Sunset for John Tunde Oladapo

It has become customary for most Nigerians to send “happy new month” messages to relations, friends, colleagues, etc., at the turn of every month. But for the family members and relations of John Babatunde Oladapo, August 1, 2020 did not usher in any happiness. It was the day the cold hands of death snatched the veteran ace broadcaster from their midst and left them devastated.

Simply called Tunde Oladapo by his buddies and associates, the deceased was a man of towering figure that stood head and shoulders above many who came across him. Although he was not immortal, it took death more than a year of battle before it could wrestle him to the ground. Tunde fought on like a true warrior before succumbing to the ultimate terminator.

I got to know about his sad passage through the Facebook post by two former colleagues in Jos, Messrs. Sale Iliya and Emmy Ossai. The news was so sudden to me because I had no prior knowledge that he had been seriously indisposed for a year before his demise. After I relocated from Jos to Abuja in 2008, Tunde and I were still getting in touch on regular basis. He would always send me new month greetings and during festivities like the Easter and Christmas.

However, I did not realise that communication had seized between us for more than a year until he answered his final summons. Tunde kept me posted about all the goings-on in Jos especially those bordering on our professional activities. When the idea of forming the Plateau state Chapter of the League of Veteran Journalists (LVJ) was mooted, he kept me posted every step of the way. He was in the forefront of the idea and I was not surprised that he emerged as the pioneer secretary general of the League. Even though I was not residing in Jos again, he strongly felt that I should be abreast of any developments on the Plateau. And when a thanksgiving ceremony was organised for our good friend, Nde James Gotuwan Dimka, who was appointed the Nigerian Ambassador to Liberia three years ago, it was Tunde that got in touch with me and expressed his desire and that of my numerous colleagues to reunite with me. He knew how close I am to the envoy. However, try as I did, I could not honour the invitation but I sent my apologies.

Tunde and I became close friends in the early 80s. He was with the Plateau Radio and Television Corporation (PRTVC), while I worked with The Nigeria Standard Newspapers. The two state-owned media outfits share the same fence at Joseph Gomwalk Road, Jos. As a professional colleague, our paths crossed from time to time. When I exited The Nigeria Standard to pioneer the weekly KICK-OFF sports newspaper in the late 80s, Tunde was a regular caller at my office located at Murtala Mohammed Way, Jos.

I ran the paper for one year and it was a howling success in terms of editorial content. However, because of its limited scope, we could not attract advertisement patronage. One day, I met Nde James Dimka when he was the Plateau state commissioner for Information during the tenure of the military governor, the then Col. Mohammed Chris Ali. Nde Dimka was dispensing advertisements to some media outfits. I approached him for patronage but he told me that much as he would love to support my paper which was the rave of the moment within and outside the state, our limited scope was a huge minus for me. He then advised that I should widen the scope. I listened to him. And that was how the SUN newspaper rose on the Plateau, shone for about six or so years before it was rested.

When Tunde exited the PRTVC, I engaged him as the head of advertisement and business strategy. While introducing him to the staff of the company on the first day he assumed duties, I had this to say: “I am delighted to present to you Mr. John Tunde Oladapo.” I did not stop there. I went ahead to tell them that “If you don’t know Tunde, then you know no one. If Tunde does not know you, then no one knows you.”

The boardroom which was the venue of the meeting was rocked with laughter. All the staff rose to welcome him with handshakes and welcomed him on board.

In his response, Tunde expressed his profound joy for the opportunity given to him to serve the paper. He pledged his commitment to our cause but wondered what would be our limit since the SUN “is already beyond the sky”. We all dissolved into a prolonged laughter.  He promised to hit the ground running. But I warned him to be careful because ours was not a monkey business. And that it was only a monkey that could hit the ground running without losing its balance and falling over!

He confessed that it had been his dream to work with me. Expectedly, Tunde turned out to be a great asset to the SUN. He broke new grounds and raked in advertisements and supplements to the paper. He had contacts virtually everywhere and also leveraged on my own connections within and outside our operational base. He was the master key that could open any door and bring results. This tribute will be incomplete if I fail to mention his appointment as senior special assistant to the immediate past Governor of Plateau state, Da Jonah Jang. It was in recognition of his panache and wide contacts across the state.

One noticeable attribute of Tunde was his humility. Here was a man towering above six feet but he never looked down on anyone. Rather, he would stoop to have a handshake with you. In fact, there was no way you would not be humbled when you had a handshake with him because your entire palm would disappear into his. Tunde easily passed as the Hercules of his time because of his huge frame. Ex pede Herculem… meaning Hercules is judged by the size of his foot. If by his foot size Hercules is judged, Tunde was also recognised by the size of his palm (in a handshake).

Truly, Tunde was a fighter and a go-getter. He used his voice as a broadcaster and his pen as a writer to achieve whatever goals that he set for himself or that was set for him during his media career that spanned over four decades. By his height, Tunde was a basketball material. And he would have dazzled for the famous Plateau Peak basketball team if he had passion for the sport.

Our amiable friend fought a good fight as he looked forward to achieving the biblical age of three decades and 10. He was just four years away from breasting the tape (aged 66) and even continuing with the race of life. But unlike Hercules who fought and conquered all his enemies, Tunde succumbed to death after one year of epic battle. The primordial thief of life is always more strategic than any mortal. To conquer our own Hercules, the thief afflicted him with stroke to weaken him before he was finally wrestled to the ground on August 1.

Some of us are yet to come to terms with the reality of the fact that this charming and likeable personality has been plucked away from our midst. There are many Tundes still walking the surface of the earth. But there can’t be another John Babatunde Oladapo.

As his body is committed to mother earth today in Jos where the Ogbomosho native lived his entire life, I join all his friends, colleagues and associates in praying for a peaceful repose of his gentle and kind soul.

May God also grant his family the fortitude to bear the irreparable loss.

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