Media icon, Oparadike: A tribute
Foremost media icon, consultant and manager, Chief Innocent Oparadike, passed on quietly at his Lagos home on January 23, 2017 after a fruitful and fulfilled life in the media world. He died at the age of 65 from cardiac arrest according to reports. While Oparadike may not have lived very long to enjoy the fruit of his labour, what matters is not how long but how well. His indelible marks on the sands of time are there to speak for him. It is amazing he was not given national honour.
Born in Owerri, Imo State on November 22, 1950, young Oparadike attended Ogwa Central School, 1956-1962 and later Obazu Community Grammar School, Mbieri from 1963 to 1971. The Nigerian civil war, no doubt, disrupted his early educational pursuits like every other young person in the then Eastern Region. Soon after the war, he completed his secondary school education and proceeded to the University of Nigeria, Nsukka (UNN), 1972-76, where he obtained a degree in Mass Communication, graduating in First Class. After his National Youth Service Corp assignment at the Programmes and News Department of Radio Nigeria in 1977, he went to the University of Lagos (UNILAG) for his Masters degree in Mass Communication. Oparadike was a Management Trainee at the Centre for Management Development (CMD), Lagos, from 1977-78.
Having acquired solid professional education as a top rate journalist, he was made the Editor, News Agency of Nigeria, 1978-80 and later Group Political Editor/Columnist of National Concord Newspapers from 1980-83. He also served as the Editor of The Democrat, 1983-84 and Deputy Editor, New Nigerian Newspapers, 1984-87. His landmark journalistic attainment came when he was made Editor of the Kaduna based Federal Government daily, New Nigerian Newspapers, from Deputy Editor, 1984-87 and then Group Managing Director of Daily Times of Nigeria (1995-1996.
Aside journalism, Chief Oparadike served as the National Director, Information and Publicity, Directorate for Social Mobilisation (MAMSA), 1987-90; Leader of Freedom Communications Ltd, 1990. He was Consultant, Technical Committee on Privatisation and Commercialisation; Council member, Commonwealth Press Union and Governing Council, Imo State Orientation Agency and later Commissioner for Information and Culture, Imo State.
Oparadike was also a member of the Nigerian Institute of International Affairs (NIIA); Nigerian Economic Society; Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ) and Nigerian Guild of Editors (NGE). A practicing Christian, Oparadike was a Knight of St. Christopher in the Anglican Communion. He also held the traditional title of Chinyereugo of Amurie Omanze.
Chief Oparadike braced the trail and recorded landmark achievements most people of his generation, especially, in Igbo land could not achieve. For him to have made First Class at UNN shortly after the civil war showed that he was a special breed. Few young people went to school in Igbo land at the time talk less university.
Perhaps, it was in that context that Oparadike was appointed Editor of the Kaduna-based New Nigerian Newspaper, despite being Christian and Southerner. No other Southerner has ever held that post. He captured the feeling in one of his articles, when he wrote that “In 1985, Babangida broke the glass ceiling, brushed aside threats, blackmail and high level conspiracy to make me the editor of the Federal Government-owned New Nigerian Newspaper. I thus became the first and only southerner and Christian to edit the New Nigerian.” He was brave and courageous to be used to test Nigeria’s unity. His untimely death has shocked a lot of people both in and outside the media industry. Since he died, scores of people have paid glowing tribute to him.
Acting President Yemi Osinbajo, in his reaction paid glowing tribute to a journalist par excellence. The Acting President “believes that the late Chief Oparadike, who had a distinguished career as a journalist and administrator will long be remembered by his colleagues and admirers for his profound decency, uprightness and boldness.” He salutes Oparadike’s sterling leadership qualities, dedication and brilliance during very challenging times of our nation’s history, particularly, as Editor of the Federal Government-owned New Nigerian Newspaper and later as managing director of the Daily Times. He extended condolences to the family, government and people of Imo State on the death of Oparadike, a former Commissioner for Information and Culture in the state.
Similarly, former Editor of the defunct Post Express, now a Canon of the Anglican Church, Okey Ifionu, described Oparadike as “a global brand and thorough bred journalist,” who served as a model to many in the industry. He said by Oparadike’s exit, the journalism profession has lost one of its finest practitioners.
Commenting in a mournful mood, National Secretary of Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ), Shuaibu Usman Leman, described Oparadike’s passage as a huge loss to the media industry. He said with his successful antecedents as a media professional, Oparadike was an intelligent, eloquent, persuasive and aggressive man in pursuit of set goals, adding that he was a man of integrity who could not be compromised.
The Abia State Commissioner for Information and former NUJ president, Bennie Iwuoha, said, “Sir Innocent Oparadike was exemplary in several ways. He was an outstanding journalist who maintained high integrity in the discharge of his responsibilities. He sustained and maintained the ethics of the profession.
The immediate past president of Aka Ikenga, Chief Goddy Uwazuruike, described Oparadike as a motivator and philosopher par excellence. His admirers saw him as a straightforward person and a man of great conviction, strong principles and cast-iron will.
A mourner who wrote on Oparadike’s Face-book said, “I’m speechless and sad to learn of your demise, Chief. You were such jovial, kind-hearted and intelligent man, supporting my charity projects for the less privileged ones in our society.”
I met Oparadike during one of the Aka Ikenga meetings, which I believe he was one of the founding fathers. It was Chief Goddy Uwazurike, president of Aka Ikenga, who called me to come and see one of the founding fathers of journalism in Nigeria. After introducing me as journalist and member of The Guardian Editorial Board, Oparadike shook my hands, asked how I was finding the job and encouraged me to work hard and be steadfast. I saw him as a guru in the journalism profession in Nigeria and one of those who laid the foundation of the job we are doing today.No doubt, we all will miss him. May God grant his soul eternal rest and grant his family the fortitude to bear the irreparable loss.