The first female editor of The Punch, Nigeria’s most widely read newspaper, Toyosi Ogunseye, is a young Nigerian who dared to follow her dreams and passion some seven years ago.
That decision has finally paid off with several journalism awards to her name, not to talk of her feat as the first female editor of The Punch, at her young age.
Speaking of her foray into journalism, Toyosi recalls an incident that happened while she was in her second year at the University of Lagos, studying biochemistry. It was her twentieth birthday and she had a discussion with her friend about what she wanted to do. Toyosi informed her friend that she wanted to write while her friend said she wanted to make jewelries.
Toyosi told her friend that they should ensure they make this visions happen and not necessarily wait till graduation before they pursued their passion.
Taking a dose of her own medicine, Toyosi took the bull by the horns such that the very next she went to The Sun Newspapers asking to see the news editor whom at that time was Mr. Musa Egbemana. She greeted him, introduced herself as a second year bio-chemistry student of the University of Lagos and then dropped the bombshell “I want to write for you”.
She recollects that the look on his face was one that asked where she was coming from. She also whipped out her journal and showed him things she had been writing. His response was‘no, no, no, if you want to write for me this is not the kind of thing I want to see’. He then asked her to get him two stories from anywhere and come with it on Friday by 10.00 am’.
With what was her first journalistic assignment given, Toysosi went back to school and found out that there was a story of a student that was killed by cultists and another of a student that drowned by the Lagoon and their posters were everywhere on campus. She tore off the posters and did a story on them for Mr. Egbemana.
Mr. Egbemana was so impressed that he had to take her to the then editor of The Sun Newspapers, Mr. Femi Adeshina and told him ‘sir, she is still in school but she just did two stories which I loved so much’.
Mr. Adeshina’s answer was enough to down her spirit. He said,‘we don’t employ undergraduates but go finish your school and come back’.
Upon leaving the editor’s office, Mr. Egbemana told her not to mind what the editor said. He asked her to keep sending in stories and assured her he would ensure she got paid for them. And kept sending in stories, she did.
Two months after her not so pleasant meeting with Mr. Adeshina, she dis a did a story about four students that died. Fortunately for her, she saw them taking a group picture outside her department a day before their demise. She later heard that they died while they were returning from a disco party.
The next day, she bought a copy of The Sun Newspaper and saw her story – ‘From Disco to Grave’. A day after that, she got a call from Mr. Adeshina giving her the job. This was her break into the industry.
Now seven years down the line, she hasn’t regretted her decision to dump Biochemistry for her passion. She has won 25 media awards. Some of which include CNN MultiChoice African Journalist of the Year Awards in 2011 and 2013 and very recently, the Knight International Journalism Award. She was also recently shortlisted to participate in President Barack Obama’s Young African Leadership Initiative in the US.
Toyosi Ogunseye is also the first female editor of The Punch. She holds a Bachelors degree in Biochemistry from the University of Lagos; a Post-Graduate Diploma in Print Journalism from the Nigeria Institute of Journalism; and a MSc in Media and Communication, Pan-African University.