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Tribute: Dee Bob Ogbuagu: When a legend steps aside

IKENNA SAMUELSON IWUOHA

It was my younger brother, Emmanuel Nonye Iwuoha, who drew my attention in the early morning hours of Tuesday, August 22, 2017, of the passing on to higher glory of Chief Dr. Sir Bob Beremako Ewulonu Ogbuagu, OON, who was globally known as ‘’DEE BOB’’.

Of course, I knew Dee Bob had been sick and everything was being done to ensure his speedy recovery. Unfortunately, the Doyen of Public Relations in Africa and accomplished Newspaper genius succumbed to the cold hands of death on  August  21, 2017.

As should be expected, Who is Who in Abia State, Who is Who in Igboland, Who is Who in Nigeria, Who is Who in the Common Wealth, Who is Who in Africa and indeed, Who is Who in the world have all paid glowing tributes to the exemplary life which Dee Bob lived on this planet earth.

Dee Bob was my personal friend. He was my father, my encourager and my advisor. His private residence is in Prefab Housing Estate Owerri-Imo State. I grew up in Prefab. I knew Dee Bob in 1981 (36 years ago), when I was in Primary six. I and other prefab boys used to go to his house to play with his last son, Kelechi Iheukwumere  Ogbuagu. We had access to even his bedroom. Most times, while playing or watching television in his house, we would break and damage doors, louvers and chairs. Dee Bob would return home from work to behold the damages in his house. He would summon us (Prefab boys) to explain why we would not be careful and responsible. Of course, as a strict disciplinarian, he would punish us. All the then Prefab boys took Dee Bob as their father. He was our father. We ate his food, drank his Remy Martins Brandy, Moet/Chandon, Martell brandy, Metoeus Rose Wine, Yago Wine, etc, most times without his consent.

It was in the house of Dee Bob Ogbuagu that we the Prefab boys first saw Chief Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu (the Aha Eji Agamba of Igboland) in 1983. Iwuanyanwu had visited Dee Bob with his Brand New Rolls Royce Car. Almost all the Prefab boys trooped out enmass to Dee Bob Ogbuagu’s residence to behold the “wonder machine”. His wife (Mummy Cecilia) has remained a mother to all Prefab boys and girls, such that we still visit the family house to greet her and indeed crack jokes with her, even now that we have all grown up, married and managing our respective families.

Almost all the Prefab Boys grew up in Dee Bob’s house. We would abandon our various homes to ‘’anchor’’ at Dee Bob’s house. Most times, Dee Bob was never around, (he was always travelling to Lagos, Port Harcourt, Enugu, Calabar, London and USA etc) but his numerous vehicles then were at our mercy. We would intimidate and harass his drivers, and the car keys would be given to us. I learnt how to drive in 1985 at the age of 15. Most Prefab boys learnt how to drive with Dee Bob Ogbuagu cars. As should be expected, some of the vehicles got damaged in the process, but Dee Bob always bought new ones. He was a father to all of us.

I remember an incident that happened in 2006: dare devil armed robbers attacked Dee Bob Ogbuagu’s residence in Prefab at night. Prefab youths organized and mobilized themselves that same night. I was contacted and informed that armed robbers were robbing in Dee Bob’s house. I left my Ikenegbu Layout Extension residence that night and rushed to Prefab, and joined in the Rescue Operation. Other Prefab boys living outside Prefab but in Owerri, also rushed to Prefab that night. We confronted the Armed Robbers with the assistance of Policemen who arrived much later, and they were over powered. They fled Prefab Housing Estate without achieving their mission. Dee Bob and Mama Cecilia were not hurt, neither was anything (property) stolen.

I have used the above narrative to show that Dee Bob Ogbuagu was well known to me, and that he was my father, friend, advisor, encourager and indeed father to all Prefab youths. When the Imo State Police Command shamelessly connived with the disgraced immediate past Speaker of Imo State House of Assembly (Benjamin Uwajumogu) and frivolously accused me and my wife of murder, and we were remanded at the Owerri Federal Prisons in August 2014, Dee Bob Ogbuagu’s wife (Mummy Cecilia) visited the prisons on two occasions to see and wish us well. Imagine an old woman in her eighties, visiting the prisons just to wish me and my wife well.

It will therefore be very stupid, foolish and idiotic of me to stand aloof, and watch Dee Bob Ogbuagu lowered into his grave on the 18th of November 2017 without paying proper tribute.

The question therefore is; who was Dee Bob Beremako Ewulonu Ogbuagu? From the above narratives, it is obvious I knew him enough, and therefore eminently qualified to answer the question.

Let me confess here that the personality I am about to unveil is not somebody that can be captured in a mere article by any writer. Indeed, a book of about 5,000 pages will be needed to accomplish the task of unveiling Dee Bob Ogbuagu. Nevertheless, I will make an attempt to talk about this Man, this Human Edifice, this Miracle of Ingenuity and Doyen of Public Relations Practice in Nigeria and Africa.

Dee Bob Ogbuagu was born on the 25th of May 1925 in Umukabia in the Ohuhu Clan of Umuahia North Local Government Area of Abia State, to the family of Chief Sir Francis Udegbu Ogbuagu, a former SchoolHeadmaster and Methodist Church preacher. He attended Methodist Central School in Umukabia, and the famous Methodist College Uzoakoli where he finished in flying colours in 1945. He also attended the famous Brookings Institute, USA.

MULTIPLE PERSONALITY TRAITS

A variable has two sides; the converse and the obverse. It is the fusion of the two sides that gives one the true impression or identity of that given variable. Conversely, Human Personality is also like a variable, because the converse and obverse sides of an individual are loaded with negative and positive attributes; depending on who is doing the evaluation or depending where the evaluator belongs.

From my Socio-Political barometer, I make bold to state that Chief Sir Dr. Bob Ogbuagu, OON,  had during his life time established himself as a constant Vis-avis his various exploits in life which earned him as a member of who is who in Abia State, a member of who is who in Igboland, a member of who is who in Nigeria, a member of who is who in the commonwealth, a member of who is who in Africa and finally, a member of who is who in the world.

AS A RESPONSIBLE FAMILY MAN

Dee Bob married very early in life to his beautiful wife, Mummy Cecilia in 1950; and together they had six children, including Uncle Uche, Uncle Chinedu (late), Aunty Ada, KK and Kelechi amongst others. He (together with his lovely wife) trained his children and they are all doing very well in their chosen professions. No doubt, Dee Bob was a successful father, Proud grandfather and Happy great grandfather.

AS AN ACTIVIST POLITICIAN

Dee Bob was one of the last surviving members of the defunct Zikist Movement that led the struggles for Nigeria’s independence from the former British Colonial Authorities. He worked closely with Kola Balogun and MCK Ajuluchukwu, the President and Secretary of the Zikist Movement respectively, to rid the country of foreign political domination and imperialism. Zikist Movement was formed on the 2nd of February 1946 in Lagos by Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe and their memberships were radical young Nigerians. The movement was politically aligned to the National Council of Nigeria and Cameroons NCNC.

The resolute commitment of Dee Bob to the political liberation of Nigeria made him to abandon (through resignation) his flourishing career at Nigeria Geological Survey Department, Kaduna in 1948 to join the Nationalist struggles. He was the Secretary General of the Zikist Movement between 1948 and 1950, in Kaduna. He later became the President of the Movement in Jos, Plateau State. Dee Bob, in his

desire to give bruises to the British Colonial Authorities, floated a Newspaper ‘known as the “Northern Advocate” which became an instant hit to the Anti-Colonial struggle. The Newspaper was based in Jos-Plateau State.

The radicalism of Dee Bob put him in collision with the colonial authority in Nigeria. His Newspaper, ‘’The Northern Advocate’’ was proscribed in February 1955; while he alongside prominent members of the Zikist Movement like MCK Ajuluchukwu, Kola Balogun, Anthony Enakoro, Sa’ad Zungur, Ikenna Nzimiro, Osita Agwuna, Raji Abdullahi and Oge Dengbe Marculay etc, were arrested, charged and convicted for sedition and sentenced to prison. Dee Bob served his sentence in Jos Prison, where he was held in solitary confinement.

AS A POLITICAL LEADER PER EXCELLENCE

After serving his sentence in Jos Prison, Dee Bob Ogbuagu regained his freedom, and thereafter relocated to the Eastern Region where he teamed up with Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe and Dr. Michael Iheonukara Okpara to work graciously for the repositioning of the Economy of the region.

While Dr. Okpara served as the Premier of the Eastern Region, Dee Bob was appointed the Chairman of the Eastern Nigeria Development Commission (ENDC). It was under his watch that the famed Agricultural, Industrial and Infrastructural Revolution of the Dr. Okpara administration took place in the whole of Eastern Nigeria. It should be noted that it was within this period in 1961 that the World Bank in its annual report boldly declared that the Eastern Region of Nigeria was the fastest growing Economy in the whole of sub-Saharan Africa.

The Eastern Nigeria Development Commission under the leadership of Dee Bob Ogbuagu was responsible for the monumental infrastructures that littered the geographical landscape of the region, which include the following.

(1)    Hotel Presidential, Enugu

(2)    Hotel Presidential, Port Harcourt

(3)    Trans-Amadi Industrial Layout, Port Harcourt

(4)    Emene Industrial Layout, Enugu

(5)    University of Nigeria Nsukka (UNN).

(6)    Obudu Cattle Ranch, Calabar

(7)    NigerCem Nkalagu

(8)    Calabar Cement, Calabar

(9)    Cocoa and Rubber Plantations in Ikom, Calabar and Abam

(10)    And several Farm settlements spread across the entire Eastern Nigeria.

AS A PUBLIC RELATIONS EDIFICE

Dee Bob Ogbuagu was not just a Newspaper Manager and Publisher; he was the Doyen of Public Relations not only in Nigeria but also in Africa. He made name in Newspaper Management, Advertising and Public Relations. He was ingenious in handling issues of government, and his contributions to the growth of the media industry in Nigeria were recognized and fetched him handsome rewards. Dee Bob was the National President of Nigerian Institute of Public Relations (NIPR), from 1980 to 1984. He was also a distinguished Fellow of the Prestigious Association. His Peak in Public Relations came in 1981 when he was elected the First President Emeritus of the Federation of African Public Relations Association (APRA), which he co-founded in Nairobi, Kenya. He held the position from 1981 to 1987.

Dee Bob was also a member of so many other Associations such as, Arab Public Relations Associations, Nigerian Institute of Directors, British Institute of Public Relations amongst others. At the age of 70 in 1995, the Publisher of Champion Newspapers Ltd, Chief Engr. Dr. Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu pleaded with Dee Bob to come and manage his Newspaper Business. Dee Bob, as an Igbo Patriot accepted and became the Managing Director and Editor in Chief of Champion Newspapers for 5 years before he bowed out gracefully.

Dee Bob was also director of numerous companies such as

(1)    ENIC Advertising Agency Ltd, also owned by Chief Iwuanyanwu.

(2)    Luncheon Vouchers (Nig) Ltd.

(3)    Nigeria and Overseas Gas Company Ltd.

(4)    And so on and so forth.

AGAM EKWU OLE HARA OLE? Perhaps, Dee Bob Ogbuagu’s greatest service to  humanity and mankind was the pioneering roles he played in the Rotary Club International, both in Nigeria and Overseas.

He served the club in many capacities, capping it with his election in 1983 as the District Governor, District 911, Rotary Club International Nigeria.

Dee Bob executed many humanitarian and social projects in the country under the platform of Rotary Club International.

AS A DEVOUT CHRISTIAN

Dee Bob was a committed Christian leader in the Methodist Church, Nigeria where he was once a Lay President. He was the Chairman of the Committee for the Expansion and renovation of the Christ Methodist Church, Umukabia Community in Umuahia North L.G.A. of Abia State. In acknowledgement of his leadership roles in the Methodist church, Dee Bob was made the knight of John Wesley in the year 2000. He also used his God’s given wealth in the building of many Methodist Church Projects across the South Eastern part of Nigeria.

AS A COMMUNITY, STATE,  REGIONAL AND NATIONAL LEADER

Dee Bob Ogbuagu was not just a political leader in his life time, he was also a community leader who saw to the growth of his Umukabia Community. Dee Bob was indeed the quintessential man of the people who associated himself with many developmental projects such as School Rehabilitations, Market constructions, Road constructions, Building houses for the less Privilege in the society etc. Dee Bob trained and sponsored many people in their Academic pursuits. Therefore, it was in recognition of his numerous assistance to the upliftment of the society that he was honoured with several Chieftaincy titles across Nigeria. They included the following:

(1)  Onu N’ Ekwuru Oha I of Nkwoegwu Autonomous Community, Ohuhu, Umuahia in 1970.

(2)    Omee Okachie of Eziama, Aba in 1983

(3)  Otun Babagunwa of Mushin Lagos in 1998.

(4)    Motoye of Ijanikin, Lagos in 1983

(5)    Papa-Nnukwu of Prefab Community, Prefab Housing Estate, Owerri – Imo State.

Also, in recognition to his modest contributions to the socio-political and economic development of Nigeria, the Federal Government under the leadership of General Sani Abacha Conferred on Dee Bob Ogbuagu, the Prestigious Honour of the Officer of the Order of the Niger (OON) in 1995.

With the painful and regrettable “Stepping Aside’’ of Dee Bob Ogbuagu, Africa has lost a Pan Africanist, Nigeria has lost a Great Statesman of Uncommon Leadership Traits, Ndigbo has lost one of the few surviving pillars of Igbo strength, Abia State has lost their mouthpiece, Prefab Housing Estate has lost their Papa-Nnukwu, the Newspaper Industry has lost a Frontline Journalist, the Methodist Church Nigeria has lost their Pillar of Support, the Public Relations Industry has lost their First Class Image Maker. Finally, the Ogbuagu family has lost a Father, Grandfather and Great Grandfather.

As we are mourning the exit of Chief Sir (Dr) Bob Beremako Ewulonu Ogbuagu (OON), we must take consolation that he lived a life worthy of emulation. Dee Bob was a great man per excellence. A legend in body and in spirit. Conversely, given the personal sacrifices Dee Bob made for the socio-political liberation of this country Nigeria, and the inspiring and engaging roles he played in our National history, he deserves a more deserving Special State Burial. QED.

May the soul of Dee Bob rest in Peace, in Jesus Mighty Name I pray, Amen.

I rest my pen.

.Hon. Citizen Dr, FCAI, MKDA, former Senior Special Assistant on Media, and former Senior Special Assistant on Special Duties, Imo State House of Assembly, Owerri, Imo State Nigeria, could be reached via facebook @citizenikennasamuelsoniwuoha or 07032934037.

.For a better society.

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