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
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
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
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
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
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
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?