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Doyen of Public Relations (PR) in Africa and accomplished newspaper manager, Chief Bob Beremako Ewuolonu Ogbuagu, passed on recently. He was aged 92. He lived a fulfilled life and contributed to the growth and development of Public Relations in Africa.
Chief Ogbuagu’s media career cut across Advertising, Public Relations and newspaper management. And he made name in all of them. After a stint at John Holt Ltd, a frontline commercial trading company in 1947, Dee Bob (as he was fondly called) ventured into active media practice. He became the proprietor of Northern Advocate based in Jos, Plateau State. It was there he joined the Zikist Movement, a political organisation that changed his life. But, he could only sustain the publication of the Northern Advocate for seven years before the newspaper ceased to exist in 1955. Undaunted by the travails of the newspaper, Ogbuagu already armed with sound academic qualifications from prestigious institutions abroad, worked as a press officer with the Eastern Regional Development Corporation 1956-58, and later became the Assistant Secretary, Chief Administrator, Eastern Nigeria Development Corporation and Secretary, Eastern Nigeria Rehabilitation Commission, 1966-67, respectively. Consequently, he launched himself into PR consultancy and practised it for over six decades.
Later, Chief Ogbuagu was seconded to the Central Office of Information in London during the Nigerian Civil War. It was an assignment he later admitted was one of the most tasking in his life and yet one he handled with extraordinary sense of patriotism and integrity, using all public relations tools he had learnt.
He was remarkable in handling government affairs and outstanding in other social matters. His contributions to the media in Nigeria was recognised and rewarded. He was a former President and distinguished Fellow of the Nigeria Institute of Public Relations (NIPR) and first President Emeritus of the Federation of African Public Relations (FAPRA), now known as African Public Relations Association (APRA), which he co-founded in Nairobi, Kenya. He was also a member of other prestigious associations such as the British Institute of Public Relations, the Arab Public Relations Association, Nigerian Institute of Directors and a recipient of the Officer of the Order of the Niger ( OON) in 1995, and a holder of six traditional titles.
At the age of 70, he was appointed the Managing Director/Editor-in-Chief of Champion Newspapers Ltd, in 1995, a position he held for five years. This was a period of great challenge for the newspaper, a time of military dictatorship. In addition to being the MD of Champion Newspapers, Ogbuagu was a director of many companies, among which are the Nigeria and Overseas Gas Company, Port Harcourt, Hotel Presidential, Nigeria Railways Corporation, Luncheon Vouchers (Nig) Ltd., and Enic Advertising. He was a member of Council of Nigerian Association of Chambers of Commerce, President, Rotary International, Enugu branch, Regional Co-ordinator, Rotary Foundation for Africa, among others.
Ogbuagu was born on May 25, 1925 in Umukabia, Ohuhu, Umuahia, Abia State. He attended Methodist Central School, Umukabia, 1933-37, Methodist Mission Hill School, Umuahia, 1938, Methodist High School, Uzuakoli, 1939-45. Later, he proceeded to the Brookings Institute, USA.
In his tribute to the renowned PR guru, President Muhammadu Buhari extolled his virtues of courage, foresight and integrity, which he deployed to the service of God, journalism and public relations in Africa. The president also noted that Ogbuagu “followed the path least travelled by many in his profession.” No doubt, Chief Ogbuagu was a thorough professional, motivational speaker and a compendium of inspiring jokes. We wish his family and professional colleagues the strength to bear the loss. May his kind soul rest in peace.