By Taye Ige
Prince Tony Momoh reckons as a very diligent, serious-minded, hardworking and conscientious professional in the two professions he belonged to and practised.
While working on my final year Project at the NIJ, I decided to interview him for an aspect of my long essay which topic straddles law and journalism. As I entered his office at the DT, where he had just moved up from the editor’s chair to assume the GM, Times Publications Division role, his secretary took in my visitor’s note to him consequent upon which I was ushered unto his presence.
I remember his exact words as much as his attire on the day: a black suit, white shirt and red tie with a matching breast pocket kerchief for effect.
He asked the reason for my visit and when I told him I wanted an appointment with him for the above-stated purpose, he blurted: “Look, young man, do you want an appointment or an interview”?
Surprised at his uncommon willingness, even eagerness to grant my wish there and then, I had no option but to brace up and conduct the interview there and then.
And when in the course of the interview I asked in which of his two professional callings he had found a greater fulfillment, Tony Momoh looked at me and for the first smiled.
In the one profession, he said, it was illegal for him to collect money from his subjects or clients, while in the other it was illegal for him not to collect money from his clients.
“In which of the two would you find greater fulfillment if you were in my shoes,” he asked me rhetorically. From then on things flowed and the interview went on until I got more than I wanted.
Just like that and without a prior appointment from a man who had been the editor of the nation’s most powerful and number one daily newspaper at the time.
I left Tony Momoh’s office that day determined that I too would one day become a lawyer/journalist and have a legal right to make money from my clients unlike in journalism where “brown envelope” is something of a crime.
And, when years later, I wrote and passed JAMB, law was my first, second and third choice.
Indeed, my letter of admission from JAMB into the University of Benin was to read law. But was only forced by my age, (I was almost 27 at the time) vis-a-vis the number of years it would have taken me to qualify as a lawyer (law having just been increased to a 5-year course + another one at the law school) and other familial considerations to settle for English & Literature, a straight four-year course.
Shortly after our encounter, Babangida appointed Tony Momoh into his cabinet as the Minister of Information at the end of which tenure he retired into the other of his professions where it is illegal not to collect money from his clients.
Years later, I would find out that the white house somewhere in Anthony Village, Lagos, housing the restaurant I used to patronise every time I found myself in the area belonged to the lawyer/journalist.
I made some effort to see him there or at least run into him “by accident” but I never succeeded until I stopped passing through that way.
May the Lord grant his enterprising soul eternal rest. Amen
Ige, CEO of Hotsports, wrote in from Lagos.