Kingsley Osadolor: The Guardian Rottweiler Is 50

Professional antagonists who might want to spar self-righteously against Kingsley Osadolor will have to concede one sacred thing to him. He is one of the shiftless, strategically stubborn and unflagging icons of Rutam House. If the stranglehold of cabal has imprisoned the polity, then K.O belongs to The Guardian cabal. To disinter and ruffle K.O, it is intellectually instructive to bypass any notion if ignorant bias and cavil more on where this maverick Rottweiler of Rutam House gets his groove.

Against all immutable notions of corporate mobility couched in the oft-illusory expression of seeking greener pasture elsewhere, K.O has remained steadfastly rooted with The Guardian where his journalistic oeuvre spanned the gamut of reporting, foreign correspondent (Zimbabwe), editor of The Guardian on Sunday, Deputy Managing Director and Legal Adviser to the same. This is a whole corpus of going through the journalistic thread mill. Or, to put it succinctly, the old tea boy to editor witches’ brew! He did not succumb to the howling urge to move on based on his gift of mental prescience that fears the insanely unpredictability of the other world. To K.O, The Guardian is his safe haven; his hallowed citadel, his shield against the tempestuous ill wind of uncertainty, it is his Broadway i.e. the platform that brought him fame, friends, position, power and wealth. So far The Guardian has succeeded in ring fencing our K.O from the vicissitudes of ugly certainties.

If panegyric punditry like this could be regarded as a device for portraying friendship, trust, goodness and intellectual integrity through the arc of time, then my good old fashion Forsterian sense has to restrain my melodramatic pauses to project a more pleasing balance of K.O. My mind must not be enfeebled with inconsistencies and wild assertions. 1984 could be regarded as this nation’s public punditing ferment. From the wilds of Shuni in Sokoto state where I had gone for my youth service, I regularly coughed out profane, profound and flowery articles meant for the flagship, The Guardian. The fecundity of that decade made it intellectually imperative to essay out masterful and noble effusions of undergraduacy sentiment. Kingsley and I were just yoking out of our undergraduate garrison which had been blocking our way to national writing fame.

The Op-Ed page editor of that literary era will remember the boisterous written eruptions of some regular corpers who wrote articles dripping with stinging rebuke of the high and mighty. The quadruplet corper-pencrafters of that blessed memory were K.O, Fred Ohwahwa, Wole Elegbede and this writer. The deployment of circumlocutory language, gratuitous swipe and sonic blast against the horrors of the time offered less a solution and more the fudging of graduate semantics and intellectual pride.

Then I began to entertain a private delight in the soaring intellectual ability of K.O and his remorseless journalistic chastisement against the jungle of bestial tyranny called Nigeria. He sought to bludgeon his way at every turn with sound and erudite argument, sharp facts with no shadow of obfuscation. His talent began to show like a bright light in the middle of a decidedly dark jungle with so many chafing restrictions. He was an enemy of dogma and empty declensions and unsurprisingly he pitched his political world view in the camp of the liberals.

One lazy morning in 1985, K.O orbited fortuitously into my universe. There was a momentary suspension of disbelief to behold the man who had been the intellectual scourge of the elite on my doorstep. My old poetic faith in destiny and the supernatural roared to life. His intelligent eyes scanned my bookshelf and his old, irrepressible greed for books brightened up. After a short period of monastic silence, K.O in his confident best announced, “I am Kingsley Osadolor”. I had to restrain my hot flush of excitement and guard against being a victim of cruel ruse. “I am Taju Tijani”, I returned. K.O froze. Over the years, the love of books, journalism, travel and intellectual discourse will be the foundations of our friendship.

K.O is a smart, ambitious and elementally decent chap. He speaks faultless, animating Queen’s English eloquently. He is abrasively confident and loves the good life. There is an inseparable not to say undying love for the genre of traditional jazz as pioneered by Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong and Art Blakey in his bloodline. K.O’s oenophile credential is shaky due to his almost apostolic faith in Australian “Hardy” wine. Though I had teased him to ship out of Australia and savour “Errazuiriz/Max Reserva”, “Bayerskloof/Synergy” and if he has the nerve, “Salentein”. He is yet to be bewitched!

He could also range outside wine to project a stylish sartorial elegance. On a good day, K.O is in his sharp, starchy ‘buba’ and ‘sokoto’ and a pair of polished sandals and his trademark thick-rimmed glasses. Not a nerdy recluse but lover of the outdoor life- the true genotype character of the rugged journalists. After my dramatic retreat to the UK, we still maintain an enormously satisfying scholastic relationship. I still could remember those dreary, cold winters when, with K.O in town, we discussed far into the wee hours in my house. K.O will delight me with unfair comparison of a puny UK with a behemoth US, interjecting his animating snub of London with the words, coast-to-coast to accentuate on his nomadic, free wheeling, round trip around the US. He has a zero tolerance for racism and its wounding and unflattering projection of the black man as beast of burden. Several times I have interrogated his life, his achievements and his talent for disarming friendship. I concluded on a settled prescient that someday soon K.O will be a Minister of this realm.

K.O is like the bald eagle that soars high and descends like a benevolent killer on its prey and swiftly returns to base. He had been borrowed by the Edo Government as a Commissioner of Information and now borrowed again as a Senior Special Assistant (General Duties) to the Minister of State for the Federal Capital Territory. The Guardian is has base station; his powerhouse and the place of intellectual renewal. K.O was 50 on the 15th of August. Happy birthday to The Guardian Rottweiler.