For many of us who worked with the late playwright, Novelist and Journalist, Dr. Onukaba Adinoyi Ojo at the old Daily Times of Nigeria Plc his untimely death a fortnight ago is akin to one life taken in cold blood that is more than a thousand fell down in a pogrom. He was a fine gentleman and unarguably one of the best and fertile minds in the Journalism profession. An unassuming young managing Director of the then largest and oldest newspaper conglomerate, Onukaba like his predecessors; Dr. Yemi Ogunbiyi, Tunji Oseni among others brought a kind of intellectual revolution into the Media establishment.
Onukaba as many called him particularly brought intellectual discourse into Journalism practice and indeed ensured that merit was the order of the day. Taking cognizance of the place of the June 1, 1926 tabloid in the history and evolution of the NIGERIAN press, Onukaba believed that the Daily Times of old was a national newspaper that should ordinarily be a sacred place for all.
Some of the steps he took before the eventual privatization of the Daily Times may not have gone down well with some critical stakeholders but he unarguably took some courageous steps to reposition the conglomerate. No doubt, he left his foot print as the one but last helmsman of the former Daily Times before the eventual privatization.
On a personal note, Onukaba was my big brother. He was fair and just to me. He met me when I was the Chief Correspondent of the Daily Times in Enugu. He spotted me and gave me a leap in my Journalism career. That was in the good old days when you do not need to have a God father before your work would speak for you to get your dues. It was an age when ethics and code of conduct in the practice was like ecclesiastical law otherwise called the canon law in the Catholic Church. The laws were sacrosanct. He found me wort to be deployed to Abuja as Deputy Political Editor. In less than two years, Onukaba promoted me as the newspaper’s political Editor. Even when I opted to quit in the last days of the old Daily Times, Onukaba and the management team including his successor Edwin Baiye and Hakeem Bello rejected the resignation letter saying “Paul, we have a mission here, you must not go. Let’s do it together.” However, fate dictated otherwise as that was not to be when the Daily Times was sold to the then “highest bidder”.
Honestly, I owe Onukaba a great deal of gratitude. He gave me a challenge that made me a better Journalist and a better person. Even when we lost the proposed management buy back of the Daily Times to the current owner; Folio communications, our relationship grew even better and stronger. He followed my progress on the job with my new employers. He counseled me as often as possible. He was truly my big brother.
When the news filtered into town on Monday morning that our own Onukaba had accident and passed on to the great beyond, it was like a thunder storm; a huge shock and truly devastating to me. How and why Onukaba? oh Death, so cruel. Many Nigerians across the divide have continued to pour encomiums on the erudite scholar since his demise for he was jolly good fellow. It was a painful exit but with total submission to will of the Almighty.
For many reasons, Onukaba’s death is one too many. Here was a man who lost his wife few years ago and has been struggling as a widower to carter for their three kids still in their teens.
And here was a man who offered himself and his skill to lead Kogi state as governor but the murky political and junky environment would not give room for decent men to thrive. And here was a man who had a great dream for our country; a sweet dream of an egalitarian society where every citizen is free to pursue his or her legitimate ambition in any part of the country and beyond without fear of molestation or intimidation. Unfortunately, death denied him the opportunity to realize the dream. But one thing is sure, his dream lives on.
In Onukaba, the nation and indeed the literary world has lost an intellectual giant, a philosopher and a pathfinder of sort. One can submit without fear of contradiction that Onukaba was a patriotic NIGERIAN who worked and believed in the sanctity of the unity and peace of the country.
It is sad to note that Onukaba is no more. He was such a lively gentleman who was passionate about the economic and Socio-Political development of Nigeria. He left some landmarks while plying his trade as a pen pusher; a legacy of truth, integrity, honesty, equity and resourcefulness. It is incumbent on the living especially the media to be mindful of these ideals and strive hard to sustain them so that Onukaba’s dream of a new Nigeria would not die.
Rest in peace till we meet to part no more. Good night, great man.
MUMEH was the Political Editor of the old Daily Times of Nigeria Plc.
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