Rose Ejembi, Makurdi
Family members of ace broadcaster, Dr. Inalegwu Odeh, of the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA), are still trying to unravel the mystery behind his sudden disappearance on January 6, this year.
The 65-year-old Ode who retired from the NTA some years back was said to have left his residence located on Demepke area of Makurdi that fateful day about 6:30a.m for his usual early morning jog but never returned home till date.
More disturbing is the fact that his whereabouts has remained unknown. He was said to have left his mobile phone at home while leaving for the morning exercise on that day.
The elder brother of the missing veteran journalist, who spoke with Sunday Sun on the phone last Thursday, Okpachu Ode, an engineer, said that the family was still in the dark as to the whereabouts of his brother, after the family had made several efforts, including checking all the hospitals, mortuaries as well as engaging the services of local fishermen, to check if he was drowned in the River Benue, and all to no avail.
Okpabi who led some members of the family to visit Governor Samuel Ortom, where they also notified him of the disappearance of their brother, disclosed that the matter was reported to the police immediately it happened yet, his brother had still not been found.
Okpachu who stated that even if Inalegwu was abducted, it was expected that his abductors would have contacted the family and made demands but that nothing of such had happened even as he urged the governor to do everything in his power to ensure that his brother was found whether dead or alive.
“He (Inalegwu) went for a morning walk over a month and two weeks now and since then, nothing has been heard about him. We have done everything possible to locate him including combing bushes, rivers but to no avail. We urge the governor to help talk to the police to intensify their search for him,” he said.
Responding, Governor Ortom, who was worried over the sudden disappearance of Inalegwu, whom he described as his friend, said the situation was strange and mysterious but however assured the family that the police would do a thorough work to unravel the mystery behind the disappearance.
“It is sad to hear the story of missing Odey from his family. It is worrisome but I trust God that we will hear a cheering news that he is back and one day, he would resurface. I can assure you that the police will do a thorough work to unravel his whereabouts. It has become our (government) burden too because Ode is our friend,” the governor stated.
Inalegwu’s wife, Esther, who initially declined to comment on the matter when Sunday Sun reached out to her later said: “On that January 6, I was not home; I was actually at the house of one of my daughters who gave birth to a baby at the New GRA area of Makurdi. I had been there a few days earlier helping the new mother and her baby, though, every evening about 6:30pm I still checked at my home in Demekpe before returning to my daughter’s place.
“About 11:00a.m on that particular day my husband went missing, my younger daughter had called to inform me that her father went out for his normal morning walk and hadn’t returned. That was very unusual, so we immediately swung into action by going round his friends’ homes and possible places he could visit, all to no avail.”
Mrs Ode who said she had been married to the missing man for nearly 32 years following their marital vow on August 16, 1986, expressed worry that her husband never went out to jog without his cell phone except on that fateful day.
More so, the woman stressed that he had never acted in any such manner before and so the family had no slight suspicion of whatever could have been wrong, especially, as no one contacted them to suggest that the veteran journalist may have been kidnapped.
According to her, whenever her husband went for the usual work at 6:30 am, he would normally return to his house between 7:30am and 8:00am because he strolled within his vicinity and never went far.
She disclosed that whenever her husband stayed beyond his regular time of coming back home after his morning walk, it meant he was chatting with a friend he met along the way, stressing that even on such occasion, he could easily be sighted by family members few blocks away from their house.
Mrs Ode, who declined to comment much on the matter following the traumatic loss of a loved one in such manner maintained that life had not been the same for the family since the husband went missing.
She passionately appealed to members of the public to give information that could lead to the unraveling of the man’s whereabouts.
When contacted, Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO), ASP Moses Yamu, who confirmed the report said the police were doing their best to unravel the mystery behind the sudden disappearance of the victim.
Yamu who noted that the fact Inalegwu did not go out that day with his phone was making it pretty difficult to know his whereabouts, said if he had gone out with his mobile phone, it would have been easier to track his possible whereabouts with it.
Meanwhile, in a write up which he posted on his Facebook wall, Nats Onoja Agbo, a veteran journalist, said it sounded very strange that Inalegwu Ode had not been seen in any part of Makurdi since his disappearance especially as he is not a strange face within the television community in Nigeria.
“He was a constant face on television as a producer of political programmes, especially during the Second Republic. Remember his encounter with Brigadier-General John Atom Kpera, erstwhile military governor of Benue State, when he asked about the condition of the treasury and military governor’s curt reply: “I left it as I met it”
Ode who later served as Chief Press Secretary to then military governor of Benue State, Group Captain Jonah Jang, was said to be very powerful as commissioners had to wait for clearance before seeing their principal.
“At the end of that assignment, he returned to the Nigerian Television Authority briefly before stepping out into the world of business. He established a company, Midbelt Communications Limited in Makurdi with special interest in television production, editing and publishing magazines and books.
“He ventured into historical documentation with the publication of his slim volume on the election and installation of Dr. Edwin Ogbu, a former Ambassador as Och’Idoma III. He was also an active participant in the various campaigns for the creation of Apa State.
“Was he kidnapped? If he was abducted, why haven’t the kidnappers contacted the family, as is the practice, to ask for ransom? Or did he deliberately run away from home? He had no reason to do that because he was a responsible family man and community leader who has continued to be relevant in the political calculations in Benue State,” Agbo reasoned.