Monday, 6 August 2018

Happy 70th birthday to ‘THE GENERALISSIMO OF THE NIGERIAN PRESS’ - RAYMOND AMOS EKPU

Mr Ray Ekpu, My Boss and I 

Born on a Friday, August 6, 1948, in Ukanafnn in the present day Akwa Ibom State. He attended Ibibio State College, Ikot Ekpene, 1960-64; Holy Family College, Abak, 1966-68; University of Lagos, 1970-73; Indiana State University, Bloomington, USA, 1977. After his ‘NYSC’ program with the Ministry of Information in Sokoto State (1973-74), Mr. Ray went back to his state, then Cross Rivers State, and had little or no problem in securing employment with one of the leading news media/ in the Eastern part of Nigeria - The Nigeria Chronicle newspaper. He started work as the features editor in 1974. By 1976 he was the acting editor of the Sunday Chronicle. His good works could not be hidden as he was latter appointed the editor of the Nigeria Chronicle in 1977. At this point in his life, he felt there should be a woman beside him to create room for more success and he got married to pretty Uya.


During the launching of Newswtach magazine 


In 1980, he felt there was the need to change base, he left Calabar for Lagos the then capital city of Nigeria. By December 1980 he got a job with Sunday Times Newspaper as the editor, a position he held until November 1982. As Editor, for 2 years he received 6 letters of commendation from management, he raised the Sunday Times circulation by 130, 000. On December 1, 1982, he was reassigned as editor of the Business Times from the Sunday Times. He later moved over to the Concord Press, as the Chairman of the Editorial Board of the Newspaper.
While in the Concord he made the newspaper a must read for most Nigerians. Towards the end of January 1983, he was arrested for a three counts charge of conspiracy, arson and murder, he was charged in connection of his article in the Sunday Concord of January 23, 1983, titled: ‘Sodom and Gomorrah’, which speculated a ‘NET’ fire accident, the prosecutor claimed that Ray probably after writing the story went ahead to set fire on ‘NET’ building the next day January 24 to justify his story. He was arrested and detained on January 30 alongside others including the fire fighters who tried to put off the fire. That story ‘Sodom and Gomorrah’ was most prophetic. He was later released on the order of Justice Charles Bada.


At a dinner party to honour Mr Ray Ekpu from Left to right,
Chief Ime Umannah, Mrs Ita Giwa, Mr Ray Ekpu and Gen. Emeka Ojukwu


After the Giwa - Tunji Brathwaite publication of February 1984, and Dele Giwa movement from the Sunday Concord to join Mr. Ray as a member of the Concord editorial board, the three friends, Giwa, Ekpu and Mohammed agreed to move on with their life. On the evening of July 14, 1984 Mohammed took his resignation letter to Abiola while Ray Ekpu submitted his the next day. And Giwa who had not resigned got his resignation letter accepted.
After Concord, Giwa, Agbesa, Muhammed and Ray Ekpu, co-founded Newswatch, and he became the Executive Editor in 1985; he served as the Deputy Editor-in-Chief and Deputy Chief Executive, Newswatch, 1980-86; appointed Editor-in-Chief, and Chief Executive, Newswatch Magazine, 1986-93, Chief Executive Officer, Newswatch Communications Limited in 1993 until when Newswatch the center could not hold again.
In the anniversary edition of Newswatch magazine dated February 3, 1986, titled: “The trial of Shagari”, Newswatch revealed to her readers the details of the Justice Uwaifo tribunal’s trial of Nigeria’s first executive president and his vice, Alhaji Shehu Shagari and Dr. Alex Ekwueme. On February 16, 1986, some weird-looking mobile policemen and plain clothes officers stormed Newswatch to deliver six summons from the Uwaifo tribunal. Mr. Ray Ekpu, and some other journalists of Newswatch were charged to the tribunal for allegedly publishing a ridiculing article on the February 3 issue of Newswatch where Mr. Ekpu had apparently written a “damnable” article that resulted in contempt of the tribunal for their stories in the February 3 edition of the magazine concerning the panel’s verdict on Shagari and Ekwueme. In a laudable display of bravery, Mr. Ray stood his ground and proved his case, with the help of Chief Gani Fawehinmi and 11 other lawyers who defended the case, citing several chapters from the constitution. The Uwaifo tribunal stated that the tribunal had no intention of following the proceedings constitutionally, and he shocked the courtroom when he announced that Mr Ray would be sentenced to prison custody “until the tribunal had time to try his case.” He found Mr. Ray guilty and fined him N20. In lieu of this, the Nigerian Union of Journalists called journalists off their beats from all tribunals across the country, insisting that judges should stop making a mockery of the journalism profession.
Mr. Ray is a Director, Yadara Nigeria Limited; Director, Lastop Limited; Director, Emer Nigeria Limited; Director, Ultimate Motors Limited; Chairman, Nigeria Union of Journalists, Cross River State Chapter, 1976-77; Vice-President, Commonwealth Journalists Association.
He is a Member of the Nigeria Union of Journalists; Member, Commonwealth Journalists Association; Member, Nigerian Human Rights Commission; Member, Police Service Commission; Member, National Agency for the Control of HIV and Aids (NACA); Fellow, Nigerian Guild of Editors.
 
Mr Ray Ekpu  the launching of Eko Magazine, a sister magazine to Newswatch 

Over the years he has received several awards, including: Nigerian Institute of Journalism Award, Distinguished Alumnus Merit Award by University of Lagos Alumni Association, Akwa Ibom State Branch, 1994; Gold Awards for 25 Nigerian Celebrities by Delight Productions Limited, 1988; Creative Writers Association, Department of English, Ahmadu Bello University; Award for Professional Excellence by Mboho Mkparawa Ibibio, 1990; Corporate Fellowship and Merit Award by Institute of Sales Management of Nigeria, 1993; Award for Excellence in Journalism by Akwa Ibom State, 1997; University of Lagos Alumni Association Achievers Award, 1997; United Nations Educational, Scientific & Cultural Organization (UNESCO), Akwa Ibom State Award “for Excellence in Journalism; Officer of the Order of the Niger (OON); Awarded Fellow of Nigerian Guild of Editors, 1998; Winner, International Editor of the Year Award, 1987.
 
The Newswatch directors, Mr Soji Akinrinde, Alhaji Yakubu Muhhamad,
Mr Ray Ekpu and Mr Dan Agbase

In fact when he won the ‘International Editor of the Year Award’ Nigerian Military president then, General Babangida commended him and in his letter wrote thus: “…Of particular interest to me is the basis of the international award to you, you share with this administration the quality of courage in purposefully tackling national problems.”
Mr Ray is a recipient of the World Press Review, New York 1987; Winner, The Outstanding Young Persons of the World Award (TOYP), for 1988, by Jaycee International in Sydney, Australia, 1988, awarded by the World Press Review, New York, 1988; One of the Outstanding Young Persons of the World, International Award of Excellence by CPU Technology Corporation and World Newsday International at LT., Cambridge, United States for his outstanding achievement, 1991; Afe Annang Students in North America Inc., Washington, DC, 1990; 20th Century Award in recognition as one of 500 leaders of influence by the American Biographical Institute, 1995; Distinguished Achievements in Journalism by American Biographical Institute.
 
Mr Ray Ekpu receiving the International Editor of the year award

He has been involved in so many books as editor: ‘Newswatch Best’; ‘Jogging in the Jungle - the Newswatch Story’; ‘OJUKWU’; ‘A leap of Faith’; he co-edited ‘Nigeria Business and Trade Fair Journal’; ‘Moving in Circles’; ‘Ibrahim Babangida: The Military, Politics and Power in Nigeria’; ‘Tourism in Nigeria’; ‘Nigeria Their Nigeria’.
His writings have been published in several Nigerian newspapers and magazines as well as in such foreign publications as the Portland Oregonian, Milwaukee Sentinel, New York Times, International Herald Tribune and the Journal of Democracy. Veteran Journalist and Prose Craftsman, Prolific Writer, Renowned Columnist, Analyst and Informed Commentator.

Mr Ray Ekpu

His marriage to Uyai is blessed with three wonderful kids and he is presently a grandfather. God bless you my able Boss, looking at where I am now, I feel proud to write that I am happy to have worked under you. Happy Birthday and best wishes.

Dr. Raphael James is a Journalist, a former staff of Newswtach who worked as a member of the Newswtach Dream Team under Mr Nyaknno Osso, James is presently an author and publisher of The National Biographer Magazine

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