Goodnight Uncle Duro Onabule

By Bayo Onanuga

I woke up this morning to learn from my own newspaper that my brother Chief Duro Onabule has gone back to his maker. I couldn’t believe the story first until it was confirmed by members of the family. The veteran reporter, editor, columnist died on Tuesday night. He was not ill, it was just his time to leave our world.

Onabule inspired my interest in journalism. He taught me some of the trade secrets. It was from him that I borrowed books on Interpretative journalism, which defined my practice of journalism. In an age when there was no internet or e-library, he taught me to memorise events, speeches, for recall for story backgrounding. He said if I could not trust my brain, I should learn to keep diaries or newspaper cuttings.

On his part, Onabule was an astonishing walking encyclopaedia. I still wonder how he was able to recall what Zik or Awo or Sardauna said in the 50s and 60s, without the benefit of the library. I wondered how he remembered the scores of football matches. He said he mastered not to forget any major thing.

Uncle Duro as we called him encouraged me to follow his footsteps right from my school days when I was writing for Times International, owned then by the Daily Times Group. I once won some money in an essay contest organised by the weekly Times International. It was a confidence booster for me, that I could thrive in journalism after my education. I was an A-level student then at Federal Government College Odogbolu in 1976. After my graduation from UNILAG in 1980, Onabule gave me a note to Lade Bonuola, then editor of Guardian newspaper. This was in June 1983. The then weekly paper was going daily. I had just resigned from OGTV and was eager to practise print journalism. Bonuola had no hesitation in hiring me and I believe I did not disappoint the two of them.

But by January 1985, I was looking for a job again, having left the Guardian amid labour crisis and flirted with the idea of publishing my own Weekly Titbits. The attempt failed and one day in January 1985, as I walked into Concord to see him, he offered me a job on the Features Desk, where he had been before he became editor of the paper. I took the job and remained a member of the Concord family till April 1992. Onabule left me in Concord to join Babangida’s government later in 1985.

However the media repression of the Babangida era strained the relationship between the protege and the master. He did not understand why the magazines I edited attacked the Babangida dictatorship, and I did not see any reason we should not have done so, for the sake of the democracy we have today.

After leaving Babangida’s government, Onabule returned to the media. He was a columnist in The Sun, until he died. Once a newspaperman, always a newspaperman. He was one till death.

May his soul rest in Perfect Peace. Amen.

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