It is one of the unwritten rules about life but a rule nevertheless. It holds that few human beings, if any, got it right throughout, from the morning to the evening of their life. There is always where the journey developed a thud which either has to be managed or dealt with at a great cost. The story here is that we have found someone is about to get away with it. That is, someone who has been getting it right all through without any blunder yet. And the person is no other than Eugenia Abu whom everyone knows, certainly everyone who watched the Nigerian Television Authority, (NTA) and, therefore, needs no introduction.
There might be no better starting point than the first meeting with Madam Eugenia. It was on the pages of the Departmental journal of the Department of English, ABU, Zaria where one Eugenia Amodu had written a poem. It was in the hands of Lt Col Liman Adulugba one saw the publication. Adulugba read for a degree in English at ABU, Zaria before joining the army in 1982. What we derive from this first meeting is that, as early as the early 1980s, Eugenia Amodu who was to transform into Eugenia Abu was already a poetess. That could not have been anything less a signal that someone was on her way up because, even among those with formal training in Literature, poetry is still a complicated domain. Although people do not choose their parents, certain things are much easier achieved depending on rearing and parental influence. There again, she got it right in the sense that her father was already a Permanent Secretary in the regional service. Permanent Secretaries were permanent and powerful in those days unlike today when many of them are better at sycophancy after the 1976 purge. The third bit in this story is that she went to Queen Amina College, (QAC) which was a finishing school of some sort in those days.
Over to the second meeting that Intervention can recall. It was in 1989 in Makurdi, Benue State. The late Chief M K O Abiola was opening the Community Concord series across the country and Benue State was in one of the batches. The compere at the opening ceremony in the case of Benue Community Concord happened to be Eugenia Abu, then of NTA Makurdi. The ceremony went well. Chief Abiola was there live. Engineer Barnabas Gemade was the Chief Launcher. As the Managing Director of the star industrial plant in the entire Benue, his presence spoke to the Abiola networking and network. However, at a point in the entire process, the editor of Benue Community Concord decided to manifest himself. The editor was Simon Melabu, a brilliant graduate of Mass Communications from the University of Lagos. Like most brilliant people, he was incredibly irreverent and mischievous. No one can tell now if what he told Chief Abiola about Eugenia was based on what he conjectured or what he saw. He told Chief Abiola that the husband of that woman, (referring to Eugenia) is a lion. What’s the point here? This Eugenia can steal the show anywhere, becoming a reference point wherever you plant her, sometimes without her knowing that she was sparking ‘a Eugenia effect’. It is doubtful if she ever knew that there was, indeed, a storm over her at that outing. If Chief Abiola were petty minded, Melabu would have been gone for trying to suggest that he was committing ‘lookery’. He never did because, as he said over and over, the fear of the publisher should never stop anyone in Concord Press from publishing whatever they found publishable. His critics would say that was true of Chief Abiola until anyone published something against ITT. But at a time when some publishers read every story before they made it into their newspaper, Chief Abiola was far, far ahead.
Of course, she married rightly too. No marriage is free of its own tensions. Some marriages spill over into disaster while some partners are able to contain and manage the tensions. But it is doubtful if Eugenia would have gone this far in broadcasting if she married a local champion who has difficulty in appreciating the sociology of the newsroom. This sociology of the newsroom is something difficult to explain to husbands who are not tutored in professional journalism, particularly husbands of physically pretty women. So, here too, Eugenia gets away with it. And, by implication, with a good score in family life, including a set of twins with their incredible pair ‘mischief’.
And then she writes. Is it Bettrand Russel or Francis Bacon who said that reading makes a man, writing the exact man or words like that. If you adjust for gender sensitivity in that claim, then reading Eugenia tells you more than anything she herself says about herself. It means you do not need to have ever met her to know who she is. Although followers of Jacques Derrida would not agree with Russell’s distinction between reading and writing because reading any text at all implies re-writing it, what is still interesting about Russell’s claim is that writing is always a self-portrait because it is always an attack on something we do not accept or an endorsement of what we prefer. So, any piece of writing becomes a manifesto, an attempt at agenda-setting.
We can go on: successful career in broadcasting from which she retired as Executive Director, Programme. It meant she wasn’t just a broadcaster, she was also a technocrat. Just reaching 60 suggests that she retired on length of service rather than age because 60 is when we are told life now begins. So, we might not have heard the last of Eugenia Abu in the public sphere yet. And the earlier Nigeria utilizes her types, the better because her types embody the values that the successor generation do not appear to have if the morality we confront in women hood today is anything to go by!
The question now is what do we ask Eugenia to cook for us to mark her 60th birthday since, unlike the Idoma people, the Igala and Igbira people, do not cook Okoho? Or, do they?