Ismail Babatunde Jose, one of Nigeria’s foremost media figures was born on December 13, 1925 to the family of Ajaratu Gborigi and Amusa Brimoh Jose. His great grandfather was an African immigrant from Brazil and his grandfather, Imam Braimoh Jose was a member of the Royal West African Frontier Force. He was educated at Yaba Methodist school and St. Saviour’s College before he joined the Daily Times at the age of 16 as a Technical Trainee and a Compositor. Though he was not paid for his first job, he used it as a training ground to improve himself.
Some years later, he briefly worked with the Daily Comet of Zik Group as a Junior Reporter and the Daily Service as a Reporter and a Sub-Editor. He moved back to Daily Times as the Industrial and Political Correspondent after the Mirror Group take over. As he gained the trust of the Chairman-Cecil King, he rose through the rank and became an Assistant Editor (News), Regional Representative for the East and later in the North in 1954 and 1956 respectively. In 1957, he became an Editor with Daily Times and a Board Member in 1958. To be a journalist in Nigeria, in the nationalist fervour of the 1950s was exciting and he learned his trade well.
Babatunde Jose was so tied up with the history and growth of Nigeria that you cannot exclude him from the history of modern Nigeria because the press played a major role in the quest for independence.
He was in Benin covering a commission of inquiry when he was summoned to fly back to Lagos. "My first surprise was that it was the general manager's Humber car that was waiting for me," Jose wrote in his autobiography Walking a Tightrope (1987). Heart pounding, he was taken to see the visiting chairman, the fearsome Cecil King. He told Jose, "As the Chairman of the biggest publishing company in the world, I know... how to assess the ability of my employees. I am not entirely satisfied with The Daily Times. As Nigeria moves towards independence, it is imperative for the paper to move forward with it. But that means having an editor who knows the country, the people and their leaders well, backed by professional experience and competence. Well, my dear Jose, you fit in well into all these. I therefore appoint you the editor."
Jose nearly collapsed with surprise, but recovered quickly enough to demand boldly that if he was to be "king", then he wanted to rule as well, which meant that the British "editorial adviser" must go. King chuckled at this and agreed that if Jose managed matters well, the editorial adviser would depart within a year.
In Jose's hands, The Daily Times grew and grew. It became a wholly-owned Nigerian enterprise. Jose was appointed managing director in 1962, and chairman in 1968. He created at least 15 new titles by the time he was deposed in March 1976. When General Yakubu Gowon was replaced by General Murtala Mohammed, who embarked on a national clean-up, Jose's own opponents within and without the Daily Times, who unfairly accused him of trying to take it over himself, found an audience. The story of the forced sale of 60% of the shares and Jose's eventual departure in March 1976 is recounted in detail in his autobiography Walking a Tight Rope (1987).
He was already a prominent member of the Nigeria media establishment before 1976, and went on to a full life as a businessman and media guru, holding such positions as chairman of the Nigerian Television Authority, but it is for his Daily Times experience he will be remembered. His influence has been profound, and his memory in the world of the Nigerian media, often turbulent and difficult, but always vibrant, will surely endure.
Jose also served his country as president of the Ahmadiyya Islamic movement and on many committees and industry organisations. He received the government's Officer of the Federal Republic award in 1965, and an honorary doctorate of law from the University of Benin. Unusually for a Muslim, he received the Pope Pius medal for fostering religious understanding.