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Story of slain journalist: The Edo Ugbagwu we knew, by colleagues

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* His unfulfilled dreams

A testimony to the goodness of a slain journalist

By Wahab Abdulah

Until he was murdered in cold blood Saturday April, 24, 2010 at his residence in Shasha, Lagos, Edo Sule Ugbagwu, The Nation newspaper’s judicial correspondent exhibited no sign of somebody awaiting the cold hands of death.

Ugbagwu, 42, hailed from Oturkpo in Benue State.  A mass communication and English graduate of the Ado Bayero University, Kano, he joined The Nation on July 31, 2006 . Earlier, he worked in The Comet newspapers, now rested. He was shot at close range at about 6.45pm in the presence of his younger brother  that Saturday.

He was rushed to a hospital, but a doctor said he was dead before he got there. Neighbours said the sound of the gunshot shook the one-storey building he lived in.

Barely 24 hours  before he was murdered, he was one of the first set of journalists to arrive early for a press briefing organised by the Nigerian Bar Association, NBA, Ikeja branch to herald programmes lined up for its annual law week.

As the chairman of the judicial beat, Ikeja, this reporter had  accosted him, asking why he was sitting down at the back row, in spite of the fact that he came early. Ugbagwu just shrugged his shoulders, saying, “I am comfortable here. I am sure, I will hear them very well from here”.

At the press conference which turned out to be his last official outing, he participated actively asking questions on why the NBA was taking the initiative of instituting an annual lecture in honour of the late Alao Aka-Bashorun, the former NBA president.  Subsequently, he took the story and picture from the press conference for publication in their weekly law page.

Co-journalists and lawyers who knew Ughagwu well at the judicial  beat revealed that the man, popularly called ‘Edo,’ was seen differently. Some saw him as amiable and hard working while  others viewed him as firm and uncompromising in whatever he believed. At the beat, he was also given an appellation of ‘Oga Edo’, for always referring to his age and drawing reference about pronouncement of certain English words.

There were so many things he dreamt of, which were not actualized.  However, the one which he always discussed was the poor conditions under which Nigerian journalists work and how he intended to go back to school to study law.

A judicial correspondent with the Compass, who had known Edo for the past six years, Mr. Gbenga Soyole, had this to say about him:  “When I woke up on Sunday, the 25th of April, the only thing in my mind was how to complete the transcription of an interview which I had conducted on Saturday and which I must submit before the close of work.
“I was about settling down to this task when my phone rang.

I picked up the phone and the name of one of my senior colleagues that we cover the judicial beat together appeared on the screen. What does he want this early morning, given the fact that we spoke extensively only the night before, was my thought. After the phone rang the second time, I decided to pick the call. Nothing prepared me for the bad news he gave me.

‘Do you know that Edo was shot and killed yesterday?’ Edo shot and killed where? When? For what? These are the questions, asked by me in my confused state of mind. Immediately he dropped, I called two other colleagues who confirmed the news.

“Edo Ugbagwu’s death came to me as a shock because the previous Friday we were together at the Press Centre in Lagos High Court, Ikeja where the Nigeria Bar Association (NBA) held a press conference to signal the commencement of its 2010 Annual Law Week.

“How could I begin to talk about Edo? Edo is someone you can describe as a jolly good fellow. There is no dull or boring moment with him. Edo knows how to keep people around him, laughing with his many jokes. One thing you immediately noticed about him is that he was someone that would freely express his feelings and opinions. Edo never left anybody in doubt on where he stands on issues.

“His views were sometimes controversial and unconventional but you will agree with him that he knew what he was saying. He was someone that deplored and spoke out against injustice in any form. He also used his pen in his little way to fight against human right abuses and corruption both in the judiciary and the society at large.

“Edo was very hard working, dedicated and committed to his official duties. To his friend, he is dependable and caring. He was a family man who never missed an opportunity to talk about the  immediate and extended family. Though  he never had a child but those close to him would but notice his love for children.

“His gruesome murder, no doubt, has brought a big blow to journalism and court reporting and human rights issues. I prayed that God should grant his family, friends and other well wishers the fortitude to bear the loss. I also pray that his gentle soul would rest in peace.”

Mr. Richard Eromosele  of Vanguard who was with him penultimate Friday at the NBA briefing has this to say: “He was a jovial, no-nonsense fellow. I had only spent four weeks with him at the Press Center, Ikeja where we covered the same beat.

“A focused and easy going man who did not have time to ruminate over malicious thoughts, the few times I spent with him made me to know one thing; that if we all have an Edo Sule Ugbagwu in our families, there will  hardly be any dull moment…..

“Wait a minute, does it mean that I will not hear that manly voice of  his, at the Ikeja Press Center again? God! Who will fill this vacuum?”

Another journalist with Continental Television, also on the judicial beat, Mrs Tunbosun Olawale, in a text message,  commended the bravery of Ugbagwu. She said, “The Edo Ugbagwu I knew. Edo is a tall 42 year-old native of Benue. He served as reporter with the former Comet newspapers, before he moved to The Nation newspapers as the judicial correspondent.

“I met him in 2005, at the Federal High Court. He was frank, jovial, outspoken, friendly and down to earth. He never looked at someone’s else yardstick to measure his own. He remained himself point-blank until death. You could see that in the car he was riding until he died. He would always say, ‘my car, though rickety, can run from here to Kano’. Adieu, Edo Sule Ugbagwu.”
A senior colleague with The Sun newspaper, Mr Ola Agbaje, had  this to say, “A forthright man who will never hide his feelings even in face of intimidation and offending bosom friends. He will not hide his feelings but hit the nail at the head, no matter what will be the outcome. In the course of his job as a professional, his story was always factual, he is a very courageous professional. So far any report he had is factual, nothing would stop him from going ahead with such report. He would not compromise, but verify his facts and encourages others to be fair in their reports. We will definitely miss him.”

One of his colleagues in the beat, who he helped to secured job at The Nation newspapers, Mr Eric Ikhilae, said, “Edo was always willing to help. A week before his murder, Edo had worked tirelessly, running errands, serving and dishing out instructions to colleagues at the wedding of one of our colleagues in the office. Despite that his wife was seated among the guests, he was all about, carrying plates, washing dishes and insisting that everybody must eat and drink.

“Before the wedding, he had organised some of the grooms’ friends and colleagues into a group where it was agreed that every member must contribute certain amount of money towards the wedding. He was made chairman of the group. He was thorough in the way he went about his role. He ensured that the group achieved 90 per cent of its objectives.

“During his last official assignment penultimate Friday, he participated actively in the production of the law pages. He brought a story and picture from the press conference of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Ikeja branch, he attended earlier in the day.

“He even supervised the placement of the story and picture on the page, insisting they must be planned in a particular way. Edo promised to write elaborately on the NBA event on Saturday and supply his other contributions to the page the following Sunday when the production process normally ends.

“Before leaving the office that Friday night, Edo, after sharing a plate of fish pepper soup with some of his workmates, had expressed his dissatisfaction with it. He promised to invite the workmates to a place close to his house, where they make such soup well. ‘You know I like fish pepper soup very well? You should believe I know where it is well made. You people will enjoy it,’ he had said”.

Another correspondent, who rose through the beat as an intern to be a senior correspondent with the Sliverbird Television, Adewale Busari, noted, “Edo was an amiable fellow. I never saw him get angry, he joked a lot, and was very dedicated to his job. He derived pleasure in settling disputes and laughing with all his heart. He will be greatly be missed.”

The NBA, Ikeja branch, through its chairman, Mr. Dave Ajetomobi, in its condolence message to the  judicial corespondents, said, “We receive with shock and disbelief the news of the untimely death of one of your members, Mr. Edo Ugbagwu of The Nation newspapers.

“Mr Ugbagwu, for the period of time for which we have known him, was a diligent and serious minded journalist who we have come to regard a friend of the Bar.

“We express our hearth felt sympathy to the bereaved family and his colleagues in the judiciary beat. It is our prayer that the good Lord will grant the family the fortitude to bear the loss.”

Edo is no more but the  truthfulness, forthrightness and sincerity he stood for will continue to be the  attributes to be  remembered him for. Adieu, EDO.

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