By Olusegun Adeniyi
Between my then editor, Mr Tunji Bello and my friend, Louis Odion, I cannot now remember who actually gave the name we then had for the late Mr Levi Ajuonuma at Sunday Concord in the mid/late nineties: “Larry King without Suspender”. That was when he hosted what was, without any doubt, the most popular talk show on any Nigerian television. Then everybody watched Levi!
In January 1999, I moved to THISDAY and in July of that year, our Chairman, Mr Nduka Obaigbena, decided to personalise the backpage column with him starting on Monday (he is now an occasional writer) and I was assigned Thursday, which I named The Verdict According to Olusegun Adeniyi. Not long after the column resumed, Levi Ajuonuma, almost every Thursday, would hold aloft a copy of THISDAY in the course of his morning programme to read what “Olusegun Adeniyi wrote today” and he would ask readers to get a copy. Until he died last Sunday, I never asked him why he did it at the time but it was an unsolicited promotion I can never repay. And with that we became friends. Once in a while, I would appear on his programme (he in fact wanted me on air most of the time).
In 2003, the show was suspended when he joined the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) as General Manager, Corporate Affairs. Even though we were no longer as close as we used to be, we were constantly in touch on phone and he knew he could always count on my support. But in June 2007, I became spokesman to the late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua and our paths crossed again. While I was in government, we collaborated on a number of media related issues until I left in May 2010.
Ajuonuma and I spoke on a number of occasion since I resumed back at THISDAY, the last being a couple of weeks back when he called to say he would like to react to a particular column I wrote on the petroleum sector but he never sent the promised rejoinder. It was therefore a shock to learn about his death last Sunday. For his generousity of spirit, I considered Ajuonuma a brother and friend. I commiserate with his wife and the children. I also commiserate with the families of other Nigerians who lost relations in the ill-fated DANA flight. I pray that God will grant them and the entire nation the fortitude to bear the great loss.
NB: The Verdict According to Olusegun Adeniyi, will return next week, by the special grace of God!