IKENNA NDAGUBA: A CLASS ACT – A SHINING LIGHT
The earthly remains of Ikenna Ndaguba (MFR); Onwa (as he was known by his traditional title) was buried in a befitting and glorious ceremony in his ancestral home in Onitsha.
It was indeed an an appropriate climax to almost one month of activities which marked his exchange of mortality for immortality on the 18th September at the age of 76 and left in his wake tears, sorrow and also sweet reminisces of a life lived to the fullest even if we are saddened by the magnitude of our loss. For Onwa was a rare gem; a class-act apart from the competing crowd.
Such was his impact on a nation in search of true professionals and role models.
Onwa captured our imaginations and mesmerized us with his rich voice. By all accounts, he was a professional to the core; a stickler for excellence. No detail, no matter how small, escaped him. At the height of his powers, he was the preferred anchor for the high octane and official events. You could call him the national orator and you would not be wrong! He could be trusted to acquaint himself of his subject very well, leaving his audience enthralled and without the slightest hints of embarrassments or faux pas. He was a master at what he does best.
No wonder very early in his career he achieved prominence and scored a number of firsts. He was the first to broadcast news on radio and television in the then Eastern Nigeria Broadcasting Service which he joined in 1960. Three years later, he transferred his service to the federal Radio Nigeria and in addition to his long and impressive list of achievements, he midwifed the first FM station in Nigeria in 1977. Christened Radio Nigeria 2, it was the darling of many listeners back then.
Indeed, Onwa's professionalism as a broadcaster aptly serves as a metaphor for what public service should be. His story demonstrates that it is indeed possible to have the best capable people appointed to positions in government agencies, ministries and parastatals that will give their best to this country and its people and who will in turn be celebrated by the country and its people. Onwa is a shining example of the fact that Nigeria, undeniably, has good people who can be put in positions of authority purely on the basis of merit. But sadly the crippling evil quartet of nepotism, tribalism, cronyism and the almighty Federal Character appear to be relentless in their unholy alliance against competence and merit which appear to continue to lose grounds in the face of the onslaught of the terrible quartet.
Pronounced in full, Ikenna Ndaguba's traditional title is Onwa na etili Orah – the moon that shines its light for all. How appropriate! Thus, as Onwa makes his momentous journey to the great beyond, the celebration of his life should enlighten our path way to genuine transformation. It should inspire in us the vision to create a nation of capable, efficient and effective people at all levels of our society. It should catalyze in us the courage to insist on the enthronement of merit over mediocrity. It should point us in the direction of the norms and ethics of public office. These, more than any contrived vision, slogans or agendas would bring about the much desired transformation that would enable us find our rightful place among the significant nations of the world.
In a parody of the holy writs, whatever Onwa's voice found to say, he said well. He not only said what he had to say well, he completely mastered his subject and supremely dominated his environment. The Osigwe Anyiam-Osigwe Foundation and indeed, the entire Anyiam-Osigwe family are forever indebted to Onwa for the many years of exceptional service. Over the last five years, he was the anchor at nearly all sessions of the annual lecture series, except last year's which he couldn't attend on account of health challenges.
In all of those high profile events, I don't ever remember losing sleep on account of anything going wrong with the aspects of the event assigned to him. As a true professional, he put in the needed hours in researching his subject and audience and the flawless result was always there for all to see. From the year he started anchoring the Sessions of the Lecture Series, each new edition, as the subjects and keynote speakers changed in line with the exact objectives and the standards that the Annual Lecture Series had set itself, Onwa proved more than equal to the task. Whether at the lecture or the dinner that capped the day, Onwa held his audience spell-bound and never failing to serenade them with the right jokes and a bagful of anecdotes to take home until the next year.
A particular favourite for me was at the 10th Annual Lecture in 2009 when I was slowed down and almost lost my voice on account of a flu attack. Onwa being the ever perceptive and witty host did not fail to notice. He remonstrated with speaker and audience by liking my situation on that auspicious occasion to that of the woodpecker that boasted about putting on a good show for the father-in-law's burial, but alas, when the day came, the woodpecker had a boil on his beak! The audience cracked up in laughter. The joke was well received and the import not lost on the audience.
As a colleague of mine confessed to me later, that joke well timed and well told, was the highlight of that occasion for him and the memory of Onwa that he takes away with him forever. Because Onwa chose broadcasting as his nest, the profession and generations of broadcasters that have passed through him are forever grateful. They paid him tribute after tribute, not in the vain tradition of speaking no evil of the dead as we are accustomed to in these parts, but out of a genuine heart of gratitude. Thus it is perhaps appropriate here to task the Onwa Ikenna Ndaguba Foundation set up in his memory and all of us his admirers to work urgently to restore the best broadcasting traditions and standards which Onwa stood for and so richly advanced all of his life.
The Anyiam-Osigwe Family and the Osigwe Anyiam-Osigwe Foundation will always treasure our association with you and we join the teeming number of Nigerians in praying to the Good Lord to grant you a favoured place in the Light of His Presence. In this respect we are reassured by the aphorism; vox populi vox Dei. Adieu Onwa! Adieu great servant of God and Humanity! Farewell, faithful friend!