The Double Death of Kaye Whiteman and West Africa, By Jibrin Ibrahim

Jibrin Ibrahim

The death of Kaye Whiteman, the well-known journalist and author was announced 17th May, he was 78 years old. In announcing his death, Kayode Soyinka in a statement said: “It is with great sadness that I am writing to let you know that our dear friend and colleague Kaye Whiteman died last Saturday. The news just reached me while in Nigeria where I am presently. And I still spoke with him a few days ago before I left London. We produced the June edition of Africa Today together.

Kaye Whiteman was a distinguished journalist and editor who, over five decades, developed an immense knowledge of Africa and reported on African Affairs for the international media, including our newsmagazine, AFRICA TODAY, where he was for many years a Contributing Editor. His contributions in Africa Today are usually masterpieces explained Soyinka.

I met Kaye Whiteman when I was a doctoral student in France in the 1980s and he encouraged me to start writing for West Africa. He was a nice and affable gentleman whose interest in African and Nigerian affairs never waned. I last met him on 9th April in the University College London at Professor Eghosa Osagahe’s inaugural lecture. We discussed the revised edition of his book Lagos: A Cultural and Historical Companion, which he had just completed for Cassava Republic Press in Abuja.

As usual, we spoke extensively about the passion of his life, West Africa magazine. He was the deputy editor and later editor and editor-in-chief. For students of West African politics, the magazine has been a repository of information for over 80 years – from its inception in 1917 to its final death in 2005. When the magazine was about to die in the 1980s he had convinced the Nigerian Government under General Ibrahim Babangida to step in and buy it, to stop a racist South African group from buying it to manipulate news and sentiments in West Africa. Eventually, the Nigerian government botched the purchase and the magazine died.

He informed me that he was making arrangements to make electronic copies available for researchers, many of whom are still trying to access the information. Through the Nigerian Government intervention, the ownership West Africa magazine was supposed to have been passed on to Daily Times, which is it dead. Kaye Whiteman is dead but someone should still take up the challenge of saving the West Africa archives for the use of the academic community. There is a complete set in the School of Oriental and African Studies of the University of London but it would be great if electronic versions could be widely available.

Kaye Whiteman had covered the Nigerian civil war as a journalist and since then, his passion to follow and cover Nigerian and West African affairs never waned. I salute this great “Nigerian” who had so much passion for the country and knew so much about how we have been ruled and misruled through the ages. May his soul rest in peace.

 Dr. Jibrin Ibrahim, political scientist and development consultant, is chairman of the editorial board of Premium Times


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