OLU AKARAOGUN: A JOURNALISTIC LIFE
By Uthman Shodipe
He was a man of physical loudness, screaming his presence from afar, appropriating space and balance with a heaving, roundly hugeness that announces its own authority, that defines its own firmness with an instinctive bearing of rapture and declarative felicity.
Everything about Olu Akaraogun was stretched in sheer theatrical hugeness and bulky giantism. Often reposed in weathered, ancient posture, he nevertheless glittered in loud laughter and radiant warmth summoned from the inner glow of a life long used to bouts of joy and joylessness.
His frame, glowing in dark lustre was mounted upon a large crown with silver overgrowth that spilled generously beneath his cap. His large eyes wore a sobered, tired and dull hugeness staring at the world with a glitter of reddish alert, which gave his visage a permanent exhaustion; the dour, withdrawn look of one who yet laughed with the world without being crushed by his own inner struggles.
Always chewing his kolanut with a trail of cigarette smoke which escaped mightily from his consistently stained and scarred teeth, he gave a uniform impression of one who lived a hard life, of one consistently in tumbling turmoil of fringed, riotous existence which is often the heart of journalistic living.
But I knew him still only from afar. His contemporaries were more like the Joses, the Odunewus, Amuka Pemus, Angus Okolis. But he yet intruded upon our time with his giant affability and ardour, with his sign-posted sincerity, with his sociability and gentleness of purpose .
And most importantly, he gained our admiration through the sheer lustre of his writings. His prose was effortless, concise, graceful, throbbing with natural elegance and balanced mastery. He simplified in sheer engaging liberty every subject his great pen engaged. He wrote with easy and smooth accessibility. His prose was uncluttered with high lettered literature. He was without the pretentious eloquence of affected crudity. He was pure, truthful, without prosaic adornments. And yet, he was undismissive of a high literature. He knew that genuine prose is not borne of any rigid formula. He therefore stood in no great condemnation of anything that was different from his own. He was capable of truthful appreciative graces of a good work. He would call out to everyone in genuine brotherhood, and announcing you heartily as his brother and meaningful of what he had said.
It was his voice that first attracted you. It was his booming voice. Akaraogun did not talk. He thundered. He hollered in pure quaking liberty. From that lighted, long hallway of the Daily Times, his voice boomed with resounding uniqueness, shattering the hallway with a prompt, arresting force, detaining attention, swaying focus, insisting on a union with his declaration. He spoke in booming, thundering audacity which could not be imitated. You knew it was him. For there was no one like him. He stood alone. First, his voice would ring with quaking violence, stopping everything, detaining every motion, halting all activities with a stupefying wonderment. To hear his laughter or his voice was to stop, was to hold on and look and wonder. Such was Akaraogun, a journalist of lively imagination and truth, a man of great sociable candour and candid accessibility.
Yes, he would share his kolanut even with an office boy. He was totally undiscriminatory. He stood largely in his own personal immensity without any feeling of his worth being eroded by shared emotions or sympathetic generosity. He was a good man, good in his work, fantastic in his mission, defining life as purely an occasion, a revelry that must not be lived with any puritanical religiosity. It is then tragic that such a passage can be observed largely without a mention, largely without a noise, largely with a loud indifference, consigned to the closing pages of a soft sell. Surely, Akaraogun deserves more than a mere mention. He was a great voice and a journalist of total heroic commitment. He must be missed wherever great prose, hard work and seminar scholarship is of high value.
First published Friday, 3 June, 2005.