From an uncertain career path to becoming one of the shining lights in Journalism, Catherine Agbo is providing inspiration for many young women in the Nigerian media space.
In high school, Catherine Hembadoon Agbo did not set out to become one of the leading female editors of a national newspaper in Nigeria, in fact, she wanted to be many things and broadcasting was just one of the many options opened for her.A stronger and perhaps more achievable option was to become a Pharmacist even though her parents wanted her to become a medical doctor. “In fact, one of my uncles had reserved a big expanse of land where a hospital was to be built as soon as I qualified as a doctor, where I could practice,” Agbo recalls.
She would, however have none of it. “But that wasn’t my interest, I can’t stand the sight of blood. I was fascinated about medicine and how those tiny hard tablets had the capacity to make someone who was feeling unwell strong so easily and so I was drawn to the field of pharmacy.”
In school she became a member of the Journalism club, taking turns to cast news sourced from newspapers in the school library. But her path to journalism did not materialize until after the compulsory one-year National Youth Service Corps.
” When it was time to go to the university, I applied to study Banking and Finance but was offered Linguistics. So, I accepted it. When it was time for national youth service, I found myself in the media industry through what I’ll call divine providence and here am I today, 10 years on,” she said.
A humble background was not enough to hold Agbo down from achieving her full potentials. With parents who survived on a ‘meager civil service income’, they sacrificed to give her and five other siblings the best education available in her native Benue state. “My father ensured that school fees were paid, books were bought uniforms and other school supplies were provided, there was food for the family and if anyone was ill, they had the best health care and he would always tell you to take your education seriously as that was your inheritance.”
Agbo’s steady rise to the top of her media career did not come on a platter of gold, it was 10 years of consistent hard work, dedication and continuous personal development. In 2007, she arrived at Leadership Newspaper as a ‘youth corper’ , she however impressed her superiors so well she was offered a job as a reporter upon completion of her service year.
The hard work paid off, she rose through the ranks to become the newspaper’s City Editor, Acting Editor, Leadership Friday, Acting Editor, Leadership Weekend, Editor Sunday Leadership and ultimately Editor of Leadership the flagship title.
Agbo’s rise is enough to sign off a successful career in the media, but fate had more in store for her. She was soon appointed the Editorial Director of Leadership, a position in which she supervised all the publication editors in the newspaper stable after which she was redeployed to strengthen a new publication in the stable, the MDA Monthly as Editorial Director, from where she voluntarily resigned in 2017.
Agbo was not one to shy from ‘wearing the pants’ with the men in the media profession, taking on roles ordinarily reserved for men and excelling in them.
“I believe that anything worth doing is worth doing well so when I ventured into journalism, I gave it my best and that, to me, is responsible for the height I have attained”. As a reporter, I never declined responsibility from my superiors and that saw me undertaking roles that were even out of my schedule of duties, but it paid off eventually,”
But she has never faced stereotyping in her career, thanks to hard work and perhaps understanding superiors. “As you may know, in journalism, there are no women, everyone is a gentleman and we are all regarded as such. When editors assign reporters to cover beats, it is not necessarily on the basis of gender, but more about expertise and knowledge of the specific area.
” There may be cases of stereotyping but I was never a victim and as editor, I do not stereotype my reporters on the basis of gender, she said.”
Agbo believes that if women are treated fairly, they would achieve their full potentials and reach the pinnacle of their professions. Hear her: ” The problem, however, is that some of them are not given the chance to succeed or to creatively portray their potentials. People sit in board rooms, make assumptions, take decision, and make excuses on behalf of women, without consulting with the women whether they can accept and handle certain responsibilities, and this is very wrong. ”
Agbo is constantly developing herself and preparing for more challenges ahead. With a B.A (Hons) Linguistics from Benue State University, she bagged a Post Graduate Diploma in Journalism and also holds a Master of Arts Degree in International Relations and Strategic Studies. She is also currently studying for a Masters in Development Communication.
She is well traveled, having attended professional courses, conferences and seminars around the world including the United States, Turkey, South Africa, the United Arab Emirate, Israel, Egypt etc. on International Women’s Day, Agbo has a simple message of goodwill for all women: ” I want to appreciate all the hardworking Nigerian women who have been working tirelessly to bequeath a better country to their children. I want to commend their enterprise and sacrifices and urge them to remain resilient. They should aim for the sky and reach for it. “