The announcement, this morning, of the death of Sir, Chudi Onuzo came to me as a shock. As a very little boy in the 1970s, I knew him when he was reading the news on NTV Channel 8, Enugu.
It was the same time Pete Edochie of the Nollywood fame read the major news at 7 p.m. on the same station. Pete, in the tradition of his own scripted peroration, and via slim-rooted rascality, always winked at viewers when he rounded off his news and was saying goodnight. Those were the days of Julius Eke, Ogbonnaya Okoye, Walter Enore and the rest of them on the Igbo version of the news bulletin known as AKUKO UWA, on the Enugu TV. It was the period Chika Okpala, alias Zebrudaya, had his drama name not as Zebrudaya but as Nna Benji. In the drama, he had a son who never for once appeared on the show, and who was perpetually a student of the University of Mozambikwe (Zebrudaya’s pronunciation of Mozambique). “Oh, Benji nwa m!”
During this same period, UKONU’S CLUB, the popular Saturday variety show, was presented by Anyaogu Ukonu himself, the pristine owner of the programme, before Elekwachi, his younger brother, took over.
Sir, Chudi, on the creation of the old Imo State, moved to NTV Channel 6, Ogbor Hill, Aba, where he continued to read the major news. From there, he transferred with his TV broadcasting career and portfolio to the Imo Television, Owerri, when the broadcasting house was birthed in the early 1980s.
Sir Chudi Onuzo, veteran broadcaster and a refined gentleman, read the news with superlative panache. I will never forget the television interview the late Chinua Achebe granted him in the ITV Owerri studios in 1987. The interview lasted one hour. As the world-renowned novelist fielded questions on his metier and national issues, Sir Chudi penned down his words on shorthand as quickly as he could and with all amount of legerity. (The journalist, I have no doubts in me, must have been an expert in stenography. Those were the days Nigerian journalists scribbled their reports in shorthand).
When the famous writer was through with the very last question thrown to him by the broadcaster, and the interview came to a close, the broadcaster then sat back and began a summary of the writer’s catalogue of answers to the barrage of questions he had been inundated with on that exciting dialogue.
As Sir Chudi read the summary, Chinua Achebe, completely enthralled and spellbound, and listening HARD, sat motionless like a piece of sculpture. It was one moment of passionate listening and concentration by Achebe and viewers at home. The Ogidi, Anambra State-born man of letters caught the image of a deeply enthusiastic lad who had lent his ears to a griot narrating the convoluted history of his native land. Like a child listening hard to a series of apologues narrated by a vivacious raconteur.
At the end of Sir, Chudi’s reading, it was as though he had used his memory to record the words of Achebe. He missed out on nothing. Put succinctly, Sir Onuzo’s summary was a facsimile of Achebe’s spoken answers. And the highly respected writer was seriously impressed.
Sir, Onuzo thanked Achebe for granting him the interview. Achebe, nearly gobsmacked from the relay of that exceptionally captivating and brilliant summary, showed his sincere gratitude: “Thank you for that wonderful summary“.
May the gentle soul of Sir, Chudi Onuzo rest in peace. Amen. ~Nkwachukwu Ogbuagu
Photo: Courtesy of AriseAfrika