‘Nzekwu was a great manager of men, resources’
• NUJ insists on justice for murdered journalist
Media practitioners have continued to pay tributes to the late Odinigwe Joseph Onuora Nzekwu, who passed away last Friday in Onitsha, Anambra State, his hometown, where he had been living after retiring from active service to the country.
Nzekwu was popularly known for his Eze Goes To School, a children’s book that has impacted on many young people. The author of Eze Goes to School inspired many with a lasting influence of a teacher, writer and editor. The book was very successful and popular that many needed to attach it to his name for others to agree to knowing him when he died last Friday.
Born February 19, 1928, in Kafanchan, Kaduna State, Nzekwu was known for exploring the internal conflicts between the educated Igbo and the traditional Igbo culture in his works. He taught for nine years after obtaining a teachers’ higher education certificate in 1946 and later went on to become pioneer general manager of the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN).
Though Nzekwu was famous for Eze Goes to School, which was published by African University Press, he was also known for his works such as The Chima Dynasty in Onitsha and Faith of Our Fathers.
The writer is said to have led a simple and humble life. He was once quoted to have said, “The fact of the matter is that Nigerians don’t read, they don’t read as much as one would have wanted them to read.”
In June 1960, Nzekwu married Onoenyi Justina Ogbenyeanu, daughter of Isaac Aniegboka Mbanefo, Odu II of Onitsha. He started his career in the federal civil service in January 1956, as an editorial assistant at the then Nigeria Magazine Division, which was in the ministry of information, and within two years, Nzekwu rose to the position of editor-in-chief of the magazine in 1985.
On July 1, 1979, the writer was later confirmed as substantive general manager of NAN. His good works did not go unnoticed when on August 8, 2006; Nzekwu received a plaque with the engraving “Maker of NAN”. The recognition was given to him when the news agency marked its 30th anniversary.
In December 2008, Nzekwu was conferred with the Nigerian national honour of the officer of the order of the Niger (OON).
According to Professor of School of Media Communications, Lagos Sate University, Prof. Lai Oso who was a reporter at NAN when Nzekwu was General Manager, “He was a great manager of men and resources. He was great and fair to all, and he allowed professionalism to flourish. He was a great Nigerian.”
Also, the President of Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), Mr. Waheed Odusile said death was a hereditary end that men must face, saying that though Nzekwu died as an old man, his contributions to the country would not be forgotten. “His contributions to learning in Nigeria would never be forgotten, generations yet unborn would continue to learn from his book Eze Goes To School. He was the founding General Manager of NAN; he was part of the success story of NAN. We all owe it to him for what he deed in the agency which is today the foremost news wire service in Nigeria and Africa as a whole; the vision he had and for bringing to fusion the vision of the founding fathers of the agency,” Odusile said.
In another development, NUJ has expressed shock, over the murder of Mr Famous Giobaro, a journalist with the Bayelsa State owned Glory FM Radio Station last week by unknown gunmen who stormed his residence in Yenagoa the state capital and shot him dead.
In statement signed by its National Secretary, Shuaibu Usman Leman Walin Shadalafiya, NUJ called on the Inspector General of Police (IGP), Mr. Ibrahim Idris to deploy all necessary resources at his disposal to apprehend the killers of Mr Giobaro and bring them to justice.
Odusile said if the murder were work related, it would be very dangerous for freedom of expression. “We have been having too many soft murders in the country especially of journalists. Nobody has been able to tell us who killed Dele Giwa till now, we don’t want this to be swept under the carpet, and we are monitoring the situation and counting on the IGP to bring the killers of our dear colleague to book.
“The murder has once again brought to the fore the precarious security situation in the country where hoodlums, armed robbers and other criminals now strike at will without fear of being stopped by security agents.
“This reign of terror must not be allowed to continue and we call on President Muhammadu Buhari and heads of all security agencies to redouble their efforts at protecting the life and property of all law abiding citizens,” Odusile said.
The body also challenged the Federal Government of its primary responsibility of protecting life and property of all Nigerians and call on the Government to live up to expectations in this regard, stressing that all Nigerian journalists must take extra precaution regarding their safety and not treat any threat to their life with levity but report such promptly to appropriate authority.
“We commiserate with the families of Mr Giobaro and pray God to grant them the fortitude to bear the loss of their dear one, while also praying to God to grant him eternal rest,” he said.
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