Last week, the cold hands of death snatched one of the nation's pre-eminent broadcast journalists in Olusegun Olusola.
He reportedly died in a private hospital in Lagos. Olusola was, without doubt, one of Nigeria's foremost culture icon, a great humanist, and we dare add, a quintessential diplomat who touched many lives and greatly impacted his society in such a manner that he cannot be easily forgotten.
A consummate professional, Olusola would indeed always be remembered for his pioneering role in several educational and entertainment programmes on television where he made his name and fame. He began his career at the Nigeria Broadcasting Service (NBC), Ibadan, in 1955, from where he moved to help establish the Western Nigerian Television (WNTV) in 1959. He would later move to the Nigerian Television Service, the precursor of the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA) where he enjoyed a distinguished career, serving in numerous positions up to his retirement in 1987. Most people regard Olusola's defining moment in his creation, in 1968, of "The Village Headmaster", a drama series that became Nigeria's longest running television soap. But Olusola actually inspired several other programmes which made the NTA a must-watch for most Nigerians before the advent of cable (and independent) television.
He was equally credited with greater responsibility for the staging in Nigeria of the Festival of African Arts and Culture, (FESTAC) 77, and also for transforming the fiesta into the Centre for Black and African Arts and Culture. Following his retirement from the NTA in 1987, Olusola was appointed Nigeria's ambassador to Ethiopia and the then Organisation of African Unity (OAU), a position he held until 1993. It was during his tour of duty in Ethiopia that he came face to face with the ravages of war and its debilitating consequences upon victims, especially in the horn of Africa. What he saw so touched Olusola that he founded the African Refugees Foundation (AREF) in 1993, a non-governmental organisation that catered for victims of war such as refugees and other internally displaced persons.
Born in Iperu-Remo in Ogun State, Olusola attended St. John's Catholic School and Wesley School, Iperu-Remo from 1941 to 1947 before proceeding to Remo Secondary School, Sagamu. He later attended the Universities of Pittsburgh and Syracuse both in the United States. After his university education, Olusola came back to Nigeria and began his distinguished media career at the Nigeria Broadcasting Service (now FRCN), Ibadan as Broadcasting Officer from 1955 - 1959 before he became executive producer, WNBC/WNTV Ibadan, 1959 - 1964. He was also Controller of Programmes NBC/TV, Lagos 1965-1974; Director of Programmes, NTA Lagos, 1974-1976; General Manager, NTA Lagos 1976-1978 and Director, NTA Lagos, 1978-1987.
Olusola's first marriage was to his former cast-member on the "Village Headmaster", Elsie Olusola, aka Sisi Clara, with whom he had three children. Following Elsie's death in 1993, he married Mrs. Beatrice Fehintola Olusola, a former school mate with whom he also had three children. With the traditional title of Jibulu of Iperu Remo, Olusola's love for culture and the arts endured even to his death. Little wonder that he converted part of his Surulere, Lagos home, to a thriving public arts gallery, the Ajibulu-Moniya Gallery.
With his death, Nigeria has lost a veteran media giant, a culture icon, an art connoisseur, a humanitarian of no mean order, an ambassador extraordinaire, and above all, a kind family man. He will be greatly missed by all. May God grant his gentle soul peaceful repose.