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Prince Emeka Obasi! It’s hard to believe 

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Service of Songs: Amaechi, Dr. Otti, Dele Momodu, others pay tribute to Prince Emeka Obasi

By Bayo Obajemu

Obasi! That Obasi is no more is hard to believe! He was one of the stars in the constellation of our intellectual star systems. As he made his final exit from this side of the planet; it is not only Ibeku land in the faraway Ábíá State, his fatherland, that has the unfortunate burden of mourning such a golden heart, but all lovers of knowledge, the art world, the intellectual class, media, politicians and his wide circle of friends in the business community.

We are all in mourning mood; we mourn his passing as does his immediate family and friends – high and low.

Emeka Obasi is a phenomenon; I have chosen herein to stick to the historic present in describing him because it will be gross injustice to his memory and dedication to the intellectual and journalistic tradition to speak of him in the past.

Artists don’t die, his own artistry – the painter of words – wordsmith – never dies; they live in our memories, in our psyche, in our thoughts and in our everyday contemplation of the beautiful and the intelligent.

I came across the The Prince first as Features Editor in Hallmark newspaper in 2014; he is the Publisher. The meeting was courtesy of Mr. Richard Mammah, another intellectual giant, bibliophile and fellow University of Calabar alumnus as Obasi’s.

I had known Mammah way back in 1997 when I was arts editor of The week magazine. He was a member of the think tank that made the magazine thick then; his brother, Mr.Chris Mammah, an affable, self-effacing giant of the pen profession was the managing director.
And so Mammah brought me to Hallmark newspaper. My first impression of Obasi is still etched in my memories: It can be summed up in Blakean innocence and experience analogies.

Innocence in the sense that Obasi was a symbol of primeval innocence – loving, completely without guile, intelligent, a polymath, full of warmth, charming to a fault and full of positive verve that verges on sunny side of life.

On the experience or pragmatic side can be found his ruthless worship of perfection in the newsroom, cultivation of friends, his disdain for laziness, bad writing, narrow-mind, bigotry of all kind, and his dislike for unquestioned loyalty to received opinion without qualified validation. To him all certainty must be put under constant scrutiny to see whether their foundation is solid.

He used to tell us that the role of scholarship is to help us achieve clarity, to help us question everything under the sun, and to help us find our values in the jumble we call life. He is an existentialist, his own existentialism is closer to Kierkegaard’s especially in the contemplation of life as a meaningless jumble out of which individuals must find their values and meaning.
Along the way, his intelligence and his rare insights into geopolitical configuration of the country endeared me to him, and it was my luck that he encouraged my gravitation towards him.

In all honesty, I’m yet to encounter a man with such understanding of the country, and his intellectual projections about the project Nigeria have always had the uncanny precision of a Swiss watch.

He dissected Jonathan era with precision, foretelling the direction and the highlights of his presidency and the intervening variables of the administration long before the events happened. Virtually everything he has said about the Buhari administration has come to pass.

He has friends in low and high places, and without fear of contradictions, Obasi remains one of the most highly connected media managers in Nigeria.

One Sunday, he put a call across to me to join him at his GRA Ikeja residence; on getting there he said to me: “Bayo, when I called you I got the impression you were at home”, to which I replied in the affirmative.

He then said: ” If you want to be a successful journalist staying at home weekends will not help you. It is the time you should be networking.

“What do you normally read”, he asked.
I told him I love reading anything in print. He then embarked on an encyclopedic journey into intellectual tradition.

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“We are going to Ikoyi,’ he said.
As we left his home in Ikeja, he started a tutorial on a vast fields of human knowledge ranging from philosophy, literature, sociology to cultural studies, then meandered to international politics, those discussions were highly discursive and in depth.

Emeka Obasi may not be perfect like all mortals, yet, he is such a jolly good fellow with a good heart. His Hallmark newspaper to those who know him, is one of the best training grounds for journalists.

Adieu Prince Obasi

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