The national leadership of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) has conferred the award of Torch Bearer of Press Freedom on Mr. Felix Ofou, Senior Special Assistant (Civil Society) to Sen. Ifeanyi Okowa, Governor of Delta State.
Ofou’s emergence as the award winner came after NUJ’s Awards Selection Committee sifted through nominations made by journalists and members of the public, Shuaibu Usman Leman, national secretary of NUJ, stated in the letter conveying the award to Ofou.
The award was conferred on him during the Union’s celebration of the 2019 World Press Freedom Day in Abuja on May 6.
Ofou is the last chairman of the Punch Chapel of the Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ). He resigned as acting Head of Politics of the Punch newspaper in 2000. Before his exit, he proactively engaged the management of the newspaper and initiated policies that ensured a radical review of the salary of workers, a standard that has made the Punch one of the best paying in the industry today.
Before his appointment as acting Head of Politics, Ofou had gained a reputation as a fiery journalist. For about a decade, he churned out exclusives and investigative news stories and feature articles that stood him out as one of the outstanding reporters/correspondents in the stable.
But, his tenure as State Correspondent of the Punch in Imo remains indelible as he was a thorn to successive governments, military and civilian. Yet, he was respected for his unbiased and objective reportage of issues, events and personalities.
However, Ofou is best remembered for his role in galvanizing progressive forces against bad governance, injustice, corruption and dictatorial rule in Imo State. Whether as Secretary of the Correspondents Chapel, State Secretary of the Civil Liberties Organization (CLO) or as board member of Journalists for Democratic Rights (JODER), Ofou ensured that institutions of government, politicians and the elite were made accountable to the people.
Perhaps of greater significance was the historic role played by Ofou in the civil insurrection that took place in Imo State, known as the Otokoto saga. Apart from rejecting N350,000 bribe, his fearless disposition to ensure justice was achieved made him a target for elimination by those who saw him as a threat. He escaped death twice in the hands of agents who helped to perpetrate the infamous ritual killings in Imo State at that time.
As an Assistant Editor of the Sunday Sun, Group Politics Editor of the Independent, Editor of the Sunday Independent and later, Assistant Managing Editor of the Independent, his articles and columns portrayed a consistent commitment to the advancement of freedoms in Nigeria, Africa and the world, especially during the struggle and battle for the enthronement of democratic rule in the country following the infamous scuttling of the transition to democratic rule that culminated in the annulment of the June 12, 1993 presidential election.
On leaving the newsroom in 2007, Ofou was appointed Press Secretary to the former Delta State Governor, Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan. He is a member, Delta State Task Force on Human Trafficking and Illegal Migration through which he continues to advance and advocate for expansion of civil liberties and freedoms as well as a member of the Nigerian Guild of Editors.