Tunji Bello pushed me to think on my toes, ahead of the pack – By Abdul-Warees Solanke

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Mentors come as rainbow – in different colours, all appealing. Their roles in our lives remain the same. They give us direction. They bring out the best in us. They lead us out of the maze of life. They give meanings to our dream. They give us stability in our quest to reach our full potentials, the potentials we may never know lie in us were it not for their discernment. They provide the walking sticks and the braces we need when our knees buckle or weaken from the pressure of life. They give us the binoculars to scan the horizon for threats and opportunities. We are falcons in their hands and they as the falconers, are never without their whistles warning us of dangers in our flights above the sky to reach the highest firmament imaginable.

There are mentors we pick from the books. They are our dry mentors. Their lives and successes, their words in gold on marble lead us to perfection as we read them like bible and memorize them like the Glorious Quran. There are those we pick by ourselves in real life. They are the ones whose edifying conduct in private and public life cannot be missed as they stand out in the crowd of their chosen career.

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In them we see our dreams, who we want to be and we model ourselves according to their words and character, we want to live our dreams according to what they teach us. There are mentors who pick us or who tap us for their mentoring. They see our potentials before we realize it and so they ensure we discover our worth before other forces erode us.

They believe in us, invest in us and lament if we are not reaching the height they envisage of us. But they never give up on us, even if we don’t appreciate their love for us.

There are mentors picked for us. They are the godfathers and the godmothers our parents carefully chose for us at our cradles so that in the absence or limitations of our real parents, they take charge of our life.
And there are mentors the society has pre-picked for us. They are the teachers and the guides to whom the state or our parents pay tuition and salaries. So, they continue the socialization process of the young ones until they come of age, either as students or as apprentices.

Now at adulthood in the mass media, I can reminisce and count all my mentors, my masters in the mass media, from UNILAG Akoka where I was conceived, to Sokoto where I was baptized, and to Yola where I began crawling. I can look to Ibadan where I gained mastery and back to Lagos where I consolidated on the teachings and mentoring of my masters in the private newspapers that had been my school, in the private commercial broadcasting house that was my city of refuge and in the public service broadcaster that is now my pride as a home, the Voice of Nigeria. The Authoritative Choice. The list of my masters, who gave me inspiration and fired my imagination to think and write is so long. But I can only say Alhamdulillah that Allah haz wa jal brought them on my path.

In this field, Barrister Olatunji Bello shines brightly.

Born in 1961, in cosmopolitan Surulere, Lagos, South West Nigeria, the commercial nerve centre of the country, Bello bagged a degree in Political science in 1984 from the premier University of Ibadan where he was a student activist in his days and a sharp writer on campus, recommending him for easy employment immediately after graduation and youth service in the nation’s most powerful newspaper in Nigeria in 1985, National Concord as a staff writer on the Features Desk.

In Concord, he was at home in producing biting analyses and reports that soon facilitated his promotion as Group Political Editor in 1990 and ultimately as the Editor of National Concord before moving on to greater heights in public service and politics.
Widely travelled in his media odyssey and in public service career, he has been two-time commissioner in a strategic ministry as the commissioner for Environment in Lagos State in this fourth republic.

In line of duty as a public sector manager, leading the Ministry of Environment in Lagos, Bello is scoring so many firsts in transforming Lagos to a Singapore, the beautiful city-state at the tip of peninsular Malaysia, an Asian Tiger.

As a member of the highly esteemed politics desk of Concord back in the 90s, Mr. Bello drove me almost beyond my mental capacity, but somehow I delivered surpassing even his expectations . So, most times, he had no second opinion of what I produced as it just satisfied his intellectual palates, meeting the requirements of the pages as editor . He is one of those who pushed me to think on my toes; to always think ahead of the pack. In those days, whenever Bello, as the political editor, assigned me from Lagos, political insightful Jijiwa and General Manager of Gongola Broadcasting Corporation was often my first source and contact.

He has written references for me, recommending me to high places locally and internationally. He has given me tasks others are jealous about, trusting in my capability. He has mobilized me in difficult times and consoled me in trying moments. He has fixed me in strategic career spots. On the wings of Bello and Abubakar Jijiwa who also clocked 60 a few months ago, my orientation in public affairs journalism was shaped.

Their insights gave me strength in public policy analysis and discourse. Bello tapped me into the editorial board of the defunct National Concord, placing me in the hands of Mr. Segun Babatope, while Jijiwa attracted me in to Voice of Nigeria professionally as a senior editor.
May I invite all men and women of goodwill to join in celebrating this man of influence with me as he reaches this glorious milestone, beginning a journey into sixties.

When shopping for a mentor, look out for the likes of Tunji Bello whose humility is astounding, charity exemplary, thirst for knowledge unquenchable and simplicity legendary.

I can attest that he is very decent and highly organized, with sharp eyes for colours and beauty, passion for flowers and love for nature. I’ve entered the inner recesses of his living quarters, prayed with him and played with his kids at infancy.
My only recommendation to him is to begin the journey to attaining the pleasure of Allah in all he does now serving humanity and his maker more selflessly.

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