By IKEDDY ISIGUZO, Chairman Editorial Board
THE phones have not ceased ringing with an annoying ferocity since the news that Pini Jason passed on Saturday. The sad thing about it all is recounting the fact all over – some would just believe it – Pini is gone. On Saturday there were moments when I checked who I shared the news with; in case it was a false alarm. How I wish it was!
There were dramatic moments like when Chuks Iloegbunam, a former Vanguard columnist badgered me with questions as if the answers could change things. “I have just parked,” he was driving. “Who told you? How could he have died? We spoke four days ago, I was to call him. I just didn’t call. Well, let’s be sure of this news.”
Much later, Tony Nnachetta, TNT, as we call him, asked if it was true Pini was gone. I confirmed that. “Why did he die?” I held the phone pondering an answer only to realise he had cut off the line. His fears confirmed, he had no further words. When I thought the day was over, I got a final call from Onuma Kalu, Administrative Secretary of Ndigbo Lagos. I was waiting for his condolences, he gave none. “Please confirm to me tomorrow if it is true,’ he said. “It is true,” I replied. “No, let us wait till tomorrow. You cannot tell me it is true.”
The pains cut deep as the nation mourns one of its foremost columnists. People have been calling to share their times with the man many mainly called Pini J. They are unanimous in their appraisal of his craftsmanship. “I cannot forget his anger that seeped through every line in his response to the attacks on Chinua Achebe’s There Was A Country,” Paul Bassey, Vanguard sports columnist said.
“I text him after reading the piece and he called; I can still remember his laughter as we discussed the piece.” Hours after I intimated my class mate Iheanyi Agada, through whom I met Pini, of his passage, he bravely penned this tribute from Texas, where he currently lives.
“I am heart broken! Jason Onyegbaduo was my mentor and friend. I knew him all my life. He was in the same class as my elder brother at St Andrew’s CMS School, Obizi. He was always noticeable; his school uniform looked cleaner, better ironed, crispy. He had a peculiar hair style and the brightest teeth when he laughed. And boy, he was very smart. And then, he disappeared.
We later heard his elder brother who was in the Nigerian Navy had taken him to Lagos where he enrolled in the elite CMS Grammar School, Bariga. He graduated with Grade One. Pini later invited me to stay with him in Lagos and look for a job after my graduation from high school. He also extended similar gestures to me during the civil war.
“I still remember the joy he showed when I told him of my admission to study Journalism at the Institute of Management & Technology, Enugu. He threw one fantastic send-off party for me. He was always ready to help people; family and friends alike. He will be terribly missed. My prayers go to his wife, Oby, his son and daughters. May God rest his soul.”
Pini touched lives through relationships he built in the media. He was widely published. He worked for platforms that permitted his gusty appetite for debates. He was passionate about resolving issues which he would intellectualise to uncover deeper perspectives. If you read him often, you would know the ideas he sold were from solid backgrounds on his subjects. However, if you raised an issue, he would dissect it on the spot. I often wondered where he got his ideas.
A voracious reader, Pini cited authorities with an ease that ensured his discourses were not pedantic. There was often something to learn from him, whether ancient or modern. “I got to know Pini J in The Guardian. When he eventually moved to Vanguard, I kept pace with him and his engaging column.
He was a consummate writer and commentator of profound depth and wisdom. Witty, bold and unsparing, Pini J was a versatile commentator with nationalistic fervour. Pini J’s death is a painful loss to journalism and Nigeria. May his good soul rest in perfect peace with the Lord and may God console his family,” Afolabi Adesanya, Director General, Nigerian Film Corporation, said.
More tributes: “What a loss! Pini was a
very sharp mind, one who did not know how to bend the truth or hide his feelings. His death is another sharp blow on the column of courageous, honest newspaper writers. May his soul rest in peace,” Andy Ezeani of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, said.
Pini belonged to all. Everyone who read him shared that intimacy that is unique between the engaging writer and his audiences. “This is very sad news. He was a stout defender of peoples’ causes. I never met him in person but through his writings I feel I know him. May his soul rest in peace,” said Commodore O. C. Medani of the Nigerian Navy.
Oyatomi Kunle: Editor, it is sad, so sad to hear of the death of a consummate journalist and prolific columnist, Pini Jason. Death, where is thy sting? May the Lord give his family the fortitude to bear the great loss and grant him eternal rest.
Ladipo Adamolekun: Please accept my heartfelt condolences on Pini Jason’s passing. He was a most valued member of Vanguard family and will be sorely missed. May his soul rest in peace. Amen.
Obong Victor Attah:Mideno, it’s such a pity about Pini Jason. He was one journalist whose logic was always so persuasive and whose opinion was not influenced with money. May God rest his soul in peace and bless this country with others like him.