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27 years on, do you remember Tunji Marquis?

By Abimbola Alabi
22 October 2021   |   2:40 am
Mr Louis Olatunji Marquis, better known to his millions of listeners on the now-defunct Western Nigeria Broadcasting Service (WNBS, Ibadan), and his chums as “Tunji Omo Marquè”

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Mr Louis Olatunji Marquis, better known to his millions of listeners on the now-defunct Western Nigeria Broadcasting Service (WNBS, Ibadan), and his chums as “Tunji Omo Marquè”, was Nigeria and Africa’s most famous radio disc jockey (DJ), in the 1960s to the late 1980s.

His programmes on WNBS, ” Breakfast Show” and “Soul Source”, were listeners’ delight for originality, elocution, well-researched tit-bits, depth, fun and high-quality music, both local and international.

Tunji Marquis was an encyclopedia of entertainment and fashion news. He read American Motown showbiz news from his palms, as he gushed out with the Nigerian and African versions. His language was cultured, diction was of world standard and his baritone voice was soothing and compelling.

The pioneer radio DJ, Tunji Marquis, sadly died twenty-seven years ago, on 22nd October 1994, aged 52, as he was born on 2nd January 1942. May his noble and creative soul continue to rest in peace. Amen. WNBS, Ibadan, commissioned in 1960 by the Premier, Samuel Ladoke Akintola-led Western Nigeria Government, was to her coverage areas and, of course, listeners, what the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) and the Voice of America (VOA) are to their listeners all over the world. I could boast of WNBS world standard broadcasts, because my dear father, the late Pa AbdulRahim Oladosu Alabi, alias “Right Time”, bought me a Panasonic transistor radio set in 1963.

By his act, father halted the hide and seek game between us over his PYE radiogram and Gerrard record changer. My possession of the transistor radio set made me very close to WNBS, that I could reel offhand the names of the stars in the station (and the sister Western Nigeria Television (WNTV), Africa’s first television), established on 31st October 1959, by the Premier Obafemi Awolowo-led Western Nigeria Government. We celebrated the 60th founding anniversary of the now-defunct station last October. It will be recalled that the retired General Olusegun Obasanjo-led Federal Military Government forcefully took over WNTV-WNBS and similar states-owned stations in Nigeria in 1976.

In my tribute to the late Tunji Marquis, tilted, “The Good, The Bad And The Ugly”, published 27 years ago, exactly on Sunday, 13th November 1994, in the Sunday Sketch newspaper issue of the same date, I described the great era of WNTV-WNBS as defining moments of standard management, merit, creativity and corresponding rewards in Western Nigeria and the Republic at large.

In the broadcasting industry in particular, WNTV-WNBS led in excellent management of men and resources, unbiased news, good programming and inspired commercials. Those were years when news/programmes failures were never heard of, lurid jokes, profane music etc were banned. Listeners were truly informed and entertained, and the larger society was the better for it. Marquis and his contemporaries at WNTV-WNBS were not only good on-air, but they were also equally admirable off air. Well-educated as they were always well dressed. They lived well and were seen in good companies at the right places and time. Perhaps, Nigeria’s well-managed economy in the 1960s to the late 1970s was contributory. None of the stars of the radio, television and the media generally of yore, was guilty of fine ‘bara’, self promotion, cluelessness, misinformation, etc by some of today’s practitioners.

Tunji Marquis was indeed a star on radio. Can I ever forget WNBS? No, never, as the title of a record by the world-renown American singer, Skeeter Davis, goes. It’s on record (record again) that I won the radio station’s highest (cash) prize of 100 guineas, 50 years ago, in 1969, on her weekly Quiz programme, “Any Question”, produced by Chief (then Mr) Dipo Babalola and the late Auntie Remi Sonibare (later Mrs Hamilton). May her kind soul continue to rest in peace. Amen.

I attended the requiem mass for Tunji Marquis at the Catholic Church of the Ascension, New Bodija Estate, Ibadan, Oyo State, that Monday, 7th November 1994. When I sighted some colleagues of the late Marquis, and other mourners at the funeral service, I chuckled that time was getting ripe for the categorization of Nigerians, dead or living, into the good, the bad and the ugly (Tunji Marquis famous programme signature tune, a cut from the popular “The Good, The Bad And The Ugly” film, the programmes on which console was the dutiful Kayode Alatise).

1994 was when Nigeria was under the jackboot military government then headed by the late dictator, General Sani Abacha. I categorized Tunji Marquis among good Nigerians. It’s now 27 years ago that one of the world’s best radio presenters/dj, Tunji Marquis, passed on. May his great soul continue to rest in peace. Amen.