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NewsReel 25/5/14 - Dee Bob Ogbuagu at 89

NewsReel 25/5/14 - Dee Bob Ogbuagu at 89

[ Masterweb Reports: Charles Ajunwa reports ] - It is another May 25th. Once again, the great and good people of Nigeria are celebrating one of the greatest and most illustrious Nigerians ever Chief Bob Beremako Ewuolonu Ogbuagu who is 89 today. Though an old man, a very one mad indeed, yet with his spare ascetic frame, he is still looking very dignified and sprightly, wearing professorial and well-mannered solemnity; an old man with life of a youth. An embodiment of spontaneous zest, a man with a vigorous capacity to engage life and living in all their riotous possibilities, a mentor, a senior friend and an intellectual sparring partner. That was the package that fortune gave to the sleepy town of Umuagbom Umukabia Okaiuga, Alaike autonomous community in Ohuhu Clan of Umuahia North Local Government Area of Abia State, Nigeria on Sunday 25th May, 1925 through the family of Chief Francis Udegbu Ogbuagu, a Methodist Church school teacher who retired as a Headmaster of schools, and his wife, Madam Janet Nwannediya Ogbuagu.
 
 
Possessed of a warrior and swashbuckling strain passed down from ancestors and a father who braved western education at a time when it was alien to do that and ended up as the first indigenous teachers of the area; he passed through famous Methodist College Uzuakoli where the language was discipline. Exactly 20 years later, in 1945, Dee Bob had raced through the elaborately spaced out primary and secondary levels of education, passing the Senior Cambridge School Certificate examination in Grade 1 with exemption from London Matriculation. In Uzuakoli particularly, he was arguably one of the most intellectually-gifted and mentally-equipped youngsters of his generation, and not to forget also one of its most ideologically conflicted. ‘Had Bob not become a politician of note, he would have been a formidable scholar and a distinguished professor of literature. Such was his breadth of learning, his wealth of cultural references, his cosmopolitan taste and the acuity of his literary prowess. He was intuitively perceptive and his intellectual antennae honed to precision.
 
 
This octogenarian, the Doctor of Letters, the political pugilist, the prophet, pan- Nigerian patriot and Igbo patriarch jostled for survival first with the Nigerian Secretariat in Kaduna in 1946 as a Third Class Clerk after serving a brief period as Clerk, (Hides and Skins) with John Holt Company Ltd in Gusau, now capital of Zamfara State.. Finding the Job as a clerk in the Secretariat uninteresting, young Bob switched over to the Geological Survey Department in Kaduna as a Geological Assistant.
 
 
Although these jobs appeared to promise an end to his economic struggle, it did not stop Bob from becoming involved in the then growing restiveness in Nigeria against the actions of the ruling British Colonial government. He joined the growing agitation of the people to achieve self determination and freedom from the totally unjustifiable British colonial rule which found its most articulate expression in Zikist Movement. And the story of his earliest active years, after school is the story of his participation, political activism and contributions via Zikist Movement and National Council of Nigeria and Cameroons (NCNC) and sufferings in the hands of the British Colonial government in the morning hours of the Nigerian nationalist struggle, between 1946 and 1955.
 
 
Zikist Movement which was formed in Lagos by a number of young radical Nigerians on February 2, 1946 with Mr. Kolawole Balogun as President and M.C.K. Ajuluchukwu as Secretary, had their largest membership from a crop of young Nigerians between the ages of 20 and 30. These were young men, probably not more than two thousand in number nationwide with no other motivation than the very strong and unshakeable belief in freedom in all its ramifications from colonial rule The Zikist movement was anchored “on the ideology and philosophy of Zik’s book, Renascent Africa which was given flesh by Nwafor Orizu in his book Without Bitterness. Zikists have as their declared aim, “the establishment and fostering of a new society based on promotion of harmony and unity.” That was the moving spirit of the Zikist movement, an affiliate of the political party, the NCNC (National Council of Nigeria and Cameroons), which metamorphosed into the National Council of Nigerian Citizens when Southern Cameroons disengaged from Nigeria. Zikism became a vehicle of political reawakening among the workers and young people. Bob’s assignments, in addition to attending the sessions, were to act as Zik’s ADC both at his residence and at all his engagements.
 
 
To add to their weapon of ideological war, most of the leaders of the struggle established newspapers as further measures of public enlightenment, to take the people to the home and heart of the message of their intensive political struggle. Bob founded the Northern Advocate in 1948, as publisher and Editor, after leaving public service which he effectively deployed to the propagation of the nationalist cause and which was to cost him his freedom. Bob particularly in the Northern Advocate, without any formal training in Journalism, used to write so masterfully and movingly, even as he does today, of the aberrations of the colonialists that his activities brought him face to face with the might of the colonialists. Against the pro-British liberal literatures that were panegyrics of the colonial system, Northern Advocate, under Bob was stern in denouncing the tyranny of the British. According to him, with touching and sometimes incredible examples, he incisively and persuasively showed, through a popular column Tori na Today, how the British had created unnecessary tension/fear and turned the people into mere things, and his ability to communicate in simple language earned him wide readership. That newspaper died prematurely in 1955 when Bob, Publisher and Editor, having been jailed by the British colonial masters for sedition, decided to return to his homeland in Eastern Nigeria.
 
 
Bob remained a frontliner in the Zikist Movement and NCNC Party and served at various levels of the NCNC as Branch President and Secretary. Few of those daring radicals in the anti-colonial political activism, under the umbrella of the fearless and very daring Zikist Movement, with Bob were late Mallam Raji Abdallah of Kano, Chief Dr. Mokwugwo Okoye, Chief M.C.K Ajuluchukwu, Dr. Kola Balogun and still alive, His Royal Majesty, Osita Agwuna, the Eze Nri and Igwe of Enugu Ukwu, Professor Ikenna Nzimiro, Chief Harry Nwana and many others. The NCNC was led by the late sage-Engr. Herbert Macaulay, and, on his demise, the arrow-head, Rt. Hon. Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, Owelle Asowa ayan of Onitsha took over the mantle of leadership.
 
 
A man that sees stumbling blocks as stepping stones, Bob immediately picked the pieces of his life and returned to the Eastern Nigeria. What the North lost with that contrived exit, the government of the Eastern Region gained. For, in the same 1955, Chief Ogbuagu joined the Eastern Region Development Corporation as a Press Officer. Within four years, Bob had occupied all available media-related jobs in the Eastern Region Development Corporation. In 1958, Dee Bob did a short stint with a Film Production Company in London, British. In 1960, he attended a United States of America Leadership Programme.
 
 
In 1960, he was appointed Assistant Secretary to the Eastern Nigeria Development Corporation which, by Law, had taken over the affairs of the Eastern Region Development Corporation and, within one year, was named the Corporation’s Secretary/Chief Administration Officer, a position he held until 1966, when the ravages of the ensuing political skirmishes that brought coups and counter coups all culminating in the Civil War, brought everything to a stand still. During that period, precisely in 1964, he attended the University of Cambridge Conference (Seminar) on economic and manpower development.
 
 
Versatile, hardworking and erudite, in 1977, he attended the Top Management Course at the Prestigious Brookings Institute, Washington D.C.U.S.A. Bob later held other top positions in government as Managing Director, East Central State Government’s Agricultural Development Corporation; Founding General Manager, Imo State Government Agricultural Development Corporation and Commissioner-in-charge, Special Duties, in the Executive Office of the Governor of Imo State as well as the Adviser to the Governor on the operations of all government companies and parastatals in 1980-1981 to
mention but a few.
 
 
Chief Bob Ogbuagu’s career spans the broad gamut of communication experience-advertising, public relations and newspapering, management cum administraion. In the area of commerce and corporate governance, Chief Ogbuagu had been Director, Nigerian Glass Industry Ltd, Port Harcourt (1962-1966); Director, Presidential Hotel Limited (1962-1966); Director Independence (now Golden Guinea) Breweries Limited (1962-1966); Director, Nigerian Railway Corporation (1975-1977); Chairman, Ebony Paints Nigeria Limited (1975-1977); Director, Kaduna Refining and Petrochemical Company Limited (1989-1991) Director, National Commission for Museums and Monuments (1988-1991); Managing Director/Consultant, Union Trust LTD (1981 to date); Director, Luncheon Vouchers (Nigeria) Limited (1982-1998); Member of the Extra-Collegiate Board, Faculty of Business Administration, University of Nigeria, Nsukka (1986-1991). Director, Scan African Nigeria Limited (1981-1998); Vice President, Enugu Chambers of Commerce, Industry and Mines (1972-1980); Member of Council, Nigerian Association of Chambers of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture (1974-1980); Member of Council, West African Chambers of Commerce and Industry; (1974-1978) Director, Champion Newspapers Limited (1988-1995); Managing Director Editor In-chief, Champion Newspapers Limited (1995-2000). when he assumed duties as Managing Director/Editor-in-Chief of Champion Newspapers Limited in 1995 at age 70, indication had started emerging that the amiable humour merchant was headed for, not only a remarkable encore but also a fitting signature tune to his opening salvo in 1948 when he established the “Northern Advocate” daily newspaper in Jos.
 
 
Bob is not a man to stand aloof or sit on the fence while things are going wrong in the country he fought so hard to set free from colonial bondage. It was, therefore, no wonder that Chief Ogbuagu with such other great nationalists as Chiefs Rotimi Williams (SAN) “the law”, M.C.K. Ajuluchukwu, Abraham Adesanya, Senator Dafinone, Prof Ben Nwabueze (SAN) and other set the group of eminent Nigerian elder statesmen known as the Patriots, whose contributions to debates on issues of national importance have been like articulation of the national position on such issues especially during the military dictatorship of Abacha.
 
 



If Bob’s exploits in government have been outstanding, his activities in Public Relations, commerce and other social spheres, are no less remarkable. An engaging speaker, humour engineer, administrator, organizer and quintessential Public Relations expert, Chief Ogbuagu had held every position of consequence in Public Relations associations in Nigeria and Africa National President, Nigerian Institute of Public Relations NIPR (1980-1984). The icing on the cake of his exciting and highly successful Public Relations career, came in 1981 when he was elected President of the Federation of Africa Public
Relations Associations, FAPRA, a position he held until 1987.
 
 
While it is true that Chief Bob Ogbuagu has always used the platform of Public Relations to build goodwill amongst people, perhaps it is in Rotary International and Methodist Church that his most enduring humanitarian tendency had found berth. A five-star Paul Harris Fellow and Benefactor of the Rotary Foundation, Chief Ogbuagu was elected District Governor, for District 911, Rotary International, Nigeria in 1983-1984. For Dee Bob, Rotary International opened tremendous avenues of service and he has a lot to show for it having attended well over 18 Rotary International Conventions. He represented the Rotary International President at some Rotary District Conferences. 
Over the years, Past District Governor (PDG) Bob Ogbuagu has also been appointed to top Rotary International assignments including Regional Rotary Foundation Co-ordinator and Regional Rotary International Membership Development Co-ordinator for Zone 10, Africa respectively. The Rotary Foundation has honoured PDG Bob Ogbuagu with the Citation for Meritorious Service.
 
 
Apart from many other positions in the Church, Chief Ogbuagu has been Enugu Arch Diocesan Lay President (1992-96) and later first Umuahia Arch-Diocesan Lay President (1996-1999) of the Methodist Church Nigeria. He was invested as Knight of John Wesley in 2001. As recently as Saturday May 14, 2010. The National Council of Methodist Church Nigeria Lay Presidents, conferred on Chief Ogbuagu the LAY PRESIDENT MOST OUTSTANDING AWARD on the 25th Anniversary of the Council in Enugu.
 
 
As, perhaps, would be expected, Chief Ogbuagu has been involved in several organizations some of which have honoured him. For instance, apart from being a Life Member of the Nigeria Red Cross Society, Chief Ogbuagu is Fellow, Nigerian Institute of Public Relations, (FNIPR) 1981. Fellow of the Nigerian Guilde of Editors, (FNGE (2001); Fellow of the Public Relations Institute of Ghana, (1986), Member of the British Institute of Public Relations (MBIPR) 1963; Member of the International Public Relations Association (MIPR) 1982; Honorary Member, Arab Public Relations Association 1985; Member Nigerian Institute of Management (MNIM) 1982; Member British Institute of Directors (1982-1989; Member Nigerian Institute of Directors (1983) to date; life Patron Newspaper Proprietors Association of Nigeria (LPNPAN) 2002; President Emeritus Federation of African Public Relations 1992.
 
 
It will be grossly unfair for Nigerian history to forget that Chief Dee Bob Ogbuagu played a frontline role in the establishment and sustenance over the years of Dr. Michael Iheonukara Foundation which he has consistently endeavoured to organize thought-provoking and challenging lectures as well as other activities, all aimed immortalizing Dr. M.I. Okpara, Premier of former Eastern Nigeria who has remained one of the foremost Nigeria Nigerian Nationalists. Better known as “M.I.Power” Dr. Okpara’s legacies are yet to be equaled or matched.
 
 
Chief Ogbuagu’s efforts had not been in vain for, as far back as 1965, an appreciative Federal Government of Nigeria bestowed on him the prestigious award of the Officer of the Order of the Niger (OON). He is the Onu na Ekwuru Oha of Nkwo Egwu autonomous community in Umuahia (1979); the Ome Okachie of Eziama, Aba (1983); Motoye of Ijanikin, Lagos State; (1983) Aka na Achi Mba of Ohuhu (1988); Otun Babagonwa of Mushin (1998); High Chief Oke Osisi Eji Mara Mba of Okaiuga Alaike, 2001.
 
 
He is listed in the Who is Who in the World (1980-1981; 1987-1988); Who is Who in the Commonwealth (1982); Who is Who in Africa (1987); Who is Who in Nigeria (1990). Amidst all these, Chief Ogbuagu found some time to author a book titled Amazing Grace. Chief Ogbuagu is married to Mrs Cecilia Chinyere Ogbuagu since 1950. They have six children –three men and three women, eighteen (18) grand children and one great grand son at the last count.
 
 
As a person he has a magnificent heart, devoid to a large extent of malice and meanness, accommodating and tolerating often to a fault, full of human warmth and affection. It was the heart of a Bohemian poet rather than a great politician. A great politician, but with a penetrating insight into the complex motivation of human actors, their often impulses and the festering possibilities of ancient resentments and imagined slights. Despite his thunderous denunciation and caustic tongue, Bob’s politics was fundamentally too refined, too cultured and too evolved to contemplate going outside the law.
 
 
Fifty four years after the independence they struggled for Nigeria remains the ultimate political engineer’s nightmare: a chaotic amalgam of contending and mutually contradictory nationalities brimming with ancestral feuds, regional and religious animus and the most unfulfilled conglomeration of black souls anywhere in the world. More than half a century of self rule Nigeria has not brought solace and succor to her citizens in general and its Igbo axis in particular. Despite fifteen years of uninterrupted civil rule Nigeria has witnessed neither economic transformation nor industrial expansion.
 
 
If anything, and apart from a few oases in the vast desert, the country has witnessed deepening poverty and the decimation of her people, collapsing educational sector, democratic regression, social and political deviancy and the evisceration of culture of decency. In retrospect, you begin to wonder whether the whole struggle for independence in the face of brutal colonial masters was worth the immense pains and sacrifices. But at 89 Bob is a happy warrior.
 
 
Charles Ajunwa reports from Umuahia, Abia State.
 
 
*Photo Caption – As seen.