Odogwu at 47: The Tribute I Must Do

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Henry Chigozie Duru

Yes, I must do this tribute. I’m literally under obligation to do it. This birthday of Dr. Emeka Odogwu coincides with my 20 years of knowing and associating with him. So, I feel involved.

Our paths were to cross first in 2004 and 2005 when I was a 400 level undergraduate at Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka. The slender dark-skinned young man used to breeze into our department for reasons I did not know. He was always dressed in a shirt and a pair of trousers making sure the lower part of the top wear was neatly tucked into the waist of the trousers. Sometimes, a tie was added to give him an even more “official” look. His flat black bag was his unfailing company, always tightly gripped by his right hand. Only God knew the content.

The young man would, in his brisk gait, walk into one of the lecture halls. He would usually speak with Obiora Obiefuna (now of blessed memory), the elegantly handsome and affably-smiling Nnewi-born 300 level class rep. Sometimes, they would speak in French. While I am completely deaf and dumb in French, somehow I was able to observe that the two seemed to struggle a bit to flow in the foreign language.

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It was from my close friend, Obiora, that I came to know who Odogwu was – a journalist. I think he was then still new in the famous Champion Newspapers. It was my closeness to Obiora and his closeness to Odogwu that resulted in my first exchange with the latter. On one of those afternoons, he was waiting for Obiora to complete a sports article he was writing for publication in newspaper. I quickly told him that I would also be giving him articles to help me get them published in newspaper. He agreed. But then I never did.

Two years later, as fate would have it, I joined Odogwu at Champion Newspapers. My duty post was at the Lagos headquarters while he was a correspondent at Awka. Some years later, he was to play a key role in my getting to practise journalism in the Southeast. As it turned out, he not only gave me the chance of being considered as one of the pioneer staffers of a news platform, but in the process connected me to the most exciting boss I was to work under in my over a decade sojourn in active journalism practice, the cerebral and charismatic Sir Victor Agusiobo.

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At 47, Odogwu has every reason to be thankful; he’s a visibly blessed man. His family life, career path, and health say it all.

Nevertheless, he also deserves plenty accolades for his character and hard work that has brought him this far. He is a young man with so much energy and zeal. He works very hard and is untiring. It did not take me more than a week in Champion Newspapers to get an interesting testimony of his hardworking disposition. “He (Odogwu) works like an elephant,” so said our Chairman of Editorial Board and General Manager (Publishing) Ifeanyi Ubabuko, as we paced along the first-floor corridor of the Champion House discussing my imminent transfer from Daily Champion to Saturday Champion.

Odogwu is very courageous, very self-confident and with an assertive personality that sometimes borders on combativeness. He is quite strong-willed, hence always an achiever. His two-year-old leadership of the Anambra State Council of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) is an ongoing testimony in this regard.

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Over the years, he has displayed sufficient large heart that has seen a good number of young people rise by leveraging his personal social capital. I personally know some of them. And I believe they would have been celebrating this special young man on this special day.

For me, what a time to reflect on my two decades of association with Odogwu, first as a mere acquaintance and ultimately as a close friend! It is fascinating how our paths keep crossing – in journalism, in classroom as postgraduate students, in the Nigeria Union of Journalists, and in the academia. But then the most important development today is that we’re once more marking his birthday.

Happy birthday Odogwu Emeka Odogwu.

If not that we’re in the last three days marking the climax of the Lenten season (Triduum), I would have treated myself to a bottle of beer in your name. But ya diba.

Ad multos annos!

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