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Sports publishing trailblazer, Sunny Ojeagbase dies at 71

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TRAILBLAZER of sports publishing in Nigeria and publisher of Complete Sports newspaper Emmanuel Sunny Obazu-Ojeagbase has died, aged 71 years.

A statement issued on February 28 by a family member, Julius Ojeagbase, on behalf of the family disclosed that the publisher died on Saturday, February, 26, 2022 in Atlanta, United States (US) after a brief illness.

The late media entrepreneur, popularly known as Ojeagbase, hailed from Uzebba, in Owan West Local Government Area of Edo State.

He broke into national consciousness as the pioneer publisher of sports news in Nigeria when he established Sports Souvenir weekly newspaper in 1984.

“Before then, he was a retired soldier of the Nigerian Army who cut his teeth in sports journalism as a stringer at the Daily Times newspapers in the mid-1970s. Through sheer talent, determination and hard work, Ojeagbase blossomed very quickly and was appointed sports editor of Sunday Concord newspapers at inception in 1980 and sports editor of The Guardian newspapers also at inception in 1983. He resigned from The Guardian in 1984 to pursue his dream as an entrepreneur.

The statement added, “Between 1984 and 1994, Ojeagbase introduced several other pioneering sports titles, including Complete Football magazine, Complete Football International (CFI) and International Soccer Review (ISR) into the Nigerian sports market. Remarkably, the Complete Football titles played very prominent roles in ensuring Nigeria’s first appearance at the FIFA World Cup at USA 1994, as well as the country’s football Gold medal win at the Atlanta ’96 Olympic Games, also in the USA. Between those two historic events in Nigerian sports, Ojeagbase introduced Complete Sports as the Number One daily sports newspaper in Nigeria in 1995.

“Also in 1994, Ojeagbase co-founded, with his wife, Pastor (Mrs) Esther Ojeagbase, the Success Attitude Development Centre (SADC) with a vision and mission to teach young Nigerian entrepreneurs how to start, run and make a success of their businesses. SADC has gone on to produce and inspire thousands of successful entrepreneurs who are protégés of the Ojeagbases and many of whom are now employers of labour.

“Dr Ojeagbase was ordained as a Pastor in March 2003 and he preached the message of God in words and in deeds to everyone who encountered him. His mantra was to do business and live life with the fear of God, integrity, compassion and peace of mind. He was a totally self-made man who was passionate about acquiring knowledge as attested to by a huge library filled with books on business management, leadership, entrepreneurship and related fields.”

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Ojeagbase, who had a Diploma in Journalism from the University of Lagos, founded Sports Souvenir in 1984 after stints as Sports Editor of the National Concord and The Guardian newspapers.

He was the reporter, page planner, editor and vendor of his first publication, Sports Souvenir, while his wife, Esther, was a distributor and vendor. His sister, Lydia Oyekanmi, (nee Ojeagbase) was the advertising executive; his cousin, Frank Ilaboya, was the production assistant, while another cousin, Ayodeji Oiseomaoje, was the circulation driver, according to his biodata on Naija Super Fans.

Meanwhile, condolence registers have been opened at the Complete Sports headquarters at Plot 9, Alhaji Adenekan Street, Okota, Lagos; and at SADC headquarters, No. 36, Esuola Street, Off Ago Palace Way, Okota, Lagos.

Friends on Facebook are paying tributes to him.

Ikeddy Chinedu Isiguzo wrote, “We have lost a great man in Sunny Ojeagbase. He was my boss, friend, mentor. So was Dr Sunny Ojeagbase to many sports journalists of my generation and beyond. There will be time for a fuller tribute. May the Almighty rest him. Amen.”

Moji Danisa said, “Boss, Teacher, mentor…the one who built the myth around the Queen, is gone. Guys, Sunny Ojeagbase, he, who picked me right from school, discovered and honed my potentials, moulded me into a brand, is gone. Nigeria just lost a great man. Journalism has lost one of its finest. May his soul rest in peace.”

Sports journalist, Sunny Ojeagbase. Facebook/Moji Danisa

The Special Adviser to the President, Femi Adesina, also commiserated with the family of the veteran sports journalist.

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He wrote, “President Muhammadu Buhari sends condolences to family, friends and professional associates of founder and Executive Chairman of Complete Communications Ltd, Dr Emmanuel Sunny Ojeagbase, whose vision and diligence transformed sports reporting and inspired a generation of media entrepreneurs.

“President Buhari commiserates with his wife and longtime business partner, Pastor (Mrs) Esther Ojeagbase, who worked with her husband in publishing, ministry and charity, bringing out many titles, which include Complete Football magazine, Complete Football International (CFI), International Soccer Review (ISR) and Success Digest.

“The President affirms that Ojeagbase, who worked for the Daily Times, Concord newspapers and The Guardian, before pioneering sports news publication in Nigeria, 1984, was also a teacher and preacher of the Word of God, and he lived by the tenets of the Holy Bible, greatly motivating others to grow spiritually and apply the principles of honesty, fairness and integrity in business.

“President Buhari prays that Almighty God will remember the good works of the media entrepreneur and philanthropist and grant his soul eternal rest.”

Author profile

Experienced Business reporter seeking the truth and upholding justice. Covered capital markets, aviation, maritime, road and rail, as well as economy. Email tips to jolaoluwa@icirnigeria.org. Follow on Twitter @theminentmuyiwa and on Instagram @Hollumuyiwah.

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