Larry Koinyan, Ruth Benamaisia-Opia: Where are they now?

Nothing has been heard about these former public servants long after they left public office. ELEOJO IDACHABA asks where they could be now.

Larry Koinyan

Air Vice Marshall Larry Koinyan is a former military officer with the Nigeria Air Force who voluntarily retired from service in 1988. This Niger Delta born citizen from Bayelsa state is an ex-Air Force Chief and someone whose name is almost forgotten among retired former military officers because after his exit from public service, he went into a quiet life unlike his colleagues who found leisure in other public endeavours like politics. He enlisted in the Air Force in 1963 and had military, academic and professional training in Nigeria, Germany, US, UK and India.

All through his military career, he had served in various capacities, for example, as member, defunct Supreme Military Council (SMC) between 1984 and 1985 under Gen. Muhammadu Buhari. He was also head of logistics, Air Force Headquarters between 1985 and 1986 when General Ibrahim Babangida assumed office as Head of State. During the same regime of IBB, Koinyan was a member of the Armed Forces Ruling Council (AFRC) between 1986 and 1988. While in that capacity, he was chairman, Directorate of Food, Roads and Rural Infrastructure (DFRRI) just before he left the service.

Long after his retirement, no one had heard anything about him until the late President Musa Yar’Adua nominated him as chairman of Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) in 2008. Unfortunately, however, that appointment did not last long. Shortly after that, he was no longer seen in any public outing, not even available to comment on issues that concern the restive Niger Delta where he hails from. So, where could he be and what has been up to?

Ruth Benamaisia-Opia

This is another Niger Delta-born citizen. Before 2000, the name, Ruth Benamaisia Opia, was a household name in most homes every evening because of her appearance on the network news of the Nigeria Television Authority at 9:00pm. She was the celebrated dreadlocks carrier on TV whose alluring voice adorned the tube as a news caster for years before she retired. During her service at the nation’s premier broadcasting institution, the NTA, she was a darling of millions of viewers not only because of her voice but because of her beauty and the glamour she brought to bear on TV. With beauty and a voice one can look forward to, she endeared herself to the heart of many Nigerians during the years she spent there.

Having started broadcasting in 1977, she was one of the few TV personalities who moulded many young broadcasters in the course of their careers. She was born in Lagos to a Bayelsa father and an Ndokwa mother from Delta state. Ruth, now in her 60s, is married to Professor Eric Opia, the former boss of the now defunct Oil and Minerals Producing Areas Development Commission (OMPADEC) and together, they now have four children. She began her career in broadcasting at the Radio Nigeria Enugu before she switched over to television at the time when there were few television stations in the country. Luckily, her beauty, dexterity and voice made way for her on the screen.

One of her unique features was the infectious smiles this former commissioner in Bayelsa state carries whenever her face appears on the screen. In an interview she once granted a soft-sell on how her journey into broadcasting started, she said, “I started a long time ago quite by accident, but I am happy today. I started in 1977 in Enugu and my father asked me what I wanted to do for which I said broadcasting and he introduced me to some people. I did some auditions and here we are today. I started broadcasting straight out of secondary school, then I was at NTA where I can say was the place that brought me out. My love for broadcasting is endless.”

Not too long ago, it was reported that she returned to broadcasting in the Lagos Television (LTV) where analysts believe she would bring her robust experience to bear in a station that needed to be repositioned for utmost excellence. Besides that, she is now said to be a born again Christian having given her life over to God in 1992. She, along with former NTA newscasters made a brief return in 2016 when the premier station celebrated its golden jubilee. Right now, it’s not certain where she could be or what she is presently.

Mani Onumonu

In Nigeria today, except for a few individuals that were conversant with the radio in the 80s, only a handful would remember that name. He is, however, a contemporary of Soni Irabor, the late Zakari Mohammed, Jones Usen as they were all synonymous with broadcasting on the Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria (Radio Nigeria Ikoyi Lagos). He was particularly noted for his Friday morning Radioscope programme that caught the attention of his listeners featuring contemporary music and current affairs. Of particular interest about Mani is his baritone voice through the tube, especially in those days when Radio Nigeria was the only toast of listeners. Often called a SAN (Senior Announcer of Nigeria), he criss-crossed the industry for over 40 years both in Nigeria and the UK.

Mani is an Igbo man from Anambra state who never lived in Igbo land, having been born in Maiduguri, Borno state, where his father worked as a railway officer. He barely spent three years in Maiduguri before the family came down to settle finally in Lagos where he completed his secondary education at the famous St. Gregory College in Obalende. Mani studied Broadcast Journalism at the University of Lagos and Law in the UK and was called to the Bar as a Barrister of the Supreme Court of Nigeria.

He began his broadcasting career at Ogun radio in Abeokuta and later the Voice of Nigeria in 1979. In 1980, after many outstanding performances on radio as a junior announcer, he got elevated to national prominence as the first among his peers to present the National Network News which was then the exclusive preserve of only accomplished broadcasters. Mani is best remembered today as the man with the honey.

He is a highly creative, profoundly analytical and multi-skilled individual with immense knowledge and practical experience of the media. He has excellent communication skills with first class inter-personal skills developed from interactions with professionals and people from a variety of background, knowledge and education. At the FRCN Training School where he was later posted to as a trainer, he is noted to have trained virtually all the senior management staff of present day radio and television stations in Nigeria. Since he left FRCN in the 90s, he went back to the UK on a BBC-sponsored programme for a number of years before he returned to Nigeria. He however returned to the country and has been around. Although he is around practicing his public relations, not much is known about him again, but Mani has made a mark in the life of broadcasting in Nigeria.

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