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Stanley Macebuh: A personal tribute (2)

By Yemi Ogunbiyi

STANLEY MACEBUH was, in the finest sense of the expression, an engaging intellectual. His effortless command of the English language, derived in part, I suspect, from his sound grounding in the classics. That background imbued him with a brevity of style that was outstandingly refreshing.

This background in the classics manifested itself in his writings, not just in form but also in substance. Consider, for instance, his quintessentially brilliant and crisp piece on Chief Bola Ige after his all-night brain-storming encounter with Chief Ige at Government House, Agodi.

Entitled Cicero of Agodi, Stanley, in this concise piece, dug deep into his knowledge of the classics, drawing implicit parallels between Chief Ige and the ancient Roman philosopher, lawyer, orator and political theorist, Marcus Tullius Cicero.

But Stanley’s choice of the Cicero parallel may have been inspired by a less flattering consideration than was perceived by many when the piece first appeared. For instance, Cicero, whose career as a statesman was marked by inconsistencies, was also a sensitive and impressionable personality who was prone to over-reaction in the face of crises.

Obviously, Stanley saw a similarity in the careers of both Chief Ige and Cicero and explored it in a way that made an oblique statement on Chief Ige’s own equally complex and challenging political career. In other words, the choice of Cicero in the context of that piece, invoked a lot more about Chief Bola Ige than could have been said in words. This approach encapsulates an important aspect of Stanley’s style – at once erudite, cerebral, deep and profound.

Without question, he gave the Guardian all that he had. When he taught us to believe that the Guardian was the “flagship of the Nigerian press”, this was not for him a mere slogan or marketing gimmick. He intensely believed it, worked for it, lived it and swore by it; which was why his fractured departure from the Guardian hurt him almost beyond comprehension. It would be quite fair to argue today that after his departure from the Guardian, he never, to the end, regained the composure of the Guardian years. Indeed, that departure may have set in motion a chain of events that led to bouts of disillusionment he experienced in his later years.

A pleasant and amiable man, his shyness masked a measure of diffidence which got mistaken, sometimes, for aloofness or even snobbishness. If he considered you bright, nothing else seemed to matter; you could get away with murder! Ever so impatient with formalities, he came across, especially in his younger years, as constantly in a hurry. Yet, he had an inherently opposite capacity to patiently listen attentively to the other side of an argument even where the point being made had been overstated.

In the end, I think he felt let down by quite a number of friends who could have helped out when he needed help, but turned their backs on him. When I spoke to him on the Thursday before his death on Sunday, he was tired and unwell, but otherwise, he was at peace with himself. He was far too polished and refined to hold anything against anyone. He thought it far too uncongenial to blame anyone for his seeming mistakes or set-backs. He just went on with his life, taking responsibility for everything, including the things he got wrong.

Without question, Stanley Macebuh was a beautiful human being, kind, considerate and accommodating. He was unquestionably a mentor and a brother, whom I owed more than I could ever have repaid him in a lifetime. For, had he not invited me to join the Guardian team in 1983, had he not literally dragged me from my university job, my life would have been different today. Obviously, my media career would never have happened, including, of course, my memorable experience at the Daily Times.

It was an honour to have known him and a rare privilege to have been considered a close friend by him. I could never forget him. And as we commence his funeral ceremonies this week and bid him farewell, let us do so, not with pain and tears, but as Stanley would have liked, in thanksgiving, for an eventful life that made huge differences in the lives of others.

Dr. Ogunbiyi writes from Lagos.


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