For Lewis Obi By Babafemi Ojudu

imageMy mind wondered this morning to one of the men who had a great influence on my life and my career as a journalist. I have not heard of him in a long while. The last I knew was that he now resides in US . His name is Lewis Obi.
Obi gave me additional wing to fly when in 1987 he was prodded by Bayo Onanuga to hire me to be a Staff Writer on African Concord Magazine owned by late Basorun MKO Abiola. Before then I was a reporter with The Guardian hired immediately after youth service at the University of Ibadan to report today’s news today for the afternoon newspaper, Guardian Express.
Obi was a writer of writers. I still continue to wonder why he has not done a book, if he has not, and why we no longer hear or read from him.
It was not yet the days of the lap top, ipad and the phones that can do more than make calls then.
It was the era of the long hand writing. Obi will sit down in his office on a Thursday evening after seeing to the editing of other sections of the magazine and craft his opinion piece. Head bent over his desk he will caress his paper and pen the way a painter does his canvas and brush. His pieces were a delight to read. Readers didn’t get to know the effort he has put into crafting those pieces. It must have been a gruesome labour then for our newsroom typist Mr Adeyemi aka Old Soldier, who I am told is late now, to wade through the scripts and make sense out of the jumble of Obi’s writings in the process of attempting to attain perfection.
With the assistance of Bayo Onanuga, my brother, friend, colleague and later business partner, Obi deployed me across Nigeria and Africa to report politics , political and social strives, governments; around the country conversation with juju men and herbalists to find out the truth or otherwise in their claims. Mine, what didn’t I see? Who didn’t I meet? What didn’t I eat? Where didnt I go ? What didn’t I experience?
It was on one of such trips to the then Plateau State in 1988 after a civil strife I first met today’s governor of Nasarawa State, Al Makura as a young business man and community organiser. We will not meet again until 2014 in Washington DC after I addressed a gathering of business men and women on investment opportunities in Nigeria.
Wherever you are today Mr Lewis Obi God bless you for the opportunities and the training you gave me. And not just me. Sam Omatseye, Dele Momodu, Seye Kehinde, Victor Omuabor, Frank Igwebueze, Oluwambo Balogun and many others went through your tutelage.
It was a time there was enough resources to get reporters to be on the spot where events were happening. It was a time when we were happy and excited to do what we were hired to do as reporters without looking forward to gratifications
We were principled, we were ethical and fearless. We were rebellious. On many occasions we defied our publisher and published things that put his business and friendship with the Generals in trouble. I remember being sent to Kano to investigate and profile the then Army Chief General Sani Abacha. Abacha got to know and called Abiola to stop us. Abiola called frantically and told us we were playing with the tail of a tiger. I realised the truth about that many years later when Abacha became head of state and I was locked up in prison till he died in office just because I was critical of his regime.
When Basorun Abiola could no longer stomach our rebelliousness and trenchant opposition to military rule we had to quit. That is a story for another day.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *