Nsikak Essien: Doyen of Journalism

Nsikak Essien is a name that rings a bell in the world of journalism. He is a renowned editor, columnist, and consummate journalist whose passion for writing has taken him on a journey of a lifetime. With over four decades of professional journalism under his belt, Essien’s name is synonymous with excellence, integrity, and professionalism in the media industry in Nigeria.

As Essien turns 72 today, it is important to reflect on his life and how he became one of the most respected figures in the media industry in Nigeria. Let’s take a deep dive into the life of Nsikak Essien, exploring how he transitioned from engineering to journalism, and his rise to the top of the media industry.

As a child growing up in Uruk Uso village, Akwa Ibom State, Nigeria, Nsikak Essien, like many of his peers, had a childhood dream of being an electrical/electronic engineer. He had prepared himself adequately to engage in that field, earning credits in Mathematics, Physics, Chemistry, Technical Drawing, and was admitted to the University of Nigeria, Nsukka to study for a degree in Electrical/Electronics Engineering. 

He served in the defunct National Electric Power Authority (NEPA), while undergoing the one-year compulsory National Youth Service Corps scheme for Nigerian graduates. Thereafter, the gentleman proceeded to Cardiff in the United Kingdom to study for a Masters degree in his dream profession, specialising in micro-electronics, a branch of electronic engineering, which is the foundation of micro-chip technology. On his return to Nigeria, he worked as an Installation Engineer handling Caterpillar generators for clients of his employer, United Africa Company (UAC)’s Tractor and Equipment division.

But for a twist of fate, he would have been in the engineering sector grappling with integrated circuits or Artificial Intelligence, electrical systems in automobiles, power generation equipment and allied tasks. That was his childhood aspiration, and he prepared himself adequately to engage in that field. On his return to Nigeria, he worked as an Installation Engineer handling Caterpillar generators for clients of his employer, United Africa Company (UAC)’s Tractor and Equipment division.

However, Essien’s love for writing would soon become apparent. He began writing for Business Times newspaper, a publication in the stable of Daily Times, which had a page on consumer affairs. Essien’s hobby attracted the attention and interest of Chief Onyema Ugochukwu and Stanley Egbochukwu, who at that time were editor and deputy editor of Business Times respectively. They tapped him away from his job of installing generators for UAC and writing at whim into the robust hub of journalism in Nigeria. 

That was how the engineer-turned-journalist joined the defunct Concord Press as an ‘Industry Correspondent’ in Business Concord, with Stanley Egbochukwu as the founding editor. He gained promotion as a deputy editor of the Business Times and later, editor of the specialised newspaper. In 1989, he was catapulted to the zenith of journalism practice as editor of National Concord newspaper.

Looking at his journey, one may be tempted to ask why a trained engineer would veer into journalism, a profession that seemingly has nothing to do with his core area of study. But for Essien, there were more similarities between the two than meets the eye. Essien realised that newspaper layout and design were related to technical drawings and engineering design. He also noticed that marketing is critical to both professions. This understanding helped him thrive in the world of journalism.

His life’s work in journalism has been nothing short of remarkable. Essien’s passion for consumer journalism, where he educates consumers on the science behind electronic gadgets, their uses, and the dangers they posed to life and the environment, has set him apart from others. He has always had the consumer in mind, and his writings have made a significant impact on the industry.

Essien has been recognised both locally and internationally for his outstanding work in journalism. He is a fellow of the Nigerian Guild of Editors, a member of the International Press Institute, and was awarded the prestigious Diamond Award for Media Excellence in 2011.


Joseph Omoniyi