They once served the country at different times and in different capacities, but since they left office, not much has been heard about them again. ELEOJO IDACHABA wonders where they could be at the moment.
Ruth Benamaisia Opia
Before 2000, Ruth Benamaisia Opia was a household name in many 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 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. With beauty and a voice one can look forward to, she endeared herself to the hearts 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.
Ruth 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 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 a few television stations in the country. Luckily, her beauty, dexterity and voice made way for her on the screen. One feature that stands her out from others is the infectious smiles this former commissioner in Bayelsa state carries whenever her face appears on screen.
In an interview she once granted a soft-sell on her journey into broadcasting, 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 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 doing.
Most of the journalists in modern times are said to have taken their inspiration from Yakubu Mohammed who was the 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 now defunct Concord Group to form Newswatch Magazine at a time that the prospect of a magazine was so lean in the Nigerian media market space. They, however, succeeded as it set the trail for other magazines and different publications in the country today.
Following the unbelievable sale of the magazine as a result of the debts it owed, Mohammed joined the governorship race of Kogi state in the 2015 elections, but lost in his bid to realise the ambition on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). It was gathered that he has moved over to the All Progressives Congress (APC) where his influence has also not been felt. As an 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, THE Delta state capital, 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.
“An editor must be credible enough in his work to ensure he or she achieves the 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,” he said. For someone who was among the set of people that set the pace for modern journalism, many wonder where he is at the moment.
Until recently, he was the chairman of the telecommunications giant, Etisalat Nigeria, now 9Mobile, before he retired following the dwindling fortunes of the company. Keem as he is known by his colleagues in the corporate world was once a chairman of the United Bank for Africa (UBA) before the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) forced him to vacate following some infractions even though he was later absolved of any wrongdoing.
Bello-Osagie shot himself to limelight in the late 80s, when he was appointed as special assistant to Dr. Rilwanu Lukman, the late former minister of petroleum and energy under former President Ibrahim Babangida. This Edo state-born board room guru can be described as a lucky man because of the fast-growing career he had both within the government circles and the private sector. When he left Etisalat years back, many thought he was a sad man not until a public event later when it was clear that he was still bubbling with enough corporate energy.
According to a popular news medium, “Since he left his plum position as chairman of Etisalat Nigeria, all it took for many to know that Hakeem Bello-Osagie, a former chairman of United Bank for Africa is not nursing any pains in his heart was the wedding of his beautiful daughter, Adesuwa, recently. Until that memorable day, many had erroneously thought that the brainy board room guru might not be inspired to engage in any loud celebration after he lost his plum position as chairman of Etisalat Nigeria now rebranded 9Mobile.”
Bello-Osagie is however one Nigerian that has been quiet in recent times even though he is not among those one can say that age is no longer on their side.