THISDAY Style

HAPPY 60th BIRTHDAY TO AN ENABLER – NDUKA OBAIGBENA

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Some people, in the course of following their own dreams, provide places and open up spaces for others to fulfil purpose. That is my definition of an enabler and that is what Nduka Obaigbena has represente­d to many, including myself, (since I became part of the This Day family, in 2003).

At the turn of the new millennium I was adjusting to life as a wife and a new mother, living in the United States. Since my husband had been recruited from abroad, my visa put me in the category of expatriate wives so when I was not tending to my family, I spent my time volunteeri­ng in church and in a school in my neighbourh­ood. Restless soul that I am, I began to feel a need to write a faith- based column. I sent samples of my articles to select Nigerian dailies. I heard back from Kunle Hamilton, then editor of Glitterati, the soft cell pull-out in This Day newspapers on Sundays. His response left me with the impression that This Day accepted columnists on merit and not based on who they knew. So, I began ‘Footprints’. I must have been writing for over a year before I met the editor. I eventually changed the name of the column to ‘Colours of Life’. While I have Kunle Hamilton to thank for that opportunit­y, I appreciate Nduka Obaigbena for the platform.

After 5 years, I stopped writing so as to give more of my time to family life. But the desire remained and the readers who had followed the column over the years kept urging me on. Deep down inside I felt the Lord wanted me to keep at it and that feeling was confirmed in a chat I had with Mr Obaigbena one faithful day.

I had attended a media town hall meeting at MUSON and after the event I greeted Mr Obaigbena. In our conversati­on I mentioned that I wanted to resume writing in This Day. His reply came in 12 powerful words “Why did you stop writing? Don’t you know it is a call?” I am not sure he even remembers this dialogue but I will never forget it because God used those words to set me back on track.

In the years of writing the weekly Sunday column, I formed my own opinion of the man they call The Duke. I had been writing for about 2 years when I lost my dear father, Justice P.O.E. Bassey. Mr Obaigbena offered to send his correspond­ence in Calabar to cover the State funeral and that, he did. Coincident­ally, in that same year, we kicked off our Rainbow Book Club ‘Get Nigeria Reading again!’ campaign. We set out, cap in hand, on a drive to recruit co-labourers to bear the burden of raising a reading nation. I approached Mr Obaigbena to support our cause with adverts and he did, more than once.

Reading from those who relate to him closely, one can deduce that the Chairman is some sort of an enigma, a maverick, a man of diverse sides, unconventi­onal in the way he runs his business. It is also obvious that he is a risk taker, a pace setter and a game changer. But what those who work in This Day don’t need to tell anyone, because it is evident for all to see, is that Nduka Obaigbena dreams big. No wonder in just 25 years he has grown the business from publishing a weekly paper, then a national daily to a media conglomera­te with multiple tributarie­s – This Day Music festival, This Day Awards, Arise Magazine, Arise TV and Arise Fashion week. As the group re-invents itself, it also continues to give opportunit­y to gifted people, in diverse fields, to blossom.

Again on a personal note, I recall the days when Mr Obaigbena used to bring ex US Presidents for the This Day Awards. One of the years Bill Clinton was coming I sought audience with Mr Obagbena. I had one request – I wanted Bill Clinton to read to children at the instance of the Rainbow Book Club. My friend and in-law, Uju Irukwu, facilitate­d the meeting with the Duke in his home in Lagos. The reading did not happen but Uju and I enjoyed a friendly visit.

To run any business in Nigeria is no mean feat. To have begun a newspaper house without a printing press, grown, sustained, and transforme­d the enterprise into the media powerhouse that it is today must be the result of vision, backed by hard work, grit, foresight, strategic thinking, and tons of luck.. or what I prefer to see as blessings.

I congratula­te Nduka Obaigbena on his 60th birthday and pray that God blesses him with every spiritual blessing in heavenly places in Christ Jesus.

While I thank my current editor, Ruth Osime, for the opportunit­y, I am grateful to Nduka Obaigbena for the platform and for those 12 words he spoke that caused me to pick up my pen, almost 10 years after I had put it down, and resume writing this column.

Reading from those who relate to him closely, one can deduce that the Chairman is some sort of an enigma, a maverick, a man of diverse sides, unconventi­onal in the way he runs his business. It is also obvious that he is a risk taker, a pace setter and a game changer.

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