Iwe Irohin- The First Newspaper In Nigeria

Henry Townsend

In the 1840s, the missionaries of the Presbyterian Church began to arrive in Nigeria. They settled in an area known as English Town in Calabar. Among these missionaries was Rev. Henry Townsend who later moved to Abeokuta in the 1850s. In Abeokuta, he established a printing press in 1854 which he used, five years later, to publish the first newspaper in Nigeria called “Iwe Irohin Fun Awon Ara Egba Ati Yoruba.”

The first edition of the newspaper came out on November 23, 1859. Later on, the newspaper was simply called Iwe Irohin. The newspaper was published fortnightly (every 15 days) and sold for 120 cowries (Ogofa owo eyo, equivalent to a penny). James Ede, who was trained by Henry Townsend, served as the chief printer of the newspaper.

Iwe Irohin was highly patronized by the few literates of that time living in Egba and the entire Yoruba land. The circulation of the paper was around 3,000 as at that time. Rev. Henry Townsend’s main purpose of setting up the newspaper was to make the new converts read and write. He himself said: “my objective is to get the people to read and to beget the habit of seeking information by reading.”

Iwe Irohin published news of church activities, arrival and departure of religious dignitaries, ordinations and so on. It later broadened its contents by adding stories about Abeokuta, cotton and cocoa statistics, and starting from 1960, the newspaper carried advertisements from local firms and government agencies. The newspaper was cautioned by the C.M.S authorities in 1863 for some of its contents that antagonized the colonial government, but this didn’t stop Townsend from runing his newspaper.

In January, 1866, Iwe Irohin appeared in two versions, one in English and the other in Yoruba. In 1867, Rev. Henry Townsend’s printing press in Abeokuta was razed by Egba people due to cultural and political clashes that occured between the Egbas and the British which resulted to the expulsion of all Europeans in Egbaland. This brought an end to Iwe Irohin, the first newspaper in Nigeria. But before it’s total decline, Iwe Irohin had already fulfilled its mission which was to develop reading habit in the people therefore leaving them to yearn for news after its demise.

Iwe Irohin was followed by Anglo African which was edited by Robert Campbell, Lagos Times And Gold Coast Colony Advertiser by Richard Beale Blaize and so on.

Source: History And Development Of Mass Media In Nigeria – Ifedayo Daramola, Ph.D, 2013

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10 thoughts on “Iwe Irohin- The First Newspaper In Nigeria

  1. The Nigerian mass media has gone through a lot of changes from the inception (1859) to the present era. The pioneering newspaper ‘Iwe Iroyin fun awon ara Egba ati Yoruba’ successfully became the stepping stone and training ground for publishers like Robert Campbell and Richard Beale Blaize etc but also as the foundation of modern formal education with the establishment of the Church Missionary Society (CMS) grammar school Lagos.

    The newspaper publisher Rev Henry Townsend started the Iwe iroyin firstly as a medium of popularizing the activities of the Baptist church but later on, it became the first of the revolutionary press in Nigeria who were very vocal against colonialism. DEPARTMENT OF MASS COMMUNICATION, CALEB UNIVERSITY.

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  2. The first newspaper was Iwe Irohin fun awon ara Egba ati Yoruba of Rev Henry Townsend which appeared on the newsstands in 1859,became an opportunity for publisher like Robert Campbell and Richard Beale Blaize has served Nigeria and Nigerians well. The print media in Nigeria has been the big platform on which all the big issues of the making and the unmaking of Nigeria as a society and nation have been debated, exposed and documented for more than a century from colonial rule to amalgamation, colonial governance, the struggle for independence, the post-independence era, the civil war, military rule, aborted democracies and the eventual return to civilian rule. It has held up a mirror over time to our society, our trade and commerce, our heroes and heroines, the villains of history and the prospects of our It is ironic however that this once powerful institution is in decline. The newspaper industry in Nigeria is caught in the web of great depression and recession. Department of Mass Communication, Caleb University Imota, Lagos.

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  3. The first newspaper was Iwe Irohin fun awon ara Egba ati Yoruba of Rev Henry Townsend which appeared on the newsstands in 1859,became an opportunity for publisher like Robert Campbell and Richard Beale Blaize has served Nigeria and Nigerians well. The print media in Nigeria has been the big platform on which all the big issues of the making and the unmaking of Nigeria as a society and nation have been debated, exposed and documented for more than a century from colonial rule to amalgamation, colonial governance, the struggle for independence, the post-independence era, the civil war, military rule, aborted democracies and the eventual return to civilian rule. It has held up a mirror over time to our society, our trade and commerce, our heroes and heroines, the villains of history and the prospects of our It is ironic however that this once powerful institution is in decline. The newspaper industry in Nigeria is caught in the web of great depression and recession. Department of Mass Communication, Caleb University, Imota, Lagos.

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