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Day my plane caught fire in the air –Obi Ebo, veteran broadcaster

Posted by By TESSY OKOYE on 2007/02/21 | Views: 482 |

Day my plane caught fire in the air –Obi Ebo, veteran broadcaster

In his late 70s, Mr. Obi Ebo carries on with so much energy and zest that is overwhelming. These days he enjoys a peaceful time in his country home at Onitsha.

In his late 70s, Mr. Obi Ebo carries on with so much energy and zest that is overwhelming. These days he enjoys a peaceful time in his country home at Onitsha.

This veteran journalist, who has put in 49 of his earthly years into the pen profession, confessed to Daily Sun, that the mere mention of journalism stirs his blood.

A former lecturer and public relations practitioner, Obi spoke with candor about his life, as he went down memory lane, sharing anecdotes that still make his heart pump with excitement about the profession. He has some clear ideas about the way the profession should be practised.

In this interview, media veteran Obi looks backs at his career and says: “If not for age regulation, I would still be practising. Journalism is what makes the world tick.”

Growing up
For my primary school education, I attended Ekwulobia Central School, from where I moved to Government College, Umuahia.

In my quest for advanced and qualitative education, I traveled to Britain and did a six-month course in oversea broadcasting at British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) College, Britain. Later, went for further studies at Ohio University, U.S.A.

My entry into journalism was by accident. After my secondary school, I was to enroll into a science school in Lagos to study Chemical Engineering. In the course of preparing for my journey to Lagos, I ran into a childhood friend, Sunny Okohu, who talked me out of the idea.
He was able to convince me to join him in broadcasting. The sudden love for broadcasting did not go down well with my family because their dream was for me to become an engineer.

That decision turned out to be the course God charted for me, because I did so well in English commentary and presentation that the Federal Government sent me, with some of my colleagues, to Britain for a course in professional broadcasting.

I must confess it was one exhilarating experience. After I came back from Britain in 1956, I went into full broadcasting and anchored many programmes. The documentary I did on Eastern Nigeria and my musical programme that ran from 11.00 pm to 12 midnight kept hopes alive. From there, I rose to become General Manager of NTA, Enugu before I retired. I also had a stint with Ekenedili Chukwu Group, as public relations manager.

Life as a pensioner
I am over 70 years. I had to retire from active service in 2005 because of the public service law that mandates you to take a bow at 70. Even though I am a pensioner, I occasionally attend seminars and workshops at NTA. I am a producer at heart. I still meet colleagues and young journalists once in a while to exchange views and ideas.

My mentor is the late Joe Atona, a fantastic broadcaster. There are some I may not remember now, but they were great journalists who wrote well and delivered excellent speeches. They were my driving force. Not only did I aspire to be like them, I wanted to surpass their achievements.

The challenge we faced as broadcasters was grappling with inadequate facilities and equipment. The only source of information was through BBC. But we rose up to it. I believe today’s broadcasters given the present high-tech environment have no excuse to falter in their production. It should not be just about the glamour but making impact. There should be no limit to what journalists can achieve within profession. Journalism is what makes the world tick.

Close shaves
It was in 1956 when I was sent to Britain by the Federal Government for a course. We were actually three Nigerians on board and that happened to be our first flight. Since there was no direct flight, we had to go through Rome. And half way into the journey, we noticed fire on one of the wings of the plane. We thought that was the end. But fortunately, we made it safely to Tripoli, and made a safe landing. Because of that experience, we refused to return to Nigeria by air after our studies. We had to board a cargo boat, and spent 14 days on the sea from Liverpool to Lagos.

Missing the regular newsroom
I remember it is referred to as the mad room. There is never a dull moment. It is like a communal life, where everything is shared in common. When I left active journalism, I lectured full time from 1996-2005. If not for age regulation, I would still practicing. Nothing can replace my love for journalism. I really do miss the thrills and frills of the newsroom. There is absolutely no regret for practicing the pen profession for over 40 years. It has been very fantastic.

Journalism in the last eight years
It has fared well, though it has been a crawl. In our days, it was more of theory than practical. The freedom of information bill passed recently, though over due, is another plus to journalism. The problem is that Nigeria has never enjoyed freedom of information under any guise. The question is, how are they going to implement it? Secondly, media practitioners should be bolder to make good use of it, if at all it would be effective.

Today, the industry is becoming more technologically advanced. This has seen the entrants of individuals in media ownership. This I believe would make the bill survive, unlike when information dissemination was the exclusive reserve of government because of the huge capital involved.

During my advanced programme at Ohio University, I was asked to reproduce Chinua Achebe’s ‘Things Fall Apart’ in my native language, Igbo. My other colleagues from Italy, Germany, and other foreign countries did theirs wonderfully well and the lecturer depended on me as a guide. Unfortunately, I could not do that and I felt so ashamed. It became a challenge for me. So immediately I came back to Nigeria, I dramatized “Things fall apart” in Igbo language. It was done in 13 episodes and subtitled in English. Although it took me one whole year to achieve, I won an award for that.

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