The history of Nigeria’s print media can be largely attributed to the influence of missionaries in the 19th century. Most of the missionaries established community newspapers in order to propagate Christianity.
Iwe Irohin: Historically Nigeria’s First Newspaper
In 1854, Rev. Henry Townsend, a Presbyterian Church missionary, established the first printing press in Nigeria. Five years later, it would publish the country’s first newspaper known as “Iwe Irohin Fun Awon Ara Egba Ati Yoruba.” According to Historical fact, the ‘Iwe Irohin” was Nigeria’s first newspaper and had its first-ever edition printed on the 23rd of November, 1859. Subsequently, the newspaper was published every fifteen days and sold for 120 cowries, which is equivalent to a penny. At that time, the major patronage it enjoyed was from the few literates in Yorubaland. It also enjoyed a relatively wide circulation, with about 3,000 people engaging it as at that time. Rev. Henry Towsend’s goal was stated like this: “…to get the people to read and to beget the habit of seeking information by reading.”
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The content of the newspaper was news of church activities, arrival and departure of religious dignitaries, ordinations etc. It, however, had a broadened scope when other stories were introduced: stories involving issues that revolved around Abeokuta, as well as cotton and cocoa statistics. There were also advertisements that were carried by the newspaper. These adverts were usually from the local firms and government agencies from 1860.
Eight years later, “Iwe Irohin” was printed in two versions, one in English and the other in Yoruba.
However, due to cultural and political clashes that occurred between the Egba people and the British which resulted in the expulsion of all Europeans in Egbaland, the printing press was razed in 1867. And as a result, Nigeria’s first-ever newspaper met with its end. Notwithstanding, the purpose for which the newspaper was formed has been fulfilled: The reading habit of the people has developed to a point where they now yearn for news after the demise of the “Iwe Irohin.
Although, it is the opinion of many that, in contrast to his purported objective, the purpose of Rev. Henry Townsend newspaper was to foster the outreach of Christian religion at the time; it cannot be denied. However, the “Iwe Irohin” played a very significant role in the history of Nigerian newspaper.
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Other interesting facts about the early Nigerian Printed Media
- The second Nigerian newspaper was Anglo-African.
- It was established in 1863 by Robert Campbell and was the first paper published in Lagos. In those days, the newspaper can be said to be the paper of its times.
- And just as the title indicated, it was purposed for African self-improvement through the utilization of Western and African systems of knowledge.
- It would take another seventeen years before the establishment of the third Nigerian newspaper, known as The Lagos Times and Gold Coast Colony Advertiser.
- Established on 10th November 1880 by Mr. Richard Olamilege Beale Blaize and was edited by Mr. Andrew M. Thomas and Mojola Agbebi, The Lagos Times and Gold Coast Advertiser was sold for sixpence newspaper was printed every fifteen days.
- Unlike Rev. Henry Townsend “Iwe Irohin,” it is said that the newspaper was mainly concerned with the critical issues and matters of the period.
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