Connect with us

Opinion

Uncle Ray Is 75 (2)

Published

on

Moses Oko: Jailed Without Trial?
Sam Akpe

By Sam Akpe

Let me conclude this birthday wish to Ray Ekpu with a few paragraphs of a long story. It is a story of two men whose paths crossed dozens of years ago—a story of tested friendship loaded with benefits.

One day in the mid-1970s, an audacious young man walked into the South Eastern State Library in Calabar and had his destiny redirected. He made it to the quiet, fun-filled city the previous day from Ibadan, where he worked as a library assistant at Nigeria’s premier university. 

His mission was to explore the possibility of a job offer at the newly established second generation university—the University of Calabar. Unfortunately, he was informed on arrival that the man he needed to meet was out of the country.

 

Ray Ekpu

While being driven in a taxi out of the campus, almost in frustration, he thought of the most likely way and a place to spend his first afternoon in the city. The first place that came to mind was the library—his natural domain. 

As he walked into the silent environment, loaded with books of all shapes and contents, he observed a familiar face sitting across the table—a face he had seen in the local newspaper the previous day. 

Taking a deep breath, he walked up to the gentleman and greeted him with a smile. “Sir, you must be Mr. Ray Ekpu,” he observed. “Yes, I am. How did you know? I don’t think I’ve met you before,” replied the man known today as Uncle Ray.

With a smile, the visitor explained, “No, we haven’t met, Sir. But I know you. I read your column yesterday. A beautiful prose, rich in words, but not much of depth in terms of background”. 

Uncle Ray frowned. But he knew the young man was right. The Nigerian Chronicle at that time had no research centre or a library. He however wondered what qualified this bold-faced lad to be his judge. He tried to ignore him. However, minutes later, they got to know each other better.

Uncle Ray, now 75, was the editor of the Nigerian Chronicle—an office he occupied at age 29 after an interview conducted by the late Prince Tony Momoh. The young librarian was Nyaknnoabasi Osso, now close to 70. 

A detail version of this story is told in an upcoming book by Nyaknnoabasi. From their meeting in the state library, Nyak—as Uncle Ray calls him—got hired to set up a media research centre at the Nigerian Chronicle. This was where Nyaknnoabasi met the late Dele Giwa when the latter visited Uncle Ray in Calabar.

Hugely talented in library science, Nyaknnoabasi went ahead in his latter days to become a multiple award-winning media librarian, documentation specialist, an accomplished researcher, and author of the widely acclaimed Newswatch Who’s Who in Nigeria

His encounter with Uncle Ray that day, and later, with Dele, paved the way for his employment at the Newswatch magazine—an opportunity that took him to the front row of media librarianship and unlimited international exposure.

So, when Nyaknnoabasi sent me an old copy of Gaskia magazine for a review, it was understandable and even expected, because the publication has Uncle Ray on the cover. 

Described by the magazine’s publisher, Dare Babarinsa as the “battle-tested general of the Nigerian press,” Uncle Ray takes the reader back to his early days in the village as a kid when he used to read newspapers meant for his father; who was a member of the Customary Court of Appeal. 

He was so much in love with the media that when he was at the Ibibio State College, he started writing articles; and pasted them on the school’s notice board with his by-line: Pressman Remmy! 

Moved over to Holy Family College, Abak later, he started a bi-monthly magazine called Nightingale. The production process was simple: write the articles, type them on stencils, have them cyclostyled, stapled and sold! Before long, he was noticed by the school principal who assigned him and his team a supervisor—a reverend Father from Ireland.

Ray’s father had five wives. Four of them gave him 19 children before he died at 50. The last wife had no child. One can only imagine what would have happened if the man had lived longer. Uncle Ray told the magazine that from the manner his father organised the family, “he made polygamy look attractive.”

Dare asked him the natural question: “So what happened that you are not a polygamist?” Uncle Ray responded without hesitation: “I guess it is not too late!” However, he went ahead to describe polygamy as a philosophy that should be discouraged in the modern era because “it has its own downsides.”

For unknown reasons, the interviewer did not ask him any question about his sojourn at the Nigerian Chronicle. From my findings, as editor, Uncle Ray kept a must-read weekly column that put him in trouble several times. 

In 1980, he went to the Sunday Times newspaper as editor. Most old staff of the paper thought he was a mere local Calabar boy brought to be their boss. They however swallowed their arrogance when Uncle Ray redesigned the concept and the contents of the newspaper. Within a short time, he improved the circulation figure by 100, 000 copies every Sunday.

Besides the in-house battle which he faced, Dare observed that the roughriders of the then ruling National Party of Nigeria never liked Ray’s icy witticism and omnivorous knowledge. Speedily, they kicked against his column and reassigned him to the relatively unknown Business Times

He refused to be frustrated. Instead, he accepted the challenge, re-modelled the newspaper with appetising contents and design; and brought back his column. That was unacceptable to his bosses. He resigned. When Dele showed up and took him to the Concord Group as Chairman of the editorial board, Uncle Ray took his column with him. 

One day, he predicted that at the rate public offices were being set ablaze whenever corrupt acts were noticed, the towering Nigerian External Telecommunications (NET) building was not safe. At that time, a N54 million corruption case was under investigation at NET. 

The article appeared on a Sunday; and early Monday morning, NET building was on fire. The columnist was promptly arrested, detained and charged with murder and accessory to murder. He was later discharged and acquitted.

From this point, the interview shifts to how the Newswatch project was conceived. Ray reveals that he resigned from Concord Group when Dele was removed as editor of Sunday Concord. At that time, Dele was away on honeymoon.  

Dare, the interviewer, had worked at the Concord with Uncle Ray, Dele and Yakubu Mohammed. He was also a senior editor at Newswatch. So, what you have in Gaskia are insider’s questions and responses. Uncle Ray talks about his relationship with Dele, Dan Agbese, and Yakubu—who was his classmate at the University of Lagos. 

You want to have tears streaming down your eyes? Then read his account of the death of Dele. They had lived together in two wings of a duplex. Most times they ate together either in his or Dele’s study. Both used Ray’s electricity generating set whenever there was power cut. Then with palpable emotions, he talks about their last few days together. 

Six months after Dele was assassinated, Newswatch magazine was proscribed by the military government over a report on the draft constitution. Uncle Ray and his colleagues were loaded into jail. Another trouble! 

One day, he was at the Calabar airport, waiting for a flight to Lagos. He had just completed his vacation in his village. That week, Newswatch had on its cover an exclusive interview with General David Mark; conducted by Dan. It exposed General Sani Abacha’s sit-tight agenda, as head of state. Uncle Ray, who was on leave, was arrested at the airport, detained and taken by road to Lagos and locked up.

Fast forward: Uncle Ray explains to Gaskia how Newswatch was sold to a new investor who abandoned it. That transaction was indeed a sad tale of how a flourishing and most influential news magazine in Nigeria went down the highway of silence; then death.

As predicted by Dare, the interview with Ray is un-put-down-able. It tastes like a thriller. I expected more questions. But that may come another day. 

Ray remains one of the most revered practitioners of journalism, not just in Nigeria, but across the world. He does not only write, but speaks as an ancestor of the noble profession—a living legend.

Many of us are still waiting for that day when Ray will compile and publish his columns—from the Nigerian Chronicle, Sunday Times, and Business Times, to Sunday Concord. A book on journalism practise, from insider’s view point, is equally not a bad idea. Such a book would capture the silent role played by Uyai, his wife of over 40 years; and chronicle his travails—the repeated harassments, arrests, and detentions.

Unfortunately, none of his three children is interested in journalism. They have all moved on to other things. His son, at five, dreamt of being like Uncle Dele and Daddy. But after the death of Dele on October 19, 1986, the boy formally denounced his previous interest. His reason: “I don’t want to be killed like Uncle Dele.”

For Uncle Ray, the world is waiting for his memoir, Again, Happy Birthday, Sir.

 

Continue Reading
Click to comment

Opinion

Sabelo Ndlovu-Gatsheni: A Relentless Intellectual Warrior

Published

on

Dele Jegede In Conversation With Prince Yemisi Shyllon
Prof. Toyin Falola

By Toyin Falola

Anthropological insights into human activities in this jungle called the world have illuminated our understanding that the act of bravery, at some point in time, is demonstrated in an individual’s (or animal’s) ability to exert a destructive influence on the other forms of life that threaten their life and existence. This concept of bravery, coupled with knowledge, is particularly significant in the context of African intellectual history. From foraging in the wild to get maximum consumables and remain at the top of the food chain to facing daring ecological conditions that demand adaptive and coping strategies for survival, acts of bravery are demonstrated in different capacities based on the realities of the time.

Today, humans have successfully confronted these challenges, thanks to the emergence of strong individuals when the world needed them the most. Interestingly, in periods preceding “the age of reason,” these knowledgeable individuals were also considered brave, although they often received less recognition than their physically strong counterparts. However, every phase of the human journey requires the intelligence of such individuals to overcome its inherent challenges. In the current age, not only has it become an incredible mark of bravery to be knowledgeable, but it has also become a sole indicator of serious and uncompromising individuals.

While some people possess knowledge that could potentially save the world, it takes a special kind of courage to share this knowledge, especially when doing so might put one’s safety at risk. Fela Kuti’s poignant observation that many Africans shy away from confronting oppressive forces due to fear of death rings true. To be knowledgeable and to boldly speak the truth, regardless of the circumstances, is a mark of true bravery. It is a height that Fela believed was difficult for the average African to reach. Sabelo Ndlovu-Gatsheni, however, exemplifies this kind of bravery, inspiring others to follow suit.

Due to their adjacent position to the global power economy, academic institutions have become laboratories for intellectual experiments where ideas are manufactured and configured to satisfy preconceived desires. The African individual comes into such institutions, which are genealogically linked to Western epistemic foundations, and becomes Westernized or Europeanized to the extent that they lose their cultural identity as a matter of rational thought generation and self-awareness. The profound impact of these Western epistemic foundations on African identity is undeniable. Consequently, their thinking appears anti-African because the resources or their thinking are not extracted from their indigenous epistemic foundations. This leads to a civilization identity that alienates them completely from global calculations and misleads them to believe atrocious things about themselves.

As such, the average African who argues for the appropriation of most Western ideas in advancing their collective aspirations believes erroneously that these contributions are the best things to happen to the continent, not realizing they are merely expressing Western ideas and ideals through an African lens. Sabelo Ndlovu-Gatsheni recognized this early enough and deployed his intellectual arsenal to challenge the establishment, earning him the reputation of an intellectual warrior who is relentless and bold. His consistent efforts to reclaim the African mind from the encampment of its usurpers demonstrate his commitment to the collective emancipation of Black people. While he is not the first to undertake such a mission, it is reassuring to find such an illuminating mind in an age when the tendency to show confidence in this fight has continued to dwindle.

Before launching his intellectual crusade against the political complexities that have long dominated African leadership, Ndlovu-Gatsheni made remarkable efforts to confront African educational institutions, which have become leviathans that everyone is afraid of. Remarkably, his efforts are yielding incredible results. Ndlovu-Gatsheni launched himself into decades-long research engagements and has discovered that any true emancipation of Africans and Africa must begin by repositioning their epistemic values and traditions. He believes that repudiating the knowledge methods inscribed by Western ideologues is necessary and pivotal for delinking the African thought system from Western programming.

To become that vocal against a system inherited from racist imperialists can make an individual a target for attacks that will undermine their relevance, especially economic relevance. Historians would agree that individuals who verbally challenge institutions and establishments that exploit people’s resources–intellectual, social, political, economic and philosophical–often face the wrath of these establishments. Despite these risks, Sabelo remains unwavering in his determination to liberate the continent from the unseen hands holding Africa’s epistemic inheritance hostage, earning him the admiration of those committed to this emancipatory assignment.

When examining African universities, one might wonder if there are inferior intellectual resources there that have made it impossible to disengage the students’ thoughts from Westernized imaginations that make them perpetually loaded with self-hate. This intellectual of inestimable value has consistently argued that capitalists’ aspirations extend far beyond the commercialization of material resources. He predicted early on that capitalists are afflicted by insidious diseases that are difficult to cure. Their understanding that they could extend their corporate reach into people’s educational systems reveals their deep commitment to commercializing everything, including knowledge. The infiltration of capitalist ideology into the continent’s knowledge system has brought the people to a level where they cannot compete with others for several reasons.

Primarily, the commercialization of education has created a division among its consumers, where one group can afford it because of their better economic conditions, and others cannot, owing to poverty and indigence. Meanwhile, the privileged few who have access to education are themselves beneficiaries of the skewed systems that have operated on the continent for ages. To reach this level, it is apparent that the future of the continent is perpetually challenged by contemporary capitalist greed. Therefore, it is reassuring to see someone like Ndlovu-Gatsheni dedicating his energy and zeal to addressing this problem with the hope of genuinely bringing about true change for the African people.

Africa desperately needs the liberation that Sabelo advocates for, as that would eventually bring about the structuration of their political, social, economic, epistemic and philosophical identities in ways that are beneficial to the people. One remarkable aspect of his bravery is that he minces no words when addressing issues that he believes need immediate intervention. He is adept at connecting the dots that might seem obscure to others, an ingenious ability that highlights his intelligent mind. The fact that he articulates these connections without hesitation underscores his compelling qualities.

Global right-wing ideologues are critical of anything that obstructs their hegemonic politicking and will stop at nothing to achieve their goals. The proliferation of wars and the relentless pursuit of capitalist aspirations at the detriment of global peace and stability reveal how irredeemable their conscience is in the scheme of things. Their desperation is evident in their willingness to pursue their devious ambition, regardless of the detrimental impact on global peace. Meanwhile, they continue to enjoy tremendous support because many people are unaware of the connections between them and the numerous attacks occurring in different parts of the world. Ndlovu-Gatsheni serves as the conscience and the consciousness for a large population of the subalterns–those who are unassuming and unaware of the hegemon’s eroding power and its destructive escapades in the human world.

From real-life events to various unpopular places, these conservative groups have consistently challenged the fact that others can muster the confidence to call them out or stand up against their exploitative aspirations. They vehemently oppose anything that comes in the colour of freedom, to the extent that they demonized Negritude, attacked decolonization, and challenged any effort that could threaten their overlordship position. Nothing further proves the emancipatory potential of these movements, marked for destruction and despoliation, than the restless efforts of the hegemons to destroy them. They believe that global power dynamics should always favour them, to the detriment of numerous innocent people across the globe. They are quick to denounce others, attributing all manner of inconceivable and demeaning atrocities to them. Without confronting this mammoth of a monster through epistemic reorientation and reinvention, it will remain ultimately difficult, if not impossible, to achieve the emancipation of the African people.

In his academic trajectory, Ndlovu-Gatsheni has established himself as a tireless leader who continues to anchor the academic safety and political wellness of the continent through his mind-blowing engagements. He demonstrated the necessity of combating these problems starting from the university, the central power point where Africans can reclaim maximum intellectual resources to elevate themselves after liberation and freedom.

PS: This piece was composed at UNISA. I thank Stevens Mohapi for his care and affection.

Continue Reading

Opinion

Modelling Success: Dr Adedeji Adeleke And Adeleke University

Published

on

Dele Jegede In Conversation With Prince Yemisi Shyllon
Prof. Toyin Falola

By Toyin Falola

Success is a broad concept that has been widely researched and discussed for many years. While there is no specific formula for achieving success, certain principles are commonly observed among individuals deemed to be successful. Success transcends mere material wealth or professional achievements; it is a phenomenon shaped by intrinsic belief, goal setting, dignity, and respect for divine will. Dr. Adedeji Adeleke, a Nigerian businessman and philanthropist, exemplifies the principles of success through his life and impact on individual and societal growth and development, serving as a beacon of inspiration to many and reflecting these values through his accomplishments.

Success is believing in one’s capabilities and potential. Successful people have an innate sense of self-efficacy, confidently believing in their ability to take actions that will lead to the attainment of set goals. Such a belief is a powerful source of motivation, as it pushes one to remain consistent even in the face of adversity and to approach tasks proactively and with a positive outlook. Successful people also understand the significance of setting clear, specific, and attainable goals.

It is worth noting that while the path to success is often super-frustrating and challenging, it is achievable with well-defined goals and persistent efforts. As such, one must continually aim forward, transition step by step, and ultimately weave together a remarkable success story through various engagements by preparing detailed actions that translate into bigger ambitions. The journey to success begins with unwavering self-belief, which is not merely about confidence; rather, it is a deep-rooted conviction in one’s ability to achieve their dreams. This resilience is required to face life’s ups and downs with a positive mindset, seeing opportunities where others see obstacles.

Success is not only due to human will and actions but is also influenced by environmental factors that can pose significant challenges. These factors can become potential stumbling blocks if the individual does not believe in the power of their dreams. Dr. Adeleke’s story is indeed one of belief in self and in the guiding influence of divine will. Despite the numerous challenges he encountered on his way to achieving his set goals, he believed in himself and his immense potential, also trusting in the divine purpose for his life. This propelled him forward, enabling him to build a legacy that cuts across different areas, including education, business, and philanthropy.

Accepting divine will means a careful, responsible acceptance without succumbing to extraneous rules or laws that rob us of our confidence and authenticity. This perspective fosters humility and gratitude and an acknowledgement that our achievements are not solely ours but are also gifts and opportunities that come from a higher source. Dr. Adeleke exemplifies humility and a powerful sense of purpose. Despite his immense success, he remains grounded and attributes his accomplishments to divine guidance.

His philanthropic efforts include huge contributions to education and community development, demonstrating his commitment to giving back and serving the greater good. Dr. Adeleke’s story indicates that true success is a harmonious blend of self-belief, goal setting, and submission to a higher purpose. It is about striving for excellence while remaining humble and purposeful.

From Dr. Adeleke, we learn that the idea of success is personal and varies from individual to individual. It is not defined by societal standards or criteria but by one’s own goals and values. Through inspired actions, individuals can realise that success is achievable for anyone who believes in themselves, sets clear goals, and respects divine will. Modelling success requires more than ambition and hard work; it involves an inherent belief in oneself, discipline in setting and pursuing goals, and a humble recognition of the divine influences in our lives. Dr. Adeleke’s life is a testimony to this whole process of success, demonstrating that success is both an internal and external journey.

Dr. Adeleke exemplifies that success is achieved through belief, goal-setting goals, and respect for divine will. He has shown that his achievements stem not merely from external factors but from nurtured internal qualities. For everyone to be successful, they must follow these prescripts and approach their goals with belief, intention, and reverence toward the divine. Belief provides the motivation, while goal setting charts the course. Goals, when clear and well-defined, act as a blueprint and a guiding light, directing actions and decisions and making the path to success easier. Goals break down the seemingly insurmountable journey into manageable steps, making the path to success more navigable.

Remarkably, Dr. Adeleke’s success in business and life is proof of his strategic mindset and commitment to setting goals. His achievements with Adeleke University and other ventures illustrate how his endeavours have successfully evolved through effective planning. Milestones play a crucial role in goal planning and maintaining focus, and Dr. Adeleke’s invaluable achievements in different spheres of life epitomise that setting realistic goals and pursuing them with dedication and hard work yields significant rewards.

 

Continue Reading

Opinion

Sogolo’s Moral Values And Social Change In Nigeria (5)

Published

on

Readers’ Showers Of Encouragement
Prof. Tony Afejuku

By Tony Afejuku

Our reading of Professor Godwin Sogolo’s mature opinions on our moral values and human situation in general terminates today.

Read it!

Moral Imperatives of the 4TH Industrial Revolution (4IR)

The 4th Industrial Revolution is already transforming the way we live, work, and interact. One of the key areas in which moral values will have a significant impact is in the development and implementation of emerging technologies – artificial intelligence, automation, big data analytics, genetic engineering, etc. These technologies have the potential to revolutionise industries and societies, for good! But, they also raise complex ethical dilemmas and challenges. For example, the fear is that the widespread use of artificial intelligence and automation in the workplace would lead to job displacement and economic inequality. While these technologies have the potential to increase productivity and efficiency, they also have implications for workers’ rights, fair distribution of wealth, and human dignity. Moral considerations for justice, equality, and respect for human rights must be the guiding principles in the development and deployment of the new technologies. 

Furthermore, the collection and analysis of massive amounts of personal data raise concerns about privacy, consent, and the potential for surveillance and manipulation. Moral values such as privacy, autonomy, and informed consent are essential in ensuring the protection of individuals’ rights and freedoms in the digital age. As technologies continue to advance, it is important to consider the implications they have for our value systems, and to address potential ethical dilemmas before they become widespread. That assessment falls within the purview of the humanities in general, and philosophy in particular.

Another important function of moral values in the 4th Industrial Revolution is to address the socio-economic implications of the new technologies on employment, income inequality and social cohesion. Moral values such as compassion, solidarity, social justice, etc., are essential in ensuring that the benefits of the emerging technological progress are shared equitably, and that vulnerable populations are not left behind.

The 4th Industrial Revolution has the potential of either exacerbating or mitigating the ecological challenges that we currently face, depending on the strength of our moral values and the decisions and actions of individuals, groups, businesses, governments, etc., in connection with the issues of environmental sustainability. Technologies relating to renewable energy, smart grids and circular economic models offer promising solutions. But, they require a commitment to moral values such as environmental stewardship, intergenerational responsibility and sustainability. It is important to prioritise these values so as to minimize the negative environmental impact of the new technological advancements in furtherance of sustainable development.

In adapting to the new technologies, we must bear in mind that moral values also guide issues relating to personal ethics and the well-being of the individual. The constant connectivity, information overload, and digital distractions that come with the 4th Industrial Revolution pose serious challenges to the issue of personal identity and mental health of the individuals in matters of inter-personal relationships and group interactions. We need to develop faith and confidence that the human ingenuity that created the new technologies is also able to devise means of controlling its negative consequences. For instance, if you ask ChatGPT to provide information on how to prepare a nuclear bomb, the response will be that it cannot help because it is dangerous and illegal. That is how values can assist in controlling the negative and disastrous effects of the new technologies. What the people need are moral values such as empathy, compassion, mindfulness and digital responsibility, essential for cultivating a healthy and balanced digital life that puts premium on the collective interest.

Finally, although I have emphasized the role of Philosophy in this discussion, I must add that other disciplines in the humanities also have their unique roles to play in the 4th Industrial Revolution: the classical studies and history can provide models of  personalities, social institutions and historical events that have propelled human civilisations in the past: linguistics and the languages perform communicative functions that give the individual an understanding of human relations and the working of social institutions, while the creative, visual and performing arts recreate human models, personalities and events, both real or unreal, thereby informing and inspiring the people. And, of course, the discipline of religious studies helps the individual in coping with the vicissitudes of our confusing world, further complicated by the flux of unending changes.  Together, the humanities are designed to prepare the individual to understand, control and adapt to the new changes. Already, Western nations, led by the United States of America and some European nations, have shown the moral and political will by working together on ways of controlling and adjusting to the changes that will accompany the 4th Industrial Revolution. Very recently, the American President, Joe Biden, announced a joint project with Microsoft to setup an AI control Centre in the US. Africa, especially Nigeria, cannot afford to miss out, again, on the journey of moving to the next level.

Conclusion

Historical antecedents, years of bad governance, misplaced values and ill-conceived education system, have led to a state of moral crisis in Nigeria. The social ills have had the most severe impact on Nigerian youths who, today, lack the moral foundation needed to transform the animal (Aristotle’s tabula rasa) into a human person. Not only is a large proportion of our youths denied access to basic education, the few that are lucky to have access, have been taught nothing but techniques that are bereft of positive moral values and integrity. It is obvious that Nigerian youths are ill-prepared for the arduous and compelling demands of a changing world. Surely, there is an urgent need for  retooling  our educational curricula, with emphasis on the inculcation of moral values in our youths, to save the nation from descending into the Hobbesian state of nature, anarchy  and more importantly, to enable our society to  keep pace with the changes that are coming with the 4th Industrial Revolution.

Concluded.

Afejuku can be reached on 

08055213059.

 

Continue Reading

Top Stories