By Eric Elezuo
Seest thou a man diligent in his business? He shall stand before kings; he shall not stand before mean men.
Born Ayòbámidélé Àbáyòmí Ojútelégàn Àjàní Momodu on May 16, 1960, exactly 60 years ago, Chief Dele Momodu as he is known in the business circle, and Bob Dee, in the social stage, is by every standard a man who is diligent in his business. And it is no wonder that he has not only stood before kings, he had and continues to dine with kings. There is practically no influential person that Dele Momodu does not know across the length and breadth of Nigeria, Africa and on the inter-continental stage. He is that large!
Most men who had gone far in life are products of instructions well taken, and among such rare breeds is the man who has grown in leaps and bounds to become Chairman/CEO of Ovation Media Group, and creating a tripod publication namely Ovation International, a magazine that has given publicity to people from all over the world, and reflected the true of Africa; Ovation TV and The Boss Newspaper online, which he officially launched in 2015.
By every standard a rare breed, Momodu is many things in one; journalist/publisher, businessman, philanthropist, actor, politician and motivational speaker. Among all these he considers himself simply as a reporter, and even with a retinue of seasoned staff still ventures into the field to scoop exclusives. Those who have referred to him as a workaholic are not far from the truth. Even he, himself has an oft quoted line thus “those who come from poor background cannot afford to sleep too much”.
A beacon of the Momodu family, Dele, the last of three siblings, was ‘privileged’ to lose his father at the age of 13, and was therefore sentenced to the complete tutelage of his mother, and sometimes relatives. His mother became practically his mentor, teacher and soulmate until she passed away on May 18, 2007, two days after Dele’s 47th birthday. According to him, one of the many morals his mother, who he revered next to God, taught him, is never to despair even when times are tough. Even in her near poverty state, Dele maintained that ‘she didn’t give up on me.’
The accomplished journalist, whose first name was derived from Ayobamidele, meaning “my joy has followed me home”, is a proud 1982 graduate of the University of Ife, (now Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife) where he obtained a degree in Yoruba Language, and followed it up in 1988 with a master’s degree in English Literature.
He kicked off his professional career as a lecturer at the Oyo State College of Arts and Science in Ile-Ife, between 1982 and 1983 while serving as a corps member. He went on to become the private secretary to the former Deputy Governor of Ondo State, Chief Akin Omoboriowo, a position he held from 1983 till 1985. In 1986, he was elevated to serve the Ooni of Ife, Oba Okunade Sijuwade Olubuse II, managing his Motel Royal Limited.
A genuine seeker of academic knowledge, Momodu resigned soonest and pursued a post-graduate degree in English Literature. It was during this time that his multi-tasking ability was brought to the fore as started contributing articles to popular brands likes The Guardian, Sunday Tribune and others.
Better known as Bob Dee among friends and colleagues, Momodu is not a stranger to awards and honours as he has received hundreds for his work in the world of business, politics, literature, the music industry as well as the fashion industry. On July 30, 2016, Dele was awarded with an honorary doctorate degree (PhD) from the University of Professional Studies, Accra, Ghana, earning him the title “Doctor of Humane Letters”.
A fiery and fearless writer, Dele has for years been writing a weekly column, Pendulum, published every Saturday on the back page of Thisday newspaper, which he piloted as the founding editor, and TheBoss Newspaper. The articles have been compiled into two volumes of a must read books titled ‘Pendulum: The Writings of Dele Momodu’, and was launched in July 2018.
Momodu’s articles are noted for highlighting issues in Nigeria, as well as ‘discussing popular topics, current events and famous people, often in a polemic style’. He has used this means to bring about fundamental changes in national and world politics. His down to earth analysis in his write-ups has made it possible for him to remain neutral and factual at all times, thereby keeping no enemies. He gave Buhari his support through Pendulum and renounced his support through the same means when he realised the President has failed in steering the country to greatness as earlier envisaged.
In May 1988, Momodu journalism journey when he was employed as Staff Writer with African Concord magazine, owned by late Chief Moshood Kashimawo Olawale Abiola. he did not just blend with the job, he blended with Chief Abiola, who became the epicentre of his new life philosophy. He highly highlighted this era when he celebrated his ’30 years of living and working in Lagos in 2018. The two part volumes were published in The Boss Newspapers.
A year later, he was transferred to Weekend Concord as a pioneer staff. He wrote the first cover story for the paper in March 1989. He also contributed to other publications such as the National Concord, Sunday Concord, Business Concord and the Yoruba newspaper Isokan. In May 1989, he became Literary Editor, and within six months, he became News Editor of the Weekend Concord. His rise was meteoritic. He held a promise of a class beater, and didn’t disappoint.
Among the many firsts Momodu later came to be known with is becoming the highest paid editor in Nigeria when between May 1990 and September 1991, he edited May Ellen Ezekiel’s celebrity magazine, Classique.
On resigning from Classique, he ventured into business, becoming Wonderloaf distributor, owned by his mentor, Chief Moshood Abiola. Afterwards, he started a public relations outfit, Celebrities-Goodwill Limited, which managed the accounts of Chief Moshood Abiola, Dr. Mike Adenuga, Mr. Hakeem Bello-Osagie and other distinguished Nigerians. Dele started from the beginning to snudge close to the best of citizens. It wasn’t therefore a surprise that even at his 30th birthday, the guest list was eye popping, and has kept improving ever since.
In 1993, Momodu came face to face with politics and its intrigues when he joined the Moshood Abiola Presidential Campaign Organization. After much efforts, Presidential election held on June 12, 1993 was annulled by General Ibrahim Babangida. There and then, he witnessed barefaced political persecution, enjoying the first bitter taste of a junta regime and its jackboot.
Much as he was severely punished by the reigning dictatorship for his pro-democratic views, he remained undeterred. He was to be arrested again in 1995 and charged with treason by the government of Sani Abacha. Momodu was accused of being one of the brains behind the pirate radio station, Radio Freedom (later Radio Kudirat), after the cold-blooded murder of Alhaja Kudirat Abiola. Momodu managed to escape disguised as a farmer through the Seme border into Cotonou, in Benin Republic, from where he fled to Togo, Ghana and eventually to the United Kingdom. For three agonising years, he could not re-enter his homeland, Nigeria. This is one story he has told repeatedly.
In 2011, Momodu ventured deeper into the murky waters of politics when he contested for the presidency. The graphic details of that era of his life is captured in the book ‘Fighting Lions’ by Ohimai Amaize
BIRTH OF WORLD FAMOUS OVATION
But like they say, challenges are the hurdles to greatness, Dele took the best advantage of those agonizing periods in the wilderness and conceived the Ovation International project that was to turn the face of entertainment and celebrity writing, and make him a praise upon the face of the earth.
Ovation was established in 1996 while in exile. Since then, he has expanded the brand, and it is now one of Africa’s most popular celebrity magazines. It is also reputed to be the only bi-lingual magazine in Africa, having editions printed in both English and French.
During the Ovation Carol of 2018, Momodu took time to emotionally honour those who helped his cause during the dark days, leading to the making of Ovation. He identified the super heroes as Mr. Fatoye, whom he said stirred the desire in him to set up the brand, and Chief Alex Duduyemi who released 10, 000 Pounds to begin the project.
Apart fro the wave Ovation is making across the world, Dele has held an annual event every year since 2008 known as the Ovation Red Carol (later changed to Ovation Carol and Awards), except in 2010, due to the 2011 presidential election which he was a candidate. The Carol, with the theme, ‘It’s All About Hope’, is held every December, and has become one of West Africa’s most popular annual Christmas events, involving musical performances, award presentations for varying charitable causes among others. From 2008-2012, it was held in Lagos, Nigeria, but was held in Accra, Ghana, in December 2013.
In 2013, former president of Ghana J. J. Rawlings attended, with Wyclef Jean as the headline act, along with many other international performers, including M.I, Ice Prince and Burna Boy from Nigeria. In 2015, the popularity the event had gained prompted the hosting of two shows for the first time – one in Lagos, Nigeria and the other in Accra, with Nigerian performer Wizkid headlining both events, as well as American singer Evelyn “Champagne” King for the Lagos show. As at date, there is hardly any musician of repute in Nigeria that has not been featured.
A magnanimous and forgiven leader, he took in quick strides the campaign of calumny launched against him by David Adeleke, also known as Davido, when he stood to defend his cousin, Sophie Momodu, who had a baby for Davido and was being badly treated. With open arms, he took back the singer, remembering not the abuses he unleashed against him through the pages of the newspaper and music. In fact, Dele is known to even sing the same song that people think derides him. Consequently, against all odds, he initiated and spearheaded a great reconciliation moves that saw him bringing Davido on stage of Ovation Carol 2017 to perform. That singular act created an enigma out of the world’s own Bob Dee.
With offices in Ghana, Nigeria and England, Momodu has a workforce of over 200 persons; the same he pays regularly unlike many media owners.
He is an avid traveler of great repute, and has traversed the length and breadth of the globe, making friends with the who is who in today’s world politics, entertainment as well as business. There is hardly a country in the world Dele Momodu has not visited.
Momodu added another feather to his cap of glory when he was made the Aare Agbelugba of Yorubaland by a first class king, His Royal Highness, The Oluwo of Iwo, Oba Abdulrasheed Adewale Akanbi Telu I in Iwo town. Among his many accolades is the singular honour of being a Fellow of Oxford University.
HIS BEAUTIFUL FAMILY
On December 19, 1992, Dele married his sweetheart, Mobolaji Abiodun Momodu, who he adores and honours. He lavishly hosted her to a 50th birthday celebration in December 2017, and they are blessed with four children: Pekan (1994), Yole (1996), Eniafe (1997) and Korewa (2004). Today, the four boys are becoming a force to reckon with in their chosen fields.
The world couldn’t ask for a better media mogul even as pages and ink won’t be enough to celebrate Bashorun Dele Momodu at 60.