Sunday, August 2, 2020 3:12 pm
By Nehru Odeh
He was a part of everyone he met. Not only did he touch lives he left unforgettable traces. And like a shining star that he was he let enduring legacies for mankind. This indeed sums up the life Richmond Dayo Johnson, a highly sought after keynote speaker, communication expert, coach, toastmaster, entrepreneur and political activist, led in the three score years he spent on earth. RDJ, as he was fondly called, passed on in the United Kingdom, after suffering a heart attack on 6 July, 2020. He was aged 61.
However, since his untimely demise, Nigerians from all streams of endeavour have been paying tributes to a gentleman par excellence, a man with panache who led a selfless life not just impacting the lives of individuals but also contributing to the growth of corporate organizations and nations across the globe.
Still, the remarkable thing about this Lagosian, who spoke impeccable English, untainted Yoruba, unapologetic Pidgin and Patois fluently, and who played the guitar, is that he moved with the high and mighty yet kept close touch with the grassroots and was at home with everybody. He was a man that could be described as cultured, refined and a lover of good wine, music and people.
Another remarkable thing about RDJ is that his altruistic and vicarious spirit is evidenced by the silent way he provided his services from behind the scenes without seeking cheap popularity, praise or awards. As an experiential consultant and coach on appearance, behavior and communication, he was the brain behind the glamour, polish and shine of public figures across corporate, political and military landscapes.
Some of the high net worth individuals and corporate organizations he coached in the areas of etiquette, manners and public speaking include former governors of Lagos State, Akinwunmi Ambode and Babatunde Raji Fashola, presenters of Your View, an all-female talk show on TVC, Mallam Nuhu Ribadu, Nigerian Breweries, Exxon-Mobil, England and Wales Cricket Board, Citigroup, MTN AND Access Bank, to mention a few..
George Noah, former Managing Director of Lagos State Advertising Agency , LASAA, who was his friend and colleague, described him as inspirational, insightful, a critical and relational thinker and an encyclopedia of knowledge and good conduct. “RDJ had an inconceivable and contagious spirit. You deposited goodness into every being that came your way and made us richer. Indeed, whatever you did for others, you have left behind,” he said in an emotional tribute he paid to RDJ.
“You had the mindset of a selfless servant leader, which reflected in all you did. You were accessible and available at all times, you poured your gifting into countless people – a trainer of trainers, you mentored many, communicated easily with people at all levels because you saw the value in all. You sacrificed your time, you trained people in so many areas they had challenges, you listened intently and counseled effectively and empathized with them. You were evidently humble and honest, no wonder many flocked to you to offload the pain in their hearts; they left with comfort and assurance. Such feelings had a long lasting impact that outlived their challenges,” he wrote.
Taiwo Adedoyin, communication and advertising expert who worked with RDJ in the United Kingdom, described him as a refined gentleman who walked with panache. “He was very gentle. Anybody that knew him knew he was a refined gentleman. He impacted the lives of people and did a lot of stuff many people didn’t know about. I think his greatest achievement was that he was one of the pioneer staff of Radio Kudirat,” he said.
Though RDJ worked many years in several capacities in Europe where he proved his mettle, he always had a burning desire to make a positive impact in his country. No wonder he was one of the pioneer staff of Radio Kudirat in the days of the democratic struggle, as one of its key strategists and presenters. No wonder he and George Noah returned to Nigeria in 1999 to work with Bola Ahmed Tinubu when he was governor of Lagos State. No wonder he was an integral part of the transformational team building Radio & TV Continental. No wonder he coached many in Nigeria in the areas of appearance, behavior and communication.
No wonder those who worked with him at TVC speak profusely about him in glowing terms. Sumner Sambo Shagari described RDJ as an impeccable speaker of the English language. “A toastmaster per excellence, he believed so much in me and his last advice to me on how to treat subordinates under me as I grow professionally in the media industry was this: ‘As a leader, you need to take the time to truly understand what motivates and what doesn’t motivate each one of your direct reports. They are not all the same. Do not make the mistake of thinking one size fits all!’, RDJ said in a WhatsApp chat in February this year.”
Presenters of Your View, an all-female talk show on TVC, who had an unforgettable experience with RDJ when he coached them also dedicated one of their sessions to him. Morayo Afolabi Brown, anchor of the show, described RDJ as a teacher, mentor and a great man who always gave his best. “This is a man that raised us, especially ladies of Your View, and he deserves nothing but honour,” she said.
Morayo also recalled how RDJ always followed up with the career of those he came in contact with and mentored, how he always made calls in a polite way and taught them to speak politely. She also said he loved life. “He was so excited. He was enjoying life. He was so happy. He was always giving testimonies of different things that happened to him. He loved his family. He loved his wife. He loved his children. He was a kind of man that stayed every year for vacation. It was a family tradition. .
“He had a nickname for almost everybody. He was just a good man. Even after some presenters left Your View he followed up with their career. He supported everybody…He invested in people and we are grateful to him. Our hearts go out to his wife, his family, those that he left behind – that your father left a good legacy. And it is something you should be proud of. We are all benefactors of this legacy,” Morayo maintained.
Tope Mark Odigie spoke about RDJ’s humanity and life devoid of affectation. She said when he auditioned her for TVC, she realized he had a British accent and that made her worry because she didn’t have that accent. But RDJ encouraged all of them to be their real selves and natural. “One of the things he detested was people speaking fake accent on the airwaves. ‘Just talk normally, the way you are,’ he always said.
“And we went live. We were rookies. And people were murmuring behind within TVC that we were not trained, that we shouldn’t be on this show, that we were not broadcasters. RDJ heard all of that and rather than just sit back, he didn’t condemn us. He called all of together and said, ‘I would train you guys every Friday back to back, free training. He invested in us. This was a man that trained governors, presidents, and yet he took out time to train us. We were not just anybody. We were just on TV for the first time When you read his profile and check out his pedigree, you would be wondering why would he be so down to earth and available to all of us like that. But is the kind of person we should all try to be,” Tope said.
Obiajulu Ugboh recalled a particular day RDJ called Your View. “He was so articulate and sounded so knowledgeable about a lot of things. This person was more like a father. I never met him but I felt that,” she said.
Yeni Kuti described RDJ as a caring person. “He took everybody and trained every single one of us, taught us to improve our English, our pronunciation. He took it as a project,” she reminisced.
What enduring legacies RDJ left behind. Trained by the BBC and widely travelled, he was an alumnus of University of Teesside, Middlesbrough, England. He started his broadcasting career with the Voice of Nigeria. He later worked with Concord Press, United Kingdom. An entrepreneur, he established many businesses, which included an advertising agency (with George Noah) and Nigerian News.
He also worked at GEC, Newton Aycliffe, County Durham and IBM London before becoming Deputy Managing Director of Universal Communications Group – publishers of The Job Paper, London. He played a major role building Radio Continental (now Max FM) and TV Continental into enviable brands. He also partnered with big brands such as Guinness Nigeria Plc, British Food Standards Agency, Terra Kulture, Diana, The Princess of Wales Fund, Commonwealth Business Council, RCCG Nigeria, UK & Ireland.
He is survived by his wife, Funmi, and three children.