational or literacy level was increasing tremendously in Nigeria, particularly in Lagos and other cities along the West African Coast. 
  3. The rapid growth of printing industry in urban centres in the progressive enterprise of newspaper publication. 
  4. The increasing nature of competition arising from aggressive business acumen which made advertising almost an inevitable tool of immense marketing efforts. The channels for such marketing goals and publicity were no doubt the organs of the press. 

Such publications that followed the footsteps of Anglo-African were the Lagos Times and Gold Coast Colony Advertiser established by Richard  Beale Blaize on November, 10, 1880. The Lagos Times was published fortnightly and sold for six pence. Its presence was significant in setting the ball of militant journalisms and nationalism rolling in Nigeria. Because of the stance, it was not patronized by the colonial government.

The Lagos Times died in 1883 out of financial constraints.
Prior to the exit of Lagos Times, Blackall Benjamin had established the Lagos Observer on February 4,1882. He recruited the services of Dr.

N.T. King and Robert Campbell to run the paper. The two-hired gentlemen later died in 1884 signalling also the death of the Lagos Observer Actually, B. Benjamin continued single-handedly with the paper until 1890 when the possibilities of the paper’s survival was questionable. So, the Lagos observer ceased to exist. Its death notwithstanding the Lagos Observer was noted for its success in terms of its longer life span and remarkable effort in political emancipation. It actually attempted to balance radicalism with decorum. Other newspapers founded by aliens in Nigeria included the:

  1. founded by Andrew Thomas in 1888, November3. Iwe Irohin Eko 
  2. Weekly Times by John Payne Jackson, a Liberian born The businessman on May 3, 1890. 
  3. Lagos Weekly Record founded by John B. Jackson in 1890. The This newspaper became one of the most popular press having the greatest continuity and long life in the history of early newspapers in Nigeria. It was also reputed for its strong views on politics and total political independence for Africa. 
  4.  paper by George Alfred Williams on September 16, The Standard 1894. 
  5. founded by J.S. Leigh on September 12, 1898. The Lagos Echo 

Self Assessment Exercise 2.2

What main reasons encouraged aliens to avoid being discouraged in their business of journalism?

3.3 The Period of Indigenous Press

One of the early indigenous newspapers was the Nigeria Pioneer. It was founded by Kitoyi Ajasa in 1914. The newspaper was pro-governmental and so, did not encourage radicalism of the nationalists. For this reason, the newspaper was unpopular. It died in 1936. Ernest Ikoli came into the scene with the African Messenger on March 10, 1921. He is said to have been the first man outside Yoruba land to emerge into prominence in Lagos politics. The African Messenger lasted for five (5) years before
it metamorphosed into the Nigerian Daily Times, after being bought over by the then Nigerian Printing and Publishing Company in 1926. Being a gentleman agreement between Adeyemo Alakija and Richard Barrow, the African Messenger transformed into the Daily Times, was

headed by Ernest Ikoli as the first Editor under the Nigerian printing and publishing company, NPPC. Like its predecessor, management of  the Nigerian Daily Times was pro-governmental and its relationship with the government was like that of the Times of London and British government. The Daily Times was later made a subsidiary of the London Daily Mirror in 1948. This co-operation brought some positive changes to the Times of Nigeria in many ways. Notable among such development was the general treatment of news and page which witnessed remarkable improvement from what had existed before planning in the publishing scene then. The improvement were very much peculiar to the outlook of the Times and Mirror of London.

As a result to this relationship, the Daily Times was solidly supported financially culminating in a highly equal competition with other newspapers of that time. It virtually made the business of publishing practically uncomfortable for other papers by attracting good and competent personnel with the baits of mouth-watering incentives. It also expanded greatly and increased its circulation capacity to about 62,000 in 1956, when the Sunday Times was introduced. Generally, the Daily Times was not liked by most Nigerians due to nationalist radicalism. It relatively lost the respect of the general public and was not of significant consequence in the aggressive pursuit of national any independence for the country.

Few other papers that co-existed with the Nigerian Daily Times and afterwards were:

  1. The Lagos Daily News by Herbert Macauley and Akilade Caulcrick in 1927. 
  2. The Nigerian Daily Telegraph by Akin Fagbemo Beyioku on November 12,1927. 
  3.  by I. B. Thomas on June 1, 1929. Akede Eko 
  4. The Nigerian Daily Mail by Ernest Ikoli in 1930. 
  5. The West African Pilot in 1937 by Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe. This newspaper was a pillar in Nigerian Journalism. It was well positioned and could be compared to a local training school for journalists, because it produced great future journalists – amongst them were Chief Anthony Enahoro and Chief Tony Momoh. Also, the Pilot was the first newspaper to introduce cartoon strips into Nigerian Journalism. 

The West African Pilot was the most popular nationalist newspaper of all times in Nigeria. Journalistically, the W/A Pilot brought about great innovations in the general newspaper outlook and typography. It was noted for its tremendous use of pictures and modern headline forms. Dr. Azikiwe also owned and edited other papers such as the Eastern Nigerian Guardian, The Eastern Sentinel, and the “Northern Advocates”.

By 1958, two newspapers, The Daily Express and Sunday Express were launched from a partnership pact between Roy Thomson of Canada and the then ruling party in the Western Region. This resulted in the formation of Allied Newspapers of Nigeria, a new body that absorbed the former Amalgamated Press of Nigeria.

Self Assessment Exercise 2.3

Briefly outline the major policy thrust of the West African Pilot and the Nigerian Daily Times.


The early press in Nigeria set the pace for today’s journalism. It is for this foundational thrust that made Nigerian press to be rated high amongst other nations.


On the whole, the general picture of the press during the colonial or pre- independence of Nigerian history can be said to have been in the remarks of Dr. Azikiwe, thus:

If we analysed the earliest newspapers Published in this country in the first 70 years of existence, the following will emerge; The newspapers were mainly periodicals, published weekly, fortnightly or monthly; The proprietors were invariably their editors, With the exception of Iwe Irohin, the Nigerian Pioneer and the African Messenger, the Journalist were mostly aliens, the period of survivals of these papers were very short; Indeed averaging three and half years.


Compare and contrast the major features of the following newspapers in terms of their objectives, contents and format:
(i) Iwe Irohin
(ii) Anglo African
(iii) West African Pilot, and
(iv) Nigerian Daily Times


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