Ogbemudia: A focused humanist and builder
His passage has created a historical chapter in the life of the Nigerian nation, which the nation’s politicians and rulers must be tutored about so as to graduate in leadership role to make the country a better place to live in, irrespective of political camps people belong.
Years back in Lagos when I was a restless creative apprentice solely on my own, I was at the Anthony village residence of Uncle Sam (now publisher of Vanguard titles) to watch a weekly slot of the then Nigerian Television service as I had no TV set of mine.
The duration on the slot was ten minutes: I would sing in my Auchi dialect before going into the main English language deliverance of my short plays. I saw a bulky man relaxed as the slot got to my turn.
Upon hearing my short introductory song, this bulky man in a soothingly arresting diction said … “that young man sang in Afenmai language. You know I am building a television station in Benin City…..”. Uncle Sam was embellished in watching me. He didn’t respond as he has that characteristic attitude of not being diverted from his instant concentration.
Miss. Julie Coker signed out the slot, the bulky man got up, indicating it was time for him to end his visit. Uncle Sam turned to me…….”Usman, you know your military governor?”. Before I could say a word, Uncle Sam continued in his usual un-ruffled and sharp voice, pointing to me………” this is the Afenmai man you just watched on the screen. Usman, he is Colonel Ogbemudia, the military man in charge of your home state”.
I was dumbly speechless and Colonel Ogbemudia to confirm what he heard, turned my face towards the more lighted part of the sitting room and smiled in conformity that I was really the man who rendered a folk song in one of the Afenmai indigenous dialects.
I accompanied Uncle Sam to see off the man in charge of my home state.
He turned to me: “What do you do in Lagos?”.“I work at the Daily Times”, I answered.
“Please try and see me in Benin City next week Wednesday”, he commanded in a relaxed tone.
“I’ll sir, if get my salary before then”, I replied factly.
He turned to a young man, “A.D.C. give him fifty pounds” he ordered.The young man opened a purse he was carrying and pulled the money and gave to me.“That’s your transport fare to come”, he finalized.
After his departure, I returned with Uncle Sam back to the sitting.“Poor man, you don hit jackpot make sure you go. Life wan better for you” he teased.I did get to Benin City, located His Excellency’s office, met his A.D.C who took me upstairs.I greeted him, “Usman, please sit down” pointing to a chair directly in front of him. “How was your journey.”“Fine sir.”
Pointing at me, he said: “Tayo, meet Usman. I watched him on television in Lagos last week. Tell me more about yourself”.
I handed him a folio containing copies of my past writings TV short plays, poems and published articles in newspapers.
As he looked through, he would pass each over to Tayo Akpata. Meanwhile, I observed a satisfactory smile on his face as he flipped through my writings.
The prevailing silence was broken by Tayo Akpata “which University did you attend?” he directed his question to me.
Before I stammered out an answer, His Excellency fired back on my behalf:
“Tayo, Usman wrote all that you have been reading and you are asking him about the University he attended. I watched him on the TV screen. People like him must be encouraged to tap on their creative capability.”
I felt big.At the end, His Excellency enveloped a hand written note, summoned his ADC: “take him” to the MTV chairman (who was then late Paul Izilen, a retired top police officer).The chairman sent for Mr. Peter Javis, a Briton from the BBC London, who was the Pioneer Programmes Manager, also late David Orere and late Solomon Aghedo.
The chairman briefed them on the letter from Governor Ogbemudia. Mr. Aghedo was instructed to issue me a letter of appointment, while Mr. Javis took me to his office to await the letter, which came to me in Mr. Javis’s office. He took and read it, picked a biro, scribbled something on it: “return it to the secretary.”
“I asked what was happening?” “No, I want you posted to production department and not administration.”Eventually, I was employed as a Junior Production Assistant where I assumed producing two slots a week “Moslem Half Hour” and Traditional Dances.”There are certainly others whom Dr. S.O. Ogbemudia changed their lives and I believe I am among the lot.I pray Almighty to grant him peace and also request his siblings to ensure that they add more value to his past contributions in all spheres of human endeavour as this would give him more HONOUR.
Abudah, a journalist, writer and founder of Afenmai Heritage and Cultural Studies, wrote from Benin City, Edo State.