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Goodbye great Bonnie Iwuoha

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A BIG iroko’s fall rattles the forest. All lives in the wood feel the tremor upon the smack of the earth by the huge and colossal.

  Last Monday night’s sad news of the death of Bonnie Iwuoha was as devastating as the drop of a huge boulder would quake still water yet it is more rattling because the sudden exit of the former national President of Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) portends a lot more than the exit of a frontline journalist, distinguished media activist an erstwhile Commissioner for Information and Strategy in Abia State. The late Chief Iwuoha,  a Fellow of  Nigerian Guild of Editors (NGE) was  a hero of ‘the fourth estate of the realm’, a soldier with the pen as his sword and a dyed-in-the-wool unionist of such a thoroughbred specie that it was natural for him to negotiate good deal out of any knotty  development.

  His death on Monday afternoon, reportedly as a result of a stomach rumble, hit Nigerian media like rattling shock. His was the fall of a seasoned hero of many wars fought  in newsrooms, boardrooms and street protests where screaming placards were his identikits and epaulettes.

  Dede Bonie, as most of us, his younger colleagues from the South East called him, was media practitioner who loved the profession, worked for sector and rubbed off deeply on many operators in the industry as a close colleauge, confidant or mentor.

  News of his death was devastating to many in this industry given that there was no knowledge that he was ailing irrespective of the fact that he was very active in many journalists’ fora. Even hours before his death, as was  discovered, he chatted warmly with some colleagues on telephone. The fact that not many knew he was ailing aggravated the grief over his death. Chief Iwuoha was a naturally, lively person who radiated warmth and cherished interaction with people. Hence a lot of people had fond memories of him.

  Though a firebrand in his haydays, particularly in the mid-1990s (1996—1997) when he was the President of NUJ, in later years he evolved into one of the most sought after arbiters in the industry.  NUJ recognised him as passionate newsman in its release on the  death.

  “A very committed member of the NUJ, Mr Bonnie Iwuoha had been very passionate about the union and he dedicated his time and energy towards building a better union and enhancing the practice of the profession.

  “In 2003, he participated as a member of the NUJ National Registration Council together with the late Prince Tony Momoh and others, to produce the first ever compendium of journalists in Nigeria”.

 All state councils of NUJ and the FCT now have condolence registers for condolence comments while a three-day mourning spanning, Tuesday, December 28 to Thursday, December 30, 2021 has been declared by the union.

  A release issued last Tuesday by NGE was titled, ‘Bonnie Iwuoha’s Death Devastating, Painful.’ In the statement s signed by the NGE’s President Mustapha Isah and the General Secretary, Iyobosa Uwugiaren, the editors described the death of Iwuoha as “a painful and huge loss.”

  According to the leaders of NGE, “Iwuoha was a committed Fellow of the Nigerian Guild of Editors. He served in various committees, and was the chairman of the Electoral Committee of NGE on several occasions, including our last convention in May 2021 in Kano. His last outing in the Guild’s activities, was the All Nigeria Editors Conference (ANEC) in Abuja two months ago, where he was a discussant at the conference.

  “This was typical of him: He never missed any of our activities. He was a man of deep conviction, honest, very principled and lively.”

  NGE has also opened a condolence register on Iwuoha at her Secretariat in Ikeja, Lagos.

  Beyond the organisations, Iwuoha’s exit is mostly mourned by colleauges who recall his personal impact on them.

  In his tribute, publisher and chief executive officer of ‘News Express’ newspaper, Steve Nwosu lamented thusly: “It saddens to the marrow. At the last edition of ANEC in Abuja I had lunch with Mr. Bonnie Iwuoha, FNGE. We shared some thoughts on some critical issues affecting governance in the South-East. I had believed that such thoughts would be further discussed and embellished over time for greater value. Now, the handsome and hardworking man has departed. I feel thoroughly devastated. More so, when indications were strong before now,  that he had recovered and regained stability. God knows better. So, as always, let God be God. Good night,  brother and great professional colleague.”

  While former chief executive of Imo Newspapers and ‘The Nation’ newspaper columnist, Steve Osuji, mourned “a gentleman, yet a fighter; a humanist yet hardy; a kind heart, yet brave; a pacifist and bridge builder, yet a true Igbo.

 “A leader made from above… a mobilizer, the go-to man.

  “Fare thee well great man. “

Publisher of ‘The Source’ magazine, Comfort Obi, mourned him with a poem loaded heavily with a lampoon of life and death.

  “Death, so unexpected!” she wrote and continued.

 “We spoke two weeks ago, and exchanged text messages last week!!

   He was okay, he told me.

   He was his usual self!!!

 Whatever happened again?

 Life has a way of playing games with us.

 And, we seem not sure of anything … Nothing.

 Rest, Bonnie, rest in peace – finally.”

  Though his achievements in leadership, activism and as a technocrat distinguish him, many mourn Dede Bonie more for his humane and affable nature. Younger colleauges, such as Comrade Ndukwe, the NUJ chairman of Abia State Council dwells on how he nurtured them and encouraged them . “He was very passionate about journalism and always had words of encouragement,” Ndukwe said.

  Gov. Okezie Ikpazu of his home state, Abia as well as Gov. Hope Uzodimma of Imo and Sen. Orji Uzor Kalu among others have mourned him, all describing him as a humble man who achieved a lot in his carreer and call.

  Actually, Dede Bonie appeared more like someone who was more passionate about having happy people around him and providing solutions to problems. Since the mid-1990s that I first met him, I cannot remember encountering him, vexxed or nervy even under the most intense situation such as there was in NUJ National Convention in Ibadan, Oyo State in 1997 when his reign as NUJ President was threatened. He kept his shoulder high and retained his calmness and dignity.

  The man who died in his late 60s was also a former Managing Editor and Head of Editorial Department, Daily Times of Nigeria, 1991 through 1993. He also served as a Media Adviser to the Governor of Abia State but he was humble and down-to-earth without bossy airs despite having risen to the zenith of the profession .

  I recall his being in Government House, Awka in 2017 for a meeting of Igbo elders. After, the meeting, he put a telephone call across to me to apologise that he could not reach out to me. When we met in an NGE event in Sokoto, one year after, he still communicated the apology.

  His widow, Esther described him as a kind husband, good father and a man who had no money but was  content and happy.

  Sincerely, Dede Bonie, the one who passed earlier this week, was a great man.

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