Bob Ogbuagu… 90 cheers for doyen of PR in Africa
Even at 90, Chief Bob Ogbuagu, OON, President Emeritus of the Federation of African Public Relations Associations (FAPRA now APRA) still remains an indomitable PR guru as ever. He clocks 90 today looking vibrant and energetic. The doyen of Africa’s PR practitioners is as strong, professional and a compendium of jokes that he was in the beginning. His date with destiny commenced on Sunday, May 25, 1925, born to a school teacher, Chief Francis Udegbu and Madam Janet Ogbuagu.
Speaking to him at his home in Umuahia, Imo State, a couple of days prior to his birthday, one could not but get the feeling that Ogbuagu still remains himself: a distinguished Public Relations practitioner of repute and one full of professional wisdom and jokes that he has been known for decades of his PR practice. He has received numerous awards for his inimitable contributions to the growth and development of Public Relations in the different regions of Africa.
In 1975, he was in Nairobi at the formation of the Federation of African Public Relations Associations (FAPRA), which later metamorphosed to become African Public Relations Associations (APRA). Delegates from 20 African countries gathered in Nairobi as part of the International Public Relations Association (IPRA) but they seized the moment to form the new association for Africa. The first principal officers included Jessy Opembe, the then president of Public Relations of Kenya as chairman and Carl Reindorf of Ghana as secretary general of the newly formed FAPRA.
Ten years ago, when Ogbuagu clocked 80 years, we all gathered in Lagos to honour this continental man. The crowd was who is who in the media, public relations and advertising. He was elated and thanked the Almighty God for sparing his life to witness his 80th birthday. But this time, we all cannot be in Umuahia where he is celebrating his 90 years but we join him in spirit thanking the Almighty God again for sparing the life of this swash-buckling man to witness his 90th birthday. I guess the next birthday for Ogbuagu, God willing, will be 100 years and on and on, after some of us have long left the scene and returned to our Almighty Creator.
Ogbuagu’s swash-buckling nature tells us a lot about this Teacher’s son as people referred to him in those good old days. He is notoriously noted for working in the main professions, religious and political institutions, and he seems to have made travelling his professional hobby as he travelled to all the continents of the world. It would be hard to write about him without appearing to write a book, as Mr Inomah remarked at his 80th birthday celebration in Lagos 10 years ago.
Ogbuagu’s media career spans the broad communication experience in advertising, public relations and newspaper production, and he made a success of it. After working for John Holt Ltd in 1947, he ventured into journalism and became a publisher and editor of Northern Advocate, a newspaper that was based in Jos. It was there that he joined the Zikist Movement which later changed his life. Unfortunately, he only sustained the publication for seven years. That paper, however, died somewhat prematurely in 1955 when he got on the wrong side of the British colonialists.
The erudite Ogbuagu armed with qualifications from prestigious institutions abroad, has held top positions in the then Eastern Region, the East Central and Imo states. He became a press officer with the Eastern Region Development Corporation there by launching himself into public relations, the profession that is after his heart. Cumulatively, he has put in more than 60 years in those professions. Ogbuagu was later seconded to the Central Office of Information in London to create public awareness about Nigeria during the civil war.
Ogbuagu was remarkable in government and outstanding in Public Relations and other social spheres. He has been an engaging speaker, a great organiser and quintessential Public Relations expert. He has been president of the Institute of Public Relations in Nigeria, president and founder of the Federation of African Public Relations and one and only FAPRA President Emeritus.
He has also been a member of the British Institute of Public Relations, Arab Public Relations Association, Nigerian Institute of Directors and Officer of the Order of the Niger (OON) He is currently a holder of six different traditional titles. He is listed in Who is Who in 1980-1981; 1987-1988; and in the Commonwealth (1982); in Africa (1987); and in Nigeria (1990)
In 1995, Ogbuagu at 70 years old accepted the challenge to be Managing Director/Editor-in-Chief of Champion Newspapers Ltd and held that position for about 10 years. Ogbuagu was also a director of many companies, including Nigeria Glass Industry in Port Harcourt, Hotel Presidential, Golden Guinea, Nigerian Railway Corporation, Luncheon Vouchers (Nig) Ltd, and Eric Advertising.
Ogbuagu loves presentation of papers at PR functions. Why? It is because this allows him the latitude to be himself, to express himself and to crack his professional jokes for which he is well known. He often tells a story of man who goes to a party and enjoys himself very well. He returns home to tell his wife about it. After he tells her all the good things he finds at the party, he says that he has a swell time and wishes you were her (e). But actually, he meant that he wished his wife were there at the party. There are many of those jokes Ogbuagu used to tell and many PR professionals, including yours sincerely, today remember him for that.
Any wonder that he later wrote a book entitled Amazing Grace?
At FAPRA Abuja 2004, we were thinking of what topic to assign Ogbuagu. Suddenly someone came up with Public Relations and the Challenges of Socio-Political and Economic Stability in Africa. Someone on the committee said if you gave Ogbuagu this topic, by the time he presented the paper the conference would be over before it was over. Reason: Ogbuagu would do justice to the paper and he would be speaking on a familiar train by discussing the socio-political and economic stability in Africa and that would end the conference. That was exactly what happened. He really thrilled the audience and by the time he added his professional jokes, he surely made the day for everyone in the audience. This is how African PR practitioners always want to hear Bob Ogbuagu speak ad infinitum.
Amazingly, Ogbuagu has an amazing family: He has been married to Cecilia Chinyere Ogbuagu since 1950. They have six children, three men and three women as well as many grand children and still counting. Have a great birthday Chief Bob Ogbuagu.
• Dangogo is CEO of Timex Communications Limited and Founder, Timex School of Communications, Kaduna