Comrade YJ Itopa: The Story of the Storyteller

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In the heart of Lokoja, where Rivers Niger and Benue embrace each other like old friends, Comrade YJ Itopa stands at the threshold of a new chapter.

His recent appointment as the Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Kogi State Newspaper Corporation was more than a professional milestone—it was a canvas for his myriad talents.

The newsroom buzzed with anticipation. Reporters huddled around their desks, their keyboards clattering like rain on tin roofs. The scent of freshly brewed coffee mingled with the ink-stained air. Comrade Itopa’s office, tucked away in a corner, bore the marks of a seasoned journalist—shelves sagging under the weight of dusty volumes, and a window that framed the distant hills of Mount Patti where the colonial imprints like Lord Luguard’s buildings still leave lasting reminders – Sweet and Sour –

Itopa’s journey began long before the headlines and bylines. As a young poet, he had scribbled verses on the margins of textbooks, dreaming of a world beyond the classroom. The defunct Concord newspaper became his sanctuary—a place where ink flowed like lifeblood, and truth was etched into every paragraph without sanctions limiting Journalists. It was there that he learned the alchemy of storytelling—the fusion of facts and imagination to challenge the foibles that he sees as plaguing his society.

Comrade Itopa was more than a journalist; he was a culturalist. His pen danced across pages, celebrating the rhythms of Kogi’s diverse heritage—the drumbeats of Ebira folklore, the whispered secrets and ancient tales from the sagely lips of Igala and Okun elders, and the vibrant tapestries traditions of the Nupes, Kakandas and other ethnic groupings that populate the Iron-rich Kogi State. The Ihima-born thespian reveled in the nuances—the way a masquerade’s mask held centuries of wisdom, or how a potter’s hands shaped clay into vessels that cradled memories we see in his nostalgia-imbued poetry.

His time as Chief Press Secretary to former Deputy Governor His Excellency Phillips Omeiza Salawu Ph.D. was a tightrope walk. Politics swirled like a tempest, and Itopa balanced on the edge, his words both shield and sword to the fury and admiration of many.

He navigated Press Conferences, Press Releases, and brewed briefings-intellectual, sagely, caustic and yet humourous- his steaming bulbous pot on the fire of bravery and to the news men. Yet, Itopa’s moral compass remained and still remains unwavering—a lighthouse in the storm, guiding the ship of state through murky waters.

How Itopa as as fearless Spokesperson to his Principal survived that era still remains a mystery to many till today and even tomorrow when the correct history of Kogi Politics of that volatile time gets written by historians. He literally thrust his head into the jaws of lions and yet pulled it beautifully out without wounds.

It was therefore the appreciation of his rare loyalty to whatever course be believes in that his former boss Dr Phillips Salawu Omeiza summed up in his eulogies of Itopa’s appointment which he described as well-deserved when he commended Governor Usman Ododo for this worthy pick.

Salawu hesitated not in describing the New Graphic Newspaper Managing Director as “a man of principle who is full of native wisdom, courage and ethics; the very relevant requirements for his new assignment!” Wow! What a rare endorsement from one’s former boss! It simply speaks volumes.

But Comrade Itopa’s canvas extended beyond newsprint. He was a thespian who breathed life into characters—the weary farmer, the defiant activist, the grieving widow, widowers and their orphans. On stage, he shed his journalist’s cloak and became a storyteller. His monologues echoed through dimly lit theaters, weaving tales of resilience, love, and rebellion. Audiences leaned forward, hungry for more than headlines—they craved connection which would come later in the quietness of their rooms. Itopa can be deep and cryptic when he so chooses to.

Yet his writings are generally cherished by many like a delicious breakfast. One can see and even feel some of his edyfying thoughts woven and rolled into one in his anthologies, titled ‘The World Shall Return’ which is being studied by Junior Secondary Schools in the State as recommend by the Ministry Education.

And then there was social media—a digital bazaar where opinions clashed like market traders. Itopa approached it with caution, aware of its power to shape narratives. He embraced critical thinking like the newly wedded couple who have been yearning for each others’ embrace in the coolness of the wooing night. He believes that pixels could be as potent as ink, if wielded with caution.

The Kogi State Governor, His Excellency Alhaji Ahmed Usman Ododo, recognized Itopa’s multifaceted brilliance. When he appointed him as Managing Director of the State’s foremost Newspaper, he knew he had chosen well. Itopa’s vision extended beyond headlines—he saw the newspaper as a mirror reflecting society’s flaws and a window opening to possibilities.

His realist’s gaze cuts through illusions, exposing corruption, environmental challenges, and pitching his tent with struggling ordinary citizens, people in the slum who he wants the top echelon of his society to lift up from their floor of squalor.

As the sun dipped below the hills, casting long shadows across the newsroom, Comrade Itopa sat at his desk. His fingers traced the keyboard, each letter a memory. The title of his first editorial materialized: “Ink and Destiny: A Chronicle of Kogi.” He would write about forgotten heroes, unsung artists, and the river that flowed through their veins.

And so, the storyteller beginning anew with his new assignment . His pen, now digital, will dance across screens, bridging generations. Comrade Itopa—the poet, journalist, activist, critical thinker and multi-handed writer—will weave narratives that transcend time as the Kogi State Newspaper Corporation awaits his touch—the imprint of truth, the cadence in the voice of hope, and the legacy of a storyteller.

– Zacchaeus, Ozovehe Emmanuel is a lecturer in the department of Mass Communication, Prince Abubakar Audu University Anyigba.

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