By Emeka Obasi
Someone poked a joke recently about Governor Nyesom Wike’s building a Press Centre in honour of Chief Segun Osoba somewhere around Olu Obasanjo Road, Port Harcourt. I reminded him that hip hop star, Duncan Mighty, must also do a remix of his Port Harcourt boy track.
Chief Olusegun Osoba turned 80 on July 15. He is from the Abeokuta area of Ogun State. Chief Olusegun Obasanjo hails from the same place. Both are namesakes and lived in the Rivers State capital. The former carried pen and paper, the latter rifle and bullet.
Osoba‘s story is quite interesting. He began his journalism career in 1964, as a trainee reporter with the Daily Times of Nigeria [DTN].Posted to the garden city, the young man was excited to begin a new life far away from home.
The Daily Times bought a scooter to enable the reporter mingle and meander through the city. It was to be delivered from Onitsha through Times man, Alphonsus Maduneme.
Maduneme began a search for the man who would deliver the motorcycle to Osoba. That was how Chief Joe Ifedobi emerged. Armel Transport was contacted.
Ifedobi accompanied the scooter to Port Harcourt and handed it over to Osoba as part of the incentive from Daily Times, Lagos, in the golden years of Alhaji Babatunde Jose.
Ifedobi later climbed the chieftaincy ladder to become Okosisi of Akpo in Anambra State. Osoba advanced beyond journalism to govern Ogun State, two times in two decades.
Okosisi looked forward to celebrating with Osoba at 80.Circumstances beyond his control made it difficult for him to be present physically. While eulogies flowed in Lagos, reminiscences grew somewhere in Anambra.
According to Okosisi,” If you want to talk of a completely detribalized Nigerian, I present Chief Segun Osoba to all. I rejoice with him at 80. Here is a man who does everything for free, he cherishes friendship and never saw a brown envelope.”
The career that began in Port Harcourt yielded fruits. Osoba does not forget where it all started. You can now understand why Duncan Mighty must include this man in his remix of Port Harcourt boy. Yes, Osoba knows the land, from Rainbow Town to Diobu.
Some of us do not know what Pitakwa stands for. They could go to Osoba for lectures. Igweocha became Port Harcourt in 1913. It was renamed after Lewis Vernon Harcourt, British Secretary of State for the Colonies, from November 3, 1910 to May 25, 1915.
However, those who made Port Harcourt bubble in the First Republic, loved to flow with the name, Pitakwa. Life was good then, the Red Devils played champagne football and Osoba enjoyed his ride.
Okosisi’s meeting with Osoba also drew him nearer to other journalists. Another interaction around Adelabu Street, Surulere, Lagos after the July 29, 1975 coup involved Peter Ajayi and Dupe Samuel.
The height of it all came in the Third Republic. It had to do with the emergence of Chief Chukwuemeka Ezeife as first civilian governor of Anambra State. Osoba did not forget that his first scooter was sent from Onitsha and delivered by Okosisi.
Ezeife, like Osoba, belonged to the Social Democratic Party [SDP].The National Republican Convention [NRC] was almost unbeatable in the whole of the South-East. Chief Moshood Abiola needed to make a mark there. Indeed, MKO had to attend the wedding of Ezeife’s daughter.
Osoba came to the rescue. On a certain day, Okosisi left Amawbia by midnight. Accompanied by Dr. Gabriel Mba, of Dionye Memorial Hospital, Ekwulobia, they got to Onitsha by 1a.m. In the next two and half hours, the duo hit Iyaro Park, Benin.
Destination was Abeokuta, the land of Obasanjo, Abiola and Osoba. At 6.30a.m, it was mission accomplished. Osoba walked up to his gate and after receiving Okosisi, told them he was on his way to Benin to attend an SDP rally. They all agreed to meet there, as Chief John Oyegun campaigned to be governor of Edo State.
The discussions were fruitful. Strategically, Osoba pulled strings and Ezeife emerged as the only SDP governor in the South-East. That gave the party the much needed national spread.
It sounded strange that Ezeife who retired from Federal Service as Permanent Secretary did not know Osoba. However, it did not really matter.
Okosisi took it from there: “That’s Osoba for you. If not for his intervention, Ezeife would not have become governor of Anambra State. Many politicians don’t know Osoba’s contacts. I am talking of a true Nigerian here.”
An accomplished man, one may say. From trainee crime reporter in 1964, Osoba rose to News Editor in 1968. By August 1975, the erstwhile reporter occupied the post of Editor, Daily Times.
Three months later, he left Lagos to manage Ilorin based Nigerian Herald. Osoba returned to Daily Times in 1984 as Managing Director. Today, he holds the traditional titles of Akinrogun of Egbaland and Aremo Awujale of Ijebuland.
It is difficult to separate Osoba from scooter. After the January 15, 1966 coup, he jumped from Vespa to Lambretta and sped off towards Otta, with photographer, Saka Kasumu, in search of the body of Prime Minister Abubakar Tafawa Balewa. They succeeded.
After Osoba’s scooter, Okosisi’s friendship with journalists continues. Through him, I got to know that Gabriel Adebayo Fagbure [GAF] was “a very honest, principled man. He was a very fine human being.”
Fagbure trained as a teacher at Iwo before attending the Regent Polytechnic, London. He was Editor, West African Pilot and returned to the UK as Information Attache at the Nigerian High Commission.
Fagbure was appointed Western State Commissioner for Trade and Industry in 1971. He had set up office as a Public Relations Consultant in 1963.
And that brought us to Brigadier Emmanuel Foluso. I never knew he was part of the foundation of the Nigeria Army Public Relations Unit. Sotomi was Chukwuma Nzeogwu’s friend and was close to Victor Olaiya and Stadium hotel.
Back to journalists, “Cyril Kappo [Ceekay] was from Togo and a thorough catholic. Angus Okoli, a good football reporter whose wife Nneka [Dike] was pioneer staff of Renaissance. Douglas Dike Ngwube, Chief Emeka Ojukwu’s media aide”.