Alfred Opubor (1937-2011) Remembered
Professor Alfred Esimatemi Opubor
BA (London); MA (UCLA); PhD (Michigan State),
Fellow of the Nigerian Academy of Letters
March 28,1937 – December 2, 2011
By John Nevboyeri Orife
It is with great sorrow and grateful resignation to the Will of God that we formally announce the passing of our mentor and big brother, Professor Alfred Esimatemi OPUBOR, Ph.D, FNAL., who was born on 28 March 1937 and passed away on December 2, 2011, at the age of 74, in Cotonou, Benin Republic.
We lost this very illustrious Urhoboman, who lived a full and productive life. It is not going to be easy for us to adequately present the life of this outstanding and overwhelmingly charismatic man to OUR world. It will be impossible to capture the essence of this man, who led a very robust and fulfilling life, a life that is full of enormous vigor with which he served humanity selflessly. Below is the announcement of his passing as posted by his two children, Ms Tsemaye Opubor Hambraeus and Mr. John Opubor, on behalf of the family.
Professor Alfred Esimatemi Opubor passed away on 02 December, 2011 at the age of 74 in Cotonou, Benin Republic.
Professor Opubor was son of the late John and Emily Opubor, husband of Amelia Opubor, father of Tsemaye Opubor Hambraeus and John Opubor, and grandfather of Temisan, Radha, Omala, Neneh, and Om.
Prof Opubor, an acclaimed African Communication Icon and a distinguished scholar, dedicated his life to contributing to Africa’s development through his substantive expertise and experience in Communication for Development.
was the first Nigerian Professor
and chairperson, Department of Mass Communication at the
University of Lagos
and first Chairman News Agency of Nigeria. He also worked as
a Senior Adviser
in the United Nations, as a Secretary-General, Regional
Director, Evaluator and
Funeral service and memorials will be held in Nigeria on dates to be advised.
Since this announcement, we have spent countless hours reminiscing about our early interactions with this man and what he meant to us. He demonstrated very early in life that he was going to be an intellectual giant, having attended the prestigious Government College, Ughelli, in Delta State (at that time Western Region) and, from there to the premier University College, Ibadan (now University of Ibadan). Every time he came home with the handful of Delta boys at the University in those days, his humility was palpable without losing that air of intellectual elitism. When we both arrived MSU, fresh from just completing our undergraduate studies at the University of Nigeria, we met him as an advanced graduate student. He was a mentor and an older brother to us and he was generous in offering his experience and guidance to all and, particularly to those of us who share a kinship with him.
When we first arrived at Michigan State University in 1966, we were novices in graduate school. He was the big brother who helped us adjust to the new environment, especially after it turned hostile to Nigerians during the civil war. He was the Nigerian who could communicate with both sides of the civil war divide because he spoke to us fluently in different languages. He would usually start with his flawless aristocratic English accent, and then he would change into Igbo, or Hausa or Yoruba as necessary and also Pidgin English. He never forgot he came from the Niger Delta, the headquarters of Nigerian Pidgin English. He practiced what he was studying, communications. He was an unbelievable communicator.
He played a very important part in our development as young adults. He was the role model for those of us who were fortunate to have him around us and showed us how to navigate the sometimes frustrating academic waters. He celebrated the completions of our doctoral degrees with enormous pride and, in John’s case, he was not only the best man at his wedding, but also had the wedding held in the garden of his home. We spent countless weekends with him and his dear wife, Amelia, and, to Tsemaye and John, we were some of the “Nigerian Uncles” they actually knew and interacted with.
Alfred Opubor’s academic career was rich, and his service to higher education and to his country was very robust. He also served the International community with uncommon zeal. We have tried to include most of his services in this profile, but we can assure you that it is not nearly exhaustive, since our mission is to present the essence of this man to you.
Professor Opubor was a communicologist. A graduate of the University of London, (B.A. Honors, 1961), and the University of California, Los Angeles, (M.A. 1963), he was among the first generation of students of communication as a behavioral science at Michigan State University, MSU, graduating with a doctorate degree in 1969. His specialization was in message systems, with application to mass media and cultural industries, and communication for development.
He was appointed
on graduation in
1969 as Assistant Professor in the Department of Communication
State University, and in 1971 was promoted Associate Professor
and Director of the African Studies Centre. In 1975 he
Professorial Chair and Headship of the Department of Mass
Communication at the
University of Lagos, Nigeria.
There he trained generations
of journalists and communication professionals, and introduced
programs, until withdrawing from service in 1986.
From 1978-1982 he was National Director of the UNFPA/UNESCO Project on ” Communication Strategies for Family Health, Family Welfare and Family Planning in Rural and Semi-Urban Nigeria”, based at the Department of Mass Communication. At the University of Lagos, he also served as University Orator and Chairman of the Board of the Centre for Cultural Studies.
One of the
founding fathers of the
African Council on Communication Education, ACCE, he was
of the International Association for Mass Communication
served as Chairman of
the Communication Sector of the Nigerian National Commission
for UNESCO from
1975 to 1985. A
member of the UNESCO
International Panel on Communication Research, (1971-1981),
that defined the
parameters of the New World Information and Communication
Order debate, he was
elected in 1981 as the pioneer Rapporteur-General of UNESCO’s
Program for the Development of Communication, IPDC. He was
re-elected to the
Bureau and served three terms till 1987.
He was founding
Chairman of the
Board of the News
Agency of Nigeria,
NAN, (1979-83), as well as Chairman of the Board of the Bendel
77-82). In 1986 he
established Multimedia, a private
consulting firm in Lagos, focusing on training and research in
and development. During
he was also Chair of the Friends of the National Museum in
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.
Between 1980 and 1988 in Nigeria, he was: Communication Consultant to the Nigerian Federal Environmental Protection Agency, FEPA, the Directorate of Social Mobilization, MAMSER, the Ministry of Health’s Department of Population Activities, and the Federal Ministry of Information; Chairman of the Inter-ministerial Committee for the preparation of the National Environmental Policy; Chairman of the National Committee on Information and Chairman of the National Committee on Census Publicity and Public Enlightenment. From 1982 to 1990 he organized the annual 10-day workshop on Environmental Awareness for the Nigerian Media, in collaboration with FEPA.
From 1980 to
1981 he was Member/Rapporteur of AFRICOM, the Eminent Persons’
by UNESCO’s Director- General. He also served as research
coordinator of the
African Council on Communication Education, ACCE, and Chief
Consultant for the
UNESCO Regional Communication Office, both based in Nairobi,
From 1983 to 1986, he lived in Dakar, Senegal where he was Information Adviser to the newly established Pan-African News Agency, PANA, with responsibility for research and editorial training. From 1986 to 1990 he was Chief Consultant on Information to the Secretariat of the Organization of African Unity, OAU; and from 1989-1990, he served the Economic Commission for Africa, ECA, as Consultant for the Working Group on the Dissemination and Popularization of population information.
For nearly a decade (1990-1998), he served as Senior Technical Adviser in Information, Education, Communication and Advocacy with the United Nations Population Fund, UNFPA, first in Abidjan, Cote d'Ivoire, subsequently moving to the Country Support Team, CST, 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 program.
His expertise in strategic communication has been requested by several national, regional and international organizations, especially within the United Nations system. As National Consultant to the ILO in the 1980s, he prepared the communication strategy to support the Nigerian population and development program. In collaboration with UNESCO, he organized activities for the creation and consolidation of the Nigerian Association of Media Women, from 19981 to 1986. Through his company, Multimedia, he also helped to establish Artists for Population and Development, with funding from the UNFPA Nigeria office, in 1987.
In 1999, UNFPA
and UNAIDS assigned
him to lead the team of consultants that prepared a report on
based on field research in six African countries. The report
diagnostic and strategic tools for national communication and
that are currently widely used. In 2000, he led a consultation
organized by FAO
in defining procedures and tools for the establishment of
communication policies in West Africa.
With the World
he conducted training workshops and prepared projects on the
future of health
communication in Africa, 1998-2000.
In 1999-2000 he was commissioned by the Embassy of the Kingdom of Belgium, Harare and the Secretariat of SADC to prepare “SADC: Information 21”, a communication strategy for the Southern Africa Development Community.
In 2001, he was a
Consultant to the World Bank for the Urban Water Reform
Project in Ghana, as
well as the preparation of a development communication
strategy for the
Government of Ghana.
In 2002 he served
as a Ford
Foundation consultant to mentor the Institute of African
Studies at the
University of Ghana for the establishment of their program in
Studies. He also provided technical assistance to the National
Television Institute in Accra as part of the Ford Foundation
Consultant to the
Chairman of the African Union Commission, he proposed the
and operational procedures for the establishment of a
Pan-African Radio and
Television Network in 2005-2006.
activities, he has
been: Chairman of the African Script Development Fund and
Member of the Board
of the Centre For African Family
Studies, CAFS, the
leading regional NGO in reproductive health, based in Nairobi,
is a member of
the Advisory Committee of the Nigerian Community Radio
Coalition, an advocacy
and capacity-development group working for the recognition of
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
report was submitted to the Minister of Information in
December that year. As a
Consultant to UNICEF and the Ministry of Information and
Communications in July
2010, he led a preparatory stakeholders’ workshop and updated
both policy documents for adoption by the National Council on
presentation to the Federal Executive Council.
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. 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 oversees 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. WANAD partners with 25 broadcast media organisations (five per country) to ensure capacity reinforcement for demand creation, public awareness and behavior change through quality programs.
From 2003 until his passing, Professor Opubor was Secretary-General and Chief Executive of the West African News-media and Development Centre, WANAD. He is currently Vice-Chair of the Board of Directors of the Panos Institute (West Africa), and Member of the Africa Board of Inter-Press Service, the Rome-based international news agency with regional headquarters in Johannesburg, South Africa.
In 2010 he was appointed to the Advisory Board of the Reporting Development Network Africa, funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and based at Rhodes University in South Africa. He is also a member of the Nigerian Think Tank on Climate Change created by the Special Climate Change Unit of the Federal Ministry of the Environment, and Coordinator of the Selection Committee of the Water and Food Award in Copenhagen, Denmark.
As we mourn the death of our big brother, we are grateful that God in His infinite wisdom gave him to us to enrich our lives for a while. We pray for his widow, Amelia, and for his children and grandchildren.
May His Soul
Rest in Perfect Peace.