On Sunday we lost a giant and colossus of journalism. I cannot claim to have known him closely enough to write about his lifetime and career.
However, Dr. Adinoyi Onukaba Ojo’s reputation, which was clearly ahead of him, gave me a glimpse into his person, until recently. Besides, as a senior colleague — I started my journalism career in the late 1980s in Kaduna — I heard (and read) tales of this prodigy of journalism doing wonderful things with the pen. I didn’t meet him one-on-one until I came on transfer from the Kaduna office of Media Trust to Abuja. Somehow our paths rarely crossed, but we knew of each other from a distance, till we formally met at former Vice President Atiku Abubakar’s media office in Abuja, where Garba Shehu did the introductions. Since then, from time to time, we spoke or met at one event or the other.
All these changed towards the end of last year, when I was drawn to the executive of the Ebira People’s Association (EPA) as a member of the Media and Publicity Committee. The president-general of EPA, Dr. Musa Abdulrahman Adeiza, who was given an opportunity to put a team together, had approached me to join the team. Given my recent adventure (a story for another day) as a political appointee in Kogi State, I honestly didn’t want to have anything to do with the State or whatever was connected to it. I was, and am, still content as a journalist without the glamour that comes with political office.
To cut a long story short, it took Dr. Adeiza a lot of persuasion to convince me to join, and with due respect to all the ‘made’ and influential men and women in the EPA EXCO, it was the mention of Dr. Onukaba Ojo’s name that nailed it for me. And in less than three months, we had a remarkable working relationship. Not minding the fact that he was the Secretary-General, I made recourse to him on media matters, and he was always on hand to vet and edit all materials going to the press.
Taiwo Obe, another veteran journalist and his friend of many years, put it succinctly in his tribute to Onukaba-Ojo thus: “Anyone who is familiar with this wonderful guy—and this is not patronising him—knows that he gives his all to any project he commits to, and yes, he’s truly someone who bears the burden of many, particularly his kin, some of whom won’t think twice before abusing the privilege”.
Need I say more? In the last three months, since the EPA EXCO was inaugurated, the ace journalist and writer turned politician gave his all to the Association. His commitment was unwavering; he was never absent from any meeting, including the emergency one that was called to address the security challenges in the central senatorial district and Kogi State in general. His outing at the last media conference of the Association was particularly outstanding. As usual with artists and writers, he never spoke much, but worked tirelessly from the background.
…it would gladden the heart of Onukaba Ojo, even in death that security problems in his home state, Kogi, and Nigeria, a country he loved and served so much, are resolved at once.
First, when we did our press release on the inauguration of the new EPA EXCO, Onukaba Ojo and I worked together to ensure that all the print media in the country published the story, relying heavily on his vast contacts with the Lagos axis of the Nigeria media space. The second one was the last press conference we had that got the security agency scampering to defend their roles in the Kogi security conundrum, including the recent series of redeployment in the police hierarchy. Rising from our emergency meeting preceding the press conference, it was not expressly agreed to do a press conference or a press release. As usual, Onukaba Ojo and I discussed extensively and agreed that a press conference would have far-reaching effect, and it was his assignment to convince the president-general of the necessity for this. He did and between the two of them, they turned around the content of the press conference that gave it potency and made it to hit the right cord.
Just last Saturday, at our meeting in Lokoja, (he died about 24 hours after), twice I had reasons to whisper to his ears to convey my concern about timeliness and other issues to the president-general. In summary, he was my middleman and a way to the PG’s heart.
For a man who has done so much in the academia, the literary world, and for his community (his biography reads like an encyclopedia of knowledge and intellectualism), his friends in the literary, journalism and political blocs must pull resources (not necessarily money, as important as it is) together to open the Adinoyi Onukaba Ojo library, with the hope that his children will grow up to know that their father might not have left gold, silver and vaults of money, but a rich reservoir of knowledge. It is also expedient that a man, who was reputed for his commitment to education and the media, have in his memory, the Adinoyi Onukaba Ojo Annual Lecture Series.
Finally, it would gladden the heart of Onukaba Ojo, even in death that security problems in his home state, Kogi, and Nigeria, a country he loved and served so much, are resolved at once. Just like Lami Ahmed, one of the EXCO members who was also in Lokoja for the EPA meeting wrote on our WhatsApp group page: “Dr Onukaba Ojo’s last assignment as secretary general of EPA was to discuss the security of lives and property of Ebira people and Nigeria in general only for him to become a victim of same. How else can a man be more committed”?
And what more sacrifice could this intellectual phenomenon have made to his country?