Ovation Magazine Publisher, Bashorun Dele Momodu is very angry now. He is angry at how the last Presidential elections was conducted, with all the glaring irregularities.
He supported Atiku over and above Pres. Buhari. And he was so sure Atiku will win, until the result was announced.
He is now a Visiting Scholar at Oxford University where he will be for a long while to complete his research.
He spoke to City People Publisher, SEYE KEHINDE last week on how he feels about the current political situation in the country. Below are excerpts of the interview.
How do you see the ongoing elections in Nigeria?
Let’s not waste too much time on this, it is a sham, a shame and probably one of the most hopeless elections in the history of Nigeria. Not that the two leading political parties were perfect, but what APC did was a garrison operation. Ballot papers that were supposed to be sacred littered everywhere as if in a bazaar and I’m almost certain INEC just hawked them to willing political clients, including those we thought were saints.
How do you see Atiku’s loss?
Personally, I supported Atiku Abubakar, the PDP Presidential candidate based on my experience and exposure to global politics. Sadly, our choices were limited to only the top two, the incumbent President and his main challenger, Atiku. With due respect to my young and brilliant friends who also contested, I knew they wouldn’t go far, due to no faults of theirs but the way our country is configured.
I found the defeat of Atiku Abubakar disheartening because of the manner that the election was executed, using forces of coercion and appurtenances of power. I expected President Muhammadu Buhari to honour the Peace accord he and other candidates signed, by providing a level playing field for all. Moreso, Buhari was a beneficiary of such when President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan was in charge. It is unfortunate that Buhari did not subscribe to such a worthy and remarkable legacy.
Why did you ask Atiku not to go to court draw?
I told Atiku to rise above politics and assume the role of a statesman by calling President Buhari. In my view, Atiku would have transferred the burden to Buhari. That is the monumental sacrifice I wanted Atiku to make for our fledgling Democracy. This does not mean he can’t go to court. It is his constitutional right to do so. In 2015, Jonathan called Buhari to congratulate him and thus assured himself a place in the pantheon of the greats of Africa. People forget that his party, PDP, actually challenged Buhari’s election at the Supreme Court and lost. I further draw from the example of former American Vice President, Al Gore, who still went to court after congratulating his opponent, George W. Bush. I think the case went all the way to the Supreme Court. Even as controversial as the election that brought Donal Trump in as American President was, Hillary Clinton still called him. That must have been tough for her, more so when she won the majority of votes but lost by electoral college.
Many don’t understand why you supported Atiku over Buhari?
I had given up on Buhari for several reasons. But the main one being his unrepentant clannishness. I did not expect Buhari to know much about modern trends in governance, but I expected him to make maximum use of the incredibly talented men and women that it has pleased God to bless Nigeria with, some of who are already in his government, but being under-utilised. I expected him, as a retired Major General to have, and do, all it takes to secure Nigeria. I expected him to unite Nigerians and behave like the father of all. I expected him to have cured himself of the same paranoia he exhibited in his first coming, from 1983 to 1985, but it seems the affliction has become a permanent feature and almost incurable and malignant. Nigeria is in big trouble because instead of promoting prosperity, our President is projecting poverty. Of course what you preach and say to your congregation is what they will get, unfortunately, and so Nigeria has taken the cake as the world’s poverty capital.
I believed Nigeria deserved a change from voodooists to liberals and Atiku fitted that bill, whatever unproven sins his traducers claimed he committed. Nigeria deserved a breather from the suffocating and self-immolating tension brought upon Nigeria with no commensurate progress in sight. I was reasonably convinced that Atiku would have opened up our country to business because without prosperity via hard work, quality education, affordable medicare, the masses will continue to wallow in poverty, ignorance and constitute unstoppable danger and security risks to Nigeria.
You tipped Atiku to win but Buhari won, how come you didn’t see that coming in your analysis?
On why I didn’t think Atiku could lose, my decisions are never about whether you can lose or not, it is usually about my beliefs. No one was sure Buhari would ever defeat Jonathan, yet we supported him, even when Jonathan and PDP had all the money to give. Same with Atiku, I had more to gain from Buhari and APC. Most of my political friends are in APC. Rotimi Amaechi still attended the Ovation Carol event at Eko Hotel in December 2018. We are good friends but we disagree politically and we are both stubborn. In a free and fair contest, trust me, Atiku might have trounced Buhari, the reason APC got jittery and resorted to reckless and desperate self-help. Also, Buhari may have won without the repression. We will never know. I don’t see the jubilation on the streets and in homes that we witnessed in 2015. On the contrary there is a sombre, ponderous silence. I notice that some Nigerians, as usual, are tacitly, and overtly, supporting a one party State. This is condemnable. I even see some of those who suffered under dictatorship in the past now promoting repression and tyranny. I know a bit of history, so I know they are wrong, and one day they will see they are wrong, and regret their actions, like others before them did. They are the ones causing confusion in Nigeria because they want to hold on to power, by fire, by force. I find it totally reprehensible.
Many people have attacked Dele Momodu online for taking a position, how do you see all this?
That is normal. That is to be expected. I learnt something from Chief M.K.O Abiola decades ago. Just as he had many friends, he also had rabid enemies. He had different ways of reacting to haters and hate speeches: “It would be abnormal not to have some people abusing me with all the praises I get everywhere. If that is the case, I may have to pay some people to abuse me in order to feel like a human being…”
There was another of his sayings I loved: “Calling honey by any other name by those who despise it will never change the sweet taste of honey…” That was so sweet.
For me, I know who I am, like Sinach sang. Once you know who you are and you are comfortable with yourself, let others make you their business, if they have no better things to do with their lives.
At my age, and as a former Presidential candidate, I’m a leader, not just in Nigeria but across Africa, and beyond. A prophet is never respected at home. My simplicity is also a problem. I look young and I’m easily accessible. In Nigeria, you’re respected if you’ve been in government and stole enough money to keep the people on crumbs and stipends.
According to Paulo Freire, the Brazilian author, in his book, Pedagogy of the Oppressed, the Oppressed love and respect their Oppressors. It is very true. Many of those who attack me have no knowledge of Nigerian history. They know nothing about my trajectory, my contributions to Democracy. Many of them were born just before, or even after, Ovation International magazine was birthed in 1996. They have no idea that I have been in the struggle since 1978, as a Jambite at the then University of Ife, now Obafemi Awolowo University. I have participated in many ways in the march for the emancipation of Nigeria. But what they know is that I’m the Publisher of the most glamorous magazine in Africa. They see stories of success. They see eye-popping pictures of riches. And some have been brainwashed into thinking only looters make it in Nigeria. They feel frustrated and disillusioned. Many of them have transfigured into children of anger and repulsion. They are so angry that they abuse you for merely doing your job of taking pictures at event. We hardly write stories. We allow readers to judge for themselves. So, I understand not many can stomach success. Abiola said one of the ways you know you’re successful is when you acquire powerful enemies.
Will you say Dele Momodu has been misunderstood?
Again that should be expected. People are used to seeing radicals as dirty ruffians, poor and unkempt, but the real radical, in my view, is a man who risks all he has for the betterment of his country and people.
Many can never imagine where I’m coming from, or where I’m going. I have read many times that I criticise government because I want appointments, that I’m angry because Buhari snubbed me, and all such nonsense. I have met Buhari, one on one, the two of us alone with God in his office, I never asked him for anything. I have accompanied President Mahama to Buhari’s home, and could have asked Mahama to tell Buhari to give me appointment, but nothing of the sort happened. I have access to the Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, and we have met one on one several times, I never asked for anything. I was in exile with Chief Bola Ahmed Tinubu, as much as he knows, I’ve always been a rebel, he will do almost anything I want because he understands that we can’t always agree on the same things, but I’ve not gone to him for anything. He is also close to Mahama.
A man who’s desperate for appointments must follow due process, join the ruling party, queue and then wait patiently. That is one way, but I have not chosen that way because that is not Dele Momodu. Another way is to ingratiate or blackmail yourself into power, but that isn’t me either. I can serve and have served Nigeria in myriads of ways without any official appointment and I am content. In my personal capacity, I have traversed the universe and met and mingled with world leaders. I know that the Federal Government is very powerful because of the thousands of appointments that it commands which can change your life instantly. However, my life is much better and fulfilled without begging desperately for such appointments. Why should I complicate my life? I know if ever my nation needs me in any position, my time will come, naturally, I do not need to hustle or jostle for it. I thank my family, in particular, for all the pain I have caused them in the process of trying to contribute my little quota to nation-building.
Tell us a bit about what informs the position you take about public issues?
It is very simple. I hate any form of oppression. I hate tyranny. I fought for Buhari in the past and will not say because I once supported Buhari, I must now support his excesses. I don’t believe in a one party State, which is what I see Buhari trying to achieve. My problem was not with APC per se, but with Buhari refusing to see the unity of Nigeria as top priority. Anytime he was out of the country, there was always peace and tranquillity, and some progress, but once he comes back, things fall apart again. Truth is, it will be too difficult for a 76 year old man to move with modern trends.
Also, I believe nations are not governed by saints but by reasonable performers who know their onions. Buhari could have made that personal sacrifice by grooming and transferring power to a younger member of his party, like Mandela did. At 76, Buhari should have considered giving power to the Osinbajos, El Rufais, Amaechis, Fasholas, or even businessmen and technocrats like Dangote, Elumelu, and others. Nigeria needs a new lease of life, urgently. This is my thinking but I know it doesn’t conform with everyday reality in Nigeria. We all know the solution to our problems but most of us are too timid to say it out.
You hold strong views about many national issues, are you not always afraid that you might be victimised?
Let me say that I rely totally on God to guide my actions and protect me all the way. I have faced several persecutions in the past, but after each victimisation, I came out better and stronger. The worst I faced was Abacha. I lost everything but God replenished me beyond my asking. Ovation International was my compensation, or reparation, for the excruciating ordeal my family suffered. God also sends me Angels each time I need a miracle. My story is almost surreal.
My opinions are strong but never reckless. As much as I disagree with the Buhari government, it is nothing personal. I like Buhari and his wife, Aisha, personality-wise but not Buhari’s political methodology. I once wrote an open letter to Aisha Buhari commending her courage. I’m certain, if her husband had listened to her more, and carried her along, the way he is been doing lately, his government may have fared better. I try to be as objective as possible. Any decent person who reads the things I write would know it is not about my personal desires but only about national rebirth.
Tell us about your new academic life in oxford?
Unknown to many people, my first love was academia. My ambition as a young man growing up in Ile-Ife was to be a don and teach students. Unfortunately, by 1988, at the age of 28, when I finished my Master’s degree in Literature-in-English, after a first degree in Yoruba, I couldn’t get a teaching appointment.
It was joblessness that drove me to Lagos, in search of greener pastures. My best friend, Prince Adedamola Aderemi, had suggested to me to contribute regular articles to the Sunday Tribune and The Guardian, and this prepared me for an unimaginable future in journalism.
But despite my journalism conquests, I have never, totally, discarded my love for academic pursuits. I rekindled it early this year by applying for a Fellowship at Oxford University, a place I consider the most prestigious, and probably the oldest formal university in the world, and I was fortunate to get an approval. I have since resumed as a Visiting Scholar at the African Studies Centre, where a Nigerian, Wale Adebanwi, a Rhode Professor, is the first Black Director.
It has been most exhilarating for me. I’m working on research into Society journalism and the impact of social media. I’m also writing a new book which should be ready, by God’s grace, by the time I turn 60 next year. God spare my life and be with me as I continue on this wonderful journey that God is taking me on.