Astonishing Times of ‘Mr Radio’, Ben Egbuna

A review of Ben Egbuna’s A Destiny Fulfilled by UZOR MAXIM UZOATU.

IT reads stranger than fiction that Ben Egbuna visited a prophet of what he called one of the “rapid result churches” shortly after being a teenage soldier in the Biafra war and got the prophecy that he would be famous. Ben Egbuna eventually became the Director-General of the Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria.

Born on February 13, 1949, in Sapele in today’s Delta State to a police constable father who hailed from Enugwu-ukwu town in present-day Anambra State, Egbuna spent 35 years in radio broadcasting as a reporter, presenter, analyst, editor, administrator, the first Executive Director (News) of Voice of Nigeria, and Director-General of FRCN.

He was barely 20 years when the Biafra war ended and had not completed his secondary school education. Against incredible odds, he travelled to Lagos to see that Nigerian soldiers had taken over his father’s house. He had no documents to prove that the house belonged to his family. Some old school friends in Lagos somewhat rehabilitated him and gave him money to return to the East. He re-entered secondary school, but his best subject, Fine Arts, was mysteriously replaced with Physics which he had no stomach for, in the school certificate examination.

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He secured employment at the Post and Telecommunications (P&T) Department in Lagos. In April 1973, the Nigerian Broadcasting Corporation offered him an appointment as News Assistant Trainee. He bore witness to Col. Bukar Sukar. Musa Dimka’s “daylight coup d’etat” led to the death of Head of State General Murtala Muhammed.

His first official international assignment was the September 1977 United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) conference in Arusha, Tanzania. He interviewed the legendary President Julius Nyerere at short notice.

At FRCN, Lagos, he met and married his heartthrob, Betty, after an upsetting wedding cake incident.

Egbuna had to undergo trying times at the broadcasting house when military rule ended in 1979, and civilians took over with their primordial politics. He was in October 1983 sent to the “Siberia” called Special Programme Unit from the esteemed National Network News Service section, where he had been excelling.

He was so frustrated that in 1985 he seriously considered disengaging from the FRCN and taking employment in the about-to-be-born African Guardian magazine as Assistant Editor. Incidentally, after Egbuna did not come to the African Guardian with the story of his coverage of the 8th Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Nassau, The Bahamas, I was given a test to write on the conference, which led to my employment by the magazine!

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The then Chief of General Staff, Commodore EbituUkiwe, wanted Ben Egbuna manhandled for a story on IMF, but he was let off by Ukiwe’s men who saw that he had done no wrong.

Egbuna headed the reportorial unit at the Constituent Assembly. When Voice of Nigeria (VON) was created as an autonomous unit of FRCN, he took charge of the “Sixty Minutes” programme. He survived the dangerous times of the June 12 Presidential Election annulment. He had a running battle with the new Director-General of VON, Taiwo Alimi.

He was nominated for the Senior Executive Course of the influential National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies (NIPSS), Kuru in 2001. The Director-General of NIPSS, General Joseph Garba gave hell to Ben Egbuna, even ordering him to get retired legendary broadcaster Ikenna Ndaguba, who was holidaying abroad to serve as the emcee at the graduation ceremony – or he would not be allowed to graduate! Somehow Ben Egbuna survived.

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He was appointed VON’s Executive Director (News) in October 2005. The crowning glory came in 2006 when the Minister of Information, Frank Nweke Jr., announced that President Olusegun Obasanjo had approved his appointment as the 13th Director General and Chief Executive Officer of the FRCN.

He retired as DG of the FRCN in July 2008, “thankful to God for guarding and guiding me through a demanding career and its many treacherous currents, to a successful, glorious and meritorious end, and the fulfilment of my career destiny.”

Ben Egbuna died on January 28, 2021. His memoir had to be published posthumously even though it had been planned for publication and presentation in his lifetime in 2019.

A Destiny Fulfilled by Ben Egbuna, which the publisher Lanre Idowu had availed me the opportunity to read first in manuscript, is a gem – vivid, insightful and well-written.



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