By Joe C. Anatune
Late Tony Momoh
Monday February 1, 2021 started on a good note with the usual deluge of happy new month messages.
I had embarked on a tour of some towns in Orumba North Local Government Area to interface with some leaders of our Soludo Promoters Forum to encourage them to deepen our penetration of the polling units.
A call from Christian Aburime and a terse condolence message from Taiwo Ogunsanya when I pulled up at the Ufuma junction rattled me and threw me into deep grief and sorrow.
”Your friend is dead” Christian intoned. “Sir, I mean Prince Tony Momoh” he continued. I opened my Whatsapp messages and saw torrents of messages of commiserations from friends and staff who knew my close relationship with this patriotic Nigerian I fondly and fittingly called TM or Yerima of Auchi depending on occasions.
Prince Tony Momoh served as Director of Media and Communications of Alex Ekwueme Campaign Organisation for the two times the late Ide of Aguata ran for president of Nigeria.
He also did the same for President Muhammadu Buhari in his first and second attempts at wrestling power.
Our paths crossed in the course of our advertising company offering marketing communications services to the two mentioned aspirants under his leadership.
Our relationship blossomed therefrom and went beyond that of agency and client not withstanding we belonged to different generations.
He opened other opportunities for us as he would always tell his friends that we are great brand builders if that was what they wanted.
We spent long hours in his Anthony Lagos office or at his residence discussing everything, especially his interventions in his then ‘Point Of Order’ column in the Vanguard Newspaper, his days as minister of information, chairman of Nigerian Airways and his years of study at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka.
Tony Momoh was as forthright as he was very candid and was never driven or motivated by material things.
On my enquiry, he corroborated the story that IBB on discovery that he was not dipping his hands into the public till, called him and gave him a fat brown envelope.
He equally told me the story of how robbers armed to the teeth shot him in his Bush street home which incidentally saved his life.
As editor in Daily Times, he was working so hard without realizing that his blood pressure was grinding him to imminent death and it took the encounter with the robbers for him to be moved to the hospital and for the doctors to inform him that he would have died from stroke if he had gone on for a few more days.
He thereafter wrote a piece titled “The Armed Robbers that Saved my life”, to share his experience with his readers and offer advice on the need for proper health management.
I found it ennobling that TM would always call to ascertain how I was doing especially in situations I failed to call him and would return my missed call no matter how busy he was.
Lately he avoided physical interface on account of the ravaging Corona virus.
Yerima lived a simple life. He held many high profile positions in both the public and private sectors but remained incorruptible.
He was both in the observatory and trenches advocating and fighting for a better Nigeria that could be the pride of Africa and the black race.
For many years after leaving office, he was contented and comfortable driving around in long and short distances with his old Mercedes 200.
Even when his son bought him a Toyota Camry, it took him sometime to know the name of the vehicle and to stop using his old Mercedes.
For a man that held offices such as he did, his home was simple, even spartan and he had few material possessions.
He totally believed in President Buhari, to the extent of asking Nigerians to stone him if the president fails to ” fix” Nigeria. With him there is no middle position. He was either with you or not.
Indeed his passing on must be a big blow to Mr President as death has robbed him of a true believer and ever reliable partner.
Yes, his passing on is equally a blow to me for the fond friendship and mentorship he shared and we enjoyed.
He wrote letters to “my countrymen” and intervened furiously in many national issues in his rested Point of Order column in the Vanguard for a better Nigeria.
He certainly departed a sad man as the progress he sought and canvassed for his cherished ”countrymen” remains elusive.
Now, if there is anything President Buhari and everyone of us owe the great Yerima of Auchi, it is to do all that is needed to Fix Nigeria, because his acclaimed divinely downloaded campaign slogan for Buhari was; “To Fix Nigeria, Pick Buhari”
Bye Bye TM. ADIEU Yerima.
Joe C Anatune