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Veteran journalist, elder statesman, Bisi Lawrence, dies at 87

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…How he died —Daughter, Barbara

…His regrets; Many of us are wondering what lies ahead now

…He was a true connoisseur of the art of expression —Adetiba

…We’ve lost the best raconteur —Isiguzo

By Kayode Matthew, Tony Ubani, Clifford Ndujihe & Simeon Ndaji

ELDER Statesman, versatile journalist, and Sports Administrator, Mr. Bisi Lawrence, fondly and professionally known as Uncle Biz Law, is dead.

The renowned sports administrator died on Wednesday, more than two weeks after his 87th birthday.

He was born in Lagos on October 23, 1933. He spent two years at CMS Grammar School, Lagos before going to Christ School, Ado-Ekiti where he also spent two years.

Recounting how the erudite pen-pusher joined his ancestors, his daughter, Barbara, said: ‘’He had been feeling unwell for some days. When his condition didn’t improve, they sent for me and I rushed down immediately. I met daddy, he could not lift his hands, he could not talk, he could not eat anything and had to be fed with liquid. We immediately took him to the hospital. An MRA (Magnetic Resonance Angiography) scan was then carried out where it was discovered that he suffered from stroke, which affected his speech (MRA takes clear, detailed pictures of the blood vessles, including arteries and veins using magnetic resonanace imaging, MRI, machine). I was with him throughout as the hospital commenced treatment on him. The doctors found that fluid had accumulated in his chest and they had to drain it.

“After about three days of treatment, his condition improved, although he still couldn’t talk or lift his hands. I kept assuring him, ‘daddy, you’ll be all right, daddy you’ll be all right’. Before I left him on Saturday, I even held fellowship with him and prayed with him for a couple of hours. But on Sunday, his condition became worse again and deteriorated. On Wednesday evening, he lost the battle to stay alive. Daddy has gone to rest.”

His giant footprints in sports

The death of the eminent sports guru, administrator, columnist, broadcaster, sent shock waves throughout the sports community, yesterday.

Bizlaw, a former Vice Chairman of Nigeria Football Association, NFA, died on Wednesday leaving a very sour taste for Nigerian fans, who depended on his lucid writing to follow many Nigerian sporting events he covered.

Bizlaw was an enigma, one man who had eyes for details and supervised the hiring of  former Dutch-born Super Eagles Coach, Clemens Westerhof. The Dutch was later to become the most successful coach for Nigeria winning the Africa Cup of Nations and qualifying the country for its first World Cup in USA ’94.

Biz Law also served in many sporting committees and shone brilliantly when he served as Media Committee Chairman for Nigeria ’99 FIFA U-20 World Cup.

Before then, there were so much apprehension by the world on the suitability and capability of Nigeria hosting the world. The Media Committee was loaded with so much responsibility to ensure not just good coverage for the games but to ensure that Nigeria did not go down with bad publicity by the Western world.

The enigma went to work with another workaholic Danladi Bako and it turned out to be one of the most memorable Junior world cup competitions. Foreign journalists, who had thronged the National Stadium office of Bisi Lawrence could not believ the knowledge and expertise of Biz Law.

He was a loyal soldier of Nigeria Football and was a leading member of our intellectual wing. He had facts and figures at his finger tips. He was an all-round organiser who knew how to deploy people to get the best out of them.

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He was one man you can always rely on to give candid advice. We bounced ideas off him regularly and picked his brain on many issues because of his wide knowledge and decades of experience in football administration.

At the France ’98 World Cup where Bizlaw led Onochie Anibeze and Tony Ubani to cover the World Cup for Vanguard, he brought the light to shine on the Newspaper.

Biz Law has touched so many lives with his compassion and his philanthropy.

His legacy is etched on the minds of many. Words can do little to comfort the pain and anguish his death has brought us.

As a lover of sports and an outstanding sports writer, he was head of Outside Broadcasting, Radio Nigeria. He was to work abroad where his employers tried to nationalise him but he declined because of his love for Lagos. He grew up in Campos area of Lagos and attended CMS Gramar School, Lagos.

Upon his return to Nigeria, Second Republic Governor of Lagos, Alhaji Lateef Jakande, engaged him to run the Lagos Broadcasting Corporation as general manager.

Indeed, Biz Law’s expertise cut across politics and current affairs, where he shaped events in his Passing Scene column in Vanguard among others.

He was a wonderful historian. His consuming flair for writing reflected in his writings and columns. He wrote compelling political analyses as a fellow who was abreast of the history of Nigeria and governance.

Many of us are wondering what lies ahead now

He retired from active journalism in style. He did a lovely piece in his column, Passing Scene, titled: ‘’Happy Valentine 2015’’ where he dwelt on the history of Saint Valentine.

He used the piece to task the government on provision of basic amenities, saying: ‘’The whole country yearns today for electricity supply to grant us a satisfactory life.’’

On politics, he wrote: ‘’Many of us are wondering what lies ahead now. The citizens are mostly confused. Declarations of progress are pronounced and promoted glibly on the strength of statistics. And we are offered no test of certainty, or even reliability. And as you know, there are lies, damnable lies, and statistics.’’

His views on sit-tight leaders

In 2017, Uncle Biz Law harped on the need for leaders to know when to leave a position for successors.

Writing on the change of guards at the Confederation of African Football, CAF, where 57-year old Ahmad emerged the new president, in a manner that disgraced Issa Hayatou out of office, Bisi Lawrence said, “life is transient.”

Lawrence said the ousted CAF President did not prepare to leave even when it became clear that the continental body required change.

‘’He should have taken a walk,” Lawrence said, regretting that Hayatou who rode on the crest of “tremendous goodwill” before he was crowned CAF President would allow himself to be shoved out of office.

‘’He never planned to leave. He should have known that his time was up. After seven terms in an office, what was there to prove again?”

Lawrence, himself a retired man then said he had walked out of many offices each time he felt it was time to leave.

‘’I have ran into problems with a number of my past employers because they would not want me to leave even when I felt there was nothing new to add. I have trained young men and women who have demonstrated competence and a lot of capacity to work and take over in my absence. So what was there to do again?” he asked.

‘’Hayatou could have been given honorary life president of CAF if he had vacated the seat on his own. But he missed that opportunity and rubbished himself through an election,”he said.

‘’In his early days, Hayatou came to Nigeria to learn football administration under the late Pat Okpomo. No Nigerian, not even Okpomo nursed any ambition in CAF. Only the late Oyo Orok Oyo demonstrated a serious interest in CAF. He got there and suddenly, he went blind. His blindness shocked all of us.

Indeed, one of those mentored by Uncle Biz Law is Mr Ikeddy Isiguzo, immediate past Editorial Board Chairman of Vanguard.

We’ve lost the best raconteur —Isiguzo

In a short tribute, yesterday, Isiguzo described the late veteran journalist as one of the best racounters Nigeria has ever produced.

He said: ‘’Uncle Biz Law had impactful presence at Vanguard and beyond, in words, indeed and in deeds. His wordsmithery was inimitable. His columns milked moments without being momentary. We have lost one of the best raconteurs, with delivery doused in sobering timbres. May the Almighty rest him.’’

He was  a true connoisseur of the art of expression —Adetiba

Writing on November 5, 2016 when Biz Law was 83 years old, former Editor of Vanguard, M r. Muyiwa Adetiba, described him as ‘’a true connoisseur of the art of expression.’’

Adetiba wrote: ‘’I first heard of Bisi Lawrence through my senior brother who had worked with him in the old NBC (Nigerian Broadcasting Corporation) days and who often eulogised his writing skills. I eventually had the opportunity to witness those skills—and more—when he was introduced to me in Punch some 35 years ago by the late Ayo Ositelu after his retirement as the GM of Radio Lagos. He was to express himself more at the Vanguard where he added other repertoires to sports writing which he was already well known for. He is a true connoisseur of the art of expression.’’

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