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At burial, IBB, The Guardian, Mohammed, others extol Onabule’s virtues

By Sunday Aikulola
02 October 2022   |   2:50 am
Former Head of State, Ibrahim Babangida; Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed; Special Adviser Media and Publicity to President Buhari, Femi Adesina and Managing Director, The Guardian Newspapers, Martins Oloja...

Duro Onabule’s children at the event: Yejide (left) Babafemi, Mobola, Bolaji, Babatunji, Ayokulehin and Oluwaseun

Former Head of State, Ibrahim Babangida; Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed; Special Adviser Media and Publicity to President Buhari, Femi Adesina and Managing Director, The Guardian Newspapers, Martins Oloja were among dignitaries that paid tributes to the late veteran journalist, Duro Onabule, who was committed to mother earth.

At the Evening of Songs and Tributes held in Lagos recently, Babangida said, “his death has left a huge vacuum in my life. I received the news of his passing with shock. It was a bad birthday gift for me this year, my 81st year on mother earth. I didn’t believe the news until I compared notes with a few of my friends, who confirmed the sad news. Nigeria has lost a colossus, a wordsmith, a walking encyclopedia, a reservoir of knowledge and a rich chronicler of history, whose worldview is defined by sheer intellect, content and character.”

Speaking further, Babangida, recalled with nostalgia, the days while in office, “he was not just my Adviser-in-Chief, he was one of our brain boxes, in and out of office. He was a Chief Press Secretary per excellence. He was exemplary. He was punctual and adopted the military way of doing things; especially time management. His rich experience during our time in government helped in no small measure in our decision-making processes. He was a nationalist par excellence. He was a dear friend.”

Fondly called Triple Chief, Babangida lauded his rich sense to recall historical dates, remarkable events and notable landmarks.

Aside from being a resourceful writer, who maintained didactic column in Daily Sun Newspaper, he noted that Onabule was always a delight each time they had to engage in intellectual discourse face to face.

To him, “Triple Chief would be sorely missed. In and out of government, he was part of my larger family, who understood the rationale behind most of the decisions we took in government. May Allah, in his infinite mercies and grace, repose his soul in hereafter. May Allah grant members of his immediate and extended family the comportment and fortitude to bear this painful loss.”

Mohammed, on is part, recalled he had known Onabule for more than four decades, noting that he was the Chairman of the immediate past governing board of the NTA, a position he held creditably.

Describing him as a remarkable presidential spokesman, great columnist, nationalist and patriot, he added that he would be remembered, particularly for mentoring journalists.

Speaking in a similar vein, Adesina also recalled, “I had started reading Onabule in National Concord as an undergraduate in 1980s. I read almost every word he wrote alongside other journalists in the stable like Dele Giwa, Ray Ekpu, Mike Awoyinfa, Dimgba Igwe, Lewis Obi, Segun Babatope, Dele Alake, Chike Akabogu and many others. It was, therefore, a great honour for me to join Concord Press after school, and worked with many of them.”

When he turned 70, and held a celebration at Civic Centre in Lagos, Adesina recalled he was the Master of Ceremonies. He said, “this shows the bond between us. And see the trajectory of his career and mine. He was the pioneer Features Editor of National Concord. I held the same position. He became Deputy Editor of the paper. I also did. He went on to become Editor. I did. He was appointed CPS, I also got appointed Special Adviser on Media and Publicity. He was a writer all his life. I hope to be.”

Conclusively, he described him as “a library burned to the ground on August 16, a day before the 81st birthday of his former principal. Adieu Double Chief. You were a dear senior friend. I’ll always remember you.”

In The Guardian’s tribute, the newspaper said: “The Nigerian media will miss an icon and a leader in the industry. Onabule was a Zikist to the core right from his days at CMS Grammar School. Dr. Nnamdi Azikwe was his hero. The relationship was such that if you requested to have an interview with Dr. Azikiwe at Nsukka or do a story on him, he would ask that you clear with Duro Onabule or Chief Adeniran Ogunsanya in Lagos. Onabule got Babangida to approve naming the Press Centre at Dodan Barracks, the Nnamdi Azikiwe Press Centre. Till the end, all you needed to see Babangida in Minna was a note from Onabule. Their relationship endured till his last moment. For 22 years, Onabule ran a column with considerable following in Sun Newspapers, where he displayed his writing skills and knowledge. President Buhari, too, appointed him Chairman of NTA in his first term.”

The Guardian noted that Onabule could be a fighter where, as Dr. Azikiwe would say, the enemy was clearly identified. Members of the Old Grammarians’ Society (OGS), CMS Grammar School, Lagos, in their message, said Onabule belonged to a very proud and special set. The Centenary Set of 1959.

President of the Society, Olu Vincent, said, “Back then in school, his classmates nicknamed him Editor, which he became in real professional life years after. He would forever be remembered for the role he played for getting our school back from government.”

The members recited the school anthem of their alma mater during the evening of tributes. During the funeral service held at the Cathedral Church of Our Saviour, Ijebu Ode, Ogun State, the Diocesan Bishop, Rev. Peter Oludipe, in his sermon, described the late Onabule as a great, diligent and result oriented man.

Taking his text from Hebrews 9:27, Oludipe observed that life is ephemeral, saying that everyone would die at God’s appointed time.

Like others, he added that Onabule was a philanthropist and a family man, who contributed positively to the nation. To him, “irrespective of our achievements, we will all die and give account of our stewardship. What are you doing to contribute to the growth and development of the nation?

“People die regularly everywhere in the world.. Today, it has become the turn of Onabule. Death is certain, it is the reality of life, whether male or female, young or old, rich or poor, educated or illiterate, all men will die,” he said.

He urged Nigerians to pray for transformational leaders ahead of 2023 general elections. He said: “We should pray that God will give us credible leaders. We should not allow those who have little interest in the welfare of the citizens to dictate the pace for us,”

The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, who was represented by Acting Director General, Nigerian Television Authority (NTA), Abdulhamid Dembos, described the late Onabule as an individual with high integrity and humble.

He recalled, “while he was Chairman, NTA Board of Directors, he was able to impact in NTA to the present level the channel is, he worked in harmony with members. He was a man of the people.” His children also poured tributes and encomiums on their late dad.

The first son of the deceased, Mr. Babatunji Onabule, in his tribute said, “my dad was a good man, God-fearing and I can boldly say that he loved other children the way he loved us. We are going to miss him.”

He assured, “I will have a glass of wine on you every birthday till your 91st God willing. Miss you much. May God grant your passage unto his kingdom.”

One of the sons, Bolaji, described him as the most generous person “I have known. He was always willing to go the extra mile.”

Femi Onabule noted, “he impacted so many lives so much that it brought tears to a young girl when she heard of my dad’s passing away. That’s my dad to many people but to his children, he was just a regular dad.”

Also, Seun Onabule said, “I would prefer to celebrate your life rather than mourn your loses. Our loss is heaven’s gain. A true wordsmith who was forever taking care of others.”

Born on September 27, 1939, Onabule attended CMS Grammar School, Lagos. An orphan at the age of 12, he started his career in Lagos as a journalist/reporter for Daily Express in 1961. Three years later, he joined the Daily Sketch.

During the Nigerian civil war, he travelled to England to obtain Higher National Diploma in Journalism. He continued as a freelance reporter for Daily Sketch before going back to his previous employer, Daily Express, in 1969, where he served as the London correspondent.

On his return to Nigeria in 1974, he joined the Daily Times as a senior reporter/ feature writer, rising to become the Deputy Editor of Headlines Magazine.

When late the late Chief MKO Abiola started Concord Press, he was appointed Features Editor, and then promoted Deputy Editor of the paper in 1982. In 1984, he became the Editor. In 1985, he was appointed Chief Press Secretary to former Head of State, Ibrahim Babangida, a position he held for eight years.

Recently, he also served as Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA) from 2018 to 2021.

In 1985, Awujale of Ijebu Land, Oba Sikiru Adetona, bestowed on him the Jagunmolu of Ijebu Land title in recognition of his courage in confronting the then Ogun State government for an unfair intervention in the affairs of the Ijebu-Ode Royal dynasty. He died on August 16, 2022.