The Funny Side Of Uncle Sam’s Day Of Honour

Last Thursday, Nigerian media professionals and others within the pen fraternity gathered to celebrate and honour one of their own, a man widely regarded as a leading icon and doyen of Nigerian journalism and one who had significantly contributed and is still contributing to its evolution.

It was an occasion that lived up to its billings. The large crowd of not just who is who in the Nigerian media circle but also well-wishers from all walks of life that graced the occasion more than attested to this.

And indeed, for the organisers led by Mr Lanre Idowu, the Chief Executive Officer of Diamond Publications, it was mission accomplished, especially when the man of the moment, Mr Sam Amuka, was, for once, persuaded to bask in the euphoria of his celebrity status against his preferred self-effacing disposition.

For the audience, it will certainly remain a day to remember by reason of the sheer excitement that characterised the proceedings.
The wisecracks

From left Mr John Momoh, Chairman Channels TV and Mr Sam Amuka, celebrator
Although there was no parade of recognisable stand-up comedians ‘cracking’ their latest jokes, yet there was no dull moment from beginning to the end as the Nigerian Institute of International Affairs, NIIA, Lagos venue of the occasion sizzled with anecdotes, infectious jokes, wisecracks and witty remarks that did not fail to elicit rounds of laughter.

As it turned out, this was more than an entertaining interlude between the book launch and lecture, the key elements of the programme to honour Sam Amuka, the publisher of the Vanguard Newspapers and a life patron of the Newspapers Proprietors Association of Nigeria, NPAN, who turned 80 on June 13.

It also emerged that the occasion was one that Uncle Sam, as he is fondly called by his numerous admirers, could have avoided if he could help it since it was said that he is spotlight-shy, a reason for which he has always preferred not to celebrate his birthday.

But it was an appropriate ambush opportunity, which his friends did not allow to pass as they used it to the full not only to pour accolades on him but also to ‘mercilessly’ subject him to rib-cracking jokes.

Journalistic exploits

This was even as they delved into the past and regaled members of the audience with their journalistic exploits and peccadilloes.

Spearheading the jocular assault on Uncle Sam were his contemporaries and colleagues at the Daily Times, Chief Olusegun Osoba and Prince Tony Momoh, the former being the tormentor in chief.

Although the point was earlier made that Uncle Sam has the habit of disappearing from the scene, including travelling out of the country, whenever it was time to mark or celebrate his birthday, it was Chief Osoba, a former governor of Ogun State, who, in his opening remarks as chairman of the occasion, emphasised the point that the Vanguard publisher is indeed publicity-shy, adding that ‘’if Sam is to have his way he will disappear from here in the next five minutes.’’

Uncle Sam’s ‘disappearing’ acts

While congratulating the organisers for successfully persuading Uncle Sam to agree to being publicly honoured, he also did not fail to advise them to hasten the programme because ‘’I don’t want Sam to disappear; even in his own event Sam can disappear’’.

He did not stop there. Through Chief Osoba’s unrelenting humorous attacks, members of the audience learned that Uncle Sam loves fish head and chicken wings and would even go out of his way to enjoy any delicacy prepared with these. And for good measure, he had added thus: ‘’I don’t want Sam to disappear to go and eat fish head’’.

Mr Idowu equally harped on the fact that Uncle Sam had made it an annual ritual of disappearing whenever his birthday anniversary is near and profusely thanked him for finally agreeing to be celebrated even if it was not on his exact birthday.

From left: Basorun Dele Momodu;Charles Ahigbe,Head of Corporate and Marketing Corporation UBA Plc and Louis Odion,Edo State Commissioner for the lecture

He added, ‘’we’re celebrating him because he represents the best in us’’ through his humaneness, humility, accessibility and other enduring attributes. Though he could not resist making the jab that Uncle Sam would have loved to be born in July instead of June.

Obviously reluctant to give up tormenting his friend, Chief Osoba returned to the offensive with more jocular jabs. He told the audience that when put on the spot concerning any subject matter or situation, the man of the moment was fond of saying: ‘We thank God’.

And then he quipped: ‘’Sam, today we thank God for your 80th birthday’’. He had gone on to make ‘’Sam we thank God’’ a jocular refrain.

He also did not spare Prince Tony Momoh, the other member of their triumvirate. According to him, the ace columnist was ‘notorious’ for ‘’snatching our girlfriends’’. But in reference to his (Chief Osoba’s) wife, he said that the first time Uncle Sam met the woman who later became his wife, he said ‘many had been there before you, but you’re the one reigning now and long may you reign’. ‘’And my wife is still reigning till today.’’

He was also to inform his captive audience that the man of honour considers every part of his body very important. But there is a part of his body he considers most important and regularly prays that it would not die before him. The audience got the drift and roared in laughter.

Indeed, when Hon Abike Dabiri-Erewa, while launching the book prompted the female members of the audience to chorus that they love Uncle Sam, Chief Osoba joked: ‘’All of you who love Uncle Sam, please report at his flat; I can assure you that he can cope’’. This drew another round of laughter.

I’m still alive

Prince Tony Momoh also took his turn to fire witty riposte from all cylinders. First, when called upon by the MC to say a few words at the occasion, he retorted: ‘’How can I say only a few words when the chairman (Osoba) has said so much?’’

Turning to the man of the moment, he recalled that when he (Tony Momoh) celebrated his 70th birthday which attracted a massive crowd, including three former heads of state, Uncle Sam had said to him in his room, ‘Tony die! If you can pull such a crowd while alive what will you do when you die?’

Concluding he said to Uncle Sam: ‘’Sam I’m still alive’’.

Uncle Sam’s controversial prayer

But characteristic of him, Uncle Sam’s response to the outpouring of tributes on him, including the jokes made at his expense, was to offer a three-point controversial prayer for all who graced the occasion and wished him well.

His prayers: ‘’May you all live to be 80!’’; ‘’May you all be celebrated when you are alive!’’; ‘’And when you die, there will be nothing more to say of you!’’

There were resounding chorus of Amen to the first prayer points. But the third elicited laughter and half-hearted Amen.

Uncle Sam then concluded on this humorous note: ‘’There is God oooooooh!’’ (Vanguard)

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