TRIBUTE: Thank you, Jika, for the smiles, but now we mourn

The late Jika Ato

By Lanre Arogundade 

When I finally met him at AIT, Alagbado, Lagos in the earliest days of Kakaki, I was stunned by his boyish look; it was as if he was a 1990s graduate. Yet, I was facing a Jika, who was the University of Ife Students' Union PRO in the 1978/79 session, which also had the like of Akin Akingbulu, as the Secretary General. 

The story of their radical exploits was all over the place especially in campus socialist circles as we began our tertiary educational journey at Great Ife. Yes, Jika was a commander of campus revolts against the military government and indeed was one of the Field Marshalls of the National Union of Nigerian Students (NUNS) nationwide protests against increase in feeding and tuition fees by the Olusegun Obasanjo regime - yeah the famous Ali-mun-go battle of which Segun Okeowo was the Commander-in-Chief. We were leaving secondary school then.

In other words, the inspiring story of Jika and others contributed to the decision of our generation to tread the path of principled and ideologically informed student unionism in the mid 1980s. 

That Jika Attoh background was somehow often overshadowed by the more open story of his brilliance and deep intellect as a broadcaster. It was also hidden behind his handsome face and calm disposition.

Because of our common background in revolutionary student unionism and a common belief that journalism in Nigeria should be socially relevant to the society, Jika could not but have been a pillar of support in my quest to become the chairman of the Lagos State Council of NUJ in 1995, a mission that was successfully accomplished. 

Meanwhile, when my wife had a stint at AIT/Raypower, he warmly embraced her. So, we related at three levels - as former students' union leaders, as professional colleagues and as family friends. 

Our meeting in Enugu last year during a workshop by the Guild of Editors brought out the usual camaraderie. He didn't have to be prodded to take me to a bank in the town to solve a problem. He seemed to know at least two or three persons in each unit of the banking hall.

He disarmed those he didn't with his soft voice and charm. It was gist and laughter to and fro. It was rendezvous before I waved him bye the final physical bye bye. I am glad I called him thereafter to thank him profusely although he wondered if it was that necessary and quickly asked: how is my sister 'jare'? - my wife, that is. 

Thank you Jika for your smiles and warmth. Thank you for your positive impact on broadcasting and journalism. Thank you for your contribution to the struggle for a better Nigeria. Thank you for being level headed despite being famous. Your memory would always be cherished. Rest well.
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