A Lifetime of Service



Dan Ochima Agbese is a man of few words. He writes with a fascinating economy of words that leave a lasting impression on you. In reply to the DAME notification letter informing him of his choice as a recipient of this year’s DAME Prize for Lifetime Achievement, he replied in nine words:

“I feel honoured. I accept with gratitude. Thank you”.

He is as witty and sarcastic they come that if you read him on the surface you may misunderstand his message.

A great columnist, stylist and wordsmith, Dan Agbese is easily one of Nigeria’s most respected and influential writers. He loves the trade so much he has practised journalism actively for the last 49 years. He has been a sub editor, features writer, editor, columnist, administrator and author. Agbese’s lasting impact, perhaps, lies in the rigour he brings to his work, in the care employed in his choice of subjects and words, in the logic that accompanies his writings, and the engaging style in which he presents them. He is a teacher who writes lucidly and a writer who teaches with his words; he is truly the master of informed commentary.

Born 72 years ago in Agila, Ador local government area of Benue State, he was educated at the Native Authority School, Otobi, 1957-1959; Government Teachers Training College, Keffi, 1960-1962. He later studied Mass Communication and Journalism at the University of Lagos, 1970-1973; Thomson Foundation, Cardiff, UK, 1976; and took a Masters in Journalism from Columbia University, New York; USA, 1976-1977.

After a short teaching career, he joined the New Nigerian newspapers as a Staff Writer, 1967-1970. He was chief sub-editor, The Nigerian Standard, Jos, 1974-1976; assistant editor, The Nigerian Standard, 1978-1980. He was appointed general manager, Radio Benue, Makurdi, 1980; special adviser and director of information, Benue State, 1980-1982; editor, New Nigerian, Kaduna, 1982-1984.

In 1984, he teamed up with his friends, Dele Giwa, Ray Ekpu and Yakubu Muhammed to co-found Newswatch magazine, serving as the managing editor. He was elevated to the position of deputy editor-in-chief/deputy chief executive, Newswatch, Lagos, 1986-1994; editor-in-chief, Newswatch, 1994-2010. He became managing director, Newswatch Books Limited, May 2010, until he retired from Newswatch Communication Limited, on May 5, 2011, alongside other directors.

Agbese, is a past winner of the Pitman Prize Award, Columbia University and several other awards. In addition to contributing chapters to several books on Nigerian politics, he has also authored nine books:
  1. Newswatch Stylebook
  2. Fellow Nigerians: Turning Points in the Political History of Nigeria, 1966 - 1999

  3. Nigeria, their Nigeria
  4. Babangida: Military, Politics and Power in Nigeria
  5. Style: A Guide to Good Writing,
  6. The Reporter's Companion and
  7. The Columnist's Companion: The Art and Craft of Column Writing
  8. The Energy Crises in Nigeria and
  9. In the Service of My Country: Selected Speeches of Abdullahi Adamu.
Agbese currently keeps a column in the Guardian newspapers and runs May Five Media, a media consultancy with Ray Ekpu, Yakubu Muhammed and Soji Akinrinade.


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