For 21 years, Babs Usigbe, the Publisher of The Pavilion Newspaper, a local tabloid domiciled in Benue State has made his mark in disseminating information within the rural space of the state.
Usigbe also the National President of Independent Print Media Publishers Association of Nigeria (IPPAN) had by extension too impacted the lives of many young journalists in the state since February 7, 1997 when the newspaper debuted to become the most celebrated community newspaper.
This feat had however been attained against all odds but so far, so good for the publisher who described his experience as fulfilling.
“It is exciting and fulfilling. I am in control of my own game. I am my own boss directing and dictating the pace. My greatest joy is that, through publishing I have imparted on the younger generation in this field. When I see those who have passed through me, I feel elated. However, the road is circuitous, but because of my obsession for the journalism profession, I keep moving not minding the challenges,” he said.
While the frequency of publication of the newspaper is fortnightly, at the time it debuted, there were no regular newspapers from the state even as the state-owned newspaper, The Voice, was also shut down at the period.
So the The Pavilion newspaper, at the onset with no external support, braved all odds, weathering the storms to be the voice of the Benue people. In its first print-run of the newspaper of 1000 copies, out of which only 50 copies were sold.
“This showing, no doubt, could have been enough reason to abandon the project. As we continued to publish, bearing in mind, the character and orientation of the newspaper, the level of acceptance and patronage increase. Today, the newspaper is almost a house-hold name in Benue State,” Usigbe posited.
The success story of the medium is however not without challenges as newspaper publishing is quite capital intensive in the estimation of the publisher who argued that being in a geographical location where the economy cannot support one, in terms of advertisements and sales, poses major problem due to lack of money.
He explained that when he was about going into the newspaper business, he had made contacts with some prominent business persons in the state but none was interested in investing in it. So he had to take the bull by its horn and floated the venture alone.
The publisher added, “It really took a toll on me financially and mentally. We are also faced with the problem of persistent increase in production materials, inability to engage qualified personnel because of lack of funds to pay them and also meet up with other production costs.”
Besides, the advent of the internet which though a good development has brought to fore the social media with its attendant effects of both the negative and positive sides.
“For us who can’t employ the required staff, we depended on the social media for information. We sift the ones that are relevant and useful for our publication. In the hinterlands, local publications are very popular and sought after by the people. The reason being that they are more in-depth in the coverage of the grassroots because of their rural orientation,” he noted.
Usigbe, a professional journalist, had worked in the The Voice where he was the Editor of The Weekend Express, a soft sell newspaper, before he took up appointment as executive editor with the now defunct The Accord newspaper.
He also caught his teeth while working at Radio Nigeria, Ibadan, where he distinguished himself as one of the best reporters in the late 80s, all of which prepared him for the present endeavour.
He is a Senior lecturer in the Department of Mass Communication in Fidei Polytechnic, Gboko.
Today, Usigbe believes that the miles he had covered so far in the media industry has been rewarding occasioned by the exposure and respect he earned just as some of the local newspaper publishers in Benue were tutored under his guidance.