Still struggling with a cocktail of emotions following the demise, and subsequently the interment of the body of a friend, a brother and a confidant, Nnamdi Odoemelam. I write with extreme reluctance, pulling my humble self to reel out a few words to form my public farewell message to a quintessential colleague.
The ugly tidings of his sudden death had come to my side, a few weeks after we had honourably gathered at the premises of our Media House for a crucial meeting of the ‘Imo Family’ of the Nigerian Guild of Editors (NGE).
The six of us were physically present to further discuss the hosting of the 18th All Nigerian Editors Conference (ANEC) in Owerri, the Capital City of our state, Imo which tightly occupied 9th of November to 13th of November, 2022.
I had received blessings and a royal pat on my back for again, successfully organizing the meeting prior to their departure on that bright Wednesday. Nnamdi of the blessed memory stayed back as usual, to join me to welcome my guest from NIMASA, Lagos, a friend and a brother too, Emeka, whom we fondly call ‘ Obarauru’. Nnamdi gave me yet another surprise. He would offset the bills accrued from the entertainments of the ‘Guild Members’, some of which attracted their blessings to me. That was usual of him as long as he had ‘cash’ on him. In some occasions, the two of us would drag over who would pay such bills.
I had first encountered Nnamdi sometime in 2009 when the two of us were engaged in the rigorous processes of seeking membership of the Nigerian Guild of Editors (NGE). I had earlier made attempts a few years before 2009, which failed to fly. Trying to reach out to senior persons in this profession, a big sister, Dame Comfort Obi and a big brother, Emma Agu and others for a guide met the waterloo. I had felt armed with the criteria of the body. Afterall, I would deeply conclude in my mind that I was then editing a Newspaper based in Owerri that routinely circulated in almost all the 36 states of the Federation and, also had under my watch ,regular news reporters in those 36 states and more, our media house was then selling well over 20,000 copies of the Newspaper as a print run. No unsold copies. The rest is history.
Back home, through the grace of God, I got the favour of the late Mike Ekeh, then Editor -In- Chief of Statesman, who on his own developed enormous interest in my person and he mentored me into the apex body of the Media professionals in Nigeria while Chief Ken Njoku, then Editor of Statesman, who would later retire as the General Manager of Statesman, passionately carried Nnamdi along and we thus became the ‘Imo Family’ of the Guild.
In that year, there were about six print media Houses (with their six Editors) and about three Electronic Media Houses in Imo State with their General Managers and Directors of News and Current Affairs and Programmes in that number. Though, I eventually got inducted as a member in 2010 at Port Harcourt while Nnamdi followed suit a year after at Asaba.
At the infancy of my relationship with him which later turned out to be a brotherly permanent union, not until he passed on, we would disagree on principles on some occasions. One was in Lagos and another was in Yenagoa. I sat back for a private investigation to study his personality traits using the method that I learned from Dr Obasi Oko, who was my lecturer. I found out that our disagreements were merely anchored on differences (in views) regarding politics and governance. Nothing more, nothing less.We never used derogatory or abusive words at each other. It never took us many minutes to light up the companionship again. Having rounded off my private studies on him, I began to know him more deeply, seeing he was rather a jolly good fellow and such disagreements ceased to be hot, but became lectures to him and I with all sense of love.
Yes, he was quick- tempered. That would only come if you go askew of the tracks of his ambit of reasoning. After all, he was fallible like any other. He would walk out on you in anger. He would raise his voice to stamp his points. To me, that was the ceiling of his aggression and the same person, to your bewilderment, would return to his mindset of friendliness in a split of minutes. He would say ‘’it’s ok it’s ok it’s ok,let’s leave that matter” and that will truly end it, quite unlike many others.
He suffered betrayals beyond measures in the hands of some of those he gave opportunities in work places. I have no time to mention their names since the public knows them and their treachery. They are dirty minded. They are always loaded with envy. It is only left for History and generations to track them as they remain hounded by uneasy consciences. When I confided in him on how my car mechanic” scampered away with my car and also my funds meant for a commercial transport business (mini bus), and how I had set the motion to trap him with the security operatives, he would calm my nerves and would say to me” “Edu, Edu, don’t take any action against him. Leave him to suffer his betrayals. God will provide for you more than that”. Those were his words that I would hardly ignore. He also compelled me to relax legal actions against one Pastor from Ebonyi state who defrauded me and two others using a state government farm project
Funny Nnamdi, When we had a single slot from ‘the Guild’ to travel to France under the leadership of Femi Adesina who would later become the media aide to President Buhari (via our own Chief Ken Njoku) he, like the biblical Jacob, quickly grabbed the opportunity and gassed off with the team to Paris in 2018. In our orderliness in Imo Family, I was the one to go for that trip. He came straight to me on his return with words of peace and understanding.
Another opportunity came to our side from the same leadership of the Guild and this time, Chief Ken Njoku directly recommended me for a ‘professional course’ in Lagos Business School (Pan Atlantic University) in 2019 which was sponsored by the US Embassy. This, automatically became an additional paragraph to ‘my academic profile’. On my return, Nnamdi embraced me and said “Edu, Edu, you are a smart boy”. We laughed over it and maintained our ties of love until he recently departed.
Nnamdi would rather go empty than having in the midst of another “having not” I had described him as a ‘Militant’ when I went with him to see a Bishop of an Anglican Diocese. He drove in a ‘campaign speed’ and would say to me “Edu! Edu! we’ll get there”. He would laugh off my jittery state.
The one minute silence that was solemnly observed at the opening ceremony of the 18th All Nigeria Editors Conference in Owerri in his honour, and that of Chief Bonny Iwuoha, former Commissioner in Abia, and a few others once again evoked my emotional trauma. I wept. I looked around and why would he not be sitting demurely beside me at that Concorde Hotel Hall?
Nnamdi would follow me to occasions that concern me and would support me with crates and cartons of drinks. He never knew the celebrators or the bereaved in persons, but he would lend his support. Does this not sound strange?
His brevity and courage would not cease to amaze you. In a facility tour in Sokoto state by members of the Nigerian Guild of Editors when we held our conference a few years back, he had mounted a squatting life camel owned by a passer -by, which suddenly jumped up to flee with him, may be, to another country since that spot was close to a boundary between Nigeria and a neigbouring country. Chief Ken Njoku; Lady Chinwe Asogu; Oga ‘O O’ and Sir Innocent Igwe would tell the rest of the story. After all, Nnamdi had done more rascally things in his day in University of Calabar, and subsequently in Abia State, State University than that. Ask the likes of Hon. Uche Onyeagucha, Chooks Oko, the current media aide to Ebonyi state governor etc.
When the date of the interment of his body was fixed for November 10, 2022 coinciding with the peak of our conference in Owerri, I quickly registered my disagreement to the family. When his wife and brothers visited my office at the expense of Chief Ken Njoku led Imo Family of the Guild, I explained to them fully to avoid the dates to synchronize with the conference dates since many of the members were eager to attend the burial ceremony to pay him the last respect aside the condolence visit of a delegation of the national executive led by the President himself, Isa Mustapha.
You would always be ruffled by his intellectualism which he would display when he takes the stage of discourse. He would fondly call my last child ‘ MOPOL’ whom he so dearly treated as his own son. He would admire the boy’s strong character likening it to his and his gifts to Chizuruoke Churchhill Egere and his older siblings would become charitably uncontrollable to which I take nothing but good memories.
‘Ichie’ as he was fondly called was a “lay reader” in the Anglican Commission, and was for me, a courageous ‘media man’ and more, that the wit which he usually inhabited, speaking his mind, unburdened by apology, makes him a rare personality in the society. His humour, generosity, utter calm, and his consistency in his true face of humanity would leave me ‘lonely’ and ever put me into missing him. Oh no! I can’t stop weeping.
Good night, elder brother.