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Encounters (4/1/2020): The Man Who Brought Out The Best In Me – By Azuh Arinze

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Azuh Arinze and Kunle Bakare

It is a new year and there’s no better way to approach my first encounters series of the year than to start with the man who made me what I am today.

I doubt – and very strongly too – if any singular individual has impacted my life like Mr. Kunle Bakare.

Yes, Mr. Femi Akintunde-Johnson started my journalism career, but Mr. Kunle Bakare brought out the ultimate journalist in me – by making me the editor of his leading celebrity journal, Encomium Weekly, for eight solid years.

My relationship with Mr. KB, like we fondly address him, has remained a special one.

For some reasons I still do not know, Mr. KB took a special liking for me from the get-go. Taking me under his wings, he offered and taught me practically everything – from journalism training to career exposure, life lessons, guidance and even discipline, whenever I was beginning to derail. And for 17 unforgettable years, I humbly and painstakingly learnt at his feet.

The only time that cordial relationship was tested, I must confess, was during my last three months at Encomium Weekly, after I tendered my resignation letter. After nearly two decades of working with Mr. KB, I figured I had learnt enough to set out on my own. But I can now hazard a guess that my resignation notice took him by surprise. Besides, he loved me so much that perhaps he didn’t want me to go.

But enough of the guesswork. Now, let me tell you why Mr. Bakare’s position in my heart and my life can never, never be erased. Or even be taken by another person.

No. 1 – As a young reporter, life, I must admit, was good for me. In fact, very good. With two cars already, I had once mentioned to Mr. KB about my plans to acquire a third one the following week. Without waiting for me to finish speaking, he told that I must use the money to purchase my first plot of land instead. And that was how I joined the league of land and eventually house owners in this town many, many years ago. Of course, that is only a part of the story, because mid way into the construction, I ran out of money. One day he had innocently asked me how far with the project? I informed him that I was still looking for money to buy tiles. He immediately sent for Apostle Harrison Bayagbon, the accountant, and directed that Jacestee, a tile company that advertised with Encomium Weekly then supply all the tiles needed on a barter basis.

No. 2 – A similar scenario also played out on the lead-up to August 6, 2005 when I wedded. On Encomium Weekly’s bill, Mr. KB had ordered sumptuous suits for myself and my best man, Ugochukwu Oranekwulu, now late, from highbrow Wise Men Apparels. He also extended similar generosity for many other items needed for the superlative wedding.

No. 3 – The first time I was issued a visa to go to the United Kingdom, Mr. Bakare accompanied me on that trip in order to show me around London.

I could go on and on talking about his goodness and kindness to me. After all, we spent all of 17 years together, seeing each other nearly every morning and night, but I would crave your indulgence to pause it here.

I still enjoy a very warm and cordial relationship with the gifted writer and super dresser who hails from Odogbolu, Ogun State and is happily married to the ever delectable Madam Desola. There’s hardly anything I have done since leaving Encomium Weekly in 2011 to set up YES INTERNATIONAL! magazine that Gbeke and Mofe’s daddy hasn’t graced. His doors, in fact, are perpetually wide open for me to walk in anytime and discuss anything with him.

In conclusion, I remain most grateful to Mr. KB and also pray that the good Lord continue to show him and his family love and kindness.

Thanks so much for reading and see you again next Saturday.

– Azuh is a journalist, bestselling author and publisher of YES INTERNATIONAL! magazine

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