The death of Dr. Onukaba Adinoyi-Ojo, veteran journalist, playwright, author, gubernatorial aspirant, as he tried to flee from armed robbers a few miles from Akure, is a sad reminder to all Nigerians of the precarious security situation in the country. He was on his way home from Abeokuta where he had attended the inauguration of the Olusegun Obasanjo Presidential Library when he, alongside others, ran into an armed robbery operation. He and his two companions abandoned the car they were travelling in and tried to take cover in the bush, but he ran headlong into an oncoming vehicle also fleeing from the robbers, and died of injuries.
The shock of Adinoyi-Ojo’s death is still reverberating in journalism and literary circles, which still do not comprehend how such an illustrious life could end so abruptly. The Lagos State Council of the Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ) has scheduled special events in his honour, including A Day of Tributes, in Lagos and Abuja.Veteran journalist and popular columnist, Sonala Olumhense, has instituted the Onukaba Adinoyi-Ojo Memorial Trust Fund also in his honour. He described the deceased as “an exceptional human being… you do not remember him without remembering just how genuine he was.”
Condolences have come from far and near. Vice President Yemi Osinbajo expressed sadness that Nigeria has lost a gem. Former governor of Lagos State and Leader of the APC, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, issued a moving statement extolling the virtues of Adinoyi-Ojo. With his passage, he averred that journalism has lost one of its best and brightest. Minister of Labour, Chief Chris Ngige, said Nigeria would miss his services as a journalist and a journalism teacher. The All Progressives Congress, his political party, paid its tribute through its National Chairman, Chief Odigie Oyegun, consoling the Kogi State Chapter of the party through its governor. Special Adviser on Political Matters to President Muhammadu Buhari, Senator Babafemi Ojudu, described Adinoyi-Ojo as “a brilliant and incorruptible journalist. He stood out among his colleagues as aviation correspondent for The Guardian where he met and struck a friendship with Obasanjo.”
Dr. Adinoyi-Ojo lived a life crowded with achievements and activities. Born on March 9, 1960 at Oboroke-Ihima, Okehi Local Government Area of Kogi State, he obtained a degree in Theatre Arts from the University of Ibadan in 1982 under the tutelage of Prof. Femi Osofisan who was said to have been instrumental to his joining The Guardian, where he quickly distinguished himself, in 1983. In three years, he had been promoted News Editor of The Guardian and in 1989, he proceeded to the United States for graduate education at the New York University.
In New York, he served as Research Officer at the African Leadership Forum and also as the Information Officer, Division of Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs, United Nations Operation in Somalia (UNOSOM) between 1994 and 1995. He obtained his Ph.D in 1996 from New York University and was subsequently appointed Adjunct Professor of Mass Communication at the School of New Resources, College of New Rochelle, New York, in 1997. He was later appointed a press officer of the United Nations Department of Public Information, which sent him to Iraq as Humanitarian Co-coordinator. It was during that posting he chanced upon the Chaldean seer and the dire prophecies about his future wife, which tragically came to pass when his wife, Rachel, died five years ago. He re-married in 2015 to Memunat, who along with his three children, are his survivors.
He was one of Nigeria’s most productive journalists and playwrights, leaving behind an awesome number of plays and books including Born to Run, a biography of Dele Giwa, the famous Nigerian editor murdered in 1987 by a parcel bomb, which he co-authored with Dele Olojede. He wrote two biographies: In the Eyes of Time, a biography of the former president, Olusegun Obasanjo; The Story of Atiku Abubakar, a biography of former vice-president, Atiku Abubakar. He wrote many plays including a literary masterpiece such as The Killing Swamp, which got listed in 2010 among the three finalists for the 2010 NLNG Literature Awards. Other Plays are Her Majesty’s Visit; A Resting Place; Tower of Burden; The Virginity Flee; The Lone Ranger; Bargain Hunting, and Soommalliyya.
Dr.Adinoyi-Ojo returned to Nigeria at the advent of democratic rule and got appointed as Special Assistant on Media to the then Vice President Atiku Abubakar. Indeed, his friendship with President Obasanjo and Vice-president Atiku Abubakar must have influenced Onukaba’s foray into politics. And, although he was yet to achieve his dream of governing his home state, Kogi, the hope was that if he had lived longer, he would have achieved his ambition as he did in everything he tried to do in life.
The circumstances of his death will remain like a fresh wound in the psyche of Nigerians who will always remember that the absence of security on Nigerian highways robbed the nation of one of its most creative, hardworking and humane citizens. Adieu, Onukaba-Adinoyi Ojo.