Monday, 26 December 2016

Untold story of my Abuja Friend


By on 16:12
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Tope Brown and Gbenga Dan Asabe ready for a Night-Out in Abuja

Yeah, memories of my short trip to the Federal Capital City of Abuja between Monday December 19th and Friday December 23rd still lingers. It is a very short but interesting trip to the Nigerian capital city. Whenever I embark on such trips, the intentions are always clear; to interview personalities, sight-see and enjoy the mood of the moment.
Within three days of my arrival in Abuja, I interviewed some dignitaries top among which are a former Minister of Science of Technology, Major General (Dr.) Sam Momah; Abuja city lawyer and former National Secretary of Nigeria’s Labor Party, Barrister (Dr.) Kayode Ajulo and Presidential Spokesman, Mr. Femi Adesina (S.A. Media & Publicity to President Muhammadu Buhari) just to mention a few.

Another thing that comes with such August trips are the enormous challenges attached, which ranges from chasing celebrities to meeting, interviewing and transcribing such interviews for publication. The task could be very damning but, hey, I enjoy it all. I soak my challenges with the pleasure of work.
Brown & GDA

However, one guy I don’t joke with on my trips to Abuja is my buddy for life, Dr. Temitope Olowoyeye aka Tope Brown. Oh, you wonder why I gave him the ‘Doctor’ nomenclature. Well, he is a ‘Doctor of Celebrity Photography’.
Tope Brown....The Celebrity Photo Journalist
 Tope Brown is former Ovation International Magazine’s Bureau Chief and Chief Photographer in Abuja. He is what you could term ‘the boy up north’.
Tope is today Senate President Dr. Bukola Saraki’s Chief Photographer but that has not really broken our friendship and fellowship, which started more than a decade ago. With Tope, there is no dull moment; he is the Jerry while I am the Tom (Tom & Jerry). While I cannot handle a camera to shoot a good photograph, Tope too, cannot hold a biro to script down a line the way I do with my celebrity reporting.
Tope Brown of TBS Records with GDA of Asabeafrika
We are miles apart in our various gifts and career choice. He is a photo journalist and I, a blogger-journalist.  However, we speak the same language of fun, laughter and zeal for work and pleasure. Yeah, Tope is a Lady’s man but I wouldn’t know if I am.
My Path and Tope’s crossed many years ago in the city of Lagos while he was covering Lagos society events for Ovation Magazine and since then, we have remained glued to each other like glucose to water. Our encounter spurred so many revelations. Like me, Tope was equally raised in the Northern Part of Nigeria by Ijesha—Osun State (Western Nigeria)
Tom & Jerry (Brown & GDA)
born Parents who domiciled in Kaduna—North Central for a long time. So, he speaks the two languages I speak—Hausa & Yoruba.
The GDA and his friend, Tope Brown
For me, I was born and raised in some parts of the north, discovering myself in Gwarzo and later grew in cities like Tundunwada, Rano, Katchako, Sumaila, Dutse, Birnin Gudu and later Kar Ka Sara and Sabon Gari in Central Kano. So, we all share a passion for northern Nigeria and desperately want Nigeria to be a united nation of tribes, cultures and elements.
Tope Brown & Arab alighting from an aircraft into the City of Kano for a Wedding Bash
I and Tope have equally flown into several cities like Accra, Lome, Kano and Abuja in search of celebrity stories. While he hunts with his ever roving machine cameras, I indulge through my mood, biro and mindset. But what Tope will get with his camera lenses, I will get with my pen.
Tope on a Jet for some of his numerous assignments up north
To start with, Tope is the ace of the aces in Ovation Magazine. Up till today, no Photo Journalist in Ovation has been able to beat his record in terms of getting the best of northern celebrity events that dots the magazine with best of pictures, styles and cultural pourt-pouri. Tope Brown is the King of it all; very cheerful and versatile, spiky and good-humored. He is the guy every other happy guy will like to be with—a child of grace.
Let's Go There....
In year 2009, Tope Brown single handedly got the classy and extravagant wedding ceremony between the then Governor of Bauchi State (North Eastern Nigeria) Isa Yuguda and daughter of late President Umar Yar AduaNafisat to appear in Ovation International Magazine.
Tope Brown watches on as Beatrice signs him out of Bachelorhood
That wedding which had the cream-de-la-cream of artistes, politicians, diplomats, business men and society big goons in attendance, brought lots of wealth, fortunes and good tiding to the Ovation brand.
Chief (Dr.) Dele Momodu brought Michael Effiong to Tope Brown's Wedding in Abuja
The carnivals like wedding bash between Isa and Nafisat, gulped 192 pages of the magazine. It was the dominant event from page 1 to the very last page. The names of celebrities were endless. The number of artistes that performed were endless—Lagbaja, Fatai Rolling Dollars, Dan Maraya Jos, Victor Uwaifo,  Ara, D-Banj, Yosor Ndour and many more from Nigeria and other parts of the world.
Talking about statesmen? We had Yakubu Gowon, Olusegun Obasanjo, Ibrahim Babangida, Rilwan Lukman, Abubakar Rimi and many more.
The GDA & Tope Brown deliberating in the Car
Tope Brown & GDA arrives Royale Restaurant
Tope's Mercedes Car beams into the night as we head for Royal Restaurant, Abuja
Ex-First Ladies were uncountable—Mariam Babangida, Maryam Abacha, Ajoke Murthala Mohammed and more. It was the congregation of the high and mighty and the soiree took place from Tuesday January 20th to Saturday January 24th in Abuja, Katsina and Bauchi States respectively.
The GDA & Tope Brown ready for Royal Restaurant, Abuja
That singular event earned Tope Brown a spot on the editorial page of the world class Ovation International Magazine. The Publisher of the Magazine equally gave him what he termed ‘The Publisher’s Prize’ of Five Hundred Thousand Naira. I wouldn’t know if that prize equally covered Tope’s commission for the entire one hundred and ninety-two pages project which comes at N650K per page.
Chief Dele Momodu led his Michael Effiong to Tope Brown's Wedding in Abuja on March 6, 2010
But he got that commendation of being the one to get the biggest event from the North in year 2009 and till today, no other photo journalist has earned that pedigree. In 2008, he also got the exclusive wedding in Kano of Billionaire Aliko Dangote’s daughter, Halima to her hubby, Suleiman Sani Bello and he equally reeled out the best of the best shots, capturing celebrities and dignitaries alike in one swell swoop of good photography.  Tope is king of the lenses; the King of Celebrity Life style and event photography.
Tope plays with Beatrice's lips before the World...
 
Now, before telling you further about my friend, Tope Brown, I will love to give a vivid description of his personality.
Tope Brown the King of Abuja is an exuberant and creative event and lifestyle photo journalist, an alumnus of the University of Lagos (UNILAG/Mass Communications). Tope is a very exciting character; with him, there is never a dull moment. It is either we are talking about ladies or talking about friendship, betrayals and ambitions.
His raw talent of knowing how to communicate with the camera and his exciting character has earned him love and passion from several ladies in Abuja, Kano, Ilorin & elsewhere. They just die to have Tope shoot their faces, figures and mood in a photo.  The ladies love Tope to bits.
Tope and wife, Beatrice, all Arsenal Lovers
But the Lord gave him his perfect bone Beatrice (Nee Emaike) the mother of his two lovely kids, Opemipo and Oluwatobiloba in year 2010. They wedded on Saturday March 6th, 2010.  
Why do ladies love Tope? He has their formula at his finger tips. Yes, he has enough of their formulas and we close friends know better. However, he remains very faithful and loyal to his Beatrice (Nee Emaike) I have never caught him romancing or doing anything funny with any lady even though ladies love him beyond the blitzkrieg of his camera lights but Tope will never fondle their sacred parts with his bare hands but rather fondle their emotions with his creative shots.
Tope ;sacrifices' wife, Beatrice to Friends on Wedding Day
Tope loves epic assignments and once you get him one, he rages on with his camera at the speed of a Lion and he extends his energy in grabbing thousands moods in millions of seconds.
Tope like I earlier stated is a Yoruba boy born and raised in the Northern part of Nigeria (Kaduna). He speaks impeccable Hausa, and understands the culture and norms of Muslim families.
Our Northern Friend, ARAB
What have we done together? We have done a lot together. Anytime I am in Kano or any part of Northern Nigeria, Tope Brown remains the only magician that can wire me a photo man, especially if the job is tasking or foggy like we usually have it in this profession. In Kano, we have a Yoruba boy we call ‘Arab’. He is our sharp man in Kano. I will tell you the story of ARAB some other time.
Our Northern Friend, ARAB alighting from an air craft for a top job up north
Arab is from Iwo town in Osun State but he has lived and earned his career for long in Kano, going over two decades.
Let me share with you one singular assignment Tope Brown helped me secure in year 2009. It was sometime around January or thereabout. I got an interview appointment with Dr. Orji Uzor Kalu, the former Governor of Abia State (Eastern Nigeria) in Abuja. The way I got the appointment itself was a miracle but kindly permit me to tell you the story another day.
Tope Brown with Dr. Orji Uzor Kalu, former Governor of Abia State
I was writing for Business Hallmark Newspaper which just birthed at the time. The ex-Governor had given me an appointment for 12pm on that particular Tuesday. He was to travel to Guinea Bissau a day before then, but he cancelled the trip because of my appointment and shifted his trip to Wednesday giving me Tuesday to storm Abuja and interview him. He specially did that for me because I was observing my editorial meeting in Lagos which we observe every Monday morning.
The Boys-Men enjoying the Royale Evening at Royal Restaurant, Abuja
But that Tuesday was going to be a messy porridge for me. Two things were to disrupt my movement to Abuja; number one was late approval of funds by my employer for my traveling expenses and two, the horrible cancel-and-delay tactics of Nigerian Airline operators. I got some money on my own and I headed to the airport. I booked a Chanchangi Airline ticket for 11 am. I was sure I will be in Abuja by 12pm and if I am to arrive late for my appointment, it won’t be more than few minutes and I could always apologize.
The GDA had his meal as Tope Brown looks on
However, I was wrong. But one thing saved me. Because of the trust I repose in Tope Brown, I released the phone number of Dr. Orji Kalu to him, urging him to go ahead of me and prepare the politician business man for my arrival and encounter. Tope did exactly that. It became my saving grace.
Tope Brown with Gbenga Olajobi (Gusman) at Royale Restaurant, Abuja
We were waiting to board, when the funny management of Chanchangi Airline announced an hour delay in take-off. I thought I could tolerate that. But I was still trying to make up with the shock when the airline again postponed our take off to an hour’s time. By that time, it was 1 O’clock. I was already mad.
L-R; Paul Ukpabio, Tope Brown & GDA
 I became super mad when they once again stretched the delay by another one hour. This time around, my madness was aggravated to 360 degree. Tope’s phone calls kept hurting my phone, warning me that the billionaire business man cum politician was waiting for me and could cancel my appointment if I fail to show up in time. Tope had already done a photo-shoot for him but the interviewer (Me) was nowhere to be found and it was terrible. I mean, how can I break such an esteemed appointment just like that?
Tope Brown serenade the GDA, Paul Ukpabio and Gbenga Olajobi at Royal Restaurant, Abuja
The airline later boarded us at 3pm and by then; I had interviewed all the angry and disgruntled passengers whom Chanchangi messed up their schedule. I later published the story in my column and I think it was one of the many reasons the then Harold Demuren led NCAA sanctioned the airline later that year. Imagine me sighting a spider net inside one of the cabins of the aircraft, very funny.
Paul Ukpabio, Tope Brown, GDA and Gusman (Gbenga Olajobi) at Royale Restaurant, Abuja
I got to Abuja, very late, though. I got to Dr. Orji Uzor Kalu’s Wuse 2 home by 5pm. The man has left. Tope has left. Everybody has left. I only met two aides. They were very angry at me, but I stayed on until my host returned around 7pm with flock of aides and visitors. A lot of drama ensued but I might not be able to tell you the full detail in this article. The story is for another day.
The GDA & Dr. Orji Uzor Kalu....The Opportunity we nearly missed but Tope made a difference
 
However, after staying and begging him for over three hours, Tope Brown returned to join me at Dr. Orji Uzor Kau’s house after dinner (Which I joined him with other VIPs on the high table) and that night, we jointly begged the Igbere, Abia State born politician cum business guru to pardon my Chanchangi Airline induced lateness and he obliged and gave me a fresh appointment the next day. We made it and the story hit both Ovation Magazine and Business Hallmark.
Former House of Representatives Chairman of Appropriation Committee, Abdulmumin Jibrin was one of Tope Brown's Special Guests on his wedding Day
While I sipped the political side for Business Hallmark, I gave Ovation the lifestyle content. It was a remarkable experience, and Tope balanced the creative equilibrium.
We have engaged in other creative ventures which yielded mutual benefits. However, Tope Brown remains a genius of his trade. He is creative, comical, interesting and could be so playful as well as hardworking within same stretch of time. With him, there is no dull moment.
The Ovation Family led by Chief (Dr.) Dele Momodu came for Tope and Beatrice's Wedding in Abuja, with GDA (R)
During his wedding ceremony to his beautiful wife, Beatrice Emaike (Now Mrs. Beatrice Olowoyeye), I was one of his groom’s men and we painted Abuja pink for the entire week of his wedding soiree.
A friend, GDA & Tope Brown on Tope's Wedding Day  in Abuja
His publisher and my mentor, Chief (Dr.) Joseph Ayobami Dele Ojutelegan Momodu was in town with his editor, Michael Effiong.
We had the wedding at The Redeemed Christian Church of Church, Central ParishAbuja under the then leadership of Pastor Peter Balogun and later had an octane reception ceremony at an upscale event center in Abuja.
Senator Dino Melaye was one of the Special Guests at Tope Brown's Wedding Bash in Abuja
It was his happiest day on earth as his very peaceful and innovative wife; an Industrial Mathematics graduate of Delta State University sacked Tope from bachelor’s club of Nigeria (BCN) and made him a happily married man with two beautiful kids.
Tope was with me at my room 306, Crystal Palace Hotel, Area 11, Garki area of FCT in the evening of Wednesday 21, and together with few friends like my old time buddies, Gbenga Olajobi (Director of Photo library, Babcock University—Ilisan—Remo) and Paul Ukpabio of Paul Ukpabio’s Blog we had some nice moments at an upscale restaurant (Royal Restaurant) in Garki area of Abuja. Unlike before, Tope this time sneaked out of his very busy schedule to be with us and the few hours we spent together was grand. We didn’t drink heavy, but we had pepper soup, plates of coconut rice, swallows and other palatable meals to bless our re-union moment.  
Top Hip-Hop Musician, Soule-E sings for Tope and wife, Beatrice on his wedding day
 For details, Tope Brown also runs an entertainment outfit which has grown into a music label in Abuja known as Tope Brown Studios (TBS) with 3 artistes on contract.
Tope Brown, Nollywood Actor & Arab on Tope's Wedding Day
For Paul Ukpabio, we have equally come a long way. When I was a young Television Presenter at MITV, Paul Ukpabio was Personal Assistant and later Chief of Staff to Ovation Magazine Publisher, Dr. Dele Momodu and I had the singular honor of railroading him into mainstream journalism when I handed over his particulars to my friend and big brother, Mr. Louis Odion (Ex-Edo State Commissioner for Information & Strategy) in 2008 when National Life Newspaper birthed. Recently, God has equally used me to launch him into full time blogging and the friendship and mentorship continues.
Tope Brown, Nollywood Actor & the GDA
Tope Brown with Former Minister of Science & Technology, General (Dr.) Sam Momah (CFR)
And for Gbenga Olajobi that we fondly call Gusman, we worked together at National Mirror Newspaper years ago and he later became Photo Editor of Business Hallmark Newspaper in 2009 before he was poached by the Moffat Ekoriko led The Moment Newspaper. We all, have indeed, come a very long way.

    

Gbenga Dan Asabe

Africa's Number One Celebrity Encounter Blog

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