Nik Ogbulie pays tribute to Sola Oni, journalist, administrator and consultant, at age 60

His entry into the journalism world was very calm but his exit was majestic. How else do you describe the role of a run-off-the-mill worker who later became a super-ego in a profession with very high mortality rate, where many will serve for years without a golden hand shake even when they crush the diamond age? A day never passed without a hysteric shout of this name in the expansive newsroom of The Guardian where his boss, Jide Ogundele, would be sitting on the edge of his seat waiting for the story that would make the capital market the next day and sell his paper to the anticipating readership. This has become Sola Qni’s forte because his trips into the trading floors of the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE) are not without such stories that change the market apple charts or instigate some steer within the pundits in Custom Street. Some of us who stroll from NSE house to the CBN building would often want to have a peep at what his perspective of the day’s trade could be as a way of having a good addition and balance to our money market news pegs. Because he has never been economical with assisting his friends in the industry he was seen as one very free and brilliant financial journalist who can entertain with his rich knowledge of the market.

My closeness with Sola Oni was the fact of our joining The Guardian the same year and reporting finance which was considered the mother of financial journalism. I saw him then as a very calm and egregious budding journalist whose limits would be beyond the ambits of a normal newspaper house. This really happened as he later became the cynosure of all editors who had slant for financial journalism and corporate institutions which wanted to leverage the intelligence and exposure of such guys to grow their institutions. That was at a time the Nigerian financial market was looking like a cloned version of the Wall Street, before the bubble bust.

As a very intelligent financial journalist, Sola was the yardstick for measuring efficiency in the newsroom based on his performance chart and the effects of the stories he had produced. To many people, what happens on the floor of the exchange does not make much sense until he came to the business desk of the newspaper to expose the hidden effects in the capital market where stories were demystified. Before then some untamed reporters made capital market reporting look like rocket science. His interpretations of the market were lucid and his projections were inviting to the discerning investors. At a point, his role as a capital market journalist was seen to have some conflict with his knowledge of the market to the extent that he could be mistaken for a magician. In all these, nothing was there to explain that he was a very happy father other than the fact that he would not waste a minute in the newsroom immediately he was done with the day’s duties.

I left him in the Guardian newsroom when I wa s joining one of the merchant banks but I kept my contacts with him because I was aware of the fact that he has a strong store of values in his system as a highly responsible journalist. He dutifully showed this during the trying days in the Guardian with the military goons. His itinerary then was part of the grooming times in his life to study workplace culture which still offered him the privilege to see the newspaper house as the place to hatch his plans as a market goon. In those days, the NSE offered opportunities to journalists to learn the trade in a field they have covered over the years. This even offered him more opportunities to pass his reports above the heads of his supervisors who would not understand his narratives. His editors became people like Apostle Hayford Alile, Ndi Okereke-Onyiuke, etc.

At 60 there is not much to say to this guru than to ask him to dedicate his time to the teaching of Capital market reporting to the various tertiary institutions and newsrooms, using his numerous contacts to gather the funding of an institute or a centre. This will not be a burden in any way because his constituency is in the majority. His sojourn from the newsroom to the trading floor could be seen as a blessing that must touch the lives of journalists and expand his hallowed magnanimity as a first grade financial journalist. His turning 60 years in exceptionally good health and deluge of blessings portend some revelations that he is still good to do a lot to his embraced constituency. As a matter of fact, age has nothing to do with this number he is propounding. To me, the numbers called age can even weigh down the potency of a very strong man based on the infectious recognitions of what certain numbers portends to mankind. This may be why one of the great writers of our time, a literary inn-keeper called Mark Twain said, that age is an issue of mind and matter; if you don’t mind it does not matter. Taking it further, Sola can also understand that 60 years is a milestone made of diamonds. It is not to be counted. It could only be celebrated as we did last week.

Whenever I see you, I can only recollect the posture of your thrust into the newsroom or your majestic glide onto the floors of the Stock exchange because those were the planes where your real self was molded. What you are doing today as a consultant is the culmination of all the ideas that came from those structures. At 60, the whole world could be on your feet. You are really an icon in spite of your premature retirement from active service. Congratulations, Ogbuefi Sola Oni!

Ogbulie is a Lagos-based financial journalist