A Lifetime of Service


OPUBOR: A lifetime commitment to training

On Monday, November 28, the decision of the Diamond Awards for Media Excellence to award the Lifetime Achievement Award to PROFESSOR ALFRED Esimatemi OPUBOR for his prodigious contributions to media education was conveyed to him via email. Quite uncharacteristically there was no word from him. The Opubor we knew would have replied his email within 24 hours. When there was no feedback from him by Friday, December 2, a second letter was written and a phone call was made to his number. There was no response. Unknown to the organizers, Professor Opubor had finally lost his battle with illness. Nigeria's first professor of mass communication, and pioneer Head, Department of Mass Communication, University of Lagos, 1975 to 1986, he passed on Friday, December 2 at the University Teaching Hospital in Cotonou, Benin Republic.

As Nigeria's most influential communications scholar, Prof. Opubor trained many students and academics that are today editors, publishers, and administrators holding important positions in various media and educational institutions worldwide. Opubor attended the University of Ibadan where he studied English and received his bachelors in 1961. He was at the University of California, Los Angeles where he bagged his MA (1963) and Michigan State University where he earned his PhD (1969) in Communication as a Behavioural Science. His thesis was on "Understanding the structure of Language as a Vehicle of Communication".

Over the years, he was a leading light in communication theories and message systems, and their applications in development. He was the founding Chairman of the News Agency of Nigeria from 1979 to 1983, Information and Training Adviser of the Pan African News Agency, Senegal, 1983 to 1986. He also served as Chairman of the Board of the Bendel Newspapers Corporation, (19 77-82). In 1988 he was elected Chairman of the Conference of Information Experts of the Organization of African Unity, OAU. In that capacity he supervised the drafting of the African Communication Policy and the Statutes of the Pan-African Advertising Union.

A 2009 Fellow of the Nigerian Academy of Letters, he ran the West African News Media and Development, Centre, Cotonou until his transition. He was aged 74.

From 1990-1998, he served as Senior Technical Adviser in Information, Education, Communication and Advocacy with the United Nations Population Fund, UNFPA, in Abidjan, Cote d'Ivoire, and later in Harare, Zimbabwe, covering more than 20 countries in east, central and west Africa. His assignment involved numerous diagnostic and planning missions, organizing scores of training workshops for national partners and collaborators, and writing dozens of sector analysis and strategy documents on the relationships between communication, culture and the arts, and their use in education, population, reproductive health and social development programmes.

Professor Opubor was a member of the Advisory Committee of the Nigerian Community Radio Coalition, an advocacy and capacity-development group working for the recognition of community broadcasting as the third tier of broadcasting in Nigeria. He was nominated in 2004, by the Nigerian Federal Government, to an Experts' Working Group to review the national communications policy, and subsequently, in 2006, was appointed Chairman of the Community Radio Policy Drafting Committee whose report was submitted to the Minister of Information in December that year.

From 2002 to 2007, he served as Coordinator of the Working Group on Communication for Education and Development, COMED. Co-sponsored by ADEA, the Norwegian Education Trust Fund and the World Bank, COMED is located at the WANAD Centre, in Cotonou, Republic of Benin. His contribution to ADEA was exceptional, and in particular to the setting up and consolidation of the Working Group COMED and the Africa Education Journalism Award. The COMED Working Group trains journalists reporting on education, as well as information and communication officers of ministries of education. As part of developing a media specialization in education reporting, COMED established a continent-wide network of over 350 media professionals, and ten national chapters, supporting them with capacity-development activities as well as updated information. In 2008-2009, as Consultant to the ECOWAS Commission, he prepared the communication policy and strategy for moving ECOWAS from "A Community of States to A Community of People".

As Chief Executive of the WANAD Centre, Professor Opubor designed and oversaw the mass media component of the Abidjan-Lagos Corridor Project funded by the Global Fund for AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. The five- year project (2007-2012) is implemented in five countries on the West African Coast: Cote d'Ivoire, Ghana, Togo, Benin and Nigeria, and seeks to address prevention, treatment and care issues concerning HIV/AIDS in the context of trans-border mobility among the countries.


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