July 15, 2019 was an exceptional day for the Publisher of Thisday Newspaper and founder, Arise Television, Prince Nduka Obaigbena.
It was the day his family members, colleagues from the pen profession and associates across ethnic, religious and political divides assembled at the Eko Hotels and Suites, Victoria Island, Lagos, to pour accolades on the media guru. He clocked 60 on July 14.
It was an event with glitz and glamour. For a long time to come, it would remain the talk of the town.
A walk through the aisle and other corridors leading to the hall at the hotel revealed class, taste and sophisticated creativity. Emerald green and black were blended to decorate everywhere one turned. Like a forest, tall artificial trees were used to add spice to the allure. The chandeliers and other colour lighting left the hall with a spectacular shimmering. Chairs in black covers were set around tables of eight with black overlays.
As guests trickled into the halls in twos and threes, the DJ was consistent in dishing out contemporary tunes as well as songs of yore. The blast from the speakers reverberated across the building. The atmosphere was infectious as many posed for quick photographs and short videos.
Not too far from the main expansive venue, guests were welcomed by dozens of ushers for a cocktail. The men looked graceful in suits while some wore native attire. With a variety of colours, women displayed their paragon of beauty in their dinner dresses. But green and black colour dresses dominated the day. The ushers were also not left out as they put on black body-fitting gowns. Their smiles and greetings were sonorous and laced with respect, and a sort of satisfaction of angelic grace.
The celebrant, who has now joined the club of sexagenarians, intermittently beamed with smile, was on ground early enough to personally receive his invitees. His joy knew no bounds as he moved from one seat to another to interact with many of the dignitaries.
It was a gathering of captains of industries, business executives and political heavyweights, who came to rejoice with their friend.
Welcoming guests to the occasion, the master of ceremonies described Obaigbena as a dynamic and creative man that needs little or no introduction. He said the publisher was a man that derives pleasure in taking everyone by surprise. Having noticed the array of dignitaries at the event, the anchorman, at the beginning of the programme, quickly acknowledged and apologized that there was a high possibility for him to breach the protocols.
The occasion also provided a platform for renowned journalists, politicians and business tycoons to throw banter at one another. There were protracted exchanges of pleasantries to the extent that it took the frantic effort of the MC to achieve a certain level of serenity for the party to kick off properly.
When he announced the presence of an international singer of repute, Toni Braxton as one of those to thrill the audience, the atmosphere became charged. Many were those that screamed for joy.
The sensational American singer took charge of the stage in an electrifying manner and held the audience spellbound for about 40 minutes. The 51-year-old R&B legend, wearing a short gown that revealed the better part of her thighs, was in her best elements as she sang one of her hit tracks “Not a man enough for me”. While she displayed her swift dancing skills, more than half of the audience could not resist the rhythm, and stood to dance along.
The celebrant, who donned a white suit, thanked everyone who came to felicitate with him. He described the honour as a privilege. He recalled how he proposed to celebrate a get-together party with a few friends in December last year but noted that he fell gravely ill on the day of the party and couldn’t attend the event.
“Today is to thank God for His goodness in my life. I was at the hospital for three months but God believes that I still have a role to play. This is God’s grace upon my life. I thank you all for making it to be here.
“Today, I think we need to talk about Nigeria and think about the inequality and think of how we can make our country great,” he said.
Since Sunday, accolades have been pouring in for Obaigbena. Leading the avalanche of congratulatory messages, President Muhammadu Buhari; the Senate President, Ahmed Lawan, fellow publishers, managing directors of media houses, governors, senators, former ministers, editors, top businessmen and other dignitaries, have wished him well as he clocked 60.
The event was attended by former Nigeria’s interim President, Chief Ernest Shonekan, Some of the guests present at the occasion were the Governor of Delta State, Senator Ifeanyi Okowa; Governor of Ogun State, Mr. Dapo Abiodun; the Governor of Imo State, Mr. Emeka Ihedioha; the Governor of Edo State, Mr. Godwin Obaseki; the Governor of Kwara State, Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq; the Governor of Sokoto State, Aminu Tambuwal; and the Governor of Kebbi State, Abubakar Bagudu. Others present were the Publisher of Vanguard Newspaper, Mr. Sam Amuka Pemu; Chairman of Guardian Press Limited/Publisher of the Guardian Newspapers, Maiden Alex-Ibru; the President of the Nigerian Guild of Editors (NGE), Mrs. Funke Egbemode, Publisher of Leadership Newspapers, Mr. Nda-Isaiah; the Publisher of Daily Times Newspaper, Mr. Fidelis Anosike; the Chairman and CEO of Channels Television, Mr. John Momoh; the Managing Director of The Sun Publishing Limited, Mr. Eric Osagie; national Chairman of All Progressives Congress (APC), Adams Oshiomhole; and the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Godwin Emefiele. Senator Uba Sani and Dayo Adeyeye represented the Senate President, Ahmed Lawan.
The guests also included former governor of Ekiti State, Chief Niyi Adebayo; former governor of Delta State, Dr James Ibori; former governor of Cross River State, Donald Duke; former governor of Lagos State and immediate past minister of Power, Works and Housing, Mr Babatunde Fashola; founder of Zenith Bank, Mr. Jim Ovia; Managing Director of Union Bank, Mr. Emeka Emuwa; Group Managing Director of Access Bank, Herbert Wigwe; one of the founders of Guarantee Trust Bank, Fola Adeola; Chairman of Heirs Holdings, United Bank for Africa, Mr Tony Elumelu; wife of the late business mogul, MKO Abiola, Mrs. Doyinsola Abiola; the immediate past minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed; Alhaji Hassan Dababa; and Hadiza Bala Usman.
The night was not just all about dancing, eating and drinking. Panellists were selected to quickly look into some of the problems bedevilling Nigeria and how they could be tackled.
Taking the first shot, a former Nigerian Ambassador to the United States, Prof. George Obiozor, identified poor political leadership as one of the major factors responsible for the numerous problems that has set Nigeria on a perpetual retrogression. He said Nigeria must not shy away from the truth and he called for the urgent needs the political office holders to represent the people better than they were doing at the moment.
He said it was a historical fallacy that Nigeria’s unity was not negotiable. He argued that the unity of Nigeria must be renegotiated and was subject to renegotiation from time to time. He urged the leaders not to resist the inevitable.
The former governor of Lagos State, Fashola, urged Nigeria’s best professionals to begin to play active role in public service. He said it was unfortunate that Nigeria’s very best have left public service for the private sector. He said the power and capacity in a well-resourced and competitively recruited civil service as real drivers of development should not be underestimated.
On his part, Dababa said Nigerians must come together to sincerely discuss the topical issues affecting Nigeria so that a lasting solution should be found.
Usman urged Nigerian leaders to begin to walk the talk and carry out aggressive reforms by developing the middle class that would transform the political and economic landscapes of the country. She said it was imperative to create a database of reformed-minded people, especially the younger generation and encourage them to participate in politics.
Obaigbena, who was commended by the Newspaper Proprietors Association of Nigeria (NPAN), for always fighting on behalf of his members’ welfare, was described as a man that has scored many firsts. The association presented him a gift, which he said he would forever cherish.
To appreciate God’s goodness upon his life, on July 14, he went to the Church of Christ Cathedral in Marina, Lagos. Dignitaries at the event include Africa’s richest man, Alhaji Aliko Dangote; Chairman of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF) and Governor of Ekiti State, Dr.Kayode Fayemi; Governor of Lagos State, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu; former Secretary General of the Commonwealth of Nations, Chief Emeka Anyaoku; among many others.