It was on Monday this week that I read of the passing of Jimmy Atte, the former Executive Director Programmes at NTA, who was also one of the pioneers of NTA in Ilorin. Just before I commenced writing my column this week, I called Femi Ibrahim of NTA News in Abuja, to confirm the news of Oga Jimmy Atte’s death. He affirmed that it was true. I had earlier decided to write a tribute this week to ToluFatoyinbo, the ace sports commentator, who was recently buried and to whom Kayode Soyinka and Fabio Olanipekun had written very sympathetic tributes, in the wake of his death. In 1985, the National Sports Festival held in Ilorin.
Tagged “KWARA 85”, Radio Kwara was the fulcrum of the live broadcast of the games. And as we were preparing for the live broadcast of the opening ceremony, there entered ToluFatoyinbo! He was fresh from providing live commentaries for Nigeria’s Golden Eaglets, who had taken the world by storm at the Under-17 World Championship, I think in China. He was the ultimate showman and while we had a rough introduction at the beginning, we would later work together as commentators, newsreaders and reporters during the festival, with ToluFatoyinboand the late Sebastian Ofurum, being the senior partners in our broadcasts. We retained a friendship and an affectionate respect into the future.
Tolu Fatoyinbo belonged to a distinguished cast of sports commentators that were trained in the rigorously professional traditions of Radio Nigeria, in those good old days.
He was as brilliant as he was meticulous in the preparations that went into his work as a commentator and it was a hallmark of the work of the masters: from Ishola Folorunsho through to Earnest Okonkwo and Sebastian Offurum, Kevin Ejiofor to ToluFatoyinbo, that they brought the events they covered into the homes of millions of Nigerians as they used words to paint pictures vividly for their listeners. For a long time, even when television began to provide live telecasts of football games, Nigerians would watch the events on their television sets but listen to the radio commentaries as accompaniment.
With ToluFatoyinbo’s death, we lost one of the last great names and voices from a distinguished cast that made our lives so much better because of the way they touched our lives.
Similarly, with Jimmy Atte’s death, we also lost one of the greatest practitioners of television programming that Nigeria ever produced. I think one of Atte’s greatest abilities was to see and nurture other people’s talents. I became a very famous Deejay on radio in Ilorin by the 1980s. After my shows, Jimmy Atte was one of those who would regularly call me to express appreciation of my ability. I knew he worked at NTA Ilorin, but we had never met, until one fine morning when he called as was his wont, but that day, he invited me to meet him at his office.
When I got there, he informed me that he had been thinking over a couple of months on how he could create a television programme around my ability as a radio deejay. He had finally worked out the idea and had invited me to work with him. I was pleasantly surprised and over the next couple of weeks, I went back and forth as we gave life to an outline of an idea that became a programme that I presented and was centred around music and musicians on NTA Ilorin.
That was the quintessential Jimmy Atte, whom I still think was the best DG NTA NEVER had and it was a great pity that the politics of television broadcasting did not allow him to reach the peak, that he so eminently deserved. But that did not dim his esteem as one of the greatest heroes of Nigerian television broadcasting! With Jimmy Atte’s death this week, we have certainly lost a genuine Nigerian patriot who loved his job passionately as an expression of the love he has for his country. May God give the families and colleagues of ToluFatoyinbo and Jimmy Atte, the fortitude to bear their passing!.