The first time was in 1998 March. I was on a working visit to England as a European Union Fellow in Paris, where I was spending a full academic year as a mid-career journalist, on sabattical from The Guardian.
After I was done with my one-week fellowship research in London to find out why the Brits were vehemently against dropping their pound sterling for the proposed Euro, I received a message from Lagos to use the opportunity to seek Bob Dee out in London.
Jahman Anikulapo, my boss at The Guardian, thought it would be nice to have an interview with Bashorun against the background of the issues of stability that Ovation magazine was dealing with.
Bob Dee agreed and we met at his new glittering, talk-of-the-town office at the Docklands.
He never shied away from any probing question. Every enquiry deserved an appropriate response was his philosophy.
When we were done, he wanted to know if I would return to Nigeria at the end of my journalism fellowship or would seek opportunities in Europe. But he hardly waited for my response before he gave that priceless words of advice:
“Whatever you decide – please stand out and make more friends than foes. Our trade thrives on goodwill.”
He would repeat the same deep words to me three other times over the course of the next 20 years.
First was in 2005 when I visited his beautiful home in London while I was on a study leave from Punch Newspaper to earn a master’s degree at the University of Leicester. Second time was barely two years later when I was appointed Editor of The Punch…and then eight years later in 2015 when I was announced as the Commissioner for Information and Strategy in Lagos State.
No words of congratulations ever came from Bashorun Dele Momodu without complimentary words of advice.
At each landmark turn I have navigated in my career, Bob Dee had always shown up, one way or the other, with wise counsel and brotherly love, even when I’m not in any way one of the closest to him.
He has always been accommodating and he genuinely seeks the progress of those around him.
It will fill a whole book to recall one’s close encounters with Chief Momodu. At every turn, for me, it has always been fond, fun-filled memories. Whether it was the good old days in the 90s when he was a factor in general interest journalism, or when he made Ghana his second home in the early 2000s and once spoilt us silly, my humble self in company with Charly Boy, Chief Dele Abiodun and Mike Dada who was then PMAN’s image maker, in the good old days of PMAN.
Or in company with his alterego, Prince Demola Aderemi and my indefatigable boss, Dr. Jimoh Ibrahim; or in far away Toronto, Canada to fly the flag of Lagos State as the emerging motion picture capital of Africa, in company with his close friend like a blood brother, Senator Tokunbo Afikuyomi; or even at the Eagles Park hotel in Ikeja where he declared his presidential ambition in 2011, where some of us had to keep strategic vigil with him, all night, few days to the election, Bashorun Momodu has always being his ebulient, quintessential self, who flows so easily with every class of people.
Love him or hate him, very few people that I know typifies such free spirit, which he must have obviously picked from his mentor, Chief MKO Abiola.
I’m in his debt for the ease with which he assisted me in getting his friend and great African brother, President John Mahama, former President of Ghana, to deliver the keynote address at the first ever Lagos State Tourism Summit in April 2018.
Together with Bob Dee and LASG officials, we welcomed President Mahama at the Lagos airport and saw him off two days later after delivering a collector’s item on what truly can grow African tourism, especially on how West-African sub-region can collaborate.
Bob Dee made it happen!
In the history of Nigeria’s contemporary journalism, his place is assured among the stars, especially as one who brought a new cool to what naysayers used to derisively call junketing journalism.
In him, one cannot miss the discipline and dedication as well as the insight he has brought into his weekly column.
How he finds time to do many things at the same time over the years without removing his eyes from the journalism ball should serve as an inspiration for the younger generation of journalists and those, in general, who require lessons and inspiration needed in creating enduring media brands and a name that should count as legacy on its own.
My Mum’s church in Ibadan will remember Bashorun for his physical presence and kind support when he honoured my invitation to celebrate my Mum’s 70th birthday in June 2012.
For me, I will continue to respect him as the courageous, consistent and charismatic icon whose orchestra has found his loud, joyous rhythm playing to a loud ovation.
At 60, nature might slightly slow him down in a few areas and I hope that he will develop thicker skin against those who perpetually trade in bile and insouciance, and to respond less to a few who often seek to draw him out.
He has reached the sixth floor of life in good health and with a great brand.
At this stage in life, Sexagenarians concern themselves more with diamonds, the gems that last forever.
But our own Bob Dee need not go far to find those diamonds. He already embodies the gemstones.
May he live to celebrate many more years in good health and abundance.
Happy birthday, Agba Oye!
*Ayorinde, former Lagos State Commissioner for Information and later Tourism & Culture, is a Media Consultant and Publisher of The Culture Newspaper