A former Managing Director of the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), Dr. Nwabu Mgbemena, is dead.
Mgbemena, 71, died of cancer on April 22 in New Jersey, U.S.
A close associate, Chief Tony Idigo, confirmed the death on Sunday in a telephone interview with NAN.
Mgbemena was one of the pioneer editors of NAN, where he rose to serve as managing director for two terms from January, 1985 to January, 1994.
He took over as Chief Executive Officer from Mr Olufemi Adefela, who was then the General Manager of the agency.
Adefela has had a brief stint as general manager after the retirement of Mr. Onuora Nzekwu, the pioneer General Manager of NAN.
Mgbemena attended Dennis Memorial Grammar School, Onitsha and later proceeded to the University of Nigeria, Nsukka (UNN), where he obtained a Bachelor’s degree in journalism.
He became a lecturer at UNN, where he rose to become a senior lecturer at the Department of Journalism, which was later re-named Department of Mass Communication.
Mgbemena also obtained a masters degree from the Syracuse University in New York, as well as a doctorate from the Texas Southern University in Houston, U.S.
After his teaching stint at UNN, he joined NAN as senior editor when NAN was established by the Federal Government in 1978.
Mgbemena was one of the `original nine editors,’ employed at the take-off of NAN. They are Olufemi Adefela, Nwabu Mgbemena, Sani Sambo, Wada Maida, Dave Igiewe, Godwin Omole, Toye Olofintuyi, Willie Bozimo and Chukwura Ezebube.
Expressing his grief over the passing of his bosom friend, Idigo said that Magbemena’s era at NAN marked a foray into rural reporting at NAN, with the opening of district offices at Ile-Ife and Nsukka to boost grassroots coverage.
Idigo recalled that Mgbemena was at one time, chairman of a pool of news agencies in West Africa with headquarters in Cotonou, Benin Republic, through which regional news agency journalism was developed in the sub-region.
He also recalled that Mgbemena served as one of the advisers on media and communication to Chief Jim Nwobodo, during his tenure as the Governor of old Anambra State.
Similarly, Malam Wada Maida, a former NAN Managing Director, who took over from Mgbemena, described Mgbemena as a good administrator, who carried his colleagues along in taking major decisions.
“As a journalist and journalism teacher, he used his experience to consolidate the achievements of the first management of the News Agency of Nigeria.
“I miss a colleague, with whom I traveled the same route in NAN. Dr Nwabu Mgbemena and I joined NAN as pioneer staff, rising to head the Editorial Department and later becoming managing directors of the agency.
“May his soul rest in peace,’’ Maida said.
Mr. Dave Igiewe, a former Editor-in-Chief, said: “Dr Mgbemena was a good friend of mine and colleague. His greatest legacy in NAN was the upgrading of the agency to a grade `A’ parastatal.
“This promoted government’s focus on NAN, enkindled its growth and development and enhanced staff welfare.”
Prince James Ajayi, who served as the first accountant employed in NAN, said: “his death is a big loss to the NAN family and Nigeria as a whole.
“The death of Mgbemena, one of the founding fathers of NAN, marks the death of an era of a brilliant journalist and an administrator.’’
Ajayi said that Mgbemena had contributed immensely to the growth of NAN and prayed for the repose of his soul.
Mr. John Ndukuba, a retired Deputy Editor-in-Chief, who served as Senior Special Assistant to Mgbemena, said that Mgbemena’s era in NAN marked the introduction of professionalism in the management of the agency.
“He elevated the entry point into the service of NAN. He added humane touch to the management of NAN.”
The current Editor-in-Chief of NAN, Malam Lawal Ado, said that Mgbemena’s death was not only a loss to journalism but to the nation as a whole.
“Dr Mgbemena was a humanitarian, who was always ready to listen to problems and offer solutions.
“He gave NAN a sense of direction. He was a father to all,’’ Ado said.
Mgbemena is survived by his wife, Faustina, daughter Nkiru and three sons.
Nkiru told NAN that her father’s remains would be brought to Mgbemena’s country home at Obosi in Anambra at a later date.