BY: VICTORIA NGOZI IKEANO
When I flipped open my phone that fateful Monday to browse through the latest evening news, the first thing I saw was the breaking news announcing his death. I was jolted, taken aback for a few moments. Since it was in the social media, I tarried a while to confirm it in the mainstream media.
But when President Mohammadu Buhari and other prominent people started sending their condolences, the reality dawned on me that Prince Tony Suleiman Momoh has indeed departed this earthly life. A solemn mood came over me and my first act was to send up a prayer for him
I first met Prince Momoh several years ago in his Kakawa Street, Lagos office. I had just finished my national youth service upon graduation from the University of Maiduguri and was job hunting. Since I had been contributing opinion articles to some of their titles from school, I decided to seek a job in the Daily Times. Somewhere along the line, someone hinted me that the right person to see in that respect was Prince Tony Momoh who was then the General Manager, Manpower Development, Times Publications of the Daily Times Group. That was how I found myself in his office on Lagos Island. Without knowing him from Adam, he gave me a note to the then personnel manager of Times Publications.
That was how I was employed as Trade and Industry correspondent of Business Times because of my course of study. That was how Prince Momoh brought me into Journalism, made me a Journalist. Two years later I was transferred to Daily Times as Features Writer and rose through the ranks, becoming deputy features editor, features editor, member editorial Board and Acting Chairman, Editorial Board. Later, fate took me to another part of our country.
He regarded me as his daughter kind of and I saw him as my mentor. Once in a while I did phone him for ‘Hello Sir’, greetings, just as he sent me text messages once in a while too. The messages are often signed off with tm, his initials.
In 2019 a former colleague mobilized some of us who call him our mentor to put out a congratulatory message in commemoration of his 80th birthday that falls on April 18. I contributed my widow’s mite to the newspaper advert. In that year too or thereabout, he sent me a text to watch out for an interview to mark his birthday on NTA network which I did. Also in November 2020 he introduced me to a non governmental organization involved in lifestyle project, suggesting I take a look-in.
And in late December, 2020 whilst in my village for Christmas and the New Year celebration, he called to know why I had not replied to an enquiry he sent me via text. I apologised for not having seen the message on time. Then we chatted for a few minutes. He told me something to the effect that he had been staying indoors since because of COVID-19 that he would travel to Lagos later that month for an important event. Then we talked of the multiple former staff of Daily Times that had passed on that year alone, the latest then, being Professor Dayo Alao and Gbadebo Ogunsanwo (one of my favourite columnists whilst still at school). As he was reeling out the names, I was going to say to him, ‘ and you that is over 80 years you are still very much around, looking youngish like a fifty year old’. Somehow, I did not get to voice this out. Our conversation ended moments later and I thanked him profusely.
One attribute of Prince Momoh is that he would attend to a person decked in rags, literally the poorest of the poor as he would a king decked in the finest jewellery/gold.
What more can I say than that I give thanks to the Lord, our God for having crossed his path. My loving thoughts and prayers go out to you Prince Tony Momoh. May Helpers guide you upwards to the Luminous Garden of God, there to awaken in joyful activity. Amen
Ikeano writes via [email protected]