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Its unpredictability remains the very essence of its awesomeness. No one mulls an idea around it, not to talk of attempting to keep a date with it. It has never, and does not appear to be an integral part of our everyday life as we juggle ahead with confidence, beam with hope and expectations and plan beyond our nose.
Characteristically therefore, the human mind is wrapped, though unconsciously, in a permanent amnesia as if life goes go on forever. Not until the day comes, tears (not of joy) have always remained strange compartments of the body system even more strangely as it appears simple. Death is it.
With no fix date and time, it controls our movement; decides where to drop us along the trip of life and prepares venue for us without our consent. Painful enough, death remains the unseen guard around us to the effect that it decides against the wish of even those ‘willing to die’ out of frustration, tribulation and vicissitudes of life. There is no debate about its timeliness or otherwise. It is a case of whether you agree or not, to die or to live.
For John Abba Ogbodo, the late Assistant Political Editor of Guardian Newspapers, when death came calling, it was without prior knowledge that it was time to go beyond to rest in the Lord’s bosom. Cruel, we might yell. Painful, we might reminiscent in screechy gnash, the truth is: whatever is mortal is at the mercy of death. John Abba Ogbodo’s fate was determined by death while on his way to Awka, Anambra state on an official assignment.
For the late Ogbodo, whose write-ups I had read many years before fate of the profession brought us together in Abuja as Politics Editors, my impression of him prior to our encounter was a huge, self assuming, cocky journalist. Regrettably, that wrong impression was erased barely forty eight hours before his painful demise.
Resuming as Abuja Politics Editor of the Daily Independent Nwespaper, to me, was a challenge. As normal in our profession, (highly condemnable though) I had envisioned a hostile comity of professional friends. Journalist newly posted to areas will concur with me that the no journalist gets a rosy welcome in a new place of assignment.
He is left on his own; nobody tells him what to do to get what. Sources are hidden. The answer is ‘I don’t have it’ to simple requests for telephone numbers of relevant, not exclusive sources. Press briefings are without his knowledge except by God’s intervention. Upon all, he must perform like those he met on ground, no matter the challenge of professional hostility.
But give it the journalist, he breeds no hatred, it is merely the challenge of the unknown hand. It is in the midst of all these that the journalist is made and news is made of him through his reports. Those challenges, though not easy to overcome, are the needed ingredients that ferment a reporter.
For me, I also had my fair share of all these challenges. Scorned countless times, despised at assignments and laughed at, as an outcast. Even your unsolicited patronizing salutations and courteous greetings are ignored. To overcome all these is to forge ahead without any bitterness against anyone.
It was in the course of forging ahead without colourlessly that I met John Abba Ogbodo-we were meeting for the first time. Apart from two other colleagues who had earlier embraced me as one of them (as individuals), my encounter with Ogbodo was dramatic.
The chairman of the PDP Governors’ Forum, Godswill Akpabio was to visit the national headquarters of the party to pay a courtesy call on the National Chairman, Dr. Bamanga Tukur. The date was Tuesday, February 26. Time was 1.00pm. As usual, we kept waiting for him to arrive. While waiting, a short, calm and soft-spoken reporter amongst us walked up to me. ‘Can I have a word with you sir?’, he requested. Inquisitive to know what he wanted to say, I quietly followed him outside for a chat. “Are you Donald Ojogo of Daily Independent?”, he asked. I answered in the affirmative still waiting for his mission for the chat because it was unusual. “Oh that’s great, I have been reading your reports, how is everything? Hope you are trying to find your feet in Abuja. I’m John Abba-Ogbodo, the Assistant Political Editor with The Guardian in Abuja; I think we can work together”.
The chat continued as normal without suspicion and stratification. I tried to find out from him if he is from Delta state as there is another Ogbodo (Abraham) who is an Urhobo from Delta, also of Guardian. “Oh that is what people always say but mine is Benue, I’m from Benue state”, the late editor said.
But as we were trying to delve into other areas of shared interests, Akpabio arrived and we gestured to continue ‘later now’, ‘okay later’, he responded to mine. Whether it was providence or not, I wouldn’ t know. Neither of us requested to take the number of the other. Just after that moment, we parted only to meet at the interactive session with Governor Akpabio. As if to remind us painfully, the late Ogbodo was the first to open the session with a question.
But much after, troubled by the need to exchange numbers, I had to call on my colleague to send John’s number to me that I needed to have it. He obliged but forgot to so do too.
Indeed, it was a mind settling encounter with John Abba Ogbodo, but it really was too flimsy, casual and speedy. To now hear about his death on the 28, two days later made it more traumatic an experience for me. I wish I never met John Abba Ogbodo to share that hurried moment as up-coming professional friends.
Adieu John Abba Ogbodo. Rest in peace.