Tribute to Prof Aaze Tom Adaba at 80 | Dailytrust

Tribute to Prof Aaze Tom Adaba at 80

His admirers call him “But for God,” which is coincidentally the title of his book that captures his life.

As Professor Tom Adaba celebrates his 80th birthday on July 2, 2021 with a thanksgiving mass service, it is proper to remind ourselves of some significant signposts in his life, beginning from his birth. As a guide, let us rely on the book – But for God…

Strangely, his name preceded his birth. Let me explain. The parish priest of Christ the King Catholic Church in Okene, at the time, The Rev Fr Thomas Duffy, an Irish of the Missionary Society of Africa (SMA) had gone to commiserate with his mother, Mary Oniya Adaba, on the death of her third child because she was devastated. As Fr Duffy was departing the house, he left a consolatory prophecy, saying the next child would be a male and should be named after him. Some months later, a male child was indeed born into the home of Pa Joseph Abara Adaba. So, on the seventh day of delivery, in line with the Catholic Church tradition, the child was named and baptised as Aaze Thomas. The name Aaze in Ebira language means, “If they allow him to live.” Of course Thomas was in honour of The Rev Fr Thomas Duffy’s prophecy.

That child, who was popularly known as Tom Adaba in the media, became a renowned personality, scoring many firsts in his numerous national assignments.

Interestingly, his amiable and unassuming wife of close to 56 years also bears the name, Aaze. She is addressed as Lady Aaze Theresa Adaba, meaning that they both have same initials – ATA.

Tom Adaba left a teaching job in the Ahmadu Bello University (ABU) for the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA), Jos. He was a pioneer staff of the first television station in Nigeria to transmit in colour – the Benue/Plateau Television.

He was the first principal of the NTA College in Jos. The importance of that institution in moulding and training high calibre manpower for the television industry, not only in Nigeria but also in the African continent, cannot be overemphasised.

He was also the first to earn a PhD in Mass Communication from the University of Jos. He was the pioneer director-general of the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC), which midwifes the deregulation and opening up of the broadcast space for private investors’ participation.

Just as his birth came with strangeness, so was his appointment as the director- general of the NBC. He was initially slated for retrenchment by the management of the NTA. In fact, his name was number one on the list. And the unpleasant news was leaked to him. Usually, people in such dilemma would look for influential persons to intervene on their behalf, but not Prof Adaba. Rather, he confidently turned his attention to God, asking that his will be done.

And no one with a sincere heart ever challenges God and goes unheard. So, God was provoked by that sincere challenge and, consequently, a man who was penciled for retrenchment was appointed the helmsman of the NBC.

By this appointment his role automatically changed and he became the boss of those who wanted to sack him, regulating their functions and those of private radio and television stations and ownership across the country. That could only be God’s doing.

It is important to add that during his tenure as the director-general of the NBC, he built and supervised the establishment of new private radio and television stations, side by side the old government-owned broadcast stations, for seven years.

The NBC as an institution has outlived him. During his tenure, he assisted in setting up some West African and South African broadcasting regulatory bodies, equivalent to Nigeria’s NBC.

Adaba has authored and coauthored many books in Mass Communication, attended and delivered numerous lectures in journalism, and sundry national discourse. In fact, he is a role model to many Nigerians, especially in the broadcast industry.

He was the first Nigerian (between 1988 and 1992) to be honoured as president of the African Council for Communication Education (ACCE), based in Nairobi, Kenya. The ACCE is one of the biggest communication bodies in Africa. It was established in 1979.

Adaba is indeed a consummate planner and articulate administrator. There is no half measure in anything he embarks on. It is perhaps for this reason that the Elders-in-Council in Ebira land considered him worthy of the chieftaincy title of Ohi Etohueyi, meaning the beacon of light in Ebira land. It is also in recognition of his exemplary selfless service, not only to the Church but also to humanity that some time in December 2020, Pope Francis considered him and few other men and women of the Metropolitan of Abuja Archdiocese worthy to be awarded the prestigious title of Papal Knight of St Gregory the Great. Before this, he was the Grand Knight of St Mulumba, Maitama Sub-council.

He takes delight in doing God’s work without looking back.

In retirement, Prof Adaba is still active and currently the chairman/chief executive officer of Trim Communications Ltd.

Happy 80th birthday and God’s blessings to Professor Adaba.


Bernard Balogun wrote from Wuse District, Abuja

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