My Life As A Reporter – Osita Chidoka.
27 years ago on June 8, 1993, The Guadian Published my advertisement in support of the Abiola/Kingibe ticket for the June 12 election. The advert was a culmination of events starting from University of Nigeria Enugu Campus, The Guardian Newspapers and relationships that formed my worldview.
At UNEC, during my first semester, I started a Newsletter titled “The Mirror” of which I was the reporter, editor and publisher. The newsletter was stenciled, cyclostyled and pasted across hostel and departmental notice boards weekly. The Newsletter endorsed Emejulu Okpala for President SUG, he won. Our relationship started as we formed Eastern Youth Forum as our political arm to raise consciousness amongst the people of old Eastern Region.
In 1992, ASUU went on a long strike and to occupy my time and realize my desire for journalism, I went to Rutam House and requested to meet the Managing Director, Lade Bonuola. He obliged me, listened to me patiently as I made my pitch for a part time job as a reporter. He asked a few questions, and I believe, struck by my audacity offered me a job with transport allowance as the only remuneration. I accepted happily. Editor, Emeka Izeze, discussed with me briefly and sent me to work as reporter at the Business Desk. I arrived the following day and me Bisi Ojediran, Head of the Desk, his initial surprise that I was not a Mass Communication student on internship dissipated quickly as he gave me assignments immediately to edit a story. My life as reporter started.
My main target at The Guardian was to meet and acquaint myself with members of the Editorial Board. The Guardian at that time was the most influential newspaper in the country. Their famous editorial titled TO SAVE NIGERIA, rattled General Babangida and gingered the emerging opposition to military rule. The Guardian was a prestigious newspaper. Back to my presence at Rutam House.
I started with Edwin Madunagu, whose Thursday articles was a must read for me since secondary school days. Through him I met many members of the Nigeria radical left. I sought out Olatunji Dare, whose Matters Miscellaneous and Tuesday writings was a delight to read. He was mostly busy chairing the board. Okey Ikechukwu of the Ijele fame held sway every Wednesday, I thought of him as one of the most perceptive writer around. Reuben Abati, at the time the youngest member of the board, wrote in his literary form of interesting dialogue every Friday, a fitting end to the week. How can I forget Sina Odugbemi, who I spent endless hours with listening to his intense logic. His Monday articles was a wonderful way to start my week. The relationships i developed with some of the editorial board members opened new vistas in my worldview.
Through Edwin Madunagu, I met a number of members of radical left. I lived on the same route with Reuben, so most nights we went home together. I learnt a lot.
As June 12 election approached, the radical left and the media were united in working to get Gen. Babangida out. Abiola was not the best choice but getting IBB out was more important. We met regularly and on one occasion we met at Baba Omojola’s place and he requested that if the police should interrupt our meeting we should all claim members of Mourners Association in a meeting to mourn our departed. As the forces loyal to the government fought to use the Muslim/Muslim ticket to rally support for Tofa, who we believe was the government lackey, we decided it was time to get the people of south east and Christians to focus on a single enemy. This led to the advert paid for by my father, who was strongly in support of Abiola.
The advert caused problems amongst members of Eastern Youth Forum. Comrade Akhaine Odion and others encouraged me to stay the course.
In 1994, just before the anniversary of June 12, I met Chief Abiola through the Managing Director of The Concord, Mr Stanley Egbochukwu…..the story of the meeting and the link with Eastern Mandate Union, Arthur Nwankwo, Fred Eno, Kudirat Abiola and others will be discussed in a Facebook live video on June 12, 7pm West African Time.