By Tunji Bello
It was a bright day in the late summer of 1991. As the Group Political Editor of the Concord Newspapers, I had been following the series of Political articles contributed to our publications from outside. There was one particular writer that I developed interest in. The person was Louis Odion. I had asked my Deputy then, the serial Literary Award Winner, Sam Omatseye who this Louis Odion was and where does he write from?
Sam said he had just discovered that the young man was working in our Advertisement Department. Immediately, I walked out of my office to the Advert Department on the ground floor. On getting there, I asked who Louis Odion was and he stood up to identify himself. I didn’t say a word but walked up to the Advertisement Manager, Mrs. Tola Adesanya and asked her if she would allow me to seek transfer of Louis to my department giving her the reasons.
Wonderful woman! She never objected. It was after I left her that I went back to Louis to inform him of his impending transfer to the Political Desk in a few days and his change of designation to Political Reporter which signalled the commencement of Louis’ journey as a Journalist.
Louis resumed the following week and everyone welcomed him as a member of the Political Desk family, even though, he had no reportorial experience but was attached to one of our most experienced political correspondents since the Second Republic. Before we knew it, Louis adapted easily. Apart from his writing skills which were most profound, his brilliance, analytical skills, friendly disposition and his inquisitive attribute which combined with new learning skills in political reporting were awesome. This made me to take special interest in him.
In the first place, we had broken a rule to have him. No one was allowed into our Political Desk without a university degree. Louis had an OND from a Polytechnic hence he was informed that he urgently needed to further his education in order to attain his university degree while still working. He luckily got a direct entry admission into the University of Lagos through JAMB. In three years, he graduated with a second class (upper division) while at the same time working hard and commendably as a Political Reporter. Two years after, he got his Masters degree again.
The most interesting thing is that Louis and I became very close that there was nothing going on in his family that he didn’t tell me. We became brothers and I found him very dependable on any mission. His main partner was another Media Merit Award Winner, Segun Adeniyi who joined our Desk from African Concord. With this combination (Odion and Segun), our Political Desk became unstoppable and unrivaled. To crown it all, we had also recruited from Punch Newspapers, one of its brilliant political correspondents, Victor Ifijeh currently the MD/Editor-in-Chief of highly flying NATION Newspapers.
Louis’ reliability and loyalty to a cause became manifested during the June 12 crisis. Despite his private and family needs and the hardship created by June 12 imbroglio following the closure of Concord Newspapers by the Military juntas, Louis remained one of those committed staff who stood firm with us. Even when he was persuaded to work for a newspaper temporarily just to survive, he was the first to resign to come and join us when Concord was reopened by late dictator, General Sani Abacha in November 1995.
Louis eventually moved to THISDAY Newspapers serving as a Deputy Editor before he finally attained the position of the founding Sunday Editor of The SUN Newspapers of which I was one of the three consultants including the revered Mike Awoyinfa and Late Dimgba Igwe who helped Senator Orji Kalu in setting it up.
It was no surprise that Louis became a star amongst the Editors. His Sunday Paper became the best selling in the group. This further complimented his previous NNMA and other awards. Thus, no one was surprised when he was eventually crowned with the FNGE, a fellow of Nigerian Guild of Editors.
Eventually, Louis was to join his older friend and brother in politics. When he left the SUN Newspapers as Sunday Editor, despite several appeals by the management to make him stay; we gradually dragged him into politics of his State. When Adams Oshiomole was inaugurated as Edo State Governor, he needed a good Information Manager. Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu had asked me to discuss with Louis an offer to be Commissioner but he declined. It was two years later when the Governor was still not satisfied with his information management that Asiwaju summoned Louis himself and persuaded him to take the offer. He eventually took the offer and served creditably but he resigned for family reasons before the end of Governor Adam Oshiomole’s second term tenure.
We remain till this moment very close and daily share information, knowledge and ideas extensively about politics and our country’s progress. Our families remain one living as neighbours.
It is the hallmark of honour to celebrate such a wonderful and ever reliable brother whose intellectual standing, hard work, brilliant writing skills, principle stands on national issues, progressive thinking, morals, upright pedigree and ever reliable conducts on issues have advanced the society.
He is celebrated at 50. May he live long!
- Bello was former Editor of National Concord; Chairman, Editorial Board of THISDAY Newspapers and Secretary to the Lagos State Government. He currently serves as Honourable Commissioner for the Environment and Water Resources, Lagos.