|Thursday, February 21, 2019|
DEREK INGRAM (1925-2018)
09/03/18, Kayode Soyinka
A distinguished Commonwealth writer, journalist and editor, a passionate believer in and fighter for freedom of the press, dies at his London home.
We lost a gem, Derek Ingram. He was a distinguished British journalist and editor known across the Commonwealth, most especially, for his incomparable knowledge of the association and perhaps, most importantly, for his love for journalism - development journalism especially. He died at his west London home, Sunday, June 17, aged 93.
Derek had moved through the ranks to become the deputy editor of the Daily Mail. After seventeen years at the Daily Mail, he resigned after a disagreement with the aristocratic chairman of the newspaper Viscount Rothermere over the negative, if not racist slant, the newspaper gave to the reporting of apartheid South Africa and African issues in general.
Derek left the Mail to start the Gemini News Service in 1967, which was devoted to the coverage of development stories, especially from around the Commonwealth and disseminated them globally.
Gemini became so popular in newsrooms across Africa, the Commonwealth and the developing world in general that its base in London became the starting point for several bubbling African and Commonwealth journalists just starting a career in London in those days either in journalism or as foreign correspondents. Such African and Commonwealth journalists as Cameron Duodu from Ghana, and Trevor McDonald, from Trinidad and Tobago, used the Gemini News Service to launch themselves into mainstream media and journalism in the UK. As London Correspondent of the Concord Press of Nigeria, I made it possible for the Concord to subscribe to Gemini News Service. The subscription was still ongoing until I left in October 1983.
When I arrived in the UK in August 1978 to represent the Sketch newspapers of Nigeria as its London Correspondent, Derek helped me to settle down by introducing me to the everyday 12:30 press briefing at the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office in London, where UK's view and position on key events happening around the world on the day were first made known to diplomatic and foreign correspondents by government officials. He introduced me to his close friend and colleague, the Canadian broadcaster, Patrick Keatley, who was then the Diplomatic Editor of the UK Guardian newspaper. It was through Derek and Patrick that I was introduced to the Chatham House. They recommended me for membership and I became a member of the Institute of International Affairs. They also, with another ex-Guardian Education Editor, Richard Bourne, introduced me to the Round Table Moot - the editorial board of the Commonwealth Journal of International Affairs, membership of which I have retained for about 25 years now.
Derek travelled extensively in Africa as a journalist and for the Commonwealth. He related on a first-name basis with most pre-independence African leaders and politicians. He was a frequent visitor to Obosi, a village in eastern Nigeria, where he would visit Chief Emeka Anyaoku, the Nigerian diplomat who later became Commonwealth secretary-general. During Chief Anyaoku's tenure as S-G, Derek was given the responsibility of traveling around the Commonwealth to sound out opinions on how to rebrand, move the Commonwealth forward and make it more attractive, relevant, and effective especially in a post-apartheid and modern world.
As chairman of the Royal Commonwealth Society in London, he facilitated the first official meeting between the British Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary, Sir Geoffrey Howe, and Oliver Tambo, the exiled leader of the African National Congress (ANC) of South Africa, at a time when the Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher had branded the ANC a terrorist organisation and wouldn't want to have any dealings with it. Derek was a most reliable repository of African and Commonwealth history and confidante to several Secretaries-General of the Commonwealth. Until old age caught up with him and he could no longer travel, he had attended almost all Commonwealth Heads of Government Summits - he attended 20 in all.
Derek co-founded the Commonwealth Journalists Association (CJA) in 1978 with Patrick Keatley. He served as the pioneer president of the CJA from 1980 to 1990. His tenure was remarkable for establishing the CJA in most countries of the Commonwealth and making sure that journalists across member-countries could rely on the CJA for support, especially in their incessant struggles against pressures on the press from dictators. He also made sure that Commonwealth journalists received adequate training. When he left as CJA president, he handed over to a distinguished Nigerian editor Ray Ekpu. Derek became President Emeritus of the CJA after his retirement in 1990.
Derek was also partly instrumental to the establishment of the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI). In a quiet but remarkable manner, he used both platforms of the CJA and CHRI to provide support for pro-democracy campaigners, especially in Nigeria during the political crisis in the country in the mid-90s. He supported international opposition to both the Babangida and Abacha regimes that had trampled upon the democratic will of the Nigerian people by the annulment of the result of the June 12, 1993, general elections, which had been adjudged to be the freest, fairest and most credible in Nigeria's history.
Throughout the period Abacha remained in power in Nigeria, and even though a Nigerian had been elected and was now his successor as CJA president, Derek, and the CJA refused to take the international conference of the association to Nigeria, in order not to be seen to be providing credibility and recognition to the brutal Abacha regime. Its disregard for the rights of Nigerians had led to the country's expulsion from the Commonwealth over the extrajudicial murder of the Ogoni rights activist Ken Saro Wiwa and eight others. Immediately democracy returned to Nigeria May 29, 1999, Derek made sure that Nigeria hosted the next CJA international conference, which took place in the capital Abuja in 2000 in honour of the country's return to democratic rule. Besides, when Dele Giwa, the campaigning Nigerian editor was assassinated through a parcel bomb on October 19, 1986, and Newswatch magazine that he edited was proscribed by the Babangida military junta, Derek was able to rally support of both the CJA and the CHRI and joined by the Commonwealth Press Union (CPU) to pressure Babangida to find Dele Giwa's killers and re-open Newswatch.
Born in 1925, he will be remembered as a distinguished Commonwealth writer, journalist and editor, a passionate believer in and fighter for freedom of the press, most especially, using his preferred phrase, the "independence of the journalist". He fought tirelessly for this to be the norm across the Commonwealth. Perhaps it is to his credit and honour that the Commonwealth Principles on Freedom of Expression and the Role of the Media in Good Governance put together by the CJA, was launched last April in London to coincide with the 2018 Commonwealth Heads of Government Summit, which was hosted by the UK.
Derek will be sorely missed.
*Derek Ingram, born 1925. Died in London, Sunday, 17 June 2018.ribute was first published by Foreign Policy
Comment on this story