Goodbye, Abubakar Momoh
On Monday the 29th of May, 2017, a comrade in the struggle woke me up with the sad news of the sudden death of Professor Abubakar Momoh. I could not believe it and I began to first of all place calls to co-acquaintances seeking to discountenance the story as one of those that eventually turned out to be hoax. The more I called, the more I realised that we were all hearing the news at the same time and it was real. I finally had to confront the reality which I was running away from by calling the Prof. himself but his line went dead. After repeated calls that still remained silent, I received another call from a very close source that confronted me with the reality of the situation – that Momoh had indeed died!
I could not believe that Prof could be one of the victims of “brief illness” especially at this young age. Even when he had to grapple with illness about seven years ago, he emerged with his health intact and never looked like he was going to pass on very soon. Death has indeed left my mouth wide agape again. Death has left me reeling with pain again and has forced me to re-evaluate some of the basic pillars of my life’s journey.
Momoh was a university lecturer at the Lagos State University where he taught Political Science and was the Dean of that department before his passing. He was also the Director General of the nation’s Electoral Institute, an agency under the supervision of the Independent Electoral Commission (INEC) – a position he assumed under Professor Attahiru Jega and through which he sought to make critical contributions to leadership recruitment and succession in Nigeria through a more credible and vibrant electoral system. The success of the 2015 elections can also be attributed to his contributions to the nation’s democratic culture.
He was a highly principled and committed comrade. The classroom was both a lecture room and a tool for the furtherance of the struggle through which he raised the consciousness of his students turning them into cadres that would continue the struggle in future. His analysis and understanding of issues are clear and concise devoid of ambiguities which he wields without fear or favour. He was a man of deep convictions but always willing to allow alternative opinions and this endeared him to many comrades in the struggle.
A celebrated and cerebral academic who has engaged the internal comprador bourgeoisie in their different reincarnations; the agents of global capital who have hijacked the reins of the commanding heights of our economy and who has mercilessly kept our nation marooned in the cesspit of underdevelopment. His tool was essentially intellectual in character by clinically deconstructing and demystifying their catchphrases and laying its fangs bare for the ordinary Nigerians to behold and quake. However, he was never afraid of getting himself involved in the various picket-lines, the trenches and the long marches.
Abu Momoh was a proud scion of the intellectual left in Nigeria; a product of the struggle for emancipating Nigeria from the shackles and gyres of despotic militarism; a struggle that saw the ferment of ideas brewed under the able and erudite hands and minds of Professors Ikenna Nzimiro, Bade Onimode, Claude Ake, Eskor Toyo, Inyang Eteng and later generations like Prof. Iyayi, Itse Sagay and Ihonvbere etc. He drank from these deep pools and commandeered its discipline and its tools, making it his own and using it to unmask the dynamics of the wickedness of global capitalism both in Nigeria and the world over.
I remember Abu’s charity; the many students, men and women including entire families that are dependent on his meagre resources for survival. How he manages it some of us could not understand but constantly without fail, God used him to preserve these individuals and families. These families especially will miss him greatly while a deep vacuum will be created in their lives and filling it will be a huge dilemma. Momoh was indeed a determined and dependable fellow which saw him through some of these projects he committed himself to pursuing.
We will miss him in the civil society movement and within the Lagos Legislature where he had become a constant feature in our engagement with the academia and the civil society. A giant has fallen and we mourn. His kind and gentle soul will forever be missed. His students and indeed his colleagues at the Electoral Institute will feel his absence dearly.
Momoh was one of those who I consulted as I made that decision to run for elective office. His advice was consistent and his support for some of us was encouraging as we made that crucial decision to also get involved in the corridors of power. He opened our eyes to the benefits that would accrue to Nigeria when we get involved in wielding political power in Nigeria from whatever pedestal. He was indeed prophetic as we can see the contributions most of us have made in the nation’s governance processes. Abu was an inspiration to me; a friend but was almost like a mentor and a mentee. I will miss you my brother!
However, his immediate family will miss him sorely and we can only beseech the good lord to grant them the fortitude to bear his passing. They should take solace in the fact that he lived an impactful life and has indeed sown himself in the lives and minds of many people where he still lives on. He may have gone but his legacies are very much around us today and will remain indelible for many more years to come.
He has made a huge impact and has departed even at a young age, playing his own role and has passed down the torch of the struggle to all of us. Our duty is to keep the fire burning. We must not allow the baton to be dropped and the heat of the struggle which requires eternal vigilance to grow cold. Passing it on to the next generation more creatively and deeply hot is our collective responsibility.
• Jimoh is a member, Lagos State House of Assembly.
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