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At 70, The Guardian pioneer Sports Editor, Ojeagbase, reminisces on his path to Complete Sports

By Samuel Ifetoye
31 December 2020   |   4:15 am
Dr. Sunny Ojeagbase’s life is the kind of inspirational story that moves discerning youth to a path of greatness usually reserved for those divinely blessed.

Ojeagbase

Dr. Sunny Ojeagbase’s life is the kind of inspirational story that moves discerning youth to a path of greatness usually reserved for those divinely blessed.

From a young man, who could not further his education on completion of his primary school studies, Ojeagbase rose to become a soldier, publisher, a pastor and an inspiration to many budding writers.

Born Emmanuel Sunny Ojeagbase 70 years ago today in Osogbo, Osun State to Mr. Johnson and Mrs. Janet Ojeagbase, the newspaper proprietor has gone through all stages of life to become one of the finest writers Nigeria has ever produced.

Inspired by the book “Seven Laws Of Success,” Ojeagbase has been able to toe the path divinely created for him to birth Nigeria’s first all sports newspaper and also establish other lines of business when so many of similar family background have not been able to rise above their lowly station.

Originally from Uzebba, Owan West Local Government in Edo State, Ojeagbase began his primary education at the St. James Primary School, Osogbo, where he got his First School Leaving Certificate in 1962. As a result of the poor condition of his father, the young Ojeagbase, who could not further his education after primary school, was forced early in life to start fending for himself.

Reminiscing on his formative years, Ojeagbase told The Guardian yesterday, “I lived in Osogbo until I was 18 years old… that was after I finished my primary school education in 1962, which began in 1957. I later joined the Nigerian Army in 1968 during the Civil War.

“My father fought during the Second World War and I found myself also in the Army. I pray we are not going to have another one again in Jesus name. After I finished my first leaving school certificate, I couldn’t proceed further in education due to my mummy’s sickness, as every of the family’s meagre resources were channeled towards taken care of her.

“I had another opportunity through the Western Region’s scholarship offer. Even though I passed the exam, I couldn’t make the grade needed for the scholarship and that was how the hope of furthering my education was stunted. My father asked me what I wanted to do next? I told him of my interest in typing and shorthand.

“I did that for about six months before I decided to become a mechanic. But just two days later, I went back and told him I didn’t like the greasy environment at the mechanic workshop. So, I made another choice and became an apprentice in printing. I did that for five years, which was what I signed for and just about six months before graduation I changed my mind again and joined the Nigerian Army. The short time training I had both in typing and shorthand and as a mechanic helped me a great deal in the Nigerian Army,” he said.

Determined to rise above his financial situation as a non commissioned officer in the Nigerian Army, the young Ojeagbase left the force after 10 years having attained the position of corporal. That was when he stumbled on a pamphlet that eventually set him on a course that would define his life.

During his years in the army, Ojeagbase had negatively taken to betting to augment his meagre income.

“In the Army, I was posted to the Nigeria Army School of Military Engineering and I was there until I voluntarily discharged myself from service as a military engineer. I was a corporal with two stripes in 1978, which was roughly 10 years after I joined the Army. During my years in service, I found a pamphlet titled the ‘Seven Laws Of Success’ by Herbert W. Armstrong, the founder of Worldwide Church of God.

“In that book, the author listed seven steps that one could take to become successful and I followed the prescription seriously. Before then, I had fallen into the habit of betting, hoping for the big money to feed my goal, which was to have enough to take care of my dad and my siblings. In the course of doing all that, I got married at the age of 20 and I had my first daughter. With the pressure of raising a young family, I couldn’t make ends meet with my salary and I started betting and hoping for the big win that would take care of my financial insufficiency and all of that. But instead of winning big, as I thought I would, I went heavily into debt.

“So, in April 1974, I had a divine encounter after reading that pamphlet, Seven Laws Of Success. And I decided that pool betting wasn’t going to get me anywhere and I sought and met Jesus. I gave my life to Him and began reading my Bible and I started mending my ways. While all of these were happening, the challenge of making ends meet was still there.

“But I had an encounter with the Scripture, Matthew 6: 33, where the Word of God says: ‘Seek ye first the kingdom of God and its righteousness and any other things that I am looking for will be added unto me’. I then said I hope whoever that was making that promise to me meant it’, because I told myself that I was definitely going to take a chance on it. So, I started learning how to quit my pool betting way. In 1972, the Nigerian government had begun paying the civil servants and others what was called Udoji Award. But the award didn’t get to the turn of the Nigeria Army until 1974 and when I was paid, I took the opportunity to settle all the debts I had incurred from betting. So, I barely had just enough money left to buy four chickens for my family, which was all they had from that bountiful award”.

The journey to becoming a journalist and eventually a publisher for the young Ojeagbase began when he purchased a GCE form for N150 from the Udoji Award. His decision later gave way for the manifestation of God’s glory in his life and the ministry. He started helping others achieve their goals in life through a Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO), which he established.

“I managed to use N150 from the proceeds of the award to register for the exam success correspondent course then located at Yaba at that time. That was the only investment I made out of the award, and I put my mind into studying very well for the GCE, which I passed to the glory of God. I made an A in English and I was the only person in my local government that year with that grade. And that gave me the boldness and courage to step out and decide to pursue journalism with specialisation in sports writing because I had asked if I could take the advantage of the English Language, which was what God opened me up to see.

“So, I registered for the London School of Journalism Correspondence course. As I was doing it, by June of 1976, I wrote my first freelance sports article for The Nigerian Herald of Kwara State. When it was published, I was so excited. That was how my career in sports writing took off. I graduated from writing for the Nigerian Herald, which was a state newspaper to writing for the New Nigerian, which had a wider readership back then and from New Nigerian I went to Daily Times all as a freelancer.

“By then, sports writing had become a consuming passion for me. When I left the Army, I came to Lagos, first to the New Nigerian and then to the Daily Times. I had the option of working for either of them, by then they knew me because I contributed regularly to their newspapers. But my love was for Daily Times, so I pitched my tent with them, where my boss, then the late Mr. Babatunde Oshuntolu (ESS Bee) took interest in me and adopted me like his own son and polished my career. But to hire me became a challenge. It was a challenge because the company was not employing anybody. I became focused on contributing articles almost in all the publications of The Daily Times, so much that in some months, they will count the numbers of articles that I wrote and it will be totalling between N500 and almost N600. Then one of the senior persons at Daily Times management raised a point that if I was good at earning that much money as a freelancer, why were they wasting money by paying me so much as a freelancer when they won’t pay me more than N150 as a staff. That was because I was making more than N500 monthly from different publications, Daily Times, Lagos Weekend, Times International and Evening Times. That was how they hired me in April 1,1979”.

Ojeagbase worked for Daily Times and when The Concord Newspaper was established in 1980, by June of that year, he was enticed to the new publication, where he worked for Sunday Concord.

He recalls, “I became a sports reporter at The Concord. Shortly afterwards, I was promoted as the Group Sports Editor of The Concord Newspapers in 1982 unto God’s glory! Meanwhile, I had set my mind on working with The Guardian that was about to start off at the time. And when The Guardian took off, I became the pioneer Sports Editor. And I was with The Guardian from 1983 to October 1984.

“I then left to establish what is today known as the Complete Communications Limited, publisher of the first all sports newspaper, Sports Souvenir, and later Complete Football, and Complete Football International. And After 10 years of publishing, I was led to starting an NGO where I introduced the use of Internet to Nigerian youths and so many other things we did on that platform. Some of the youth we were able to raise by the power and glory of God are doing very well in their businesses. Today, they have become great employers of labour. I can tell you, that has been the journey till date and those are the highlights of what God have used me to accomplish in this country.”

Reminiscing on his days at The Guardian, Ojeagbase said, “some of the landmarks that the paper’s sports pages achieved through God’s grace were that the pages were by far the most outstanding and the most read, creative, innovative among other sports pages in 1983 when we took off. Our coverage of the 1984 Olympics in USA, the Wimbledon, and other local sports were outstanding. Our sports pages were the most talked about in town. At that time, I got letters of commendation from my ‘oga’ back then, Mr. Lade Bonuola, who was also the pioneer Editor of The Guardian.”