Getting Emeka Oparah, the Director, Corporate Communications and CSR at Airtel Nigeria, a telecoms service provider to sit down for an interview is no mean task. He’s a passionate workaholic. ButAgozino Agozino, however, discovered that out of office, Oparah, who is known for his trademark well-trimmed white beard, is also a consummate writer
“Please I don’t like to grant public interviews”, the soft-spoken voice jovially said, in reaction to a request for an interview withDaily Times Nigeria. He had, earlier, been informed about the Daily Times interest in having a chat with him after he reviewed a book recently in Lagos. Apparently, Emeka Oparah was surprised that this reporter attached much importance to that review.
Eventually, after weeks of persistent phone calls, he agreed to grant an interview at his office, in the corporate headquarters of Airtel on Banana Island, Lagos.
When you talk with a person, one of the ways to know he’s happy is to look straight into his eyes, watch his body language and note the way he responds to questions. Each gesture he makes, like Okonkwo in Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe tells whether he is a real man or a failure like Unoka, Okonkwo’s father. And what greater confidence can a young man, in his prime, have than to beat his chest and say, ‘Thank God, I have not disappointed my father’. This may well be the story of Oparah in a nutshell.
Oparah is the Diretor, Corporate Communications and CSR at Airtel Nigeria, but, he is also a man of many parts, including being a passionate optimist, who believes that nothing is possible in life. Of much interest to the reporter, however, is that Oparah is a writer, with dying passion for journalism, little wonder that his employer assigned the job to him.
On entering his comfortable office, the first thing that arrested the attention of the reporter was Oprah’s collection of books on diverse topics, a pointer to his passion for reading and writing. With ease, he steered the conversation to his love for books, writing and communication art, and in the course of the interview, he exuded that confidence of a man on top of his game.
To confirm that he’s a man of many parts, he also makes clothes for himself and other people “I am a tailor, I made these clothes I am wearing,’’ he said as he pointed to his clothes, adding, “I also make clothes for others”.
Oparah, the son of a village headmaster and a teacher-mother, said “my father not only loved education, he encouraged me from a very young age to read and write, believing that the best legacy he could give to all his children is good education, especially, reading and writing. “I come from a family of eight boys and, as the first born, my father made education a priority for us, so, I grew up with books all around me, having spent time in my father’s big library while others were playing”. According to him, “my father believes that ‘Reading makes a man while writing makes a full man”.
According to him, this early orientation gave direction to his future and career in Mass Communication, which he was admitted to study at the University of Nigeria, Naija. (UNN) in 1990.
He said he had always been fascinated by journalism, especially, through such magazines like Newsweek, Times and the rest which his father usually bought. “When you read, you pick up expressions, and being good in the literary and debating club” was an added advantage to him.
It was no surprise when he did very well throughout his undergraduate days. As a student, he won the ‘Daily Times Prize for Best Graduating Student of Mass Communication’, including a typewriter and N600.
Some of those who inspired him included Innocent Oparadike, the former Managing Director of Daily Times
and veteran journalist, Kingsley Osadalor of Guardian Newspapers, who were also brilliant students of Mass Communication.
Although, he went into Mass Communication, Oparah’s flare for journalism, actually, started while he was in the primary school, because he was good in essay writing. With nostalgia, he recalled some of his early writings which were, eventually, published in 1983 in the Statesman Newspapers based in Imo State, and it was from here that his zeal was fired.
He would, also, not forget the years of his Industrial Attachment with the Imo Newspapers. Having written stories, opinions and editorials as a cub reporter, it was not surprising that on his return to school, the lecturers were, no doubt, fascinated. Hence, he was appointed the Features Editor of the Record, a campus newspaper published by the Mass Communication Department of UNN, later, he became the Editor. Since his graduation from school, Oparah had written many opinions and articles which were published in various media houses.
Oparah has 25 years of consistent communications practice, spanning journalism, advertising, public relations, events, sponsorships. The Mbaise, Imo State-born Oparah said he is working on a new book to be launched in Lagos soon.
He disclosed that one experience he relishes every time is his job that takes him to almost all parts of the country. “If you have a creative mind, you will know that travelling is part of life. I meet new people, get new experiences. I have been to all the 774 local governments in Nigeria”, Oparah said.
He recollects his youth corps days in Ondo State, although, he wanted to serve in a big city like Lagos, his father insisted on Ondo. According to Oparah, it was his father who urged him to go to Ondo, believing it would help him learn about other ethnic cultures, which later proved to be a worthwhile experience.
Oparah ‘s love for classical music was inspired by his father, whose collection include great composers as Mozart, Beethoven and Handel, which he still listens to on his ipod. He also loves jazz and gospel music, he plays soccer.
His mood plays a major part in his inspiration and he derives strength from the things he does, especially, as a very sociable person, who gets invited to many events. According to him, according to him, “one needs to drive himself to be successful. When I came into PR, I told myself that I have to rise and that is what I have done.
On challenges of life, he said nothing comes easy in life, “to rise in life you have to work hard”.