Odita Sunday-Udemaguna is not your ordinary Nigerian. He is a journalist, avid photographer, and more importantly, a philanthropist. Performing his role as the watchdog of the society in The Guardian Newspaper may be his calling, but his true passion lies in philanthropy and welfarism. CHIEMELIE EZEOBI writes that Sunday-Udemaguna, who is a member, Nigeria Institute of Public Relations and Fellow, Nigeria Institute of Management Consultants, has in the past three years structured his philanthropy through his ‘Back to School’ project, where he has passionately empowered over 300 less privileged and orphaned children, as well as adults, in several Igbo-speaking communities in Delta State
Born at Catholic Maternity, Boji-Boji Owa, Agbor, Sunday-Udemaguna can best be described as a man on a divine mission to fulfill destiny.
With a humble parental background from Onicha – Ugbo, Aniocha North LGA and Owa in Ika North East LGA, he seemed to have realised quite early in life that while some are born into existing parental greatness, others achieve it for themselves through hard work and divine assistance.
Quite unlike some of his peers, Sunday-Udemaguna, was able to identify the purpose of God for his life, ostensibly based on his innate ability. He did not waste time chasing shadows when he obviously understood what he is naturally meant to be – a journalist.
Although he has been a welfarist for years, in recent times, Sunday-Udemaguna has structured his giving through his Anioma Youth Network for Development (AYND). Through the AYND, he has championed his ‘Back to School’ project, which sends hundreds of less privileged and orphaned kids back to school with all necessary materials ranging from bags to books and other educational materials.
In the first year of its launch, the non-governmental organisation (NGO) operating from Delta North senatorial district in Delta State, decided to reduce the financial burden on parents during the resumption period by backing 120 less privileged children and orphans in the community.
Following the buzz it generated, Sunday-Udemaguna
This year, he made an even make a bigger commitment by including welfare for widows. On August 31, the third edition of the Back to School Programme took place once again at Onicha Ugbo and beyond. No fewer than 100 students and pupils from Onicha Ugbo, Issele-Uku, Ubulu-Uku, Obior, Asaba, Igbodo communities shared in the school materials made available courtesy of the group like in previous years.
According to Sunday-Udemaguna, he keeps pushing this initiative because he believes that a life of charity is the best anybody can offer in a society where a larger number of people live in poverty.
His gesture has now been recognised by the Nigeria Philanthropy Award (NPA), who would be rewarding him with the Philanthropic Journalist of the Year at the Sheraton Hotel, Abuja, on September 14, 2019.
Themed “Unsung Philanthropist 2019”, the award seeks to celebrate those who have dedicated a substantial part of their financial resources, technical expertise and intellectual prowess to the philanthropic services of the less privileged, needy and underserved in the Nigerian society.
Journey to Journalism
This inclination underscored his quest for knowledge as a mass communication student at the prestigious Auchi Polytechnic, Auchi in Edo State. There, he took time to learn the arts and science of journalism for four good years and subsequently bagged the Higher National Diploma with distinction. Not done with that, he obtained an Advanced Certificate in Media and Communications from the Pan Atlantic University, Lagos.
His sojourn as a journalist started with The Guardian Newspaper/British Council in 2002 as a Youth Corp member. With over a decade in the journalism profession, he has steadily moved up the professional ladder and he is currently a Senior Defence/Police Affairs Correspondent with the Nigeria based flagship newspaper. Over the years, he had stints in Maritime, Health, Entertainment and Political Reporting before being deployed to the security beat.
A well-travelled newsman, Sunday-Udemaguna was in Senegal in 2010 with the Nigeria Navy to receive Nigeria Navy Ship Thunder on arrival from United States of America. He was in Benin Republic with the Nigerian Navy on joint naval operations tagged “Operation Prosperity”. In 2012 he was in Ghana to cover Africa Security Summit organised by Security Watch Africa and accompanied the Nigeria Navy for eight days on military operations tagged ‘Exercise Faratua’ at the Gulf of Guinea water, just as he was also in Douala Cameroun for coverage of a multi-national sea exercise tagged “Exercise Obangame Express’ involving 16 countries from different parts of the world in 2012.
In 2013, Sunday-Udemaguna was in Philadelphia, New York and New Jersey, United States of America for the four-day International Conference of Chiefs of Police and in October, 2014 he attended the International Workshop on Security hosted in Orlando, Florida by the International Association of Chiefs of Police. Similarly in October, 2015, he was in Houston Texas for Security Watch Africa Award and lecture conference.
Again, his quest to explore his talents led him to the field of photography where he underwent intensive training at Mattson Photography Academy. Also understanding the need to keep up with contemporary challenges, he went for ICT training at Google Nigeria twice.
He had also undertaken a leadership programme at the Daystar Leadership Academy and obtained a Certificate at the United Nations Anti-Drug training programme. He is presently at the conclusive stage of his Post Graduate Degree in Maritime Administration and Management, University of Lagos.
Sunday-Udemaguna had also participated in Media Round Table Training on Drugs and Related Organised Crimes hosted by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) Abeokuta, Ogun State in 2013 just as he also participated and completed a training programme in Google Tools for Media Research and Analysis in August, 2016 and a refresher course in 2019.
Sunday-Udemaguna was among the few journalists in Nigeria trained on Investigative Reporting in Digital Age by the United States of America and Voice of America.
Due to his vast knowledge and desire for a better police image, he was appointed a member of the Committee set up by the Inspector General of Police, Mr. M.D. Abubakar in 2011 to reform the Nigeria Police Public Relations Department. He was indeed, a privileged member of that committee.
He is a Fellow Member of the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) and holds membership of the Nigerian Union of Journalists, Archbishop Vinning Memorial Church, Pilgrims Baptist Old Boys Association, School of Media & Communications, Pan Africa University Alumni Association, Auchi Polytechnic Alumni Association, Onicha-Ugbo Patriotic Union, Nigeria Institute of Public Relations and Nigerian Institute of Management Consultants.
In spite of his active involvement in many professional and social activities which are time consuming, Sunday-Udemaguna is a family man, who is happily married to Ozioma and they are blessed with three lovely children.
He is a recipient of many awards, locally and internationally. He bagged the Most Outstanding Crime Reporter in Nigeria award in Houston, Texas 2015. He was honoured by Crime Reporters Association of Nigeria as the Most Innovative Crime Reporter in Nigeria in 2015.
City Pride magazine also honoured him with the Most Proactive Crime Reporter in Nigeria in 2016. As part of activities to mark Lagos at 50 celebration, the Tech TV honoured him with Excellence in Crime Reporting award in 2017. He was also honoured by Technology Africa with Pan-African Crime Reporter of the Year in 2017.
Sunday-Udemaguna was awarded Best Investigative Reporter in West Africa. The event held in Ghana in 2017. He has also received several awards in 2018 and 2019.