My companion was one of the old generation of reporters at the Murtala Muhammed Airport, Lagos, and his approach to news gathering and the amount of risk that should be invested in it, had been shaped and fixed by years of routine, unimaginative practice. We had gone to the international terminal to assist a departing relation through the notoriously “firm” barriers erected by security wolves. A man in an overflowing agbada ambled through the normally thick night crowd in the departure hall. Heads turned and eyes widened in recognition. We stood on our toes, craning our necks to see who it was.
The hall clock nearest to us had died at 5.50pm, three hours and ten minutes ago. On March 20, 1984.
“Ah, it’s General Olusegun Obasanjo,” my friend said. And hissed. The former Head of State was returning from Frankfurt, in the then West Germany, in one of his fairly regular diplomatic shuttles around the globe since voluntarily relinquishing power to an elected civilian administration in October 1979. “Let us go and chat him up,” I managed to say with naive excitement. My friend promptly rebuked me for harbouring such dangerous thoughts. “Don’t you dare. That man hates journalists. He will embarrass you today.”