Prof. Alfred Opubor: My teacher, colleague and friend

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I ARRIVED home in Kaduna last Sunday afternoon, when I received a mail from the Nigerian Community Radio Network, announcing that Professor Alfred Opubor died around midnight on December 2, at the Teaching Hospital in Cotonou, in the neighbouring Republic of Benin, where he has lived and worked in the past couple of years. Frankly, I was in shock for a couple of minutes, as my mind raced through several phases of my encounter with that truly remarkable intellectual and very decent gentleman.

What I have never forgotten is his remarkable insight when he did a critique of a radio documentary that I did on the “History of the Nigerian Working Class Movement” for the Department of Mass Communication at the University of Lagos in 1981. He argued that in trying to posit a very sharp ideological message, I must never forget that the form of conveyance of message was dialectically related to the message.

Content suffers damage when form is deficient, he argued. But at the age of 20+, I was still hot-headed in my ideological attitude, but much later in life, and with greater experience of the process of existence, I learnt the truth of Professor Opubor’s position. He was not only doing a critique of a documentary, but was also helping to fine-tune the world outlook, without showing an arrogant attitude. I was often curious about his ability with languages, especially his very good Hausa, until I learnt much later that he had grown up in Northern Nigeria, and his ability to accommodate people came from the multi-cultural content of his upbringing. Professor Opubor would become the leading light of Nigeria’s Community Radio Network and as was his style, gave his all to open that niche of broadcasting in our country.

Reputed to be the first African to take a doctorate degree in Mass Communication, Professor Opubor taught generations of students around the world and played a central role in developing communication platforms for development in many parts of Africa, Latin America and other regions of the world. He died at the age of 75, but in his passing, we have lost a remarkable intellectual, a very decent human being and a patriot.

For me, I have lost a teacher who became a colleague and friend, and one who seemlessly made those transitions without thinking that he was diminished in his achievements. The development of all the people he mentored and those who came into contact with him, merely added to the enrichment of his humanity. We are indeed a head shorter with Professor Opubor’s death. And his was one of our truly outstanding heads! May the Almighty God give the family the fortitude to bear his death.

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