Sonala Olumhense: the “deadly” godfather, By Uzor Maxim Uzoatu

Uzor Maxim Uzoatu
Uzor Maxim Uzoatu

The wound on my conscience is biting me very badly. The Guardian of Nigeria quotes Uthman Dan Fodio thusly: “Conscience is an open wound; only truth can heal it.” I need to urgently tell the truth as a balm for my hurting conscience. The truth I’m about to tell concerns none other than the ace Guardian columnist Sonala Olumhense. It is incumbent on me to expose him as a godfather!

Every Sunday, Sonala writes acidly on political godfathers such as ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo, and PDP kingpin Tony Anenih etc when in fact he ranks well ahead of the lot as the quintessential godfather. I should know because I’m involved. In this day and age of the Freedom of Information (FoI) Act, it is my crusading belief that a journalistic godfather deserves greater unmasking than a political godfather. If Daboh could deal with a Tarka politically I can show up Sonala journalistically. I don’t give a damn, a la President Goodluck Jonathan, declaring Sonala’s assets as a godfather publicly on the pages of a newspaper.

It started way back in 1985 when I ran into a dead-end as a peasant theatre director and had to run to Rutam House in Lagos to gun for a job as a journalist. My only recommendation was that I had already published some articles on the esteemed OP-ED pages o The Guardian. It was the then newly-employed Krees Imodibie, later murdered by Charles Taylor in Liberia, who led me to Sonala’s office. Sonala was the editorial page editor of The Guardian then and all he said when I got introduced to him was: “So you are the one?” In a mumbled rush I told him I had come to look for a job. He just waved for me to sit on the settee to his right and threw the bunch of the newspapers of the day on my lap.

Sonala’s entire office table was stacked up with articles asking to be published on the OP-ED pages, some typed and many written in longhand. People came and left the office at will, calling him “Ess Oh” whilst he assessed the articles and I was engrossed with reading the newspapers. Whenever he read a particularly pathetic article, he would scream “Esoterica!” and toss the piece to me for my perusal. I kept wondering if he still remembered that I had come to look for a job.

It was well into the evening that he suddenly stood up and said to me: “Let’s go.” I followed him to the office of the Guardian editor then, Lade Bonuola, the legendary Ladbone, who explained that the management had ended all recruitment such that no spaces were left for wannabes like me. Then Sonala took me upstairs to the about-to-be-established African Guardian magazine. He had a brief chat with the proposed magazine’s editor, Ted Iwere, who said he needed to set a test for me to know if I was up to par for the job. Sonala looked at me and at Ted and then laughed. In hindsight I have since decoded that laugh as a godfather laugh!

“When you are through with their test I’m downstairs waiting,” Sonala said and left.

Ted Iwere asked me if I knew anything about the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting then holding in Nassau, Bahamas. I told him an instant “Yes” because news of the meeting was on the front pages of all the newspapers I had been reading downstairs. “Do a report of the meeting,” Ted said, adding that I should go to the library downstairs to do the writing. He graciously gave me off-cut paper and pen and went into his office.

I could not understand it all. How do you ask someone to do an examination inside a library, and without an invigilator? Especially as Sonala had already surreptitiously made me to read up the material in question in his office? This simply amounted to “expo” in popular parlance. I decided there and then to write the assignment under “newsroom temperature” by refusing the godfather advantage of going to the library given to me by Ted Iwere via Sonala Olumhense. I made noises while writing in the African Guardian newsroom to show that I had not gone to any library, and I had great company in the assembled eminent staff available, notably, Eddie Iroh, Pini Jason, Sully Abu, Ashikiwe Adione-Egom the Motor-Park Economist, Greg Obong-Oshotse, Okey Ndibe, Emmanuel Aguariavwedo, Seun Sonoiki, Kingsley Osadolor, Fred Ohwahwa, Joni Akpederi, Ada Momah, Ngozi Ojidoh, George Ola-Davies, Ola Alakija, Stanley Amah, Jossey Ogbuanoh etc.

When I came back the next day nobody was forthcoming with the result of my test. I settled inside the newsroom, waiting for the worst, until the editor-in-chief Andy Akporugo strolled in and stared fixedly at me, saying: “Don’t think you are too hot; I will simply chuck you out!” Now this was beyond my understanding: I had not even been employed yet the boss was already talking of sending me packing. I was still in a daze when the magazine’s artists, Femi Jolaosho and Jide Fatogun, told me that the test I did the day before had already been pasted up for publication in the maiden edition of the magazine. In this my case of appearing yesterday and getting employed today after writing one arranged test, who would still argue with me that a godfather named Sonala is not a deadlier fixer than Tony Anenih? It’s a mark of Sonala the Godfather that I appeared just like a shoeless boy of joblessness in one moment only to transform instantly the very next moment into a job-laden good luck man. See what I mean? I can’t in good conscience stay idly by while Sonala exposes sundry godfathers like Obasanjo, Anenih and even President Jonathan when I know for a fact that the columnist fondly called Ess Oh happens to be the godfather of all godfathers! I don’t give a damn exposing him. QED.


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