Attilio Tagalile 2 April 2011 The sad news on the death of humour columnist, Adam Lusekelo, who passed away peacefully in the early hours of Thursday morning at the Muhimbili National Hospital (MNH) in Dar es Salaam has left the Tanzanian media fraternity shocked and in disbelief. News of Adam's death on Thursday travelled in the city like bushfire. And initially, many people who knew him had linked it with the Fools Days (April 1). However, later they came to realize that it was a reality. That the man who had penned off the humour column, WITH LIGHT TOUCH, in the 'Sunday News,' for over two decades was indeed no more. Adam was my friend and colleague for many years at the Tanzania Standard Newspapers (TSN) -the publisher of the "Daily News, Sunday News, HABARILEO and HABARILEO Jumapili." And on Wednesday evening, I was privileged to spend two hours with him at the Best Bite Restaurant, at Namanga in the City. Our meeting at the restaurant was not short of drama either. When I arrived there at around 6pm, little did I know that Adam was sitting outside the restaurant, sipping slowly what he loved most, his water. My failure to notice him was on account of my failing eye sight which has lately forced me to even stop driving. As I sat in the restaurant, I later somewhat recognized somebody who looked like Adam, sitting outside the restaurant and waved to him. Darkness had already set in. Apparently I did not see the man wave back and therefore decided that I had waved to a stranger. Twenty minutes or so later, one of the servers walked to where I was sitting and placed two bottles of water on my table. I immediately told the man that I had not ordered what he had just placed on my table. But the man responded that the owner of the bottles of water had told him that he wanted to sit with the old man, on the other side of the window, referring to me. It was just then that I saw Adam walk slowly to my table. "Were you the one sitting on the other side?" I started. "But you had waved at me " he told me. "Yes, I did but did not see you wave back," I said. Then taking a close look at the bottles of water, I offered to help open one of them. He laughed and said, "now I believe what you have been telling me you have poor eye sight. Because one of the bottles is already opened and you cannot see it," he said. We spoke on a number of issues in those two hours which included, strangely, death! I don't remember what set us on this weird topic. But what I know I was telling him how many relatives of mine I had lost in the last two weeks. The second sub-topic was the difficulty one had in announcing the death of someone's father or mother, something that required tact. At this point he told me how somebody had announced the death of his father, Mzee Mwakang'ata as he was about to set off in his car at Namanga traffic lights! "Instead of asking me where I was and what I was doing at the time, he simply blurted out the sad news to me just as the greenlights set in, allowing us to drive on!" Adam spoke of the man. "Those two questions were very important because he would have known that I was driving and he could have therefore asked me to park the car so that he could deliver the devastating message to me," said Adam. We touched on a number of issues on Wednesday, recalling our good old days at the 'Daily News,' along the Maktaba Street in the city. But little did it occur to me that I was speaking to my friend for the last time before he would leave, in a few hours time, for the here-after in the words of Professor Ali Mazrui in his novel, 'The Trial of Christopher Okigbo,' that revolves around the death of the Nigerian poet on the battle field during the Biafran war. Our discussions for some 40 minutes before my departure were somewhat sad, very sad. I asked Adam how he was going on with his book compilation project. While still at the 'Daily News,' I had suggested to him the need to compile all his 'Light Touch' pieces into a book for readers of his column. And in a very subdued voice that echoes whenever I remember him he responded, "Attilio, naumwa-I'm sick." "Yes, I know," I told him but please, be positive. Don't be negative," I added. "May be Ambwene (his daughter) will do it, referring to the book project," he said as an afterthought. Adam was an honesty man who hated lies and theft of public and private property. Realizing that for legal reasons, it was during the time at the 'Daily News' to write on certain issues revolving, for instance, around corruption, he resorted to writing those issues in humour. This was the time of the tenure of Mr Ulli Mwambulukutu, then TSN Managing Editor who immediately recognized Adam's talent and challenged him to write his thoughts in a form of column and the 'Light Touch' was born. When Prime Minister, Edward Moringe Sokoine was killed in motor accident in Morogoro as he was being driven from Dodoma, I happened to have been in the newsroom with Adam and another close friend of ours, journalist Mussa Lupata (he died in 1993). When the sad news hit the newsroom, Adam said, "Tanzania has been left poorer." A glance today at the comment, Adam was very prophetic. In the early days of his column, the reception was somewhat mixed. However, the majority of his readers, with the exception, of course, of a few officials from the ruling party CCM and the government, welcomed and loved the column so much that the days it was not carried on the ground that he had been too hard on the system, readers called the 'Sunday News' to inquire the absence of the column from their pages. When some party and government officials queried Mr Mwambulukutu over some of the columns, which in their views, had overstepped humour boundaries, the Managing Editor turned diplomat had one standard response to them, 'those are Adam's personal views they are not the paper's." It was his style of writing and in particular his nose for what was going on in the society, that would eventually earn him a contract as a Dar es Salaam Correspondent for both Reuters and the BBC, hence, forcing him out of TSN. However, he continued to pen his column until a few weeks before his death. Before my encounter with Adam on Wednesday evening, we shared our thoughts at the same venue - the Best Bite Restaurant mid last month. Finally and looking back today, sadly, came the time to leave my friend. My departure had been preceded by a call on my cellphone. Adam looked up and said, "your wife?" I responded to his question, "yes, it is her." She had just called saying she had just arrived and parked her car outside the restaurant. "My greetings to her," he said. "I will pass on your greetings," I said. I stood up and gave him my hand. He was now busy, fiddling with his cellphone. He then spoke to his driver, one Justine. He told him to come and pick him up at the Best Bite Restaurant. It was then that he looked up and saw my hand. I shook his hand and said bye bye. "We will meet next time," I said. His response was again very prophetic of what awaited him. He said, "Mungu akipenda - God's willing." That was the last handshake I had with my friend, Adam! In Adam, the media in Tanzania has lost an honest, incorruptible and dedicated journalist who called a spade a spade. To borrow his words, the media has been left poorer.