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HomeExecutive BriefTony Ede: The unforgettable life of an enigma 

Tony Ede: The unforgettable life of an enigma 

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By Oludare Mayowa

Writing this was one of the most difficult tributes that I ever wrote about any human being who had touched my life in multiple ways. As I was writing this, my heart was filled with pain and somehow overwhelmed with nostalgia for Uncle T’s unwavering commitment to friendship.

Uncle T, as I and other financial journalists would love to call him, is an enigma and unusual person whose life means different things to different people.

A man whose life was defined by a commitment to whatever he believed; his passion for his job and humanity was out of this world and went beyond ordinary nomenclature. It was driven by love to see others happy.

A man who, despite the height he attained in life, never discriminated against those who were coming behind him.
A man who was humility personified and ready to render help for others regardless of where they come from or their social status.

I met Chief Tony Ede in the course of my professional calling as a financial journalist. He was the senior manager and head of corporate affairs at the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) then.

His look was intimidating, and his initial approach could have given him away as unfriendly, but a closer interaction would reveal that humanity dwelt in him.

On the 7th floor of the CBN old headquarters building office on Customs Street, Lagos, he presided over a community of journalists who daily reported to his office in search of news.

His office was open to all, and the comrades were legendary. He was unassuming, jokes with all, and even shares a meal of roasted plantains and groundnuts purchased through the contributions of reporters who troop daily to his office.

He gave us all access to his official phone in those days of landlines so that we could call other institutions to confirm news leads.

When reporters asked him for confirmation for the story they were pursuing, he would go upstairs to his director’s office to seek answers to the ones he could not readily provide answers.

He often connects journalists with some of his seniors in the bank for the purpose of tutorials where knowledge is lacking for the journalists.

READ ALSO: The Art of the Pitch: Building relationships and telling your story

In fact, that was the beginning of the institutionalization of a yearly workshop to expose financial journalists to the nitty-gritty of the finance industry and the operations of the regulatory bank.

He encouraged the bank to be open to journalists as much as possible rather than the previous conservative method of dealing with journalists at arm’s length.

He opened up the CBN for civil relations with the public, broke the barrier of invincibility of monetary policy, and ensured that people could appreciate the work of the CBN through regular enlightenment.

He defended the bank against negative publications by offering the other sides of the story.
While his job at the bank lasted, Uncle T was the face of the bank and shielded the governors who he served, and other top directors from public ridicule. He would rather take the flank than allow his boss to be messed up by the news-hungry journalists.

Many times we disagreed on the numerous stories I wrote about the bank which caused friction between us; but the need to get the job done at both ends made reconciliation easy and the relationship became better than the previous.

The same was applicable to other old generations of financial journalists whose quest for news and front page byline transcended the chequebook approach to journalists as the current armchair journalism is practiced by today’s generation.

He would debunk stories he considered not fair, clarify those not adequately processed, and sometimes openly admit the authenticity of your story when you hit the bullseye.

I could recall how Uncle T helped source for leadership for the Finance Correspondents Association of Nigeria (FICAN) at a critical time when the association seemed to be tottering and about to founder.

I could recall how many times he facilitated the use of the bank facility for the association to hold its annual general meetings and other events.

He volunteered his office as a temporary secretariat for the association and was on the verge of getting the bank to rent an office for the association at some point before I exited as the chairman of the association.

I could recall our many evening walks to Balogun Market after the close of work to purchase some items in the market.

Oftentimes, I stayed back at his office to see if I could get some last-minute news that could put my byline on the front page.

On many of these occasions, Uncle T would ask me to follow him to the market to make some purchases. We would gist about so many things; he would open up to me about life, his philosophy, and his trajectory.

I learned how to bargain for items at the market through some of these on our evening walk to Balogun, Nnamdi Azikwe, and Idumota markets.

He demonstrated to me how to be prudent in the way he applied himself in the area of finance.
Uncle T will travel abroad on an official trip; he would refuse to do the shopping for himself but would rather come back to Lagos to buy the essentials he would need.

His shoes, suits, and even glasses were purchased locally. We would go to the old NIDB building to buy frames and lenses for his glasses because he believed that you can get the same quality at less expense here in Nigeria than spending hard currency on the same items.

He said every kobo meant a lot to him to get him prepared for retirement. He invested his money in property because of old age when he would no longer be able to work and earn.
Uncle T was not frivolous about money; he didn’t drink alcohol or attend parties.

He has very few friends that could be called real friends, while most of his friends are his former colleagues from NTA like Waheed Olagunju and Seun Sonoiki and very few others.

He never goes on holiday abroad; all his journeys abroad were mainly on official assignments.
He loved his family, particularly his children, and ensured that they lacked nothing. He also cares for his siblings and extended family.

His resourcefulness was legendary, and he took every bit of his assignment very seriously and would do anything to protect his boss at the CBN, including fighting off intrusive journalists.

We had many disagreements over what he considered unfavorable stories I wrote and published about the bank, both when I was at the Daily Times, Business Times, and the later day when I joined Reuters.

There was a time I wrote a report about the attitude of Joseph Sanusi, a former governor of the CBN, to the press and how the former CBN governor tried hard to censure journalists covering the financial sector.

Uncle T was very angry about the story and played the avoidance game on me for a while, but we always reconciled as quickly as the quarrel started. His Christmas gift for journalists was the best till date; many look forward to it yearly.

When his father died years ago, the solidarity he enjoyed from his media friends was overwhelming. Many journalists were present at both the Lagos event and the Koko, Ode Itsekiri towship final burial rites. He also ensured that those who traveled from Lagos and other parts of the country to honour him and the memory of his late father were well treated and hosted.

He also attended most weddings of journalists who cover the CBN and gave them commendable gifts to appreciate their support for him on the job.

His main complaint about many old generations of financial journalists was that we can do anything to ensure that we get our byline on the front pages.

Uncle T used to say Yomi Idowu and Oluwole Olatimehin could write stories about their parents as long as they could find their way to the front page of their newspapers.

He was saying these because of the extent to which the two and many of us could go to unearth stories about the industry and slam it on the pages of the newspaper.

Uncle T will always tell you the truth regardless of your relationship with him and how the truth might hurt; he just says it as it is. He was extremely jovial with people, especially with journalists that cover the bank.

I could remember shortly before my wedding in 1997, the bank invited me to Abuja for a conference. He asked me to stay with him in his house at the Minister’s Hill instead of staying in a hotel to enable me to save some money for the forthcoming event.

From that movement, anytime I travel to Abuja, he gives me that privilege to stay in his house and was indeed a good host.

When he resigned ahead of retirement due from the CBN, he chose to return to his ancestral home to contribute to the growth of the Itsekiri kingdom rather than remain in the city where there are more amenities and comfort.

While he was a director with the CBN, he refused to hobnob with the chief executives of the financial institutions, who always wanted to curry his favour in order to cover their tracks on negative reports about their organizations.

Uncle T would always say he did not want his name messed up by those cowboy bank chief executives and would rather stay far away from them.

The memory of Chief Tony Ede will never be forgotten by many of us and those who have the opportunity and privilege to interact with him while he was on this side of the great divide.

It’s so hard for me to say goodnight to a brother, friend, and mentor. Uncle T, you are a very good man, a rare gem and a man with his own frailty and human side, yet balanced life with goodness and loving memories.

May you sleep well until we meet again at the feet of our Lord. Goodnight sir.

(Contact; omayowa@globalfinancialdigest.com; Newsroom: +234 8033 964 138)

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