Journalism in the service of society

Michael Okolo… ‘he was calm, full of smiles, disarmingly intelligent… an ennabler’

The Dean of School of Media and Communication at the Pan Atlantic University Lagos, Dr Michael Okolo, passed in the early hours of Monday, June 4. His sudden death has shocked many of his friends and associates who recall his good-natured personality. Below is a tribute to him by his friend and associate, Femi Odugbemi, the storyteller and content creator, who worked with him on several projects:

‘Thank you Dr. Mike Okolo, wherever you are, for your grace, support and friendship over these many years. You lived well. Rest In Peace and may progress attain to all the dreams that you left behind’

I MET Dr. Mike Okolo in 2006. He was managing the Corporate Affairs function of the Lagos Business School within what was then known as Pan-African University. The Ajah Campus was still somewhat new and it had the beautiful auditorium with screening facilities. I was President of the Independent Television Producers Association of Nigeria (ITPAN) at the time and we were hosting the Lagos International Forum on Cinema and Video in Africa.

“I really wanted to take the screening programme to a proper sound-proofed space but there were precious few affordable places in Lagos we could go. And on our very first meeting I asked Dr. Okolo a favour. Could I use their freshly-minted hall at the Ajah campus for a couple of days?

“We’d just met and he had no reason to do ITPAN a favour. The University’s reputation and brand was at an all time high and ITPAN was not necessarily in its orbit. But Mike smiled that famous toothy smile of his and in his gentle voice said, ‘do me a formal request and we will work out a partnership.’ That was all there was to it and that was who Mike was…every day, any day and twice on Sunday.

“He was calm, full of smiles, disarmingly intelligent but always looking to connect the dots of how to expand the influence of his beloved institution PAU by building relationships. Often outside his academic orbit.

“Fast-forward to 2018 when I became pioneer Academic Director of the Multichoice Talent Factory (West Africa) and we needed a partner institution, guess which university was the only one on my list?

“Dr. Okolo passed on in the wee hours of the morning yesterday and my heart literarily sank. Why do good people depart so soon? I have since struggled to contain my anguish.

“Mike was a good man, a kind man, a committed academic and one who found his life purpose and pursued it with much vigour. He was Dean of Studies at the School of Media and Communications, Pan-Atlantic University Lekki Lagos, only recently succeeding Dr. Ike Obiaya in the role. I worked with both of them and their personal interest in the success of the Multichoice Talent Factory and of ITPAN many years earlier speaks to the enduring sincerity of their commitment to support and enhance professional capacity in the creative industries.

“Thank you Dr. Mike Okolo, wherever you are, for your grace, support and friendship over these many years. You lived well. Rest In Peace and may progress attain to all the dreams that you left behind. And may your family and friends be comforted.”

*Odugbemi with Okolo on some of the occasions they shared together.

*Odugbemi is the CEO of Zuri24 Media, and co-Founder/Executive Director of of iREPRESENT International Documentary Film Festival

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