Encountering Azu Arinze’s ‘Encounters’ – Olukorede S. Yishau 

Azuh Arinze had dreams.

One of such dreams was to interview boardroom guru Dr. Christopher Kolade. The reason for this dream was simple: Prof. Pat Utomi, Mr. Tunde Lemo and others Azuh had interviewed mentioned Kolade as their role model. He set the machinery in motion and as he was still juggling how to accomplish that mission, he saw an advert in a newspaper announcing that Kolade would be at the Goldengate Restaurant in Ikoyi, Lagos to give a lecture. On the day of the lecture, Azuh arrived, well dressed, at the venue about an hour to the time. Some 30 minutes to kick-off time, he was sitting inside his car when he saw Kolade sauntering in and clutching what looked like a file. He was unaccompanied. Azuh jumped down from his car and attempted to assist him with the file, as they made their way to the elevator to the hall, but Kolade politely chose to bear his file himself.

Inside the hall, Kolade was looking for the engineer in charge to cue his paper on the projector. Azuh moved closer and introduced himself as a journalist. Kolade said to him: “Young man, I’m here for a lecture and not to have an interview.” Azuh’s attempt to win him over saw the elderly man concentrating on the engineer who was battling to get his lecture ready. Azuh refused to leave. He stood behind Kolade and after about 15 minutes, Kolade asked where he could wash his hands and Azuh directed him to the washroom. When he emerged from there, Azuh was still standing at the entrance.

Kolade said: “This young man that will not take no for an answer, yes, what exactly do you say you want from me?”

Azuh stammered: “An interview…very short … ten or fifteen minutes would be okay.”

Kolade replied: “No…only five minutes… I’m here for something else, but your persistence is making me change my mind…”

So, Kolade’s ‘no’ became ‘yes’. Instead of the five minutes, the great man had allocated to Azuh, they ended up talking for about 30 minutes.

His persistence and perseverance paid off in the end. This is one of the encounters Azuh, now the publisher of ‘Yes International’, recounts in a 228-page book titled ‘Encounters: Lessons from my journalism career’.

In the course of his journalism career, Azuh has met many of Nigeria’s big men and women. From entertainment to politics to business and so on. Azuh has encountered ex-beauty queen Bianca Ojukwu, board room guru Christopher Kolade, elegant stallion Onyeka Onwenu, ex-Governor Akinwunmi Ambode, the late Dora Akinyili, ex-Governor Segun Osoba, Minister of Transportation Rotimi Amaechi, and Minister of State for Labour, Festus Keyamo. He has also encountered Dr. Tunde Braimoh, advertising guru Biodun Shobanjo, United Bank for Africa owner Tony Elumelu, ex-Super Eagles star Nwankwo Kanu, Zenith bank owner Jim Ovia, Queen’s counsel, Fidelis Oditah, businessman Ken Caleb Olumese, movie star Kanayo O. Kanayo and Public Relations expert Yomi Badejo-Okusanya. He has met several more. And in his book ‘Encounters: Lessons from my journalism career’, he recounts his experiences with these men and women.

Kolade was not the only one he met in a dramatic version. Ovia had walked up to him at the Lagoon Restaurant in Victoria Island to ask where the convenience was. He led the banker to the convenience and introduced himself. Ovia patted him on the back and said: “Thanks so much…I will get back to you on the interview.” Well, the author had to rely on a book Ovia later wrote to get all he needed on him. He also met Elumelu in a ‘funny’ manner. It was in the elevator at the Transcorp Hotel, Abuja, which Elumelu owns. They only exchanged greetings and the author was not prepared enough to seize the moment like he did with some other big men.

Azuh’s relationship with many of these men and women developed so much that they became friends. The late Braimoh, the late Akunyili and others took a personal interest in him and always looked out for him. The author’s narration of his relationship with Kanayo is very instructive. It was a relationship that started when Kanayo was still living in a one room apartment. Azuh broke the news of his status and it almost soured their friendship, which they later patched up.

His encounters with Tunde Obe and Julius Agu make an interesting read. Agu was the one who walked up to the author and started a relationship, which has lasted several years and has seen them becoming family. So is the situation with Obe, who, on one occasion, told Azuh that he had very few friends and would not lose his friendship with the author for a flimsy reason.

Oba Dokun Abolarin is another personality Azuh encountered, who influenced him in good ways. Oba Abolarin made Azuh acquire a degree and after he completed the degree, he told him it was time for a Master’s degree.

The author’s account of the encounter that led him to his wife, Edith, is very instructive. It is a story that puts the ring on the fact that dressing well goes a long way to draw attention to one. Azuh had gone for a meeting at Olumese’s now-defunct Niteshift Coliseum. Edith was part of the meeting and the moment he saw the well-dressed Azuh she told someone that was the kind of husband she would want. She eventually got him. Azhuh’s impeccable dress sense also caught the attention of ex-governor Ambode who once asked him if he was that super dressed just to come and see him. It has got him so many good things in life.

In this book, we also read about how journalism chose him, how Kunle Bakare, Femi Akintunde-Johnson and Mayor Akinpelu helped his career and how his encounters with other men and women have defined the man he is.

In all, Azuh has written a book that teaches moral lessons and students, media scholars and journalists will find a valuable companion. The book teaches life lessons about human relationships. It is hard to be lost on an average reader that this book teaches networking, confidence building, never accepting no, knowing when to apologise over a report, igniting enduring friendship, dressing the way you want to be addressed, cultivating and maintaining mentors, reaping the benefits of friendship and being the best you can be.


***Olukorede S. Yishau is the author of In the Name of Our Father and Vaults of Secrets. 

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