HBD Bob Dee: But you are not a journalist!

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Dele Momodu

By Steve Osuji

WHO doesn’t know Dele Momodu, aka Bob Dee? In what light you might know him is your own story to tell but know him you do.

He just turned 60 and in his character, the entire media, both social and ‘unsocial’ have been agog as if he’s just reinvented the printing press.

If we were not in a peculiarly perilous time, trust Bob Dee, the celebration would have been some sort of imperial bazaar, spread across continents, spanning weeks, if not months. That is typical Bob Dee…

As I was wont in matters concerning Bob Dee, I didn’t pay much attention to the cacophonous birthday celebrations until one’s sensibilities were assaulted by a video felicitation from Vice President, Prof. Femi Osinbajo.

There was our affable and cerebral Veep affecting so much love in a STAND-UP comical act. Nothing wrong with that except the bit of eulogies about Dele Momodu impacting so much on journalism as a news editor in a weekend title!

 

This was the limit for me I must confess. Then I also remember the barrage of syrup seeping out from every pore amidst us: “he had left his footprints indelibly in the annals of journalism in the country.” This is from the presidency.

 

“May God almighty grant you more years… to continue to advance the cause of journalism,…” This is from Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu.

 

Let’s say Dele Momodu has carved a peculiar trajectory in Nigeria’s journalism and media landscape in the past three decades or so. Yet he lays no claim to being a journalist, it must be noted. Not by training and not quite by practice. At best, he may be described as a ‘journalism impresario’ of sort.

He had stumbled unto journalism for want of anything else to engage in. A very intelligent soul, apparently an avid reader and a good writer, he easily fitted into the burgeoning newsrooms of the 90s.

He had his first stint at journalism with the novel and flighty Weekend Concord of Mike Awoyinfa and Dimgba Igwe fame. He also edited a human interest magazine, Classique from whence he began to pursue his original karma of social climbing and celebrity hugging.

Brilliant and street-wise, he quickly cozied up to his rich and influential publisher,  Chief MKO Abiola and latching on to the turbulent transition politics of the time, made ‘good’ in the soft journalism genre that was taking root in Nigeria at the time.

You will not deny Bob Dee’s good education, knack for the good life and an overreaching thirst to conquer a very lowly beginning.

He has done quite well in that regard, one must admit.

But this column seeks to make the point that Momodu doesn’t represent the best of journalism as he is being projected. A very smart fellow, he found in Nigeria’s journalism space a platform for achieving his quest for a life of celebrity and opulence.

Journalism is his handmaid, a highwaywoman that any man who wanted deployed to his pleasure. Surely, he is not the only culprit, but it’s his story we are telling today. And it must be told so that younger practitioners can tell the difference between charlatanry and best practice.

It’s either that Momodu didn’t know about the codes of practice and ethics of journalism or he didn’t give a damn. All through a so-called career, he did what suited him to achieve the results he wanted. Journalism was simply,  his expressway to Eldorado.

Two examples will suffice.

 

In one bumper edition of Ovation, a celebrity photo album, Momodu had done a glittering makeover of Maryam Abacha, the widow of the late dictator, Gen. Sani Abacha.

By Momodu’s account, Abacha was to incarcerate him and probably send him the way of Ken Saro Wiwa, Kudirat Abiola, Alex Ibru, to name a few who felt the cold shove of the morbid General. Remember the cold-blooded General inflicted death and ruination on Momodu’s mentor, MKO…

Abacha’s savagery on Nigeria’s economy continues to reverberate today as stolen “assets” still stream in in billions of naira from all over the world. Abacha and his family of rogues stole over $5 billion of Nigeria’s money, compounding our misery till this moment.

The emotional, psychological and economic scars unleashed upon Nigeria by the Abacha clan (father, mother, sons and daughters) remain indelible.

Yet Momodu, the great journalist and publisher would hasten to attempt to put a veneer on Abacha… if it wasn’t for pecuniary ends, then let him tell us why?

The other issue that paints Momodu a buccaneer posing as a journalist and masking behind a glossy photo album called Ovation is what I call the DIEZANI ALISON-MADUEKE HEIST.

In one of such editions a few years ago, Momodu had presented former petroleum minister, Mrs Diezani Alison-Madueke, as a pathetic, cancer-ravaged woman being persecuted by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).

But as we all know, Diezani who ran the oil ministry for about five years from 2010, turned out to be one of the worst rapine of public officers Nigeria ever had. An astonishingly beautiful thief.

Since 2015, she has continued to evade attempts to give account of at least $6 billion she is accused to having spirited away from her ministry. Property seizures from her alone runs into billions of naira. Why would Momodu descend to this abyss? If it wasn’t pecuniary, we need to know why.

Why would Momodu make a practice of protecting and fellow-shipping with felons yet relish being held up as a great journalist and publisher?

 

You cannot be the corpse and mourner in one funeral ceremony. You cannot have it both ways, unless of course you are queer!

But we live in a colony of primates. We seem not to know the difference anymore. We see pastors morph into predators; prophets are profits and leaders are looters. We are in a peculiar space where evil has become much engrained we know not the difference anymore. It’s anomalous anomie, a starched tragedy we have here.

To think that a president (Goodluck Jonathan) decorated Abacha with national honours; and that Abacha’s unprecedented rampage on Nigeria’s treasury is described as “assets” by yet another president, Mohammadu Buhari. This alone could easily unhinge anyone couldn’t it?

We understand the media is yet an industry in Nigeria; hardly any so-called media houses can boast of a bankable balance sheet. We also know that the practice here is nigh a suicidal labour of love that  often leaves serious practitioners for death or destitution in their twilight days. But that’s what it it.

It isn’t a calling for saints and angels of course but there are bounds and limits even among thieves!

Finally, it must be noted that Bob Dee  is an admirable and personable fellow; sociable and go-getting who has lifted himself by the bootstrap.

He has done ‘well’ for himself in an unforgiving entity that kills her best, especially journalists.

Yet a journalist must remain a journalist first for the overall good of all. That’s the first code of journalism.

ENDNOTE: Hardly any official sent a word of public goodwill to a certain journalist by name, SONALA OLUMHENSE, who turned 65 about the same time as Momodu. Not one word. It’s monkey colony here, ain’t?

– May 18, 2020 @ 13:05 GMT |

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