BY KABIR ALABI GARBA
ROOFLESS, dilapidated and
abandoned, the palatial bungalow in the expansive courtyard
heightened the anxiety of the visitor that Friday evening.
Similar pictures of ruined buildings starred him on the way to
Odi town in Bayelsa State, from the junction where a banner
conspicuously welcomes one to Odi, "the sunshine city of the
Upon a gentle knock on the wrought iron gate, an elderly
man appeared from another building directly in front of the
isolated bungalow. "We have been expecting you. My oga had
informed about your coming," a receptionist who seemed to be
the security man in the compound responded as the guest
announced his mission.
Shortly, the visitor was seated in the living room of a new
building adjacent to the bungalow. Although the construction
has been completed (it has been painted too) there is much
work left in fitting, decoration and other support materials.
"This is the new building I'm hurriedly putting in place after
I lost that bungalow to the invasion of Odi town by the
federal troops in 1999," said Chief Horatio Nelson Oyenke
Agedah, an Officer of Order of Federal Republic (OFR).
"I do not want a situation whereby my body would be kept in
mortuary for years while my children are making attempt to
build a house here before the burial is effected," the
renowned broadcaster and accomplished journalist further
But why would the Oloko-Owei I of Odi prefer building
another house to renovating the damaged one? He burst out: "It
is not possible to renovate it because it is not a question of
fire burning it. This is a question of dynamite actually being
thrown at it. "And you will see that all the walls are
cracked. Some of the houses in this town now, when there is
heavy rainfall, the walls just begin to collapse,"he
"So, if one has to rebuild it, you have to break down,
demolish the whole thing and start all over again. In any
case, I want this to be as a monument, a reminder. If
tomorrow, I tell people that this was what I had and I have
been reduced to this, people may not believe. So, when people
come and see exactly what happened, then they will appreciate
the gravity of the suffering we have here."
Specifically, the grouse of the radio man who retired from
the services of the Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria
(FRCN) in 1978 as deputy director-general was the failure of
the federal government to fulfil its promise to compensate
innocent victims of the 1999 invasion by troops. "That the
government raised the hope of everyone in Odi when they sent
out experts to come to Odi and evaluate the amount of damage
done without any result is more agonising. As a matter of
fact, the residents of Odi were even invited to state
specifically their losses in terms of building properties,
household equipment and other personal effects.
"And everyone sat down and listed all these things,
submitted them to the government. If government had even just
given a sort of token compensation to the inhabitants,
individuals particularly those who lost parents, wives and so
on. My own security man was killed, and nothing...! No
compensation of any sort; no relief of any sort! Except public
spirited organisations; non-governmental organisations that
brought relief materials in terms of food and clothing among
others," Chief Agedah lamented.
The Ibenimiowei of Kabowei Kingdom in Delta State insisted
that because some of the losses suffered can not even be
quantified "there should be some measure of compensation to
people". "For instance, I lost a whole library; my electronic
gadgets including a 40-KV generating plant were looted. I
don't want to remember some of these things".
Indeed, the lamentation over his losses could simply be
linked to his sentimental attachment to the destroyed
property. He narrated the incidence leading to the
construction of the complex shortly after his voluntary
retirement in 1978. "Because I did not have house at home
(Odi) then, people were abusing me saying 'but he said he was
a big man, we have not seen anything he builds at home'. Then
he approached a good friend and former classmate at the
Baptist Academy who later went to King's College, Lagos,
J.S.K. Macgregory, a chartered surveyor and town planner, to
design a nice storey building for him.
"But I was marvelled at his response. 'You want to go and
build a storey building in your village! Is something wrong
with you?' He then asked about how often I do go home
stressing that even when I retire and intend to settle down
permanently at Odi, it would be at an age when I may not be
able to climb stairs. 'Therefore let me give you a nice
He continued: "And he gave me that design; when it was
finished, it became a showpiece in town. That building had
played host to Bishops because it was just behind St.
Stephen's Anglican Church. So, I had a sentimental attachment
to the building which has now been totally destroyed".
Agedah, the Amona Olu-Are Basegun of Ode-Remo, Ogun State
faulted the claim of the soldiers that the attack was to
suppress the activities of hoodlums : "We can not just
understand that. Their plea was that hoodlums waged war
against them. That was their argument. I was not there. I was
in Lagos. I did not really know the actual fact. But everybody
will make a statement to justify his own deed. They had made
that type of statement to justify what they did, otherwise how
many hoodlums are there to wage war against military might of
the government? Who were those hoodlums? What arms do they
"These are the questions the soldiers have refused to
answer till date. And if they had just come to put fire on
houses, people would re-roof their houses and re-paint them.
But this is a rare blasting with bombs, flattening the whole
village ."What about innocent people that were killed. Are
Another dimension to the attack according to him, is the
rise in casualty since the incident. He claimed that because
of that trauma , "almost every other day, since that time,
people have been dying. This is essentially as a result of
chemical weapon used. Just yesterday (Friday, July 26) I was
told about a woman, a relation who died, just like that. It is
no excuse at all".
That Odi indigenes are gradually putting the ugly occurence
behind them registered boldly last Saturday at the opening
ceremony of the 45th anniversary of Odi Ogori-ba Uge festival.
It is a yearly, week-long event. during which virtually all
sons and daughters of the Odi community particularly those
living outside the environment would gather to mark what
Bayelsa State governor, Diepreye Solomon Peter Alamieyeseigha
tagged "a celebration of victory and triumph over a mysterious
killer Buffalo that terrorised and ravaged the indigenes of
Odi between 1953 and 1957". Agedah, 73, was in town because of
Incidentally, the genesis of the festival has a direct link
with the Agedahs as their father, Chief Thompson Nengi Agedah
(alias Mallam-de-Tara) was renowned to have facilitated the
means that resulted in the killing of the wild animal .
Every adult in Odi believes that sometime in 1953, an
animal identified as a bufallo started to destroy crops and
terrorise the people. As a result, passing through Woo, the
road from Odi to the ferry-point, became a death trap. And in
a matter of weeks, five people were killed by the wild animal.
The situation became so alarming that hunting expeditions were
mounted by both indigenes and foreign hunters but to no avail.
At this point efforts were made to seek help from neighbouring
countries and it was Chief Thompson Nengi Agedah that
contacted one Mallam of Tara in Benin Republic and negotiated
for some herbal medicines.
On his return, the charms were buried at strategic points
immediately behind the town. Even with the assurance of the
efficacy of the charm, people were very skeptical. But they
were suprised on July 27, 1957 when the bufallo was sighted
grazing at a church compound. The killing therefore ushered in
a new era of peace and stability in Odi. And as a result, July
27 every year is marked as Odi National Day. The festival week
always features traditional dances, canoe race, acrobatic
displays, pageantry, among other activities.
"Arrangements have also reached advanced stage to transform
the Odi Ogori-ba Uge annual festival and others into tourist
centres. Bayelsa State may soon become one-stop tourist
destination in the Niger Delta sub-region," remarked the
governor at this year's festival at the bank of River Nun. "As
we celebrate with you today for conquering the killer Ogori,"
the governor admonished that the anniversary should facilitate
a strong unification and continuous building of Odi "from the
ruins the destroyers left behind two years ago.
The attention later shifted to the Owigiri Love Boat, a
carnival-like procession on the River Nun as the ship provided
by the state government moved from Amatu to Oboribeingha with
music supplied by Ebisindei Fred.
It was ecstacy as the boat berthed at the bank of each
community for a mini reception by the people who had gathered
to register their solidarity. The story was similar in all the
nine communities that comprise Odi as each hoisted its flag at
the river bank to express preparedness to host the boat. The
occasion lasted till the middle of the night, terminated by
all- night reggae music party anchored by Jussy Will and his
Exodus of Kaiama.
Overwhelmed with joy and sense of fulfilment, Chief Agedah
who had specifically wanted his guest to cover the festival as
an answer to a question on his attachment to his root
declared: "Hopefully, you have heard the role my father played
in the demise of the wild beast. And you have seen how deeply
I'm involved in all aspects of life in my home which where I'm
the Oloko-Owei I (meaning the legal adviser to the traditional
ruler), the Amadawei of Odi Chief J.B. Komonibo, who is the
father of Odi and his traditional council".
No doubt, at 73, the veteran broadcaster had had an
enterprising career that had brought him fame across Nigeria
and beyond. Basically, he was inspired into journalism by mere
love for sports. Born on Wednesday, July 24, 1929, he secured
an appointment as third-class clerk in the Nigeria Marine in
1948 having successfully completed his secondary education at
the Baptist Academy, Lagos in December 1947.
He said, "As a civil servant then, you could not write on
politics. You can only write on non-political subjects. So, I
chose sports because I was a keen follower of sports.,"
Indeed, at the Baptist Academy, he was captain of the school's
boxing club and a member of the first eleven (11) in football.
This is an addition to being a star swimmer, winning a number
of prizes at the J.K. Randle Memorial Swimming competitions.
Agedah's extra-curricular activities did not diminish his
ingenuity as a brilliant student. This is evident in the
double promotions that dotted his education in secondary
Starting off in 1935 at the St. Stephen's School, he had
hardly finished the fourth year in St. Stephen when his late
uncle, captain 'Nobody' Oyenkah Agedah, master of the
Lagos/Apapa Ferry Boat Kathleen, of the old Nigeria Marine
took young Agedah to Lagos and he was re-enrolled immediately
at Ade Oshodi Memorial Baptist School,Epetedo,Lagos in 1939.
The school was a walking distance from his uncle's
residence at Okepopo Street. Because of good performance in
the end-of-year examination, he and a few others were
transferred to the parent Baptist Academy at No. 24, Broad
Street, opposite the old colonial secretariat building, to
continue in standard three in 1940. In the following year,
1941, he was promoted to standard four. Under a system then in
vogue at the Baptist Academy of giving rapid advancement to
promising children, he was promoted from Standard Four to
Class (Form) one in the secondary school.
He completed the six-year course in December, 1947, passing
the university of Cambridge overseas school certificate
examination in the first grade, with exemption from the
University of London Matriculation Examination.
It was even at the threshold of his public service career
that the stuff Agedah was made off began to manifest He rose
rapidly to become stenographer and later confidential
secretary to the director of Marine, Captain Francis William
John Skutil, who later became the first head of the Nigerian
Navy, as Commodore F.W.J. Skutil.
With this public service, he commenced his career as a
freelance sports journalist, writing reports and commentaries
for Young Nigeria, a news journal for circulation among boys
and girls club, under the auspices of the government and
social welfare department. This metamorphosed in 1951 into a
column in the Daily Service. Titled: Football Post-Mortem. At
the same time, he became a regular contributor to the Times
Group of newspapers, Daily and Sunday Times specifically. The
popularity of his reports was such that the newspapers
sometimes carried more than one article from him, in the same
edition. One feature would be under his proper name and the
other would be under a pseudonym T.K.O for boxing and Goal
Kick for football. But Chief Agedah would soon join electronic
media, still reporting sports.
The Nigerianisation policy had been launched and
expatriates manning strategic positions were to hand over to
Nigerians. Agedah appeared to be the first beneficiary of this
policy. In 1954, he was invited by the Nigerian Broadcasting
Corporation (now Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria) to take
over presentation of the weekly sports talk from Mr. R.B.
(Darby) Allen, the expatriate secretary/Treasurer of the
Nigeria Football Association. At that time, the programme was
the only "intra studio" sports production on radio in Nigeria,
and it served as an appropriate platform for Agedah to
establish himself in broadcasting.
As a pioneer, he was the first Nigerian sports journalist
to cover the Olympic Games for the electronic media. Indeed,
he was flown, at a short notice, from a working attachment
with the British Broadcasting Corporation in London to join
the Nigerian contingent to the 1960 Summer Olympics in Rome.
There after, he devoted time to sports administration, and was
the first indigenous chairman, Lagos Amateur Boxing
Association in 1961. He served meritoriously in many other
boards of sports including the Nigerian Football Association
to the extent of being honoured with National Sports Award in
With a desire to pursue broadcasting as a career, he later
applied for a senior service job in the radio and attended an
interview in the then civil service commission. Although he
passed the interview, the appointment was not offered
immediately and when it eventually materialised, the question
of releasing him from Marine service delayed Agedah's official
joining of the National Broadcasting Service (NBS).
Precisely, he went into radio Journalism in January 1956,
and quickly distinguished himself as the first Nigerian to
broadcast daily, reports of Proceedings in Parliament (The
House of Representatives and the Senate). This programme was
previously handled personally by the expatriate head of the
news department, Mr. Norman England. He also became famous as
a political analyst and commentator. His election campaign
supplements were a regular feature during electioneering
Agedah's joy was the pass mark he got from his predecessor,
Norman England, that he handled the programme properly. He
seemed to have done it satisfactorily "to such an extent that
Norman England himself wrote a tribute to me in the Radio
Times which was the official publication of the NBS".
Even the comment of the leader of the House at that time,
Chief Festus Okolie was complimentary. "Since Horatio Agedah
started the nightly report of the proceedings of the House of
Representatives, I am sure that members have been far happier
with his report than those of the expatriate head of the news
department" as contained in the Hansard of the period. His
commitment to duty paid off in 1962 as he was promoted
director of News and Current Affairs, the first Nigerian to
hold the post.
For working journalists covering the activities of the
National Assembly, they have a duty " to be fair to all
concerned. That is the government and the opposition." He gave
similar admonition for the coverage of political activities
particularly during the electioneering period. "Right now,
every registered political party must be given a fair hearing.
But unfortunately with the introduction of private radio/TV
stations and by implication, commercial broadcasting, you find
that some parties may be able to pay huge sum of money to
secure airtime while others can not afford it.
"This is where I think the National Broadcasting Commission
(NBC) might have to step in to regulate the airtime given to
each party particularly during period of electioneering."
A new feather was added to his cap on November 30, 1973
when he was elected President, Nigerian Guild of Editors (NGE)
at the group's annual conference held in Benin City. Later in
February 1975, he was returned unopposed at the conference in
Kaduna but he could not complete his term because of the
promotion in Radio to the administrative position of deputy
director-general in charge of programmes . Dr. Christopher
Kolade (now Nigerian High Commissioner in United Kingdom) was
in charge as director-general.
From this position, he was seconded to the Federal Ministry
of Information in 1977 as executive secretary News Agency of
Nigeria Implementation Task Force under the chairmanship of a
renowned civil servant, Mr. Arthur Edward Howson-Wright,
(MFR.) who was also the first Secretary to the Government of
Although Agedah's return to Radio also as Deputy
Director-General was celebrated , the Management reshufflement
occasioned by the voluntary retirement of Dr. Kolade and
subsequent promotion of George Bako (who happened to be a
junior to Agedah) to the post of the director-general forced
Chief Agedah to contemplate voluntary retirement too.
"Afterall I had done about 30 years in the public service at
that time. And my age too encouraged that plus the fact that I
had already become a lawyer and I wanted to go out to practise
law," he noted.
Comparing broadcasting then and now, he asserted that
developments had expanded the frontier of the profession.
"During our time, there was only one radio channel - Radio
Nigeria. That was before the old Western regional broadcasting
service was started by the late Obafemi Awolowo. We had what
could be called "captive audience. And listening was
encouraged by the introduction of re-diffusion boxes.
"It is an entirely different story now. There are many
radio stations; both private and public. Listeners have a wide
choice of stations. There is competition calling for
improvement in standards both in programming and technical
A man of many parts who got involved in virtually all human
endeavours, including politics, however detested being
described as a card-carrying member of the defunct National
Party of Nigerian (NPN).
His reaction: "I'm surprised to be described as a renowned
card-carrying member of the NPN. I very much doubt whether it
will be right to describe Dr. Christopher Kolade, Nigeria's
new High Commissioner in the United Kingdom as a renowned
card-carrying member of the People's Democratic Party (PDP).
In my case, I had left broadcasting on voluntary retirement
before I was invited to serve in some important political
positions during the period.
"In deed, I could not have been in any political party at
all at that time. Because I was a member of the Federal
Electoral Commission (FEDECO) under the chairmanship of Chief
Michael Ani. My conscription; and I use the word conscription
deliberately, into FEDECO is another story entirely."
"And after the elections, Chief Melford Okilo, Rivers State
Executive governor seemed to have developed a very soft spot
for me. I believed during my days in broadcasting, he was
anxious to have me in his government. And he spoke to me but I
said look I have just been with FEDECO how can I now join your
government and people say I rig the election for you. But in
order to keep me as part of his outfit, he made me governor's
special representative in Lagos.
Is he serving the state (Beyelsa) in any capacity now? "No!
Government is now in the hands of very young men. Some of them
have just celebrated their 40th birthday anniversary. They
would want to work and take advice from people of their own
age group. If you are an old person, being a seasoned
administrator does not matter. They would simply say 'that was
your time. Things are different now'. That is where the
problem lies. Things are different now!"
And to succeed in life, Chief Agedah stressed, "integrity
is the key." Chief Agedah is now busy with the training of
fresh law graduates through Aluku Chambers in Port Harcourt.