A man of prodigious competence, stellar diligence, exemplary character and a staunch defender of family values.
This is the portrayal of journalist-turned-public servant, Mr. Tunji Bello, in a new book of essays featuring prominent Nigerians including Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, National Leader of All Peoples Congress (APC), Asiwaju Bola Tinubu and Minister of Works and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Fashola, SAN.
The book is to honour Bello who turns 60 on July 1 (Thursday).
The honoree is currently the Lagos Commissioner Commissioner for Environment and Water Resources. In 2003, he transited from journalism as Chairman of THISDAY editorial board to become Commissioner of Environment in the Tinubu administration.
Entitled “In Pursuit of The Public Purpose”, the 308-page book, which is co-edited by two top editors, Messrs Kayode Komolafe and Louis Odion, also parades contributions by media celebrities as well as childhood friends, former classmates and associates of the celebrant.
Contributors from the media include Segun Babatope, Dele Momodu, Dapo Olorunyomi, Victor Ifijeh, Eniola Bello (Eni B), Femi Adesina, Gbenga Adefaye, Azu Ishiekwene, Sam Omatseye, Segun Adeniyi, Kayode Komolafe, Lanre Arogundade, Fred Ohwahwa, Segun Ayobolu, Simon Kolawole, Owei Lakemfa, Richard Akinola, Louis Odion, Ose Oyamendan, Jonas Agwu, Yomi Idowu, Warees Solanke, Sani Zorro and Goke Odeyinka.
In the foreword to the book, Vice President Osinbajo observes Bello as a “dogged, knowledgeable and effective journalist” with “strong convictions and the courage to back them up.”
He writes: “I must however be partial to Tunji’s role in government, where, in my view, it all comes together. Looking back to 1999, when Nigeria returned to democracy and Bola Tinubu was elected Governor of Lagos State, many would recall the great governance challenges he was confronted with. For the administrator of this booming megacity, perhaps the toughest test of them all was in the environment. With the highest population and smallest land mass of any State in Nigeria, Lagos was literally churning out mountains of refuge on an hourly basis.”
Further going down memory lane, Professor Osinbajo recalls: “As we experimented on methods and struggled through these challenges during our first four years (I was Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice at the time), it became clear that the Environment Ministry was one that needed a miracle worker to man successfully. It was against this background that the Governor came up with the idea of putting Tunji Bello on this difficult job at commencement of his second term of office.”
In his own contribution, Asiwaju Tinubu hails Bello as a paragon of selfless service and unshakable loyalty: “In difficult times, the character of a person is most revealed. I have seen Tunji in action in such moments. He remained steadfast and intact. A man of principle, Tunji never backed away from the fight worth fighting.
“A man of integrity to the core, he never took the easy way when that was not the right way. A man of excellence, he never did a partial job or made excuses. He got the work done better than I thought possible. As governor, I knew after giving Tunji an assignment, that I no longer had to be concerned about it.
“His excellence and work ethic allowed me to pile assignment after assignment on him, knowing that he would do more that come through. He would flourish and his work would stand as an example to others. What motivates Tunji is that he has the soul force of a humanitarian. Despite all he is and has done, he is among the most good-natured and kind spirited of us all. Without hesitation, Tunji is quick to extend a helping hand, providing guidance and instruction to the young workers around him on the one hand, while going beyond the call of duty to help the aged and weak among us on the other.”
On his own, Fashola, under whom Bello had served as Commissioner between 2011 and 2015, hails the honoree as “the environmentalist, the go-getter” who “deserves every credit he gets for his contribution to the Greening Programme.”
He reminisces: “As Chief of Staff to Governor Bola Ahmed Tinubu I got the opportunity to interact very closely with Tunji Bello as an active “Kitchen Cabinet” member whose infectious spirit contributed immensely to resolving several challenges at the period.
“It is impossible to render this kind of tribute without reference to the efforts made to improve the Green cover of Lagos and, by extension, the air quality and quality of life of the people of Lagos and Tunji’s role in that process.”