Nigeria’s oldest newspaper vendor, Pa Obinedu dies at 95

Nigeria’s oldest newspaper vendor who retired just last year at the age of 94, Pa Ephraim Obinedu has been reported dead. Obinedu, a hard working vendor who was known among his colleagues as a bank of knowledge it gathered died peacefully in his hometown of Ndikelionwu while savouring his retirement. Three years ago, the nonagenarian had bagged an award with the Anambra State council of the Nigeria Union of Journalists(NUJ), where in an interview he had disclosed that he would be glad to retire, but cannot do so because he fends for himself from the proceeds of his sales and has no wife, children or relatives. He was also revealed to have been squatting in a room in his church(Assemblies of God Church) in Awka, through the magnanimity of his pastor who took him in. His citation in 2011 had evoked a lot of pity from the audience, causing an immediate institution of a retirement fund for him, with the trio of Capital Oil and Gas boss, Dr Ifeanyi Uba, Special adviser to the president, Senator Ndi Obi and the national chairman of APGA, Chief Victor Umeh to raise N1.5million for him, with promise of more. Though he had told journalists that he would now retire, but three months after, Pa Obinedu was back in business with a renewed vigour. Though his fellow vendors had complained that the award and retirement funds did not make a difference in his life, warranting them to question the whereabout of the millions, but an independent investigation by this reporter had revealed that his church was managing the fund for him. Rev Patrick Offor(his pastor) had clarified that the fund was being used to build a modest bungalow for him in his hometown, with the intention of taking him back to the village for retirement as he had refused to retire, sneaking out at every possible time to vend newspapers. Offor also revealed that the church had the intention of bringing back his separated wife for both of them to co-habit, and also find a domestic help to take care of him and his wife, all of which they did before his retirement. Obinedu among newspaper vendors was regaded as a bank of knowledge as they will surround him while waiting for delivery of supplies in the morning, and enjoy his story of great news stories that have made headlines in Zik’s West African Pilot, and other ordeals he has suffered in the hands of government vending banned newspapers. A press release signed by the chairman of Awka Newspaper Distributors and Vendors Association chairman, Mr Gaius Ogbonna Iwuagwu stated that Pa Obinedu would be buried in his hometown in Ndikelionwu in Orumba North Local Government area on 23rd May. Iwuagwu said that news of Obinedu’s death was a shock to the vendors, and that he would be missed for his fatherly advice to the association, just as he was a source of information to them. “He knows by heart all the major newspapers of the post colonial era and can reel out to you the order in which newspapers were established, with the headlines that made the biggest sales in each of the newspapers before, during and after independence. “We call on good spirited individuals to come and pay their last respect to this man who devoted his life to serving his fatherland through the dissemination of information. We urge people to make donations towards his burial in any little way that they can, especially as he is not known to have any children.” ADDITIONAL REPORT WAS DONE BY THIS REPORTER THREE YEARS AGO WHEN OBINEDU WAS HONOURED BY ANAMBRA NUJ AS MAN OF THE YEAR Pa Obinedu, The Millionaire Newspaper Vendor Returns To Business It was a surprise yesterday to find Pa Ephraim Obinedu, a 93-year-old newspaper vendor at the Newspaper distribution point at Amikwo Awka yesterday, in the midst of other vendors scrambling for supply of various national dailies to make the day’s sales. His colleagues said the millionaire newspaper vendor, has despite his fortune refused to quit selling newspapers. Last year, the Anambra State Council of the Nigeria Union of Journalists(NUJ) honoured Pa Ephraim Obinedu for meritorious service as the longest serving newspaper vendor in the country. There, after the citation of the nonagenarian was read to the hearing of the audience, which stated his age as 92, and his inability to retire as he fends for himself and does not have any known relatives, well meaning Nigerians including APGA national chairman, Chief Victor Umeh, Chairman of Orient Communications, Mr Godwin Ezeemo and chairman of Capital Oil and Gas, Dr Ifeanyi Ubah among others rose and declared their intention to set up a retirement trust fund for him. Besides pledges, Pa Obinedu after the function instantly became a millionaire as the cash sum of N1.5million was donated to him. In an interview with reporters after the event, Pa Obinedu who expressed thanks to the union for the award said it has always been his dream to retire comfortably, but that dream has never come to fruition until now. He stated that at last, he can now retire from his newspaper business. This was not to be, as six months after he was so extra ordinarily honoured, Pa Obinedu even though he is now 93 is back in business, and with a renewed vigour than before. When approached for an interview by our reporter, as he simply mumbled that he was still doing business. When our reporter sought to know why he is still in the business, despite having pledged to retire, Pa Obinedu again responded that, “I will soon retire”. Investigation however revealed that he still sells newspapers on the streets of Awka, and not ready to retire in the nearest future. Some of Obinedu’s fellow vendors who spoke with our correspondent said nothing has changed about Pa Obinedu since he bagged the award and was turned into an instant millionaire. “He still wears the same clothes, he has not even bought himself a handset, nor has he changed his feeding habit to match his new status as a millionaire,” Eze Udu, a vendor said. A newspaper distributor, Felix Deboy Oti who supplies Pa Obinedu with newspapers said, “Even we who know him are confused because he carries on as if nothing has changed about him. Even when you address him as a millionaire, he seems to take offence. We once asked him out of curiosity if the money is still there and he said yes. We were afraid that he may have lost the money because that day, the money was put in a bag and given to the police for safekeeping. This time, he hustles for more papers than even before when he was a poor man.” Though Obinedu refused to disclose to our reporter what he did with the money, investigation by our reporter who traced the nonagenarian to Assemblies of God Church, Court Road, Awka where it was learnt he is quartered shows that the money is still safe and in the possession of his church elders who decided to keep the money away from him to avoid misuse. Rev Patrick Offor, the presiding pastor of Assemblies of God Church, Court Road, Awka where Obinedu is a founding member told our reporter that the church board is in possession of the money and has been planning how to secure the money by opening ‘Obinedu Trust Fund’ for him. Offor said the church was already planning how to help Obinedu by setting up a retirement funds that will aid him when the Anambra Council of NUJ nominated him for the award that turned him into a millionaire. The planned retirement however did not seem to go down well with Obinedu as in spite of his church’s promise to carter for his needs, he sneaks out of the church compound very early every morning to go to the newspaper distribution point, where he picks up his supply and moves to the market. Rev Offor told THIS REPORTER that elders of the church have been coming for him to take him to his local government council to get a means of identification for an account to be opened for him in a bank as he has no valid means of identification, but each time they come looking for he, it would be found that he had sneaked out of the compound. Offor also stated that finishing touches are already being put in a two rooms affair which the church is building for him, with the hope of taking him to his village when it is completed. But is Obinedu will accept to dump his trade and heed their request to go to the village on retirement is another thing.

By Ifeizu Joe

Ifeizu is a seasoned journalist and Managing Editor of TheRazor. He has wide knowledge of Anambra State and has reported the state objectively for over a decade.

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