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The Life and Times of Bob Ogbuagu

By Dr. Orji Ogbonnaya Orji

All roads lead   to Umukabia, Umuahia,   on Saturday 18th of November 2017 as   Nigerians from far and near travel to    Abia State Capital to bid fare well to one of the pre-colonial leaders and a founding father   of the media profession in Nigeria, Chief Bob Ogbuagu.   Chief Ogbuagu   died   recently   at the age of 92.

Bob Ogbuagu

The burial today is the climax of series of events put in place by his family, colleagues,   associates   and committee of friends   for Nigerians to pay last respect to the elder statesman and   fallen media executive.

A   founding   member of the zikist movement, Bob Ogbuagu was among the early nationalists who were in the   frontline   in the struggle to free Nigeria from colonial rule.   Chief Ogbuagu’s specific role in the struggle was executed through coordinated public enlightenment,    citizens   mobilization and advocacy using the media.

Born   on   May 25, 1925   in Umukabia ,   near   Umuahia, Abia State,   Bob Ogbuagu   joined the Zikist   Movement as a young man    shortly after his early education in 1945.   But his passion,    commitment and sacrifice  to   the independence   struggle   informed his decision to set up a newspaper called the Northern Advocate.

The newspaper  served   as a mouthpiece for efficient dissemination of information, provided   platform for   constructive debates, citizens engagements towards the   liberation of Nigeria from British rule.

As part of his efforts to   ensure that   his newspaper – the Northern Advocate provided the much needed national platform, he decided   to set up the newspaper   in Kaduna, one of the major centers   of political activism in   Nigeria.

The newspaper rapidly grew in leaps and bounds to become a strong mega phone for all  anti-colonial struggles and independence campaigns   especially in the Northern part of the country.   As the editor-in chief of the anti-colonial newspaper – the Northern Advocate,    Bob Ogbuagu worked   closely with other members of the    Zikist Movement such as   Anthony Enahoro, Kola Balogun   and MCK Ajuluchukwu.

They   led grassroot based   campaigns for termination of colonial rule and independence for   Nigeria.   Following the anti-colonial editorial policy of his newspaper ,    Bob Ogbuagu was among the leaders of   the zikist Movement who were arrested and thrown into   prison   in 1949. While he served his sentence in Jos prison,   his   newspaper, the Northern Advocate was proscribed the following year, in February 1950.

On his release from prison, Bob Ogbuagu relocated from his base in   Kaduna   to Eastern Region where he teamed up with other pre-independence leaders like   Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe and Dr. Michael Okpara   to   continue the struggles.

Following the granting   of   independence   to   Nigeria   in 1960, Bob Ogbuagu served in the Eastern regional government in various capacities.   The high point perhaps was   his appointment as   the chief executive of the then   Eastern Nigeria Development Commission (ENDC).

The commission   was   charged with the   responsibility of   conception, development   and implementation of all major   capital projects for the Eastern region then comprised of the present    Enugu, Anambra, Imo, Abia, Rivers, Akwa Ibom and Cross, Bayelsa and Rivers States.

The development projects of the then Eastern Nigeria Development commission with Bob Ogbuagu as chief executive were   unfortunately   disrupted by the Nigeria civil war of 1967 to 1970.   After the war, Chief Bob Ogbuagu was among the   few   political leaders invited to help heal the wounds of the war under the framework of the national reconciliation, reconstruction and rehabilitation programs initiated by the Gowon administration.

By this measure, Bob Ogbuagu renewed   his   service   to   the nation through   several committees and governing   boards in both public and private sectors. For instance, in 1980, Bob Ogbuagu   was elected   President of Nigeria Institute of Public Relations, a position he held until 1984. While leading the NIPR in Nigeria, Bob Ogbuagu   won the   chairmanship   of the Federation of African Public Relations Associations at the conference of the organization held in Nairobi, Kenya.

He returned to the media industry in 1995 following his appointment   as    managing director and editor-in chief of Champion Newspapers. He bowed out graciously from active media practice in the year 2000. One striking feature of Bob Ogbuagu’s national service history, was his uncommon humility and dedication to step down his influence   and time to   development issues that confronted his native community Umukabia.

On his death, the   community attests to his pioneering roles in coordinating all major self- help development projects in the areas   of   rural roads, health care and   school rehabilitation projects.   In appreciation to his enduring excellent service to humanity and his country, Chief Bob Ogbuagu was conferred with a national honour of the Officer of the Order of the Niger OON.

As his   casket   is   to be lowered on Saturday 18th of November,   the media and public relations industry in particular has no doubt lost a mentor and a professional archive.   His community,   Umukabia,   Abia State   and Nigeria in general have also   lost an illustrious son and a patriot.   However, one   way to immortalize Chief Bob Ogbuagu is to promote, nurture and sustain the virtues of   hard-work, love for man and country for which he lived, toiled and died.

  • Dr Orji Ogbonnaya Orji, a renowned journalist and public affairs analyst wrote from Abuja.


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