Posted by News Express | 18 November 2017 | 1,871 times
It was my younger brother, Emmanuel Nonye Iwuoha, who drew my attention in the early morning hours of Tuesday August 22, 2017 of the passing on to higher glory of Chief (Sir) Bob Beremako Ewulonu Ogbuagu, OON, who was globally known as Dee Bob.
Of course, I knew Dee Bob had been sick and everything was being done to ensure his speedy recovery. Unfortunately, the doyen of Public Relations in Africa and accomplished newspaper genius succumbed to the cold hands of death on August 21, 2017.
As should be expected, who is who in Abia State, who is who in Igboland, who is who in Nigeria, who is who in the Commonwealth, who is who in Africa and, indeed, who is who in the world, have all paid glowing tributes to the exemplary life which Dee Bob lived on planet Earth.
Dee Bob was my personal friend. He was my father, my encourager and my advisor. His private residence is in the Prefab Housing Estate, Owerri, Imo State. I grew up in Prefab. I knew Dee Bob in 1981 (36 years ago), when I was in Primary 6. I and other Prefab boys used to go to his house to play with his last son, Kelechi Iheukwumere Ogbuagu. We had access to even his bedroom. Most times, while playing or watching television in his house, we would break and damage doors, louvres and chairs. Dee Bob would return home from work to behold the damages in his house. He would summon us (Prefab boys) to explain why we would not be careful and responsible. Of course, as a strict disciplinarian, he would punish us. All the then Prefab boys took Dee Bob as father. He was our father. We ate his food, drank his Remy Martins brandy, Moet, Chandon, Martell brandy, Meteus Rose Wine, Yagowine, etc, most times without his consent.
It was in house that we, Prefab boys, first saw Chief Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu (Aha Eji Agamba) in 1983. Iwuanyanwu had visited Dee Bob with his brand new Rolls Royce car. Almost all the Prefab boys trooped out en mass to Dee Bob Ogbuagu’s residence to behold the “wonder machine.” His wife (Mummy Cecilia) has remained a mother to all Prefab boys and girls, such that we still visit the family house to greet her and, indeed, crack jokes with her, even now that we have all grown up, married and managing our respective families.
Almost all the Prefab Boys grew up in Dee Bob’s house. We would abandon our various homes to ‘anchor’ at his house. Most times, he was never around, (he was always travelling to Lagos, Port Harcourt, Enugu, Calabar, London and USA, etc) but his numerous vehicles then were at our mercy. We would intimidate and harass his drivers, and the car keys would be given to us. I learnt how to drive in 1985 at the age of 15. Most Prefab boys learnt how to drive with Dee Bob Ogbuagu’s cars. As should be expected, some of the vehicles got damaged in the process, but Dee Bob always bought new ones. He was a father to all of us.
I remember an incident that happened in 2006: dare devil armed robbers attacked Dee Bob Ogbuagu’s residence in Prefab at night. Prefab youths organised and mobilised themselves that same night. I was contacted and informed that armed robbers were robbing in Dee Bob’s house. I left my Ikenegbu Layout Extension residence that night and rushed to Prefab, and joined in the rescue operation. Other Prefab boys living outside Prefab but in Owerri, also rushed to Prefab that night. We confronted the armed robbers with the assistance of policemen who arrived much later, and they were over-powered. They fled Prefab Housing Estate without achieving their mission. Dee Bob and Mama Cecilia were not hurt, neither was anything (property) stolen.
I have used the above narrative to show that Dee Bob Ogbuagu was well-known to me, and that he was my father, friend, advisor, encourager and, indeed, father to all Prefab youths. When the Imo State Police Command shamelessly connived with the disgraced immediate past speaker of Imo State House of Assembly (Benjamin Uwajumogu) and frivolously accused me and my wife of murder, and we were remanded at the Owerri Federal Prisons in August 2014, Dee Bob Ogbuagu’s wife (Mummy Cecilia) visited the prisons on two occasions to see and wish us well. Imagine an old woman in her eighties, visiting the prisons just to wish me and my wife well.
It will, therefore, be very stupid, foolish and idiotic of me to stand aloof, and watch Dee Bob Ogbuagu lowered into his grave on November 18, 2017 without paying proper tribute.
The question therefore is: Who was this Dr Bob Beremako Ewulonu Ogbuagu? From the above narrative, it is obvious I knew him enough and, therefore, eminently qualified to answer the above question.
Let me confess here that the personality I am about to unveil is not somebody that can be captured in an article by any writer. Indeed, a book of about 5,000 pages could be written to accomplish the task of unveiling Dee Bob Ogbuagu. Nevertheless, I will make an attempt to talk about the man, a human edifice, miracle of ingenuity and doyen of Public Relations in Nigeria and Africa.
Bob Ogbuagu, as he was popularly nown,was born on May 25, 1925 in Umukabia, Ohuhu Clan of Umuahia North Local Government Area of Abia State; to the family of Chief (Sir) Francis Udegbu Ogbuagu, a former school headmaster and Methodist Church priest. He attended Methodist Central School in Umukabia, and the famous Methodist College, Uzoakoli, where he finished in flying colours in 1945. He also attended the famous Brookings Institute, USA.
A variable has two sides; the converse and the obverse. It is the fusion of the two sides that gives one the true impression or identity of that given variable. Conversely, human personality is also like a variable, because the converse and obverse sides of an individual are loaded with negative and positive attributes; depending on who is doing the evaluation or depending where the evaluator belongs. From my socio-political barometer, I make bold to state that Sir Bob Ogbuagu, OON, had during his life established himself as a constant vis-avis his various exploits in life, which earned him membership of who is who in the state, Igboland, Nigeria, the Commonwealth, Africa and at the global arena.
Responsible family man
Dee Bob married very early in life to his beautiful wife, Mummy Cecilia in 1950; and together they had six children, among them, Uncle Uche, Uncle Chinedu (late), Aunty Ada, KK and Kelechi. He (together with his caring wife) trained his children and they are all doing very well in their chosen professions. No doubt, he was a successful father, proud grandfather and happy great-grandfather.
Dee Bob was one of the last surviving members of the defunct Zikist Movement that contributed enormous youthful vigour to the struggle for Nigeria’s independence. He worked closely with Kola Balogun and MCK Ajuluchukwu, president and secretary of the Zikist Movement respectively, to rid the country of foreign political domination and imperialism. Zikist Movement was formed on February 2, 1946 in Lagos, by radical young Nigerians who were fired by the oratorical prowess and political philosophy of Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe. The movement was politically aligned to then National Council of Nigeria and Cameroons (NCNC).
The resolute commitment of Dee Bob to the political liberation of Nigeria made him to abandon (through resignation) his flourishing career at Nigeria Geological Survey Department, Kaduna in 1948, to join the nationalist struggle. He was secretary-general of the Zikist Movement between 1948 and 1950, in Kaduna. He later became president of the Movement in Jos, Plateau State. In his desire to give bruises to the British colonial authorities, he floated a newspaper known as the Northern Advocate, which became an instant hit in the anti-colonial struggle. The newspaper was based in Jos.
The radicalism of Dee Bob put him in collision with the colonial authority in Nigeria. As a result, his newspaper, The Northern Advocate, was proscribed in February 1955. Next, he, alongside other prominent members of the Zikist Movement, such as MCK Ajuluchukwu, Kola Balogun, Anthony Enahoro, Sa’ad Zungur, Ikenna Nzimiro, Osita Agwuna, Raji Abdullahi and Ogedengbe Macaulay, etc, were arrested, charged and convicted for sedition, and sentenced to prison. He served his sentence in Jos Prison, where he was held in solitary confinement.
Political leader par excellence
After serving his sentence in Jos Prison, Dee Bob Ogbuagu regained his freedom. Thereafter, he relocated to the Eastern Region, where he teamed up with Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe and Dr Michael Iheonukara Okpara, to work graciously for the repositioning of the economy of the region.
While Okpara took over as Premier of the defunct Eastern Region, Dee Bob was appointed chairman of the Eastern Nigeria Development Corporation (ENDC). It was under his watch that the famed agricultural, industrial and infrastructural revolution of the Okpara administration in the Eastern Nigeria took place. It should be noted that it was within this period (1961) that the World Bank in its annual report boldly declared that the Eastern Region of Nigeria was the fastest growing economy in the whole of sub-Saharan Africa.
The ENDC – as the investment arm of the regional administration – under the leadership of Dee Bob Ogbuagu was responsible for the monumental infrastructures that littered the entire landscape of the region. This included the following: Hotel Presidential, Enugu; Hotel Presidential, Port Harcourt; Trans-Amadi Industrial Layout, Port Harcourt; Emene Industrial Layout, Enugu; University of Nigeria, Nsukka (UNN); Obudu Cattle Ranch, Ogoja; Nigerian Cement Company (NigerCem), Nkalagu; Calabar Cement Company, Calabar; Independence Breweries (Golden Guinea), Umuahia; Modern Ceramic Industries, Umuahia; Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Umuahia (now Federal Medical Centre); Cocoa and Rubber plantations in Ikom, Calabar and Abam. And several Farm Settlements spread across every nook and cranny of the entire Eastern Region.
A Public Relations edifice
Dee Bob Ogbuagu was not just a newspaper publisher and manager, he was doyen of Public Relations not only in Nigeria but also in Africa. He made name in newspaper management, Advertising and Public Relations. He was ingenious in handling public affairs issues, and his contribution to the growth of the media industry in Nigeria was recognised, and it fetched him handsome rewards. He was national president of Nigerian Institute of Public Relations (NIPR) from 1980 to 1984. He was also a distinguished fellow of the association. His peak in Public Relations came in 1981, when he was elected the first President Emeritus of the Federation of African Public Relations Association (FAPRA), which he co-founded in Nairobi, Kenya. He held the position from 1981 to 1987.
Dee Bob was also a member of so many other associations such as, Arab Public Relations Associations, Nigerian Institute of Directors and British Institute of Public Relations, among others. At the age of 70, in 1995, the Publisher of Champion Newspapers Ltd, Chief Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu, pleaded with Dee Bob to come and manage his newspaper business. A patriotic Igbo man, he accepted and became the Managing Director/Editor-in-Chief of Champion Newspapers Ltd for five years, before he bowed out gracefully. Dee Bob was also director of companies owned by Engr Iwuanyanwu, such as ENIC Advertising Agency Ltd, Luncheon Vouchers (Nig) Ltd, Nigeria and Overseas Gas Company Ltd, etc.
Perhaps, Dee Bob Ogbuagu’s greatest service to humanity and mankind was the pioneering roles he played in the Rotary Club International, both in Nigeria and Overseas.
He served the club in many capacities, capping it with his election in 1983 as the Governor, District 911, Rotary Club International, Nigeria. Within the period, he executed many humanitarian and social projects in the country under the platform of Rotary Club International.
A Devout Christian
Dee Bob was a committed Christian leader in the Methodist Church Nigeria, where he was once a Lay president. He was chairman of the Committee for the Expansion and renovation of the Christ Methodist Church, Umukabia community in Umuahia North LGA of Abia State. In acknowledgement of his leadership roles in the Methodist Church, he conferred with the Knight of John Wesley, in the year 2000. He also used his God-given wealth in the building of many Methodist Church projects across the South-eastern part of Nigeria.
Community, state, regional and national leader
Dee Bob Ogbuagu was not just a political leader, but also a community leader who saw to the growth of his Umukabia community. He was, indeed, the quintessential man of the people who associated himself with many developmental projects, such as: school rehabilitations, market constructions, road construction, building houses for the less-privileged in the society, etc. He trained and sponsored many people in their educational pursuits. Therefore, it was in recognition of his numerous gestures towards the uplift of the society that he was honoured with several chieftaincy titles across Nigeria. These included the following:
Onu n’ekwuru Oha I of Nkwoegwu, Autonomous Community, Ohuhu, Umuahia (1970); Omee Okachie of Eziama, Aba (1983); Otun Babagunwa of Mushin, Lagos (1998); Motoye of Ijanikun, Lagos (1983); Papa-Nnukwu of Prefab community, Prefab Housing Estate, Owerri.
Also, in recognition of his modest contributions to the socio-political and economic development of Nigeria, the Federal Government under Gen Abacha conferred on him the Officer of the Order of the Niger in 1995.
With the painful and regrettable ‘stepping aside’ of Dee Bob Ogbuagu, Africa has lost a pan-Africanist, Nigeria has lost a great statesman with leadership traits, Ndigbo has lost one of the few surviving pillars of Igbo strength, Abia State has lost their mouthpiece, Prefab Housing Estate has lost their Papa-Nnukwu, the newspaper industry has lost a frontline administrator/journalist, the Methodist Church Nigeria has lost a pillar of support, the Public Relations industry has lost first-class image maker. Finally, the Ogbuagu family has lost a father, grandfather and great-grandfather.
As we mourn the exit of legendary Chief Bob Beremako Ewulonu Ogbuagu, we must take consolation in the fact that he lived a life worthy of emulation. Dee Bob was a great man par excellence; a legend in body and in spirit. Conversely, given the personal sacrifices he made for the socio-political liberation of this country Nigeria, and the inspiring and engaging roles he played in our national history, he deserves a regional/state burial.
•Hon Ikenna Samuelson Iwuoha, FCAI, MKDA, former Senior Special Assistant on Media, Imo State House of Assembly, can be reached via 0703293403; on Facebook @citizenikennasamuelsoniwuoha
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