Chido Nwangwu writes about the life and times of a pan Africanist and journalism icon, Obinwa Nnaji, who will be interred today in Enugu.
Obinwa Nnaji lived as a journalism icon and pan-Africanist ambassador of excellence.
He dared to go where others were timid and afraid to thread. He was a first-class professional. Courageous. Dedicated. Dispassionate. Diligent. Tenacious. Joyful. Fraternal. Progressive. Visionary. Historian. Innovator. Obinwa!
He made friends across the length and breadth of Nigeria and the African continent.
Obinwa was a good man, a very good man.
He lived a worthy life of purpose.
He has left an indelible life and footprints and mentorships for younger multimedia execs, writers and journalists such as myself.
Above all else, he was the pride of the Nnajis. He was the handsome, athletic husband of the vivacious Madam LiZ! He was the caring, great father to their children: Obby, Emeka, Ekene and Oge.
We had known each other for almost 37 years until his death, a few weeks ago, on March 1, 2023. He was born January 16, 1951. He will be buried on Friday, May 19, 2023 in Enugu State.
Significantly, the man stood up to be counted when the bloody, existential realities of genocide and bloody mayhem faced the Igbo and non-Igbo of the then Eastern region.
At the very teenage status of 16 years, the young fellow enlisted in the then armed forces of the Republic of Biafra, the Land of the Rising Sun.
He was a courageous combatant in the Biafran army during the 1967 to 1970 Nigeria versus Biafra war. He wrote some of the most compelling and fully contextual insights about that War. Obinwa understood Nigeria and Africa.
He was not silent at critical of moments of Nigeria‘s history. “Journalism can never be silent: that is its greatest virtue and its greatest fault”, wrote the late, famous journalist Henry Anatole Grunwald.
Obinwa agreed with those words and more. Especially, in the democratizing environments, he highlighted the importance of the media. He equally agreed with Albert Camus who made the case that “A free press can be good or bad, but, most certainly, without freedom a press will never be anything but bad.”
Therefore, dogged journalists and writers such as himself are still needed to shine the light of facts in the face of aggressive deployments of hateful propaganda by politicians and fake journalists, offensive rhetoric and criminal manipulations of election results.
Obinwa raised those concerns as well as debate solutions to all the familiar challenges of the elections in Nigeria, and across the African continent, especially.
Obinwa was one of my mentors in journalism. He edited one of best newspapers produced in Nigeria, the Satellite, in Enugu in the 1980s.
In my teenage years, I contributed a few commentaries. It was in The Satellite newspaper that I wrote the widely-read tribute I wrote to the timeless Owelle Onitsha, Dr. The Rt. Hon. Nnamdi Azikiwe. Dr. Azikiwe’s book, Renascent Africa, awakened my intellectual senses to wider dimensions of politics, political science, the media and ethics of journalism, sociology, pan-Africanism, immigration, the United States of America, Osagyefo Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana, and many progressive components of life and living!
Obinwa and I respect(ed) the great Zik of Africa.
After almost 20 years, on May 26, 2003, I received a letter from the Zik Foundation announcing my “appointment as a Director and a member of the Board of Governors of the Foundation.”
Besides, his outstanding personal qualities and fraternal disposition, we will miss Obinwa’s much cherished position and roles as one of the Executive Editors (Africa) of Houston-headquartered USAfrica and USAfricaonline.com
Obinwa was kind, reliable, gracious and lived as a uniquely, gifted individual. He was my friend. He was a pillar of strength and relentless source of encouragement!
He knew the history of important things and events.
Rest in peace, big brother!
-Dr Nwangwu is Founder of the first African-owned, U.S-based newspaper on the internet, USAfricaonline.com, and established USAfrica in 1992 in Houston.
Follow him on Twitter @Chido247