By Victorson Agbenson
With my right hand put out down at the level of a lad’s height, I always say to Azariah Kucha “I was a small boy like this when I started hearing Azariah Kucha reporting…” and I’ll add a jibe or commendation as I always introduce him to friends.
Oga Azariah, as we often called him was always with me and I was always with him. We may argue especially along political lines – he loathed the oligarchy in the North and would always vent his anger against the system.
He like many others thought I was supporting northern elements and we would disagree, but we always found a common ground- our love for truth and reason.
Azariah must have fallen in love with me because as he said, he saw in me many attributes that made him what he became despite from a poor background.
I knew almost everything about Azariah. He didn’t hold back anything, and he had nothing to hide. I wrote his biography entitled ‘Azariah Kucha Reporting’ Shortly before his retirement. And I could have written another ten volumes because his life was an open book.
Not everyone we work with become our friends, but Azariah was my friend. Yes, I say friend despite the fact that he was my boss, he was in all sense my friend.
We would go to places together, conduct interviews together, I’ll take him out to relaxation spots, we would take what we wanted, talk about various issues and share experiences.
I would listen to his many tales and encounters on the line of duty and tell him my views also. Our last outing was a threefold one as Gift Onyinye Agiriga of Kapital FM was with us.
Incidentally, she picked the bills that evening as if she knew she would never have an opportunity of giving venison to the veteran again.
Azariah Kucha had implicit confidence in me. He gave me several opportunities on the job and opened so many doors for me and for this, I’m eternally grateful.
It was me who took over from him as FRCN correspondent in the PDP the then ruling party beat which was a ‘happening place’ as we say in this clime.
But Azariah never for one day begrudged me. I later became the Chairman of the beat with the support of great political correspondents like Obiora Ifo, Henry Umoru amongst others.
Azariah believed I was a star reporter and writer and for his writing projects, speeches and papers he delivered, he would always get me to make inputs.
Azariah Kucha was also an aging man. He would ask me phone numbers of same persons a hundred times and I’ll sometimes get angry, but end up telling him, ‘Oga, I’m angry because you keep losing the numbers I give you, but because you are an elder I’ll give you again’.
I loved Mr. Azariah Kucha because he loved the Truth.
Truth purveyors are endangered species wherever they are. His ability to stand for the truth against all odds and even when his interest was in jeopardy was exceptional.
He would always stand with the oppressed.
The day I put a distress call from Southern Kaduna on air when the people were being killed by herdsmen was a great day for him.
He was happy that I could summon the courage amidst an oligarchy that wouldn’t want such of Radio Nigeria.
As an editor, his love for the downtrodden and people of all classes often made him to commit the crime of what in broadcasting we call over running when a bulletin surpasses its allotted time.
When Kevin Ejiofor held sway as acting DG of FRCN and was ‘pouncing’ on everyone in the News department over perceived shortcomings, it was only Azariah who could speak up and disagree with the CEO.
Often times, when Ejiofor would be vibrating with all heads bowed down, Azariah would put up his hand and speak truth to authority.
Telling truth to power was his passion. So there we found a common passion.
In all, his ability to hold no grudges against people was child like.
Azariah hated filthy lucre that was why he could tell Amorc members who offered him money to promote their story after they had a judicial victory over ECWA church many years ago in Calabar, ‘take away your devilish money!’
Azariah was sincere to a fault. The culture of ‘editing’ honorarium meant for fellow reporters is common in the profession. But Azariah would openly declare whatever was the amount and do Justice to everyone.
So it was not a surprise that Azariah was not a rich man in terms of worldly wealth and he was proud of the godly legacy his father left for him. He told me ‘my father was not a rich man but he had God and told me that was enough for me’.
Again, he suffered a major setback when the FCDA under el-Rufai demolished a cluster of houses he built in Pyakasa, a suburb of Abuja. For that I believed he had reservation with the former FCT minister and current Governor of his home state, Kaduna.
The humble house in his Abu village in Sanga Local Government of Kaduna state where he was laid to rest attests to this.
Azariah was never interested in gaining the whole world and losing his soul, for if only in this world we have hope we are of all men most miserable.
When I was chairman of FRCN NUJ and crisis hit my chapel, it was Azariah God principally used at that significant congress to save my leadership and restore the union on a sound footing.
There was big problem in the chapel, as usual with the black man, people knew where the problem was, but were evading the truth. But at that critical point Azariah spoke the uncomfortable truth which was being avoided by members of the union and that singular courageous act saved the day.
I remain grateful Azariah Kucha.
When his son Muzha joined FRCN and was posted to Kaduna, Mr Azariah kept telling me how he wanted his son to be in Abuja, so that I could mentor him on the job.
When we moved from Area 3 Garki to Radio House, Azariah was afraid to use the lift, I vividly recall the day I spoke to him as if I was Archbishop Idahosa, from that day the fear of lift disappeared from him.
Azariah loved people and he loved children, no wonder he has 7 of them in this age. And I’ll often tease him in my typical Warri tone ‘oga why are you still borning?’ but he had an answer for every of my teasing. Now unfortunately he would no longer answer me.
Azariah Kucha was just Azariah Kucha.
He mentored the younger ones and took keen interest in hard working and bright stars on the job. That’s why he was passionate about me, and the likes of Solomon Adebayo, the multiple award winning investigative reporter who has now resigned from FRCN.
His love for the upcoming ones saw him facilitate employment for so many young people in agencies where he had influence. Azariah preferred to forego his honorarium so that he could ask for favours of job space for people across the divides.
Unfortunately I won’t see him again on this plane. From time to time, it suddenly dawns on me, I won’t see you again Azariah Kucha.
But I take solace in the fact that I know that you made it to God’s presence and I knew that you won’t fall on the highway to heaven because on your sick bed at the Federal Medical Centre, Jabi-Abuja, when you saw the angels coming for you, you asked the mortals around you to sing hymns to usher you into the heavenly and into their arms you went.
The reporter has finally reported to his creator.
Fare thee well Azariah Kucha, the fearless and remarkable reporter.
The reporter has finally reported to his creator.
Fare thee well Azariah Kucha, the fearless and remarkable reporter