Boni Opute: A spirit unbound
This third stanza of the old Christian hymn (Fading away like the stars of the morning) by the Scotsman, Horatius Bonar seems to capture the essence of Boniface Opute.
BM as most of us grew fond of calling him is like a spirit unbound. Even in death, you can’t help but wonder whether he is truly gone; whether he can actually be gone! The news of his demise comes upon the hearer like a thunderbolt!
This must be because BM was true and he indeed encapsulated truth. I am tempted to believe that here and in the realms of the afterhere, BM marches on, a spirit unbound.
He was true to himself, he was true to all that encountered him; truth was the seed he sowed and his quintessence. As evoked in the song above when everything else has passed away and is forgotten, only the good seed we sowed shall be remembered.
BM passed away on the Monday April 9, 2018 (age 63) after a brief illness that seemed too timid to be able to wrestle down such feisty spirit until his last moments. None of us saw it coming; he was still strong and convivial until the last day.
I first encountered BM early 1993. I had just been appointed the Assistant Editor in charge of the Arts Desk of The African Guardian Magazine.
Sully Abu had a few months earlier been made MD/CEO to revamp the waning title in The Guardian stable. He was head-hunting all the best hands he could find.
Dapo Olorunyomi edited it briefly, succeeded by Debo Adesina with Fred Ohwahwa was Associate Editor. Also among the plucky class Abu assembled quickly for the turnaround mission were: Jewel Dafinone, Dulue Mbachu, Ima Niboro, Abraham Ogbodo, Chukwuma Nwoko, Wale Adeoye; with young Turks like Ijeoma Ukpabi, Ibiba Don-Pedro, Abayomi Ogundeji, GRA Adeoti and Ronke Olawale, among others.
This team quickly turned the magazine around in no time, but with some help from the June 12 politics of 1993 and beyond. We were to be tagged The June 12 Journal and we knew deep-down that we played gallant roles leading to the 1994 closure of The Guardian Newspapers by the Gen. Sani Abacha regime.
Boniface Opute was the ebullient Business Manager of that glorious team, marshaling adverts and driving sales. That was where he picked up the BM tag. I met him there and we didn’t only take to each other, we became inseparable ever since.
Ten years later, again led by Sully Abu as MD/CEO in 2003, we were to start-up Newage Newspaper, the elite journal that was ahead of its time. I was editor and he General Manager though we still called him BM.
It was here that our friendship grew into brotherhood and fondness became intimacy more filial than even brothers could manage. We worked together, we hung out together and we did escapades as any goodly duo would do.
There goes a man who had swag before swag got a good name; a man truly with no cant, he probably imagined himself one of the cool characters out of James Hadley Chase and he lived it till the end.
BM was at home with Aretha Franklin and Quincy Jones the way he would mine Jay Z or Jah Rule. His walk, his speech, his dressing and his fitness regime; you saw a man who modeled his life on good and goodliness.
He lived; and I dare say, he gave live a bloody nose… no a few fond memories did he behind.
Truly a spirit unbound, I didn’t know he never saw the walls of any secondary school until an eulogies session a few days after his death. He had been sent to Lagos I was to learn, to train as a mechanic of sort after primary education at home.
As the story goes, after only a week, he returned to the village to announce to them that he was never going to do that job. He broke out on his own joining a sales group in Benin City. He later returned to Lagos; enrolled in the diploma programmes of the Institute of Marketing earning their highest diploma amid working as a research assistant in Pascal Dozie’s outfit, ACDG.
He was to leave his unique imprint in the advert department of Vanguard Newspapers and also rose to the position of Advert Controller of The Guardian. BM also earned a Masters of Business Administration (MBA) from the University of Benin.
He was a damned good guy in many respects; he was also a great family man. For many years, he relished making breakfast every Saturday for his family and they would look forward to Daddy’s special recipes.
A man of immense honour and respect for others, he had the grooming of the British even though he never lived in England… BM was indeed a great man; a rare spirit in ascent, soaring into eternity…
Fare thee well my brother and friend. May the good Lord grant your genial wife, your lovely children, family members and all your friends who knew you, the heart to bear your painful exit. May you find peaceful repose in the bosom of the Lord Jesus Christ Amen.