The eternal English playwright, William Shakespeare said that some are born great, some achieve greatness and others have greatness thrust upon them. Shakespeare may have had some people in mind when he coined the saying but definitely not Dele Momodu whom he never physically met.
On May 16, 1960, few months to Nigeria’s independence, a child, Ayobamidele Abayomi Ojutelegan Ajani Momodu was born to a humble family in the ancient city of Ile Ife which is otherwise known as the source because of its primordial place in the history of the Yoruba nation.
Few people know that he is actually from Ihievbe town in Owan in the present day Edo state. His late father Jacob Momodu, migrated from there to Ile Ife to eke out a living and bring home the bacon. He was the only child of his parents though he has half siblings from both sides.
The road to success is usually strewn with stones and the late social critic, Tai Solarin used to say to his students in May flower secondary school that ‘May your road be rough.’ The fairy tale success of Momodu as a journalist was achieved by wishful thinking. He pulled himself by the bootstrap to achieve the fame and wealth that followed.
His first Baptism of fire was on June 14 1973 when his father passed on to the great beyond. He was barely a teenager when he realized that he had to take his destiny in his own hands to amount to something in the school of hard knocks called life.
As a child he was rascally and gave his dear mother a hell of a time. Despite his playful nature, he still found time to read extensively especially works of literature both African and foreign.
A second Baptism of fire followed in 1976 when he had bad grades in the West African Examinations Council (WAEC). He was among the first set of Nigerians to write the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB) exams in 1978 which he passed and got admission to study Yoruba at the University of Ife now Obafemi Awolowo University.
His choice of course was a source of nightmare to his unlettered but highly ambitious mother who thought he would end up as a Native Doctor or Babalawos as they are popularly called. He allayed her fears and assured her that he was a man with a clear cut vision which wouldn’t get limited by the lack of studying a ‘prestigious’ course at the Ivory Tower.
One trait about him which even his critics acknowledge is his uncanny ability to cultivate and nurture relationships with the high and mighty in the society.
His first job after the mandatory National Youth Service Corps was as a private secretary to the former Governor of Old Ondo State, Chief Akin Omoboriowo. He was barely twenty-three and learnt on the job how to carefully nurture relationships. His next job was to manage the motel of the then Ooni of Ife, Oba Sijuade Olubuse II.
His sweet mother never failed to tell him her reservations about his first degree. To placate her, he applied to his alma mater to study law but he was declined. By a stroke of luck and a chance meeting with a Professor, he did his Masters Degree in English Literature at Ife.
Through his friendship with the Late Dr. Onukaba Adinoyi-Ojo then the aviation correspondent of the Guardian, he started contributing articles to the highly esteemed paper for which he was paid a stipend. He also contributed ex gratis to the Tribune.
Getting a job proved a herculean task after his masters degree. He had a failed attempt to get a job in a well known publishing house and the Guardian newspapers.
He finally had a breakthrough in 1988 when he got a job with the Concord Newspapers owned by the Late Chief Moshood Kashimawo Olawale Abiola. He had a great work ethic there and before long was transferred to the Weekend Concord under the editorship of the legendary Mike Awoyinfa. He had a hard nose for the news and dug out scoops after scoops and before long became the number three man after Mike Awoyinfa and the Late Dimgba Igwe at the Weekend Concord.
Barely two years after his first journalism job, he got a job as the Editor of the Classique Magazine owned by the Late May Ellen Ezekiel. According to him, he was the highest paid Editor in the country at barely thirty. He left the job a year after in unexplained circumstances. Not given to depression spurred by his plebian background, he became a distributor for Wonderloaf bakery owned by his mentor, Chief M.K.O. Abiola and in 1992, started a public relations firm known as Celebrity Goodwill where he handled the accounts of Summit Oil owned by Chief Abiola, Mike Adenuga, Hakeem Belo-Osagie etc.
He is fiercely loyal to his friends and can go to any length to protect their interests even at the expense of his personal comfort. An example is worth recurring.
He wanted to float a celebrity magazine in 1992 with three friends. He got the nod of Dr. Mike Adenuga who wanted to back him financially but with the caveat that since he didn’t know his friends, it will just be between the two of them. He refused saying that he had given his friends his word on their partnership which cost him the deal as Adenuga pulled out.
While on exile in the UK, he faced economic annihilation and that sorrowful time in his life gave birth to his baby Ovation magazine which he modeled after the UK’s ‘Hello’ and ‘Ok’.
The magazine became a hit as African celebrities especially from his native Nigeria patronized his services. He went on to meet numerous world leaders including the Queen of England and former US President, Bill Clinton amongst many others.
He has gone on to launch The Boss Newspaper, an online newspaper and writes a widely popular column captioned ‘Pendulum’ at the back page of Thisday Newspapers on Saturday where he gives his two cents on burning national issues. He joined partisan politics by joining the Labour party and vying for the highest elective office in the land which he lost gallantly in 2011.
Bob Dee, welcome to the sexagenarian club as you approach the evening of this challenging journey called life. I wish you many more years in good health and service to your motherland.