Vanguard (Lagos)

Nigeria: The Journalist as a Patriot - Onyema Ugochukwu at 65

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As impressionable, idealistic young Nigerians, we are intrigued by the Onyema Ugochukwu narrative. Here is a man richly endowed by his Creator with an incredibly intelligent mind, deep perception and an uncommon persuasion of moral appropriateness.

The Ugochukwu we know is an unapologetic moral idealist who views every social and material phenomenon from the right or wrong prism. It is very easy to detect and detest a sanctimonious skew to his inquisitiveness but at the end of every mission, it becomes clear he has exercised superior judgment. His unique sense of functionalism makes him question the rationale for every action of man, which must be ethically situated.

Cerebral, urbane, charming, well-groomed and disarmingly courteous to the big and small, Ugochukwu's cosmology is indeed universal, and humanity is his true constituency. On numerous occasions, those who have encountered Onyema Ugochukwu holding court amongst his kinsmen in his beloved Umule village, during his days as an editor or administrator in Daily Times of Nigeria; at State House Abuja as a presidential aide; at NDDC as chairman or elsewhere as a politician, will testify to the fact that his focus is farther: he would readily subsume his personal interest for the larger national interest.

Ugochukwu trained as an economist and first took appointment with the Central Bank of Nigeria as a research officer but he would locate his bearing in the newsroom of one of Africa's most notable newspapers. Folklore has it that his mother's serious concern that lawyers would one day die of hunger if all men became righteous, forced him to abandon studying law for economics.

Embarrassed by his decision, an uncle who first mooted the idea of his studying law now went to his mother and explained to her that "do you know that Onyema is going to the university to learn how to be a miser?" The poor woman soaked in misery all day.

Maybe the uncle had clairvoyant powers, because Onyema Ugochukwu does not suffer spendthrifts gladly. No budget will escape his dreaded red pen as many would testify from his Daily Times, Presidency and NDDC days, a trait laced with a healthy loathing for extravagance and inattentiveness. But on his love for his people, there is no holding back..

Ugochukwu is at heart a villager. Umule has benefitted immensely from his generosity. The Ugochukwus are a pillar of support for the community, a typical African village but one which has not lost its innocence. Inside the Ugochukwu family compound proper is the African extended family tradition at work. The bond of family is strong here. Everyone looks after the other. They work together, pray together, eat together, and share their gains and pains together.

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