anniversary of the death of the First Republic Minister of Information and
Broadcasting, the late Chief Theophilus Owolabi Shobowale BENSON, “TOS BENSON”,
comes up on Saturday, February 13, 2010. On that day, Nigerians also remember
our illustrious late Head of State,
Unfortunately, I never met
Murtala Mohammed as I was serving at the Nigerian Embassy in
As the First Minister of
Information and Broadcasting at the dawn of
With a little help from friends, I got into the Ministry of Information! The hours were more acceptable as Federal Government Offices worked from 8AM to 2PM, Monday to Friday but what about the wages? But didn’t they say you cannot eat your cake and have it or was it the case that beggars cannot be choosers? I wanted to work as a Journalist, but once more, there was no vacancy in the press Section where Journalists worked! I got into the Ministry, nevertheless and decided to wait until there was an opening to which I could apply!
My chance came up on
January 1, 1961 when I was reassigned to the press section of the ministry on
the Second floor of the
Having got into the Press Section, I began to cut my journalism teeth; I believe the late Moses Awoyinfa was the Head of the Press Section at the time and there were Very Senior Officers like the late Deputy Director, Mobolaji Odunewu,, the late Increase Coker, the late Aig Imokhuede,, the late PEN Malafa, Lawrence Scott Emuakpor, the Ministry’s Prince Charming Officer, and the late Kunle Akinsemoyin who was a Lawyer!
There was Victor Osakue, Christian Amu’ the late Ampim Blankson, the late Preye Okosi, Ambassador Isaac Sagay, Aunt Hilda Ogunbanjo, the late Okoh-Esene, Fazil Opeagbe and Kolawole Shomade.
Irein Wangboje, (now Professor)
was Head of the Graphic Arts Section they all made very deep impression on me
and the atmosphere was most congenial! All ethnic sections of the great country
were represented because we had one Mallam Dungus who was in the Directorate echelon,
too! When the late Moses Awoyinfa was appointed Press Secretary to the late
Prime Minister, Alhaji Tafawa Balewa, the late Victor Osakue took over as Head
of the Press Section. You could not dream to work for a better “Line Manager”, than
Victor! He took a very keen interest in
making young officers write good and acceptable stories which formed the bases
of our Press Releases. These were distributed to the Press, Radio and
Television every afternoon from about 4PM onwards, the notorious
It was a joy to see that
the media carried certain stories in our Press Releases without editing them!
That was long before I learnt about the “Inverted Pyramid” approach to writing
stories when I got to
The late Chief TOS Benson had been described as “jovial and detribalised”! This was my experience when I was sent to cover an assignment in his Office in 1962. At the time, there were no Press Secretaries attached to Ministers. My brief was that a very important dignitary was visiting the Minister and I should cover their meeting or talk.
By the time I got to the Minister’s Office, his Visitor had left. I mustered all the courage I could summon and asked him if I could be given a gist of their discussion! He looked at me with that genial and paternal smile and using his trade mark nasal tone, he said: “my son, go and write something or are you not a Journalist”? I did not know what that was supposed to mean. I said:”Yes, Minister” and left his Office. It was as if my world had collapsed round me as I did not know what to think at the time; but I gathered my wits around me and went back to the Press Office narrated what had transpired in the Minister’s Office to my immediate colleague, the late Kola Shomade.
Shomade was preparing
to gain admission to the
The late Chief Benson dressed in very elegant
robes and relished his ministerial portfolio immensely! Television in the
country was in its nascent stage and he appeared on the TV Screen much more
than his ministerial colleagues and he relished the exposure which he got from
the Tube. Sometime in 1963, I was called upon, to cover the Minister’s Official
trip to the
Accompanying the late minister to
On this occasion, my thoughts go to the Minister’s widow, Chief Opral Benson and the other members of the Minister’s family. I pray also that the Good Lord in His Infinite Mercy would grant him eternal rest. Long may his memory live in our hearts!