Exactly a year ago today, the 18th of February, 2020, Sir Lucky Babatunde Omoluwa, died. I was inside my PhD class at the Nigerian Defence Academy in Kaduna, that Tuesday morning, when I received a message from Idi Farouk, former DG of the National Orientation Agency (NOA). I replied that I was in a seminar, and promised to get back to him when we concluded for the day. Then another message came from him: “Have you heard what happened?”, he asked. And before I responded, he added: “Lucky is gone”! Momentarily, I asked myself, “gone where”? That short exchange, then brought back an earlier call from Idris Marwa. He had called and asked: “Malam kaji labari?” When I couldn’t make a sense of his question, he figured that I hadn’t heard of Lucky’s passing, and he dropped the call. Idris Marwa died towards the end of last year.
2020 was truly the Annus Horibilis, if ever there was one year, that could be so described! We lost Abba Kyari; Samaila Isa Funtua and Sam Nda-Isaiah. And so many other friends. But I will go back to that message from Idi Farouk. I was in so much shock, and must have expressed the emotions very loudly, or at least sufficiently loudly, for the Head of Department of Political Science, Dr. Ngozi Muhammed to come close to me, to request what happened. When I explained, I was excused from the seminar; I then began a most tortuous trip back to Abuja! I received several calls amidst my sorrow and sobs, from so many people, who knew how close I was, to Lucky Omoluwa.
We had actually driven directly from his office the previous evening, to Kaduna. It was a Monday, and as usual, I was fasting. And because it was past five pm, I was wondering where I could break my fast, when I entered Kaduna. I first thought of going to his Kaduna residence, before settling for Kabir Mato’s. I met Kabir in the company of Muhammed Alghazali, broke my fast in their company; and then the decision was made to go to the Kaduna Golf Club, for a reunion with Idris Marwa. He had been very sick in the previous year; returned healthy and he was as ever, the most selfless host, that night. And there was a Premiership game between Chelsea and Man United. I left my phone in silent mode, so as not to be disturbed during the game, which, thankfully, Man United won! It was getting late, and by the time I checked my phone, there were several missed calls from Lucky! I decided not to return the calls till the following day. He had been slightly indisposed the previous couple of days, and I concluded it was better to let him rest that night. It turned out, that I would never get to know the reason he called so many times, that night. I parted with my friends for the night, to be able to work on my seminar presentation for the next morning. That took me to the early hours of the morning; so I woke up rather late on that fateful Tuesday morning, and had to rush my preparations, to be able get to the NDA, on time. The sequence of events didn’t allow me to call Lucky in the morning, until that message about his passing!
I had been suspended from work on February 13th, 2020; the ground of suspension was the court case that ICPC instituted against me, and three others: Lucky; Dipo Onifade and Pinnacle Communications Limited. I was accused of having used my position as DG NBC, to corruptly enrich Lucky and his company; and to have also misled Lai Muhammed, the Minister of Information, to approve the Seed Grant, NBC paid to Pinnacle Communications Limited. What was not put in the public space, was that the money paid, was PROPERLY UTILUSED, to install facilities for the DSO process, by Pinnacle Communications Limited, in Abuja, Kaduna and Gombe. Just as there were preparations being made for Delta state.
The facilities were commissioned by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo in Abuja, and Governor Nasir El-Rufai, in Kaduna. And until the commencement of the litigation, the facilities in Gombe were also ready for commissioning. Not only that, Lucky Omoluwa’s Pinnacle Communications Limited, sponsored a facility tour of Gates Air, at the largest transmitter factory in the world, in the USA, in 2018. The delegation was led by Lai Muhammed; there we were shown ALL the transmitters that Lucky had paid for, to be installed in different cities around Nigeria. Lai Muhammed was interviewed by the local media in America, during which he praised Lucky’s incredible contributions to the DSO; and the Member of Congress, representing the district we visited, did a video hookup from Washington, to commend the relationship between Pinnacle Communications; Gates Air and Nigeria, in the effort to deliver Nigeria’s Digital Switch Over. There was no doubt in anyone’s mind, on that trip, that Lucky and Pinnacle Communications Limited, had judiciously utilised the funds he was paid, in the service of Nigeria’s digital transition.
In a rational setting, such an individual would have been recommended for a national award. This is because he was the single biggest financial contributor to the Nigerian DSO; and given a very tight timeline in September2016, he delivered the Abuja DSO by December 22, 2016, when it seemed he had been set a trap to fail! And he did it in style, supplying the most up-to-date equipment in a setting, which, really ennobles our country. That’s why the whole controversy around the payment made to Pinnacle Communications Limited, was so incredibly absurd; and the political forces that generated it, knew they were going after a decent human being, who genuinely worked for the progress of Nigeria. But these are cowardly; cruel and inhumane people, whose stock-in-trade, has always been to destroy others! These are individuals who benefitted from Lucky’s well-known generosity, but they cowardly and wickedly refused to speak out the truth, in his favour, when it mattered. Not only that they put us through a most damaging media trial, using a particular online newspaper, as well as some others, directly owned or associated with a most arrogant political group in Nigeria. Those that think they can play “God”, and have the right to determine the fate of others! I have never doubted the fact that no matter how long the night, it would give way to the light of day; the tragic element is that Lucky Omoluwa won’t be alive to get the vindication that he truly deserves!
But even the blot of an arraignment in court, could not reduce the esteem of that genuinely remarkable human being. He was truly legendary in the kindness of his heart, and the ability to give a hand; to support people, and to always seek ways to make people happy. These are unique attributes, that dozens and dozens of people from all walks of life, miss about Lucky Omoluwa. Everyone who ever knew him, and has been able to receive support in one way or other, would certainly have a story to tell, about the absence of the past year from their lives, of that wonderful human being. There are several recollections of different moments with Lucky, that I have had, as the days, weeks and months have passed, since his death, a year ago today. Lucky would drop a statement about an issue, especially in the personal lives of his friends; he would offer an insight about situations, and almost as if prescient, the pieces come to fix together, almost like a jigsaw puzzle.
I saw that several times, in my interactions with him. I often wondered about the capacity for goodness of his heart, and his restlessness, to endeavour to do good. It was incomparable! He wasn’t born rich; but he became very wealthy, and for him, the true value of his stupendous riches, was in the way that it could be applied for the good of people around him, as well as those who are not even close, but who nevertheless, needed to be assisted. I know that a lot of people are poorer this past year, because of Lucky Omoluwa’s death, and his absence from their lives.
The most important thing today is legacy. I know there are rumblings around his legacy; including a recent advertorial, in a newspaper, which certainly triggered a lot of worry. My hope is that cool heads would prevail, and all parties will appreciate that the greatest tribute that can be paid to Lucky, is to make concerted efforts to keep alive, all that he laboured for; in that remarkable lifetime, that touched so many lives for good. It is what he would have wanted! And sincerely, I think that’s what he deserves. As we mark the first anniversary of the passing of Lucky Omoluwa, I remember him for what he was: friend; brother; benefactor; intrepid businessman; a committed Catholic Knight; family man; father; husband, and a sincere patriot, who used his place in the world of media, to help put up the platform for a successful Digital Switch Over in Nigeria.
May God forgive Lucky Omoluwa’s shortcomings and may his soul rest in peace.