By Dann Jacobs
Oha, Dr., Elder, Statesman, Journalist, Dandison Davey Anamelechi Ozurumba was laid to rest Saturday, 16th December, 2017. It marked the passing of an era. I want to call that era, pardon me, the “sunny side” of journalism in Nigeria. The latter-day journalists are unarguably mostly un-initiated in late Dr. Ozurumba’s view.
They are there mostly without a mission, writing drab things that people find difficult to read, to understand and to coordinate, not for the language but for the reasoning, depth, logic and meaning. Because nobody teaches them, many will remain green until they become old and bow out.
Before he left, Davey tackled the question of what to do with the wisdom, experience, knowledge and expertise of aging people in journalism gained over the years through uncommon commitment, suffering and hard work. Such people were only going to die with all they know which is to the peril of the society and a huge loss to the creative world of writing, publishing and influencing society for worthy causes.
Besides, not being business-oriented, they die mostly in penury, unsung.
He asked “why all the wastage?” He assembled retired colleagues with some life left in them under the name ANVEJ – Association of Nigerian Veteran Journalists. He proposed to them: employ, work and pay yourselves by running a profit-oriented publication which you own. The sensible economics about this is that you will not employ any labour; you will save what you know from perishing prematurely; you will plough it back into the society. You will die in active service. You will escape the trap of retirement with no pensions or benefit. The end time of your life will not be miserable and full of regrets. Your experience (what you know) is still valuable. The idea was well received. Their weekly meetings were usually a full house, at 6 MCC/Uratta Road, the office of a member and colleague.
The move was short-lived due to power tussle. Davey Ozurumba did not relent. He called the people together again under the name, The League of Veteran Journalists. Mazi Nati Iwuagwu was elected the chairman, while Mazi Nnamdi Nwigwe was the secretary. Before ANVEJ folded up, it made a courtesy call on Dim Odumegwu Ojukwu in Enugu and also sent a team led by late Pip Iwuagwu to interview Dr Alex Ekwueme for the maiden edition of its publication in the works to be called the TRIBUNAL.
That was when election tribunals were very powerful, feared and wielded the power of life and death over politicians who won elections. There was so much controversy over their decisions and people wanted to know more about how they reached decisions. The Tribunal was to give fuller reports of their proceedings, which newspapers were afraid to give because of fear borne out of inexperience. If the authorities knew they were being watched they would be more careful. If not, they would be reckless and corrupt. That was what The Tribunal was partly out to do.
ANVEJ set as the target of THE TRIBUNAL, to defend the Igbo cause in Nigeria. The trip to see Ojukwu was to clear that objective with the Igbo leader, to get his approval or rejection of it. To the question, should our publication aspire to defend the Igbo cause in Nigeria, his emphatic, unequivocal, immediate answer was, “It is a duty. You must do that, at all times. For every newspaper in Igbo land, every other mission at this point in time is secondary”.
“Won’t it be risky if it is interpreted as another Igbo secessionist move”, Ojukwu asked.
“You have the right to defend the Igbo cause from any walk of life in which you are, and from any endeavor you’re engaged in. If you do not do that, others with crush you and deny you of all your rights. You do nothing, it’s too bad. But at least you must speak out. Nobody will defend your rights for you. You will do that at all risks including death. I am with you in this. I wish buy a share in your project if you are serious. I always go with anything good that can be sustainable. Send me your share distribution, I shall subscribe, Ojukwu said.
In two weeks Ojukwu wrote to the ANVEJ asking to be posted on the progress. To Ojukwu, “this is one of the interesting proposals he ever received. A newspaper establishment dedicated to the Igbo cause is a necessity. Igbos, big and small, should give the move a boost and make it sustainable. It’s wonderful if experienced journalists would invest their wealth of experience in it which will give it depth, gravity and professionalism. This project is viable”, he said.
Dr. Davey Ozurumba always subsequently regretted that today’s journalism is blemished by not only untrained but uncommitted journalists. Nevertheless, he advocated that however small their experience and competence, present-day journalists must be harnessed still when they retire, starting with those who have left active practice and regular employment. He did everything within his power to inspire a publication of the LVJ called VETERAN MAIL which debuted in December 2016 and has not publishekd any other edition ever since due to lack of funds. His very last efforts in life were how to resume the publication during his life time so that it would give income to aging journalists. The paper has Dann Jacobs as its executive editor. Davey O’zed lost his spark when his wife died. He became weaker and weaker until his last days, leaving a legacy he nurtured for four decades of an eventful life of uncommon devotion to writing, information, publishing and authorship. To his living colleagues and the Igbo race, Davey’s legacy remains a challenge. Remarkably in his last days he was talking more slowly and became more inaudible. But he always asked for something to read even though his sight had deteriorated, showing his inseparable bond with the reading matter. It was impossible to sit around with Davey as a colleague without discussing the need to make journalism much more problem-solving and deeper than it is today. He didn’t want surface treatment of facts and figures in print. It was better in their days in this regard, he said. That’s why the colonial struggles were won and the Biafra war went as far as it did. Journalists knew the information needed to advance the struggle, mobilize the people and win the war.
By Dann Jacobs