In the 1840s, the missionaries of the Presbyterian church began to arrive in Nigeria. They settled in Calabar in an area known as English Town. Among this 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. The newspaper was later simply called Iwe Irohin. The newspaper, Iwe Irohin, was published fortnightly (every 15 days) and sold for 120 cowries (Ogofa owo eyo, equivalent to a penny). James Ede, who was trained by Townsend, served as the chief printer of Iwe Irohin.
The newspaper was highly patronized by the few literates of that time living in Egba and the entire Yorubaland. The circulation of the paper was around 3,000 as at that time. The main purpose of setting up the newspaper was to make the new converts read and write. Rev. Henry Townsend himself said that “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 itself, cotton and cocoa statistics, and starting from 1960 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 antagonizing the colonial government, but this didn’t stop Townsend from continuing 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 burnt by the Egba people as a result of cultural and political clash between the Egbas and the British resulting to the expulsion of all Europeans in Egbaland. This brought an end to Iwe Irohin, the first newspaper in Nigeria. Iwe Irohin had already fulfilled its mission which was to establish reading habit in the people thus leaving the people to yearn for news after its demise.
Iwe Irohin was followed by Anglo African 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