It’s showtime in heaven! Tribute to Amadi Ogbonnaya

It’s been six nights since my sleep was disturbed. Five days and I’m still struggling with reality. My heart is sour. I’m sorely grieved. I struggle for the words because the tears won’t let me be. I’ve never been at this point before. Things like this shouldn’t happen till thirty years time or later. But somehow, someone pushed the fast forward button and he left us all with memories before we could even document them. Scarcely have we settled down to party, and you already left the show.

Kemi Lawal, my columnist friend at PUNCH was first to buzz me that Wednesday night. I was deep in sleep having been kept waiting for over five hours at a friend’s office earlier in the day.

Ngbo ki lo sele s’Amadi’? (What happened to Amadi?)

Huh? I responded half awake, rubbing my eyes. It sounded more like an information rather than a question. Before I could finish processing the conversation, my primary phone line began ringing from different numbers non-stop. My BlackBerry soon took cue with unending PINGs. And then the whole DP fever from colleagues. No way was I giving in to the rumours. Palpable fear enveloped me. I was sweating. The blocked nose that had tormented me for nights was suddenly moist. I had the numbers to call. If anything went wrong at the Vanguard office, surely Eze was bound to know. I called Mr Eze Anaba, the Deputy Editor.

Yes Lolade.

Editor, what about Mr Amadi?

Who told you?, he said.

And my heart stopped. But I pressed further. I repeated the question, then he gave me the official phrase: nothing is official yet. We will know by morning. Let me talk to you in the morning please.

By now, nearly all of my colleagues on my BBm contact had his picture up with PMs (Private Messages) saying Adieu or Rest In Peace. Then I began to ‘imagine’ the news as true. And that was the beginning of the tears.

Mazi Ogbonnaya Amadi and I may belong to different generations but I can speak confidently of the last six years of his life, about the same duration for which I worked closely with him like a girlfriend, sister, daughter, right hand colleague and protégée. We’ve written countless stories together, conducted countless interviews. Yes we had a few fights but his love for me overpowered him at all times except once. Considering my hard news background, he taught me the entertainment language and made rising easier for me. He’d joke about how he would have married me if we had met me earlier and I’d reply saying, we’d fight every blessed day seeing we could barely get one day of office work over without an argument.

Mr Amadi was a loverman, totally mesmerized by his boys and wife. He was a free spirit; quick to pick offence yet lacking the heart to follow through. It’s alright if you call him a coward in this regard. He’d tell me: I am the past. You are the present. Together, let’s give our readers the future.  He was SHOWTIME himself – a power-dresser blessed with good looks despite his small frame.

Today I look back and feel sorry for him. He must have stifled and managed more pains than we saw or knew. Many times I and Cally Ikpe (a mutual close friend introduced to me by Amadi years back) had teased him about being incapacitated each time his driver was away. In fact we called him weak for never daring to drive. We told him of several other Asthmatic people who drove. But he remained adamant. He sacked his driver of many years, Femi, about three months ago after prolonged arrogance and disrespect, he said.

I have been away from the Vanguard office officially for eighteen months. We (the management and I) resumed talks and I was asked to resume again in August. I declined asking that all paper work be completed against September since August was nearly midway. I didn’t know that month was to be my last opportunity to work with you. When I last saw you at the office the Friday prior to your death, I had no inkling. You gave no clues because you had none too. We spoke about family. You told me of the SUV you were planning to buy for Mummy Jude, saying it was the one way you could thank her for seventeen years of marriage. We spoke of Jude’s admission into FUTO and about his nephew-turned-son who wants to follow in his steps and only just finished his first year of National Diploma at the Nigerian Institute of Journalism, Ogba. We spoke of the KSA show he was going to Lagos to seal that evening with a promoter. “KSA is playing for me for free”, he said. I don’t know of how many people the Juju King would play for for free. That’s how influential my Amadi was.

Today I look back and I wish I had resumed those two weeks before the fatal 29th. Since we share office corner, I would perhaps have ‘chased’ you home before your health came to that unfortunate end. I knew your symptoms. Ben Njoku did too.  But he was away on leave. I know (yes present tense) your dedication to the work. You passion oozed across our tables each time we sat to work. You were always about your pages; about our readers. You struggled to finish up that Wednesday in time for the paper to go to bed. And just as always, the paper went to bed that Wednesday night and got up the next morning; but you did not. I lost the chance of spending your last weeks with you and I completely regret it. I could have been with you in the car when the driver took you to the hospital. When the car was stuck in traffic, I could have stopped a bike earlier to get you to the hospital before the attack that labeled you BID (brought in dead) by the hospital. Maybe your inhaler was there in your pocket but you couldn’t reach it and the driver was focused on the road before him. I could have been there that one time that mattered, but I wasn’t.

It’s been eight days now and I can’t bring myself to walking into the Vanguard premise again. I can’t imagine the news room without you. I doubt I’ll ever resume there again. Adieu my Editor and Number 1 fan! It’s your superstar Lolade, bidding you farewell and saying SHOWTIME will NEVER be the same again!

P.S – I still mailed you yesterday.


* Op-ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija.

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