By Ori Martins
There were about five sports photo journalists that caught my attention during my active days as a sports journalist, namely Joe Akwarandu of the old Statesman, Sylvia of Vanguard, Matts of Daily Times, Ojo of Sun newspapers and Femi Kuti of the Guardian newspapers.
Of the five, Akparandu is 82 years and now a contributing journalist in Umuahia. This man is an encyclopedia of sports in the South East. He is a walking library and a man of many historical parts. I have known Akparandu since 1982. He made to love Statesman in its days of beauty and aesthetics.
Saylvia died about 10 years ago of high blood pressure complications. He was a photographer par excellence. With his shots, his sports editors at Vanguard newspapers – Onochie Anibeze , Tony Ubani – had no reason or need writing any story or news. His shots told the story. Sylvia was highly jovial, always cracking jokes that could break the ribs. He was a friend in need. I wept profusely when his obituary reached me.
One of the few photo journalists who still maintained commercial studios was Matts. He was a veteran whose passion for professionalism and delivery knew no boundaries. When I started off as a greenhorn in 1998, Matts was of great help. I would contract him to do some jobs for me at an agreed price. After submitting the jobs, Matts would tell me to forget any payment.
He later confessed to me he loved my enthusiasm and his free charges were meant to encourage me. I used to visit his studios in Ikeja regularly while I was in Lagos. Unlike others, he was a reserved personality and had no favorable partner. Everyone was his friend. It pained me when I read his obituary on the sports pages of Vanguard few years ago – I am now in Owerri, Imo State.
Of course, Ayo Ojo (not the editor) was my colleague at the Sun newspapers, Lagos. I usually had issues with him because of his derogatory jibes on Ndigbo. Ojo would ask me, jocularly but with all elements of jabs to wit: “Ori Martins, why do Ndigbo eat fufu in the morning and eba in the night?”
Alongside all the above mentioned cameramen Ojo won numerous awards and, like others, covered local, national and international sports events.
And Femi Kuti – the master of them all. Kuti was a photographer, reporter and editor. With Kuti, the sports pages of the Guardian newspapers were simply fantastic. He knew when to give both full and abridged shots. He practically understood the significances of front, back, side and top elevations.
Kuti made news from no news situations. I remember vividly his shot the day after Angola bundled Nigeria out of the 2006 World Cup Finals in Germany, African qualifying series. It was Coach Christian Chukwu pointing something out to Yakubu Aighegbeni – the two men Nigerians rightly or wrongly believed gave away victory to Angola.
Reading Kuti’s obituary made me sad for he was a downright good man who lived a simple life in a simple way. Rest in peace Kuti the photo man!