The mysterious disappearance of Nigerian journalist, Mr. Inalegwu Odeh, since January 2018 is taking a deeper turn. The campaign for his whereabouts has nearly gone dead and questions are being asked. Some people are curious if that is as a result of fatigue on the part of the campaigners or it is a sign of coming to terms with a sad reality. Others are wondering if that is because the controversy over the complex security situation in Benue State has successfully driven out the search by its natural takeover of the headlines of late, driving off the flurry of campaigns which greeted the disappearance of Odeh, a Mass Communication graduate of the University of Lagos, (UNILAG) when it was the only other Nigerian university offering a degree programme in that field aside from The Polytechnic, Ibadan; Bida Poly and Calabar Polytechnic in the present South-south of Nigeria. The other university is the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, (UNN). This was before second generation universities such as Bayero University, Kano, (BUK) and the University of Maiduguri, (UNIMAID) widened opportunity for First Degree training in the discipline.
Odeh mysteriously disappeared in Makurdi, the Benue State capital January 6th, 2018. He was a star reporter at the Nigerian Television Authority, (NTA) as its State House Correspondent, marrying the sensitivity of that beat with reportorial imagination. In one instance, he broke through the usually tight security cordon to smartly thrust his microphone at General Babangida, the then military president and to extract meaningful responses to his questions before the president was driven off. The other instance of daring intrusion was his interview with Brigadier-General Atom Kpera during which the then Benue State Military Governor declared that he left the treasury the way he met it, a statement interpreted differently in different quarters. Odeh’s last known professional cum political involvement is serving as Media Adviser to Ameh Ebute, the Senate-President in the later parts of 1993. Thereafter, Odeh settled into media consultancy in Makurdi.
Samuel Ortom, the Benue State governor, a former editor of The Voice, the Benue State Government owned newspaper as well as close colleagues in the NTA have launched separate campaigns in search of the missing journalist, all to no effect so far. Two separate Committee of Friends have been doing that too. That was before the recent spate of killings in the state and how the controversies around it seem to have pushed off the campaigns.
The storyline is that he disappeared while jogging that morning. This, itself is a subject of contending claims, particularly around the fact that he left his cell phone at home. He never left his phone at home or anywhere for that matter, says the counter account. Up till now, no kidnappers have called to demand any ransom.
The concern now is if an Inalegwu Odeh who was well connected to main arteries of power – the media, business, well located members of the Idoma nationality, the Benue establishment and the broader national space could disappear just like that, then, who is safe?