By Yomi Idowu
For the most part of my life growing up both in the northern part of Nigeria and later in the western part I had always taken for granted the word TRUST. I unconsciously assumed it was a given endowment until a few occurrences awakened in me a new meaning.
In the context of friendship, I came to appreciate that trust is a currency that must forever be serviced. It also applies to the issue of finance as well as psychosocial relationships.
The fabric of trust is so fragile that it could take just a moment to be shredded. Albeit, it could still be mended. Scars left behind would require forgiveness to heal.
All this I have experienced with Tunji Abdulateef Bello.
Broken friendships, some say, are hard to fix but with Tunji Bello in my almost thirty-five years of our friendship, I have come to see in him a rare spirit of forgiveness, uncommon in people of means and accomplishment without discrimination. Be it with a domestic staff that committed grievous transgressions or a contemporary.
The hallmark of true friendship, according to a sage, is not one who makes your problems disappear but that person who will not disappear when you are facing problems. Perhaps, the case of an extremely talented mutual friend of ours who sojourned in America, best illustrates this character trait in Tunji.
Distance did not quench Tunji’s worries about the welfare and progress of our friend. He would always express his concerns to me, but I had no solution to offer in those moments of anxiety.
A window of opportunity opened shortly after he was appointed to serve in the Lagos State Government In 2003. Before dwelling on this matter, I would recall that Tunji did something rare and unexpected on the day he was sworn in as a Commissioner.
Shortly after being sworn in as a Commissioner rather than head home, he said we should go to my residence located in a town that separates Lagos from Ogun State. I had just completed the structure. So, it was the first time he was going to know the place.
I was too surprised to ask why he opted to go that route and whether it was so important and why it could not be left for some other time.
Anyway, we eventually visited my place. Thereafter, he said he would ensure I moved from that “rural community” to Lagos. He has since fulfilled the first part of the promise.
He similarly placed me under pressure while we were in Concord to move over to upscale Surulere from “downtown” Agege, but I just stalled.
The digression is just to illustrate his passion to see his friends rise along as he moved up the social ladder and that takes me back to the coup hatched to get our mutual friend back to Nigeria.
I remember that, it was about 10pm late night that fateful day when he suggested that I should place a call to our common friend to broach the idea of returning to Nigeria to play a role in the Government of the day in a capacity this erudite scholar friend would cherish and find difficult to reject.
The rest is history. I recall when I had cause to reminisce with our mutual friend in 2020, he expressed happiness he took a good decision by accepting the invitation to return to Nigeria.
Our bond which started from National Concord and later Sunday Concord only continued to grow beyond friendship to brotherhood. Tunji and his lovely wife, Professor Ibiyemi Bello accepted one of my daughters to stay in their Surulere home to reduce the stress of travelling daily to school from our far-flung house to Queens College Yaba, Lagos.
This bond also extended to the children who during holiday also came to spend time with us in our rural community.
The Sunday Concord team was more of a family than journalistic colleagues. We conceptualized projects that enriched the organization and, thanks to the liberal policy of management, we reaped bountifully from advert commission on special projects we collectively executed.
One of such which redefined business journalism back then was the Stock analysis with the assistance of Arbitrage Company owned by Professor Olaseni Bello, Tunji’s elder brother.
It was not all work in Sunday Concord, we also knew how to let down our hair after work. We patronized a “Point and Kill” fish restaurant close to Vono Foam, Mushin from where the idea of “OPEC meeting” originated. Naturally, Tunji was unanimously elected the “OPEC President”. It was great fun.
*Mr. Yomi Idowu is the CEO of Puregate Communications.
Being excerpts from a new 308-page book entitled “In Pursuit of the Public Purpose – Essays in honour of Tunji Bello at 60”.