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TONY MOMOH: EDITOR WHO SET MY BALL ROLLING

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Olufemi Kusahttps://olufemikusa.com
I am first a journalist and a Nature Doctor and I am delighted to share with you right on my site the latest discovery news straight from the herbal health world to turn the gaze of health seekers away from man-made poisonous drugs to healing medicines of Mother Nature anchored in the eternal Will of God. Whatsapp: 08094226112 / 08034004247 Call: 08116759749/08034004247

WITH 49 days behind it today 18 February, the Year 2021 is already growing old. And so are we all. If I didn’t get my bearing right and remember so, Prince Tony Momoh’s departure from the flesh about two weeks ago and the internment of his earthly remains last Thursday promptly pulled me by the ear and shirt collar. So did the departures from the flesh in the same week of 84-year-old Mr Jide Akinbiyi, a Prince of Ibadan who was the first General Manager of Radio Lagos, and Mrs Dorothy Chinaka Oruche 92, well known on Grailland, Lagos, for always carrying a green bag. All three were my acquaintances on Grailland, Lagos, in the 1970s.

This column is on Prince Tony Momoh. He was the editor of the Daily Times newspaper who fished me out of editorial obscurity on that newspapers Sub Editor’s Desk in about 1979 and, literally speaking, brought my professional light from under the bushel and placed it on top of the table. At that time, I did not know he was only 10 years older than I was and that our paths would cross several times on higher grounds.

I began my career in journalism on 8 March 1971 on that desk under the editorship of Mr Henry Odukomaya who must be in his nineties now. Then, in 1974, I went to the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, Leaving behind cherished colleagues such as Mr Lade Bonuola, one month my professional senior and Mr Glad Anson Diri, 3 months professionally older. This was after about one or two out of Body Experiences(OBEs) which got me thinking about the meaning of existence. Such conscious experiences were then, and even now, rare among men and grossly misunderstood in Christiandom. How would you feel, or tell anyone if you went to bed at night, came out of your body, and saw that body lying in bed? You could become hysterical, as I almost was, afraid of the next nightfall and bedtime. The pursuit of higher education dulled my OBE experience and memory. Over cultivation of the intellect walls in the spirit and restricts spiritual growth. National youth service in Uyo gave the nevertheless stirring spirit a breather. Breaking the bound of youth service camp Uyo, I discovered Edeke’s bookshop in town, read all the books in the Lobsang Rampa series and other interesting books, including THE CHARIOTS OF FIRE SECRETS OF THE ATOMIC AGE.

I little knew that the stage was being set for a future work relationship with Prince Tony Momoh. I cannot recall how many books on transcendental matters I bought at Edeke’s bookshop. But I will ever remember one which was and still is incomparable with them all. I say “was” and “is” because understanding is never static. I was nine years old when my mother died in 1959. If I had to enter the sitting-room, I first peeped through the any clearance in the door to be sure she was not hiding there. A nine-year-old with little understanding of the afterlife would, naturally, be afraid of “ghosts”. At 70, I, as the human spirit who inhabits my physical body, need have no such fears. Haven’t I heard of Transfiguration of the Lord Jesus in which the souls of Moses and Elijah appeared with him?. Have I not had OBEs and even day conscious dreams? What I mean by the book I say is “incomparable” to other books I read in Uyo is THE GRAIL MESSAGE IN THE LIGHT OF TRUTH BY ABD-RUSHIN.

From Uyo, I moved to Calabar, lived in 69 Mayne Avenue but 12 White House street was where my soul really was. It was the home of Mr and Mrs Andrews whose daughter, Rita, was the shopkeeper at Edeke’s bookshop. Their home was a meeting place for anyone who wished to deepen his or her understanding or recognitions of Life.

In 1979, I returned to my job at the Daily Times. This time, I no longer wished to work on the LAGOS WEEKEND newspaper, a subsidiary of the DAILY TIMES which heavily plunged into sex and such trivial other questions every Friday. So, to the sub-editors desk I was sent. Mr George Okoro, my chief sub-editor, a remarkable journalism trainer, was gone from the desk. Mr Henry Odukomaya, who employed me, had vacated the editor’s chair. Mr Lade Bonuola had move several notches up to the desk of the production editor. He and I always found each other working together on, and from the same page that some of our professional colleagues considered us professional Siamese twins. Was there, indeed, a higher guiding hand which sent me from Ijebu to Oyo to learn something about his own people in KISHI, near Shaki, and brought him from Kishi to Ijebu-ode Grammar school for his Higher School Certificate (HSC)?. That is what he means when, in the company of some of our friends, he jokingly refers to me as an OYO man and he as an IJEBU man! Who knows if there is some grain of truth in that saying, in the interconnectedness of earthly

Sojourn and experiences?

We were in touch in all my three years at Nsukka. Whatever stories I wrote from there I sent directly to him and he got them published. And when I returned to the sub desk, our relationship got bigger. Many sub-editors did an “any-how” job on copies. Not us. We were the last to leave the newsroom. We did meticulous editing. Mr Bonuola would then drive, with me in the car, to EKO HOTELS from CAKAWA STREET as the midnight hour approached, to buy a foreign quality newspaper for the article of his favourite columnist. Then, he would drive me home to KUSA STREET in Shomolu before heading for his home then in Amukoko or Amuwo Odofin area.

This sturdy sub-editor was the man I later learned was “the power behind the throne” of Prince Tony Momoh’s successful editorship. There was something in him that drew me to him and something about me he couldn’t easily ignore…a knack for selfless and meticulous hard work. That was one of the values I picked up from THE GRAIL MESSAGE, an adherent of which he, too, later became through me.

The Grail Message teaches us many things about CREATION. Today, I like to give a hint about SERVICE. To give us a day for work and night for rest, the earth rotates on its axis at the speed of 460 meters per second or about 1609•344 kilometres per hour. To give us the various seasons, the earth revolves around the sun at the speed of 30 kilometres per second or about 107826 kilometres per hour. The earth weighs 5,974,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 kilograms. To give us the 12 Ages from which ancient wisdom recognises the value of the numeral 12, in which each Age approximates 26,000 years or the Cosmic Hour, the earth is involved in a third motion called EQINOCTIAL PRECESSION. Science may explain these motions or while the earth has not fallen from space despite its weight or crashed into other stellar bodies despite its speeds. In the end, these explanations will describe only the effects of pressure from certain activities beyond the scope of science. Behind these activities are BEINGS who render meticulous service which enable us human beings to enjoy earth life. From these, we must take a queue and learn to render meticulous service to one another, to work in love and not just for the money. The BEINGS behind the miracle called THE EARTH never go on strike.

ELEGBEDE

In human transformation, there are catalysts. Mr Kunle Elegbede was one of them with me. Professionally, he was some years senior to Mr Bonuola and me. He was Production Editor, Mr Bonuola a deputy production editor. When he went on vacation, Mr Bonuola moved to his chair and, by succession, the then chief Sub-Editor, Mr Olatunde Odesanya, was to move into Bonuola’s chair. For whatever reason that had nothing to do with professional incompetence, Mr Odesanya did not move the bag and baggage. In the arrangement of those days, the Production Editor was responsible for the front page of all editions while the deputy was responsible for the back pages. The chief sub-editor took charge of inside pages. Mr Odesanya chose to go on supervising all inside pages and gave the back pages to me on the sub desk. Neither of us knew Prince Tony Momoh was keenly observing what was going on. Every evening before he left for home, prince Momoh would stop over at the sub-editor’s desk to listen to arguments and counter-arguments on all sorts of subjects. Prince Tony Momoh was a lover of arguments. Before he left the desk, he would tell us who, in his opinion, was correct or wrong. Often, if not always, his ideas and mine aligned. Then, one day, Mr Elegbede’s vacation ended. But Mr Bonuola did not have to revert to his own desk. Rather, he was moved by promotion to, I believe, a new title, THE EVENING TIMES, an afternoon newspaper. To my shock, I received a letter from Prince Momoh instructing me, and not Mr Odesanya, to take over from Mr Bonuola as deputy Production editor and another letter informing me I was to be paid and acting allowance for the period I edited the back pages. I was shocked because that event catapulted me over no fewer than three chairs on the sub editor’s desk. I had been looking forward to becoming Assistant chief Sub-Editor, Deputy chief sub-editor and then Chief Sub-Editor.

The triple jump was a shocker to me. That was what I called fishing me out of newsroom obscurity and placing my professional light from under the brushel and keeping it on the table top. That was Prince Tony Momoh for you. He knew who was doing what, and he could reward meticulous work out of the corporate box.

One day, I found my way to GRAILLAND, near Iju, to see a gentleman, named Mr Ibe. When he learned I worked at the Daily Times, he asked me to “greet your editor”. Which editor, I asked. Prince Tony Momoh’s name was the least on my mind. Breezily, I thought of all the editors I had worked with…Segun Osoba, Sola Odunfa, Dipo Ajayi, Angus Okoli, Clement Okosun, Gbolabo Ogunsanwo, Areoye Oyebola, Hezy Idowu. My knees weakened when I asked him who among them and he mentioned TONY MOMOH. It was the last Sunday before the Christmas festival, and I had gone to the office to indicate my wish to attend. Mr Ibe told me Prince Momoh left about 30 minutes before I came in. So, Prince Tony Momoh was a Crossbearer, I wondered. I thanked Mr Ibe and went my way.

The following day, I went to his office. He was reading proofs of the next edition of Daily Times. When Prince Tony Momoh looked up and wore his eyeglasses, my greetings shocked him. “HAPPY FESTIVAL”, I said. “Which festival”, he promptly asked. Unless your intellect was sharp, he was not a man you could easily score a hit against. You couldn’t easily box him up. He always reminded me of Muhammad Ali(former Cassius Clay), one of the most fabulous and glamorous heavyweight champions the world has ever known.

Muhammed Ali fought standing on his toes, “floating like a butterfly and stinging like a bee”. He would crowd the other man into a corner, hit him hard, daze him with a flurry of well-combined punches, and, almost effortlessly and danced away from reprisals.
“Which festival”?, Prince Tony Momoh repeated the question,
“Festival of the Radiant star”, I replied.
We were in December and, on Grailland, as in December, preparations were well-a-foot for the Festival of the Radiant Star, the commemoration of the birth of the Lord Jesus observed over three days from December 28.

Still unsure of what he heard from the speaker he least expected to know of this event, having not the slighted indication that he was, like himself, a cross-bearer, Prince Tony Momoh asked again:

“How do you know?”

Maybe he thought I was just trying to get close to him.

“I am a Cross-bearer”, I replied.

The scale fell from his eyes, as they had fallen from mine. His memory must have raced up and down to those arguments on the sub-editors desk in which he always sided with me. I, too, wasn’t surprised anymore that he was a hardy editor, unshaken by the forces which always sought to fall upon and mangle the editor’s chair. Thus, he bravely fought off attempts by academics masquerading as journalists to appropriate the editor’s powers, functions and influence. He bravely fought off attempts by the Nigerian Senate to make him divulge sources of his information. And when politicians in the National Party of Nigerian (NPN) made their own man, MARTIN IROABUCHI, editor, Prince Tony Momoh bravely protected his personal space against their attempted other incursions. Iroabuchi wanted to move into Prince Tony Momoh’s official residence as an editor on Sylvia Street, Anthony Village Lagos. Prince Tony Momoh declined and Iroabuchi had to find another residence. On the way to worship on Grailland on one Sunday morning, armed robbers stopped Prince Momoh and sought to take his car. They wove his agbada robe over his head and face to blind-fold him. He fought back and disarmed one among them with a submachine gun. They fled. He drove to the police station and handed over the gun. He would challenge armed robbers again when they came to his house at 13 Bush Street, Okupe Estate, near Maryland, Lagos. This time, they shot him on one leg on which he limped ever after.

When he became Minister of Information in the military Presidency of major General Ibrahim Gbadamashi Babangida(now retired), Prince Tony Momoh’s courage did not fail him in waging some “wars” which eventually cost him the job. Copyright and intellectual property laws were some of the games of the journalists who, meanwhile, had become a lawyer. He tried to sanitise Nigerian Journalism of its practitioners not trained in journalism with a Press Council which would enrol and discipline journalists who breached their professional code of ethics. The academics who, meanwhile, had infiltrated other newspapers, believing they were journalists simply because they wrote beautiful essays, gave Prince Tony Momoh such fight as made President Babaginda fear for the popularity and security for his government. Simultaneously, Prince Tony Momoh engaged Nigerians in conversations with the government which invited them to swallow their own poison pills. This was in a monthly LETTER TO MY COUNTRYMEN. If his opponents or enemies in the newspaper would not publish the letters, he advertised them or printed them in leaflets or booklets at government expense. He was saying the government was not always in the wrong or the cause of social discomfiture, the roots of which he said were traceable to the average Nigerian.

The academics in the media roused rustic public opinion against him. But Prince Tony Momoh soldiered on. His soldierly boss, the general, buckled, however, and relieved Prince Tony Momoh of his job as information minister. Some of his opponents from the Ivory towers had penetrated the Babangida Administration and even won his heart. But this “ideas man” of the government, as General Babaginda himself described Prince Tony Momoh, would soon evolve in the public limelight again as Aviation Minister.

Even in his departure from the flesh Prince Tony Momoh was a remarkable man. The Auchi royal clan to which he belonged does not permit that the earthly remains of departed princes and princesses be interned abroad. A departed elder Cross-bearer relation of Prince Tony Momoh was buried in Auchi against his wish for internment on Grailland. Doctor Robson Momoh became a Christian long before his demise. But the royal clan insisted on giving him Islamic funeral rights. How Prince Momoh overturned the tables even in his departure from his flesh must still be amazing to many people. More than 300 people from Auchi witnessed his funeral right in the Temple on Grailland and accompanied the physical body he discarded to the GARDEN OF REMEMBRANCE where it was interned. This must be a harvest of his generosity. He sent many people from Auchi to school and gave them jobs or connections in business. In fund memory of him, I still keep a wristwatch he gave to me as a present in 1990 on my 40th birthday.

The departure from the flesh of Prince Tony Momoh, Prince Jide Akinbiyi, Mrs Dorothy Chinaka Oruche and Alhaji Lateef Jakande reminds me of the admonition: MAN, HOW DO YOU STAND? Although no one knows the day and hour of the call away, from the earth, we must remember we are not immune to natural events happening around us.
Goodbye, all.

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