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London, Queen and a journalist

WHEN the Transworld Airbus began its final descent, trepidation trailed human expectancy. Then the Luxury Qartar Plane en-route Doha, Landed safely at Heathrow Airport, ending the second trunk of a 14-hour flight that started in Lagos on a warm bright Saturday, 7:45pm.

Tired but excited, I seized the moment in my first step on British soil.
The mind wandered in random thoughts. London and the Queen. Ancient history and ethereal Royalty.

Two phenomena interlaced in mythic destiny.  I remembered colonialism, that eerie word that sounds like a poem.

I first heard of it from my village headmaster. As little pupils fascinated by moonlight tales and nursery rhymes, our teacher’s story of British colonialism was always awe-inspiring.

He taught us to sing at special occasions like independence anniversary or visit of a VIP from the city: “1960 Nigeria Nwelu Independence (x2). Ada Oyibo ana, Ochi chi oyibo ana.

Anyi Ekene Azikiwe”. This translates in English:
“1960 Nigeria gained independence (x2) The Queen has gone. Colonialism has gone.  We salute Azikiwe”.

Some times when our bespectacled head teacher disappeared from school, he would return days later to announce to a captive audience. “I travelled to London to see the Queen”.

Forty years after I left Ikeke Primary School in my Idumuje-Unor homeland, here I am in London! Will I see the Queen? I mused, recalling in ever green  memory, the earthy fun of Oyibundu, my good old elementary Teacher (God bless his soul).

Samuel, a calm Indian mini bus driver was our guide on my first day in London. As he ferried me along with some of my colleagues from Delta State, he appeared too busy on the wheels of his gleaming Roomy Volkswagen.

All through our over half an hour drive from the airport, he was generally taciturn to my restive enquiries.

We stayed at Britannia International Hotel, an iconic resort that stood shoulders high beside JP Morgan Towers, controversial financial firm touted to be the managers of Nigeria’s foreign reserves.

Ten minutes walk from Britannia sat O2 Arena, a magnificent theatre, where legendary  Michael Jackson was billed to have his last dance. But death cancelled all that. A shouting distance from the Hotel lies Canary Wharf Train station, London’s busiest underground terminals, conveying over one million commuters to various destinations daily. Directly opposite Canary Wharf Train station stand in majestic splendour, the object of my London trip. Welcome to Reuters!

The Reuters building is shaped like SilverBird Galleria, in Victoria Island Lagos but far bigger in size and grandeur.

Reuters is a tall beautiful dome of polished steel and the finest of glass architecture, almost kissing the skyline.

With its stunning outlook, Reuters London headquarters sat delicately by the scenic courtyard of Docklands Canary Wharf  station, like the Egyptian goddess Cleopatra on the doting embrace of Roman Emperor, Julius Ceaser.

When I eventually set my foot one cold Monday morning on the largest news room in the world, with 12 other Nigerian journalists, a life long feeling of fulfillment welled my entire being.

With all modesty, I have travelled the world as a Journalist and pageant connoisseur: Norway, Cayman Island, Trinidad and Tobago, South Africa, Lesotho, Zimbabwe, Swaziland, Kenya, Ghana, Gambia…….

Save  for South Africa, where I had nurtured enduring acquaintances and deep personal attachment to inimitable Madiba (Nelson Mandela), no journey would fascinate me like the Reuters experience. Established by a British Entrepreneur, Paul Julius Reuter, it has a 160 year history trailed by land marks.

With age-old reputation for excellent journalism, most of the defining moments in global news break came through Reuters. The Titanic shipwreck of 1912, assassination of America’s Abraham Lincoln and America in Orbit, 1968 were delivered first to the world by Reuters.
Also it broke the news of 1989 fall of the Berlin wall, capture of Saddan Hussein in 2003 and killing of Libya’s Muamah Gadaffi  in 2011, among other more recent events. Every news story that shook the world since the past 100 years had the signature of Reuters.

The one week engagement was open, frank and interactive as the duo joined us to share revealing individual experiences in the world of journalism.

While we proudly informed  our London hosts about the vibrant character of the Nigerian press, even in the face of socio-economic and political odds, their lessons on ethical journalism was a bitter pill to swallow. But did I see the Queen?

We arrived there to meet thousands of tourists from across the world.We came right on time to watch the royal sentries change guard in a solemn but lavish parade. The atmosphere was glorious in the sprawling Buckingham palace arena.

The amazingly colourful spectacle I saw on TV years back during the elaborate wedding of Lady Diana to Prince Charles was unfolding before my very eyes. A dense sea of human heads swarmed the surroundings. I had to stretch my neck to catch a glimpse of the proceedings with animated concentration.

Every now and then, my camera was clicking away. Oh no! I was disappointed to learn shortly that Queen Elizabeth II had retired into her royal chambers and would not be coming out any longer for that day.

Then it suddenly dawned on me that I had to move on briskly, to prepare for a long flight home ward bound.

Mr.  NORBERT CHIAZOR, is NUJ chairman, Delta State.


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