Late Journalist’s Daughter Wants Father, Colleague Immortalised

Lekan Otufodunrin

The daughter of one of the two Nigerian journalists killed in Liberia in 1990, Abisola Awotunsin Itua has written a poem in honour of her father and his colleague calling for better honour for them.

Tayo Awotunsin of Champion Newspaper and Krees Imodibe of The Guardian were killed while covering the civil war in Liberia.

Abisola explained that she wrote the poem titled Heroes Without Garlands because she felt they were not adequately celebrated.

“I want the world to know the price they paid in the course of their assignment and I want the concerned bodies to acknowledge them adequately,” she stated.

According to Abisola, “they deserve to be immortalised. Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) should have a building or research centre in their names and they should start a foundation that caters for the well-being of children/wives of journalists who die in line of duty in their names.”

Though she was about six years old when her father died in Liberia, Abiola said her mother told her before she died that her father was very dedicated to his job.

“Because of that, he had a room to himself where he writes late into the night and whenever he has work to do, he does not tolerate any distraction from anybody. He also travelled a lot because of his job. He was very passionate about journalism. It was that same passion that made him go on the journey that cost him his life.”

In an interview with The Nation, Mrs Adenike Awotunsin spoke about her late husband: “He was a very hard-working man. It was a miracle that I even had four children for him, because he never had time to stay home. The little time he spent at home, he was always with his pen and paper; always writing till late hours. Let me tell you this story. When I was about having our third child during our stay in Abeokuta, I had fallen into labour and my neighbour called him to come home. Tayo came home quite alright, but you know what he told me. “My dear, please just hold that baby. Let me quickly rush to the office to file this story to Lagos.” My neighbour could not believe her ears. But Tayo just told her to quickly get a taxi, which took me to the hospital. I had already given birth when my husband dashed in asking ‘where is my wife.’ I asked him, ‘so, you want me to hold the baby while you go to the office to write a story.’ He said ‘my dear, I’m sorry. You see, it was important I file that story today.” As a father, he was very responsible. He never joked with his children’s welfare, most especially the payment of their school fees. That was why after he died, the proprietress of my children’s school gave them scholarship for their primary education. The woman said she knew my husband as a responsible father. He never smoked, drank or womanised.”

Abisola and the immediate younger sister have a flair for writing.

Poem below:
HEROES WITHOUT GARLANDS (A Tribute to Tayo Awotunsin and Chris Imodibe)
You are Marshals
Great warriors of your time
Your voices were your weapons
Your fingers your tools
Your determination to make the truth known
Your fervour to ensure
That your nation is not left in the dark deserves recognition
I say it deserves acknowledgement
You decided to shine the light
That will kill ignorance and deception
And for this, you went all the way!
Your passion was your fuel
Your enthusiasm was your motivation
I salute your courage, my honourables
For daring to dare the Lion’s den
To get the truth that the world seeks
You ventured on a journey most feared to attempt
You sacrificed your most prized possessions;
Your life, your family, your future
On the altar of your profession and your nation

I can hear your cry, my nobles
Your quest for acknowledgement
I can feel your disappointment
And your dissatisfaction
At the triviality with which your great sacrifice
And commitment is handled

You deserve to be celebrated, my heroes
You deserve to be honoured, my warriors
Though the ones for whom you dared
And the ones for whom you ventured
Have refused to crown you
With the garlands that you deserve
Neither have they worn on you
The wreath that should be yours
Nor bestowed on you
The honour that you should have
This poesy of mine is a token of honour to you, my heroes
It is my garland of celebration.

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