Fabian the great: My godfather, my boss, By Tobs Agbaegbu

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The news item in the morning of February 28, 2024 had key incidents of fake-news. The source, being a social media, was not among popular, reliable, traditional news sources in Nigeria. The writer who ought to take delight and credit for being a news breaker didn’t take a by-line. The breaking news report reads: “Fabian Osuji, former Education Minister dies in Abuja’’. My instant reaction to this news item that fateful morning was that this mustbe a fake news. This is because it was unimaginable to me, that Professor F.N.C. Osuji, my Godfather, my boss and my uncle, whom I thought was still in the USA, to see his children and extended family members, as he regularly does when the need arises, could have died without me getting news from his family sources.

When I rushed to Professor Osuji’s house in Abuja, soon after the news break, everyone around wore a forlorn look. The presumed fake news turned out to be real. The iconic former Minister of Education , architect of the famous Strategic National Education Program (SNEP), renowned scholar and Professor of zoology , University orator,  uncommon tertiary education administrator,  has gone the way of all mortals. He has ascended!  It is quite painful that Prof Osuji has to leave unannounced. I sincerely share the feeling and eloquence of Patti Smith, an American Author, Poet and Song Writer, in her 2007 interview with Australian television. Inter-alia, he said: ‘’It’s part of the privilege of being human that we have our moment when we have to say goodbye.’’  Indeed, Death is real!!

Time and space will not allow me to pay sufficient tribute to the great man, Professor FNC Osuji, who was many things to me. Even a book of 500 pages can hardly be enough. At the moment nonetheless, let these few things suffice.

I say this to you, Da Faby:

National growth LS

You were one of the solid pillars that helped me to stand strong today, as a Godfather and sponsor of the wedding to my wife, Edel-Quinn, in the year 2000 and the man who pulled me out of Lagos to Abuja, offering me, the opportunity to serve as your Consultant – Media. That was at the point when you were mounting saddle of leadership in the public service of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, as Honourable Minister of Education.  I was among the first you assembled to help you succeed.

I remembered the circumstances that led to your discovery that I should play a key role in your public service life at the high level. I recall, it was during your tenure as Honourable Commissioner for Information, in Imo State, in the era of military junta in Imo State and Nigeria at large. I was then, an upwardly mobile journalist, a middle level editor in Newbreed, an investigative news magazine published by an avid critic of the junta.

The circumstances are still fresh in my memory. You were confronted with a challenge, as Honourable Commissioner for           Information, to defend the then Imo State Military Government position on some controversial issues. You flew into Lagos, and unable to locate me, drove to my office behind Alaka bus stop, within Western Avenue, in Surulere, to drop a note for me. I vividly remember a key statement in that note. “Toba (so you used to call me as an elder, who knew me and how I was rurally addressed in the village), my dear, I am in Lagos to see you and your colleagues in the media. You must have heard what is being said and written about the government in Imo state. There are many things that must be made clear to the public. Please come and see me at Airport Hotel, Ikeja. It is important that you come quick to see me because your ability to help me handle the matter that brought me to Lagos will determine whether I will remain as Commissioner for Information in Imo State or not”.

Prof. as he was popularly called everywhere then, rather than, Honourable Commissioner, is not a man whose request can be ignored by his junior from the same village. His word was law to me. And he was revered and loved by all. He was an unforgettable role model.

I cancelled all appointments for the day when I read the note he dropped. He waited till I came, gave me directive on what he wanted done in the media. Amaechi Dike, late now, a colleague from the Champion newspapers, joined in implementing the directive from Prof Osuji. The deed was done, and he flew back to Owerri to continue as Honourable Commissioner for Information. Henceforth, I became, having earned his confidence, a reference point for him, in all media and information matters.

While coordinating activities of one of the biggest Ministry of the Federal Government of Nigeria (Education), wherein he initiated the innovative Strategic National Education Plan, SNEP, Prof did all he could to put Nigeria on top of the global education map. Given the success of his giant strides, towering almost above his colleagues, it was not long speculations and rumours started flying all over the country. “Osuji will be the next governor of Imo State”, became a song on the lips of many.

It was not long that the allegation came: allegation of involvement in bribery for budget scandal. Everyone who knew Osuji can confess that he cherished and holds dear to his heart, his clean record of public service. And that indeed, was his stock in trade, a characteristic that largely earned him the appointment as Minister. While the allegation snowballed into litigation in court, Osuji told all of us that he would be vindicated and we knew he will. It eventually turned out so.

By the time it was newsworthy that Prof. has been vindicated, the mantle fell on me to write the victory song. ‘’Fabian Osuji, Discharged and acquitted’’ was the big headline in verbatim news magazine of 29th January 2020. Other media establishments also spread the news around. Reference of this has been captured in the biography of Professor Osuji, written by Ezechi Onyerionwu titled Fabian Osuji; Teacher, Scholar, Gentleman.

I have every reason to be proud of the life of my Godfather and Boss, Professor Fabian Osuji. As he ascends to meet his creator, I proudly name him, Fabian the Great because he was an all-round achiever. Your demise has created a great vacuum in the lives of many, but what can we do? “If tears could build a stairway, and memories a lane, I’d walk right up to Heaven and bring you home again.” (Author unknown)

May the Almighty God grant your Soul eternal rest and May His perpetual light shine upon you. Peace Perfect Peace!! 

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