opinionBy Azuka Jebose Molokwu
We left Amadi Ogbonnaya on the beat. The beat was our field of dreams: few of us were in a hurry to see our dreams come real in our chosen profession. But Amadi stayed because he believed in our dreams and stayed hopeful.
He continued the tradition until his sun set: He held onto entertainment journalism, long after time and death happened to his contemporaries and colleagues. Some of us drifted in search of all things best in life, while some died suddenly at their prime. Amadi came into the profession when it was noble, practiced by young, dedicated and fearless bunch of bohemians, inspired by the desire to effect change by elevating the dynamics of entertainment journalism: we were neither activist nor citizen journalists. We were not media mouths of celebrities and society movers and losers:
we just wanted to do our job: report, protect and preserve the sanctity of entertainment journalism. We were fresh air. Despite the challenges of the profession; we felt the rigorous responsibilities of being the best at what we did. We violated and risked our human endurances: what kept the band of entertainment journalists then, as one, was the love for the profession, respect for the practitioners and the professionals. Above everything else, we were a communal family and celebrated each day that we were together happily and refreshingly.
Our hard work, our resilience and dedication to entertainment beat blessed us with fame: yet, we were not stronger than pride.
The period of the eighties was the best of everything entertainment in Nigeria's social lifestyle. The pop culture was experiencing a transition from the disco era to the protest reggae music that called our sufferings and smiling to universal attention.
The fashion industry was emerging with its adventure into Nigerian couture, experimenting with Adire, guinea brocade and colorful lace rags: new age designers and runway models designed wears that turned heads and made us look sensual, stylish and sizzling. The pride was made in Nigeria by Nigerians for Nigerians. The nouveau riche under a military dictatorship that peppered us with austerity measures, green revolution, structural adjustment programs, unsteady inflation and corruption instantly became society power brokers and celebrities anchored by major electronic media stars: we had no social media, no cell phones, and no digital on demand media. Best of the intrigues of our lives? No regular salaries. Most newspapers then were also challenged by scarcity of newsprints. Newspaper Pagination became casualties of austere times. But we had courage, determination and the desire to uphold the ethics of entertainment journalism. We had soul!
Guided, guarded, encouraged and cheered on by our entertainment editors in various media organisations: we were privileged Ben Tomoloju with The Guardian, Fola Arogundade; the Vanguard, Ladi Ayodeji of The Punch, Chinaka Fynecountry, Lagos Weekend, Chuks Anyaso, Daily Times,; Basil Okafor, Sunday Times, Moji Danisa, Clinax Magazine, May Ellen Ezekiel and Michael Awoyinfa, Concord Newspaper. With faith and fate, my generation of entertainment reporters became foot soldiers on the beat. We competed respectfully and with dignity for exclusive stories and gossips against each in the business. Amadi was one of us: he tagged along his then new entertainment editor after Arogundade left, Late Hakeem Ikandu.
The eighties entertainment beat reporters pool was a caravan of respect, love and pride as we competed for entertainment and society hot news in the trade: That pool included the best of our time writers and reporters; Alozie Uzouku, Kafui Gale Zoyiku, Jahman Anikulapo, Abdul Okwechime, Basil Okafor, Kolosa Kargbo, Ifeanyi Nkennor, Wale Olomu, Moji Danisa, Mayor Akinpelu, Femi Akintunde Johnson, Kunle Bakare, Toyin Akinosho, Billy Okonedo, Richard Mofe Damijo, May Ellen Ezekiel, Betty Irabor, Chuzy Onuorah Udenwa, Charles Okogene, Hakeem Ikandu, Tunji Bello, Toyin Akinosho, Uzor Maxim Uzoatu, Ifechi Okoh, Niran Maraolu and yours sincerely. Lagos was the centre spread of Nigeria's show business and entertainment.
We crawled the days and nights, hanging out with the best celebrities and entertainers in our worse socio economic meltdowns. We just wanted to report. We would assemble midweek at Jazz 38 located along Obafemi Awolowo way at Ikoyi, Lagos,especially nites when Fela Anikulapo Kuti guested. We had places to go. We knew how and where to ambush celebrities for stories, exclusives and the mundane trivialities of their lives: Klass Nite Club, Beech Combas and Lords club both located in Maryland district, Ikeja, Ace Nite Club along Allen Avenue. Sylverbirds at Yaba, Faze 2 Niteclub, Jibowu, Floating Buka, ducked at the Marina water front, Caban Bamboo inside The Hotel Bobby Benson, a onetime structural landmark that dotted the skylines of Ikorodu road, Phoenicia hotel, Paradiso, Cool Cat Inn, Dollaz Nite Club, Climax Nite club, the Afrika Shrine on Pebble Street, Stadium hotel was a place to capture the essence of highlife music as performed by Sir Victor Olaiya and featured guest or guest bands. We followed musicians to record studios and watched them record their albums; we witnessed rehearsal sessions of musicians and theatre practitioners as they prepared for their productions. We were privileged access to everywhere and everything show business. We were everywhere nosing for news. We happened to entertainment beats and the beat went on until the last of the endangered species, Amadi fell last month
If you had the privilege of meeting him; you would feel his abrasiveness, his assured self-esteem, his intolerance to shenanigans and his desire to get things done. These attributes were our work culture and ethics then: We reported and damned the consequences.
We walked the lines of true entertainment journalism. Amadi was a part of that exciting and exhilarating period of entertainment journalism and show business. During the Nigerian Idol season in March, our mutual friend and one of the judges, Charles Oputa (Area Father) called me and requested I came to his hotel and chill with him: I drove down to his hotel as it was lazy and boring Saturday evening: Who would miss the opportunity to hang out with CB? The intriguing human, CB said he had just been invited to the Nigerian Idol theatre where the twelve finalists were going to be introduced to the media: It was the last time I would see my dearest friend Ogbonnaya. During one of our telephone conversations, as I blazed through the pains and turbulence of divorce, he reached out to me from Nigeria:"Jebose, you need to come back home. Let's repackage you.
Your wife don carry everything, so I beg make you come back because you are still the Godfather of entertainment journalism. I am the DON. Yes Jebose. I am the DON. Since you comot, Hakeem die, Wale die, FAJ retired, na who remain? Me! That's why I am the DON..." Goodbye and thanks for the privilege to be your brother and friend.