Requiem For Henry Boyo, By Lekan Sote – Complete News

Henry Boyo

It was uncomfortable to hear that Henry Olajide Boyo, the economics columnist with The Punch newspaper, died last Monday, November 18, 2019. How could death come and snatch Boyo away just like that? “O t’oju su mi,” it’s very frustrating. I am told that he wasn’t even ill, just a mishap.

I had been engaged as the first economics columnist by my friend, Greg Obong-Oshotse, who was the pioneer Editor of Daily Independent newspaper, and was naturally curious when Boyo debuted as another economics columnist with the newspaper.

Without him knowing it, Boyo threw a challenge that compelled me to up the level of my writing. I realised that a pro just showed up, and the requirements were going to be more demanding. And they were.

I knew  that I had a tough customer, who had a lot of depth and technical handle on the issues of economics. In a short while, I became a reader, and avid fan, of his “Les Leba” column, which became something of a touchstone for me.

I started wondering how I would be to meet and engage him on some of the topics he so brilliantly wrote about. But I never took any steps to meet this man, whom I thought wrote an economics column with professionalism, verve and passion.

Boyo had an almost messianic approach to his crusade for realistic monetary policies for Nigeria. I could see that he had an exceptional knowledge of the workings of international business markets, practice and trade relations, as well as deep understanding of how monetary policies should be employed for economic development.

Still, I never met him, until, – after many years of writing for the Daily Independent – I was appointed by my friend, and senior colleague, Ted Iwere, into the Editorial Board of the Daily Independent. I didn’t  know that Boyo was already a member of that board.

One day, as I entered into the meeting and was formally introduced to other members, I observed that an urbane-looking member of the board looked at me with a question mark written all over his face. I thought maybe I looked like somebody he knew.

Then, he asked me, “Are you Lekan Sote who writes the economics column?” I answered in the affirmative, and waited for further interrogations. He suddenly reached over to me, shook my hand, and introduced himself as Henry Boyo! My eyes nearly popped out of my head. I instantly knew that I had an admirer, and friend, who pleasantly turned out to, also, become an ally.

My first observation was that other members of the editorial board did not always understand the arcane concepts and terminologies that Boyo employed to convey his ideas. So, I appointed myself as the populariser of his usually complex submissions. I think many of those who formulate Nigeria’s economic policies did not quite understand him too.

Boyo  had degrees in Economics and Administrative Science. I tried  to combine my Master of Business Administration degree with concentration in Accounting, with my training in journalism, and public relations, to help Boyo put his ideas across.

That explains the article, “Henry Boyo’s Theorem,” which I wrote in my column some years ago. In that article, I sought to explain the thrust of Boyo’s economics, and what he sought to achieve for the Nigerian economy and people. In no time, Boyo and I developed a relationship akin to that of brothers.

The cord got stronger for three reasons: We both discovered that we attended the preppy Children Home School in Ibadan in the 1960s; we both loved to discuss Nigeria with passionate fervour (We often called after reading each other’s column, usually to agree to issues discussed therein); and we both loved to drink tea.

The first time I visited his office, he gave me plenty of the table water that he produced, and instructed his driver to drop me at home. He also made it a point of duty to drop me wherever I wanted after our weekly editorial board meetings at the Daily Independent.

I was always humbled by his genuine kindness. He would always look after my interest. He, it was, who told me that anyone who saw and appreciated the quality of my birthday card was bound to give me a handsome present. I never thought of that. He gave me N60,000!

I got more than excited when I later joined Boyo and other outstanding columnists on The PUNCH stable. Columnists like erudite Prof Ayo Olukotun, intrepid Abimbola Adelakun, maverick Prof Sabella Abidde, whose page I later inherited, and cerebral and avuncular Prof Niyi Akinnaso, always intrigue me.

When I was moved from the “Viewpoint” column on the inside pages to the back page, I thought I had joined a fraternity, whose hallmark was excellence. I knew I was among a constellation of stars who have earned their spurs, and I also had a tough act to follow.

And I decided to prove my mettle. I would read each one of them with utmost diligence, to apprise myself of what these men of excellence were saying. (Though Adelakun is female, all journalists are men).

To borrow a phrase from a friend, “To maintain a back page column in The PUNCH is not ‘come chop.’” You must consistently be brilliant and exceptional in order to keep your shirt. Boyo certainly kept his shirt to the end. And he ended his column-writing career on his favourite subject of monetary policy.

He must be having a smirk on his face as he continues on his journey to the place of no return, knowing that he finally handed Central Bank of Nigeria Governor Godwin Emefiele a tough call on why a portion of the allocation to states from the Federation Account should be made in foreign exchange.

After his primary school education, Boyo proceeded to Igbobi College in Lagos, after which he proceeded to Dulwich College in London, for his Advanced Level education. He later obtained a Bachelor’s degree from the University of London and got his master’s degree from the City University of London. He capped it with a Professional Diploma in Marketing.

After his graduation, he worked briefly with the UAC International in London, before returning to Nigeria, to work, first, with Kingsway Chemists, and later, A.J. Seward, both subsidiaries of the UAC Nigeria. He garnered vast experiences in these international organisations.

After these exposures, he incorporated and started his own companies, Abel Sell Limited and Allied Technol Systems, housed in a palatial complex in Ikeja, Lagos.

His products included the famous Cocosheen hair pomade, body lotions and creams, and Frizz table water. All these show that Boyo was not only a commentator on current economic affairs, he also walked his talk by fully engaging in the real sector of the Nigerian economy.

Boyo, a columnist, whose articles were syndicated in The PUNCH, The Vanguard, and Daily Independent, was a regular commentator on radio, and television, and resource person at seminars, workshops, and conferences.

For those of us left to mourn Boyo, the following comment from English poet John Donne is apposite: “Never send to know for whom the (church) bell tolls; it tolls for thee.” Adieu Henry Olajide Boyo.

The question now is, who will be like Henry Boyo for Nigeria’s sake?