— Veteran journalist and columnist of Daily Times of Nigeria, Alhaji Alade Odunewu popularly known by his pseudonym Allah De died last Thursday at St. Nicholas Hospital, Lagos at the age of 85.
It is said that if you don’t climb the mountain, you can’t see the view. If you never read Allah De, you didn’t know Alhaji Alade Odunewu. His columns were great truths in tiny capsules.
Born in Ikorodu, he was educated at St. Johns School Aroloya Lagos, and Bethel College, Onitsha, Anambra State. He studied journalism at Regent Polytechnic, London now University of Westminster.
He began his career at Daily Times and rose to the position of Editor. He was one of the elite journalists/writers/columnists at Kakawa Street (home of the Daily Times in Lagos) Nigeria’s equivalent of Fleet Street.
Odunewu would be remembered for converting his poignant and satirical column Allah De into the constituency of the rejected. My first and only encounter with Odunewu was on the pages of his weekly Sunday column Allah De in the Sunday Times.
It’s tough work eulogizing a wit as acerbic, clever, and ruthless journalist and columnist as Odunewu. I believe the best way to do this is to take a safe route by quoting from his columns. But since I don’t have access to his articles, I will be content to base my opinions of him of what I read in his columns.
Odunewu was like a Baptist preacher united in a mission underpinned by an earnest faith that the work mattered, and he knew it, and the public which he wrote for knew it. He was devoted to the common good. His writings were laced with spontaneous jabs of humor. All the ruckus and furor of his penmanship just stimulated the creative juices of the reader.
He wrote with energy, a certain adventurism about the times with a sense of the fabric and the rhythms of our community. His writings would crack you up with laughter that comes with unconscious gratitude – somewhere inside you feel lucky to be reading his column.
His writings give you a sense of hope and resilience in the here-and now. From his writings you would discover that he was inspired by the imperishable watchdog responsibility. Those who knew him remember him as the combination of playfulness, camaraderie, and seriousness of purpose.
Whether the issue is insanity, corruption, or ineptitude of government, Odunewu’s verbal style blends the high and the low in a way that only Allah De could pull off. He was the indomitable spirit, the rebel who stubbornly and without respite wrote against domination exercised by the powerful on the powerless.
He articulated with wit and with a unique Allah De sarcasm the right to rebellion against social, political, and economic system that was capable of sinking Nigeria into disorder and chaos. He said more with less, found words that are better than the wisest silence, naked words free of rhetorical clothing.
Reading his column, it was never in doubt that writing brings him deep feelings and great pleasure. Odunewu would fly in the dark like a bat, would vomit all the lies the government wanted us to swallow. He was disobedient to the powers who give order against the citizen’s conscience and against common sense.
He refused to be neutral in controversial discussions and debates on national issues. He tried to choose the right side in the eternal struggle of indignation against indignity. He condemned in no uncertain terms the hysteria madness of use power by those in authority.
He was adamant in advocating that leaders and others entrusted with the people’s business put their skills to use to benefit the people rather than to regiment or condemn people to a certain fate.
Odunewu in his no nonsense well reasoned and thought provoking articles, would not hesitate to match places and incidents with names, names with crimes and transgressions, and crimes with consequences. These investigative narratives were intellectual grist for the mill.
He used his pen in critical engagement to summon the conscience of politicians and others in public service. He championed a new kind of journalism for humanism for a just and progressive social and political order. Odunewu was a revolutionary who saw the possibilities that journalism could serve as a tool to investigate and expose the appalling material conditions of the poor and the voiceless.
Few would deny the accuracy of his incisive observations regarding the Nigerian system and its effects on the people. His writings and ideas obliged us to take a dramatic stand, or stated differently, a position that defines the duties of the government vis-a-vis the expectations of the governed.
He was ruthless with leaders who engaged in endless parades of buffoonery lacking the dignity and discipline to flush out all traces of insanity in government and in public office.
Indeed, Odunewu used his pen to increase the anxieties of corrupt and oppressive governments. The pen as his weapon was used to murder the sleep of those in power by constantly reminding them of their crimes against the people.
He was a man of strong and active mind and great force of character, honest, resolute, and straightforward. He was true to his convictions of duty: let the consequences be what they might.
He thirsted for knowledge, and the earnest and practical character of his mind led him to desire the solid and useful rather than showy and superficial life.
Odunewu’s retentive memory, a lively imagination, strong reasoning powers, and untiring application of best practices of journalism placed him in the foremost rank among his peers. Alhaji Alade Odunewu was a journalist with organic intellectual prowess whose acerbic column outlived his readers. This is the legacy and legend of Allah De.
So, let’s toast Odunewu for Allah De’s journalistic reformist mission he let loose on Nigeria. Who would trade his columns – sassing the corrupt politician, dissing the inept public servant and imperiously threatening to end the career of powerful and famous politicians?
Just before you finish reading this, look back in your memory and reflect on his columns. The old columns and its rich memories seem pretty special!