Famous media librarian plans big for Nigeria

He has spent most of his life harvesting data, and this is what any good librarian should be doing. It is fitting that he should turn to an activity which documents Nigeria’s achievers and heroes dating from 1861, and he is doing this within the framework of the Biographical Legacy and Research Foundation (BLERF).

He is a dedicated biographer, and he has vast experience in the field, for he produced the award-winning Who’s Who in Nigeria when he worked at Newswatch magazine.

His house situated along a quiet close in Gwarimpa is a bibliophiles delight and a paradise for bookworms. There are books, journals and magazines everywhere you turn, and there is ample evidence that his is a very inquisitive and critical mind, as he and his team strive to document many details relating to the lives of Nigerians going back decades.

Eminent professors, members of corporate Nigeria, as well as journalists are involved in the timeless project. In the parlour, and on the steps, there are books of different sizes, colours and shapes. All the books are neatly arranged, carefully handled by friendly fingers. Eyes which give attention to detail, theme and colour attend to them, and there are bookshelves to accommodate the endless books.

Though the parlour plays host to many books, with a good number on the carpet, it still conveys the unmistakable impression of being neat. His is a treasure-trove which will be useful to journalists doing different forms of research, and it is open to journalists who need information on individuals, as well as aspects of Nigeria’s history and development over the years.

There are old rare copies of Newswatch within, including the preview edition of the magazine which Mr. Osso holds with fondness, as well as a different encyclopedia, novels, autobiographies and biographies of Nigerians and foreigners and books on the history of Nigeria.

This then is the environment and the mind of Mr. Nyaknno Osso, the gentleman who is now documenting the lives of Nigerians going back well over 150 years, an effort which promises to be a major step forward in the history of biographical documentation in Nigeria.

Mr. Osso, a graduate of the University of Ibadan where he specialised in Journalism Librarianship, was the famous Librarian at Newswatch magazine. Ray Ekpu, writing in Newswatch Best describes Mr. Osso in the following words “We used to call him the two-minute Librarian, meaning that he could get you what you wanted in two minutes or give you an idea of where to find it within that time frame.”

Peter Ishaka says of him “Osso is a living proof that the best can come out of Nigeria.” As hinted at earlier, Mr. Osso has commenced a new project which is going to be “the first-in-Africa biographical database built to showcase Nigeria’s achievers and heroes dating from 1861.” The epic project is designed to run simultaneously in two parts, a book and an online database. The print version should be published sometime next year, adds Mr. Osso.

According to a pamphlet produced by BLERF, the body has already collated, verified and documented the biographical information of over one million Nigerians spanning over a century of Nigeria’s existence both at home and abroad. It argues “It is projected to be the Who’s Who of all times; a product of years of data harvesting from primary, secondary and tertiary sources. It is a celebration of lives, times and achievements.”

Osso, who is Editor-In-Chief of Who’s Who in Nigeria, explains in the publication referred to, the choice of the year 1861 as the start off point “The choice of 1861 as the starting date of this project is to coincide with the establishment of Lagos as a British colony. This may not necessarily be the cradle of what later became modern Nigeria, but it is a great historical milestone.” In addition Mr. Osso opines “I document and celebrate distinguished Nigerian achievers.”

On what many have called his ‘rapid response capacity’, he tells Daily Trust “I can provide answers to Nigerian biography questions in split seconds. When I was Newswatch Magazine’s Consultant Librarian, I provided information to all our editors and reporters within two minutes. I am passionate about media research and documentation.”

He explains “This project is designed to outlive several generations. Across the world, it will provide a one-stop access to biographical data of the most celebrated Nigerians of all times; dead or alive. Both the book and the online database will serve as inexhaustible reservoirs of biographical information to scholars, government, researchers, historians and students.”

Great effort is made to be as thorough as possible while the work is being done, and language used is as simple as possible such that even a school boy would understand, says Mr. Osso who set up the famous library at Newswatch.


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