REMEMBERING NIYI OGUNDARE, ET AL
As Joyce Cary would say, I look upon life as a gift from God. I did nothing to earn it. Now that the time is coming to give it back, I have no right to complain. Of course, I cannot complain about friends of mine who have translated. The only thing I can do is to periodically remember them and pay tribute to their departed souls.
Olaniyi Ogundare (Daily Times Motoring Editor in the mid-90s) and I were not just colleagues, but friends. The Joyce Cary time for Niyi came on May 14, 1996, in Paris, France, during an official tour. We shared so many professional experiences in the good, old Daily Times when the likes of Prince Tony Momoh, Chief Onyema Ugochukwu, the late Tunji Oseni, Dapo Aderinola, Clement Iloba, Bob Ogbuagu Anikwe and Kenneth Chioma Ugbechie held sway, magisterially. Just the Thursday before the ill-fated Thursday, we were in the computer room producing our Saturday columns (Auto Clinic and Saturday Snaps, respectively) and exchanging ideas. Just like me, he had a passion for linguistic excellence.
At Episcopal and social levels, he never gave me a breathing space. He kept on stressing every time we met the need for me to embrace God: 'Eby, that's the ultimate', he would always say in fairly good Eastern dialect, amid joviality without losing the message. Beyond rebirth, he showed so much commitment to my getting married. He never stopped asking me when I will celebrate nuptials. It got to a point that whenever I saw him, I got pleasantly worried because he would always talk about the two issues.
Niyi's mortal remains were interred at Atan Cemetery in Yaba, Lagos. It was one occasion that aroused in me the transiency of life. It could have been any of us! A reality: one day it will get to us. The separation is the time differential. The summit: while we are still here, let us live a Christ-like life. We must actualize our earthly vision: a man without focus has no essence of existence. If 33-year-old far-famed Niyi was able to have a doctor-wife, three children, a house of his own, and, most important of all, a spiritual relationship with God, then cry not for him, but for those of us who lack these ideals particularly the sonship of God.
May your soul and those of other pals of mine who passed on in the past two decades or thereabouts: Ngozi Ogunde, Assumpta Ekpe, Kelly Ujo, Gabriel Ujah, Tunde Sadiq, Kola Ojo, Kate Okoronkwo, Emma Agesse, Chidinma Akubundu, Jackson Imafidon, Michael Ekwunazu, Moses Ezulike, Gabriel Olekwu, Abayomi Ogundeji, Michael Ekwuribe, Dele Michael, Chinaka Fynecountry, Nnamdi Anazia, Emmanuel Omorodion, Momoh Kubanji, Saliu Haruna, Acho Ugochukwu, Johnson Ekarume, Oseni Gbadebo, Amaechi Dike…find a place in God's Kingdom. It is indeed a short time to be on this side. If only we could appreciate the fleetingness of man by professing brotherly love, there would be no stress during or after life.
No other columnist or line editor in the Daily Times of yore had the kind of painstaking commitment which this star lit. Apart from, perhaps, our Tourism and Hospitality Editor, Ogbeni Tope Awe's pages, no other pages could compare with Niyi's in terms of reader-friendliness, packaging, adverts, audience reach, creativity, impact and uniqueness. Not even the popular pages in the days of celebrated Midweek Times with this writer as the editor.
Niyi, we begin to die as soon as we are born, and the end is linked to the beginning. The man's love for his job was that he even handed over some scripts to the then sagacious Features Editor of Sunday Times (and later Daily Times editor), Mr. Hakeem Bello (now SSA Media to BRF of Lagos State), before the fatal adventure with a promise to beef it up on return for yet another column in the best Sunday newspaper on the continent at that time.
For Nna (Niyi's fond refrain for any male colleague from the South-East) and all the aforementioned friends of mine who have passed on: Rest in Peace. In the words of Winston Churchill, I am ready to meet my maker, but whether my maker is prepared for the great ordeal of meeting me is another matter. I believe Niyi was ready, even if prematurely!
• Mr. Wabara (08055001948), a reputation manager, lives in Lagos.