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Veteran journalist Alade Odunewu dies at 85

By The Rainbow
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Nigeria has lost one of the founding fathers of the country's  of Journalism, Hadj Alade Idowu Odunewu.

The journalism guru, who wrote with the pen name Allah De, was former Editor of the Daily Times. He died at St Nicholas Hospital, Lagos.

He was aged 85.
His Allah De column was for many years the delight of readers for its wit, simplicity and humour. His remains will be buried Friday (today) at the prestigious Vaults and Garden, Ikoyi, Lagos at 3pm. He is survived by three children.

He is  widely acknowledged by his contemporaries as a master craftsman, who  loved journalism as few did. like Allah De.

The late Odunewu was also acknowledged as one of the founding fathers of Nigerian journalism who continued to support the industry many years after his retirement from active practice of the profession. He was the chairman of the Nigeria Press Council (NPC) and Chairman, Board of Trustees (BoT) of the Nigeria Media Merit Award (NMMA).

Allah De began his journalism career at the Daily Times as a reporter after his secondary education at the New Bethel College, Onitsha, Anambra State but fate seemed to have a higher calling for him as he secured a Federal Government scholarship to study Journalism at the Regent Street Polytechnic London- now University of Westminster.

He was a star in London, winning the Commonwealth New Statesman Prize for the best all-round student and also working for a number of British newspapers- a rare feat at the time and even now- before returning home.

Between 1950-56, the late Odunewu worked at the Daily Times as a reporter and sub-editor. He left to become the Managing Editor of the African Press Limited Ibadan, publishers of the Nigerian Tribune. That was 1956 and 1957. Odunewu spent four years, between 1960 and 1964, as the Editor-in-Chief of the Allied Newspapers of Nigeria before he left to become the Editor, Sunday Times, in 1964.

He rose through the ranks at the Daily Times before he was appointed editor of the paper, coming after Peter Enahoro who was initially known as 'George Sharp' and later as Peter Pan. The late Odunewu's time as the editor of the most prestigious newspaper at the time has been described with many charitable adjectives by those who worked with him. While Peter Pan was a 'great writer', Odunewu was adjured to have combined his fine writing skill with even a greater talent as an editor of the paper.

Perhaps one of the lasting legacies of the departed journalist is his ' Allah De' column, which has been described by many as one of the best satires ever penned by a Nigerian journalist. The late Nnamdi Azikwe-himself a fine writer- described the late Odunewu as the dean of Nigerian satirical writing.

'Satire is the stuff of his work, master of the well-placed innuendo. Odunewu called attention to the follies and foibles of his era without wounding the vanities of the men and women of the moment,' Journalism teacher and The Nation Editorial Adviser Olatunji Dare once wrote in 2007.

Encomiums were pouring in last night from his contemporaries and those who knew him only through his writings. Henry Odukomaiya, who took over from him as the Editor of the Daily Times said: ' I am shocked, saddened to learn from you about the sudden departure of my great boss, Alade Odunewu whose pseudonym was Allah De which was the name of the column he gave birth to when he was Editor-in-chief of the Daily Times.'

Odukomaiya had a flattery reminiscence of the character of the writer. 'The Allah De that I knew was one of the most accommodating bosses that anybody could have, I mean every word of what I am saying. He never offended anybody, he did his job to the best of his ability and his ability was quite high. He was very jocular and that reflected in every of his writing. He was elegant too. He didn't take life too seriously. Unfortunately, he didn't have a good matrimonial life.

Adenaike remembered the late Odunewu as a great mentor to the younger generation of journalists and a great craftsman. 'That was the father of journalism. Nigerian journalism has lost one of its founding fathers, and he was a great mentor to the younger ones. He wrote a column Allah De. He was a great humorist and satirist. He was a great craftsman. He lived journalism; he published two books - Winner takes all which was the compilation of his columns into two volumes.'

Sam Amuka Pemu, publisher of The Vanguard said of the late Allah De: 'He was a fine fellow; we will miss him.' Mr. Femi Kusa former Editor of the Guardian, described him as a great columnist who was very careful and diplomatic in his writings.

There were others too who paid glowing tributes to a man who gave his life for journalism. The chairman, Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ) Lagos State Council, Deji Elumoye, said the late Odunewu was a foremost journalist who never did anything else but journalism. 'He talked about proper practices of journalism and was always willing to advise the NUJ. We will miss him,' he said.

Former Editor of The Sunday Times Gbolabo Ogunsanwo believed the profession has lost one of its heroes. 'Alade Odunewu was the uncrowned dean of newspaper columnists.'

Perhaps, few can be said to have matched the passion and the talents of the late Odunewu, his devotion to the cause of the journalism profession would be a model that the profession may find hard to fill. And as he is committed to mother earth today, the encomiums may have just begun.