As former newsmakers in their various vocations, many looked forward to them in their days, but in recent times, not much has been heard about them. ELEOJO IDACHABA writes on their exploits and where they could be now
Ruth Benamaisia Opia
Before the year 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 dreadlock carrier 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, she was a darling to millions of viewers not only because of her voice, but because of her beauty. With beauty and a voice one can look forward to, she endeared herself to 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 career. She was born in Lagos to a Bayelsa father and an Ndokwa mother from Delta state. Ruth, now in her early 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 that there were few television stations in the country. Luckily, her beauty and voice made way for her on the screen. One feature that strikes her out is the infectious smiles this former commissioner in Bayelsa carries whenever her face appears on television. In an interview she granted a soft-sell mag recently on how her journey into broadcasting started, this former TV personality 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 news casters, made a brief return in 2016 when the premier station celebrated its golden jubilee.
This Kano state-born economist was a former minister of finance under former President Musa Yar’Adua and then, Goodluck Jonathan, as acting president, between 2008 and 2010. A former special adviser/assistant to a former minister of agriculture and natural resources from 1990 to 1992, he was also at the World Bank, Africa Development Bank and United Bank for Africa, respectively, at different times and in top management capacity before he was appointed minister. He was before then a former director-general of the Debt Management Office (DMO) before the appointment. Mukhtar was believed to be one of the closest aides and allies of the late president, Yar’Adua, whose words in the seat of government carried immeasurable weight. While speaking on the rationale behind offsetting the nation’s foreign debt during the administration of former President Olusegun Obasanjo, where he also served, Dr Mukhtar said national pride and the need for Nigeria to avoid neo-colonialism were some of the reasons that aided the decision. He was speaking in his capacity as the former boss of DMO. According to him, the relief did not come before then due to the loquacious behaviour of past leaders who were saddled with the responsibility of negotiating the relief on behalf of the country. He further chided them for the nonchalant and self-serving attitude towards this all important problem of debt overhang.
“There was virtually nothing to show for any form of commitment to really free the country from the debt quagmire. Of course, this unseriousness led us to where we find ourselves today,” he said. It is believed that the presence of Muktar in World Bank as well as his stint with the Africa Development Bank and Islamic Development Bank, respectively, helped to shape the benefits Nigeria and Nigerians have been deriving from those institutions. Lately, however, it is not certain where he is, but he is one Nigerian whose imprints in public service cannot be forgotten.
Most of the journalists in modern times are said to have taken their inspiration from Yakubu Mohammed who was the former deputy chief executive officer/founder of Newswatch Publishing Company Limited, an outfit that set the trail for what has become today’s journalism. He, in the company of the likes of the late Dele Giwa, Ray Ekpu and Dan Agbese, left their previous domains as senior editorial staff of the Concord Group to form Newswatch magazine at a time that the prospect of a magazine was so lean in the market place. They, however, succeeded as it sets the trail for other magazines and different publications in the country today. Following the unbelievable sale of the magazine owing to debts, Mohammed joined the governorship race of Kogi state in the 2015 elections. He lost in his bid to realise the ambition on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). Report has it that he has moved over to the All Progressives Congress (APC) where his influence has also not been felt. As a foremost editor of editors, he was invited in 2018 by the Guild of Editors, after a long recess, to present a paper in its annual conference in Asaba on ‘The Role of the Editors in Ensuring Credible Elections in Nigeria.’ In the paper, he said the citizens look up to the media to understand the programmes of the political parties and the characteristics of the various candidates. According to him, ““An editor must be credible enough in his work to ensure he or she achieves success of the mandate of upholding the government accountable to the people.
“He must not allow personal interest to cross the lines of his professional obligations. The editor should ensure balance in electoral reportage by guiding against biased reporting.
“In all, I think an editor must learn to remain credible and should not be partisan in his/her professional conduct.” For someone who was among the set of people that set the pace for modern journalism, many are wondering where he is at the moment, at least, to give a voice to the malaise in the profession or better still set pen to paper again.