After APC’s eight disastrous years, power should move to the South, says Dele Momodu
Nigeria deserves fresh people, ideas in Presidency
Prolific writer, publisher and presidential aspirant of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Chief Dele Momodu in an exclusive interview with MUYIWA ADEYEMI, spoke on how PDP can win 2023 general elections, denies being a front for anybody.
Going through your articles and writings, you have criticised many people and policies and many see you as a progressive. Why the choice of PDP to achieve your aspiration?
The reality of democracy and of elections and electoral process is you need to be in a mainstream political party to contest at the national level. This is not the first time I am contesting. I contested in 2011 on the platform of National Conscience Party (NCP). I started from Labour Party (LP) but the party said they weren’t interested in contesting presidential election. I moved on to NCP due to the ideological principle you talked about now. And we saw the result. The lesson I learnt was that you cannot win a national election from a strange local political party.
And that is my advice to all the young people, who said they wanted to run for the presidency – Fola Durotoye, Kingsley Moghalu, even Donald Duke when he came to see me in 2018 and said he wanted to run. He said he was leaving PDP.
I advised him against leaving the party. Don’t make the mistake of thinking you are a saint and you are going to govern over saints. Elections are primarily mathematical in nature and any election is a game of numbers. And whosoever records the highest number will be the winner.
For a Presidential race, if you say you are not going to be in APC or PDP you will be fooling yourself, unless those two parties break into pieces.
Your job as a leader of a country is to govern over saints and sinners, so once you know that “you are a saint” then your responsibility is to see how your saintliness would affect the society. What you require in every society is one man at the top. If you read world history, when we all talk about the famous ones we love to talk about in Singapore, you have a man called Lee Kuan Yew. We all love to talk about China and the revolution in China and we all remember one name, Chairman Mao.
We all talk about India and we all remember Mahatma Gandhi. Coming to Africa, we all talk about South Africa, there are many people, who fought against apartheid but we remember one name Nelson Mandela. If you go to Tanzania, you remember one name, Julius Nyerere. If you move from Tanzania and go to Zambia, you remember Kenneth Kaunda.
You move from there and you move eastwards towards Kenya, you remember Jomo Kenyatta. If you come to Nigeria, one name stands out in terms of development, Chief Obafemi Awolowo. Nobody has ever contradicted that Awolowo was in a class of his own. He was a regional leader, Premier of the old Western Region but he was very presidential in nature. Just imagine if the whole of Nigeria had the kind of development that Awolowo was able to give Western Region. So if you go round the world, even in British history where you have had some fantastic leaders, everybody talks about Winston Churchill. So there is nothing sacrosanct about your party. If you go to America in recent memory, America allows independent candidacy but Ross Perot, a billionaire that the election because he had no party structure behind him.
And that is why when Donald Trump came, he had to hijack the Republican Party and he is still holding it. When Chief MKO Abiola came, he was not a hard-core politician, he used to be in NPN but he wasn’t a career politician he was a technocrat in politics. For him to win the 1993 election, he had to hijack SDP from even the chairman, who was his co-contestant, Alhaji Babagana Kingibe and also the godson of General Sheu Musa Yar’dua of blessed memory, Alhaji Atiku Abubaka who 29 years after is still contesting today in PDP.
Do you see PDP as a vehicle strong enough to achieve your aspiration, considering the battered image of the party?
PDP is far stronger than APC. What APC has done, I am sorry to say is a return to militocracy? For one man to sit down and select virtually all officials of the party unilaterally, that is not democratic. At least in PDP, we have been able to manage our affairs, we have been open. I don’t know for now if they will do zoning or no zoning, there is still a lot of controversy. But we are better managed than APC.
I foresaw it, look at the way APC has battered Nigeria, the economy, the security, everything imaginable. Even the image of Nigeria in the comity of nations is battered; Nigeria is at the worst state since our independence in 1960.
But APC members have been blaming PDP for the security and economic challenges facing Nigeria?
If nearly eight years after coming into power, some people will still blame the past, then something is wrong. The reason a leader comes and says I want to rule is because he knows better than the people. If the people that were there were perfect then there would have been no need for Buhari. And there is a saying in Yoruba, “Orisha bi o ba le gbe mi, se mi bo se ba mi.” translated to mean -If the gods cannot make our lives better then they should at least retain what they met us with.
If APC knew that they couldn’t do better than PDP, why did they come to power? If they knew they would be complaining seven years after, then the essence of giving them the power has been defeated. They said, “To whom much is given, much is expected.” You are voted in to make life better for the people. And if you cannot do it, stop complaining and just go.
I don’t see how any Nigerian today should wish APC well and even risk another four to six years of APC. It will be the stupidest thing for any country to do. All they do is to lament.
Will you say PDP has learnt any lesson from the defeat it suffered since 2015, given the situation on ground?
Well I am a very honest and brutally frank political figure. I don’t like to call myself a politician because politicians have destroyed that nomenclature. For me I will tell you that I am praying, wishing and hoping that PDP has learnt its lessons.
It will be unfortunate if PDP continues to do things the same way they were doing it in the past. The reason PDP was chased away was because a lot of people felt they were wasting resources, they accused us of profligacy and so many other things.
Now, what I expect them to do is to reflect on the mood of the nation. One, after Buhari’s eight disastrous years, power should move to the South. Two, that Nigerians want fresh leaders, not the same people, who have governed us since 1999 to date and have made a mess of it.
You just said it now that APC still refers to that past. I am hoping that PDP will take advantage of God donating me to them. God has donated Dele Momodu to PDP, that’s why I am there and I know the mathematics and I know the sentiments in the land. Even when I went to see Sheikh Gunmi in Kaduna, he was like, “Dele, Nigeria needs you.”
Hardcore politicians cannot change Nigeria that is my belief. And what I see now are people, who have made so much money from the system tearing at each other’s throats because they want to grab the jugular of Nigeria. So, I am hoping that PDP will not allow the highest bidder to hijack the party, because even if you are able to buy all the delegates, the problem you will have is that you cannot buy the whole of Nigeria; 200 million people.
That’s my warning to PDP. Yes, we know two or three people, who can afford to buy all the delegates. There is no question about that, but will they be able to win national election against a desperate APC that obviously doesn’t want to lose power?
That is my warning to the PDP that if our party wants to win, they have Dele Momodu, who fortunately is from the South South, Edo State, born and bred at Ile Ife. I can galvanise people – old, young, women, Non Governmental Organisations (NGOs), civil servants, everybody. They are tired, everybody is complaining, so I will be able to galvanise them from that region.
And then I was born in Ile Ife, grew up in Ile Ife, virtually in friendship with all the stakeholders in the South West, so they will have two zones automatically from the three political regions in the South. And then with my friendship with the South East, I have been a major champion of the agitation that we must be fair to the East. These are some of the most brilliant persons you can find in the world. I have travelled to five continents in over 50 countries and territories and I know that anywhere you go, if you don’t find an Igbo man doing great things there, then something is wrong with that country.
I have been the only one speaking up to say; ‘Look you cannot keep Mazi Nnamdi Kanu perpetually in prison.’ I have talked to everybody; I have reached out to him, reached out to Sunday Igboho, reached out to Sheikh Gunmi. Even the Imam that was sacked in Abuja recently, I have reached out to him, we spoke extensively, I am likely to see him soon again.
I have been to Maduguri, walked inside the market where they said it is very dangerous. You must identify with people, while people are busy spending money to buy delegates I am the only one going around the country and reaching out to Emirs, Obas, Ezes, Obis, everybody. I am talking to everybody because it is not just about grabbing power; it is about what are you going to do with the power when you get it?
The last President PDP produced, Goodluck Jonathan is from South South, and you are also from that zone, won’t that works against your aspiration?
Jonathan contested and lost elections, which means he never completed his term if that is going to be your argument. And let’s face it, all that we are spending in Nigeria today, I don’t know about yesterday because people will tell you they are not interested in politics, what we are spending today is still from oil, produced in South South and Edo is under that region and fortunately, I am also Yoruba.
The chairman of PDP zoning committee, Governor Gabriel Ortom is from the North, chairman of the party Iyorcha Ayu is also from the North, as well as the chairman of the Peace Committee, Senator Bukola Saraki. Will you explain why PDP members in the South folded their hands and watched everything going to the North?
How are you sure that it wasn’t strategic? That is a good reason why the Presidency should come to the South, if the chairman of the party was a Southerner, it will be more difficult for us to lay claim to it. The last time there was an election, we supported Atiku. I wasn’t a member of PDP then but I supported Atiku.
On principle, when I supported Buhari, I wasn’t a member of APC. I have never been a member of APC in my life. Yet I supported him. That is why democracy allows you four years in Nigeria to change your leader, if it is changeable. So for me the power should shift to the South but I am not forcing it. Some people are insisting we should fight for it and we should give people superior arguments, not just the sentiments that we want it in the South.
Number two, who gets the ticket in the South? Where you come from should not be your only credential in life. Your integrity, reputation, personal accomplishments, everything must add up cumulatively for you to lay claims for wanting to be the President of Nigeria.
The problem in Nigeria is that we have never done things on merit. It is always about the highest bidder, always about former governor this and that. Tell me what the former governors have done, minus one or two it will be difficult for you to find a governor you can rate between 60 and 70 per cent in Nigeria.
I always mention Governor Wike because I am shocked at what he has been able to do in Rivers State. So there are a few, maybe our governor in Akwa Ibom. I admire the fact that he has been able to set up a business venture that is thriving, I mean Ibom Air. So you have people like that, so for me the South deserves to get it.
Why did the party leave presidential ticket open and not zoned it to any particular region?
There are people in PDP, who are desperate to have power and they don’t care whether you do zoning or not. They may decide to tear the party apart if you say you have zoned it and more so, the party already allowed members from every zone to buy the forms. I told them the day I picked my form that this is like putting the cart before the horse. If they wanted to talk about zoning, then they should have concluded zoning. It is like the Saraki group, Bala Muhammed, Aminu Tambuwal, who are going round Nigeria and saying they want consensus when you have picked forms. I said, ‘No sir, you are experienced politicians, and some of you have been in government perpetually since 1999. You should know that if you say consensus, start it from within you.’ Four or five of you from the Northern block should let only one person pick up the form to start with.
But where four or five of you picked up the form the North, how are you going to persuade them if by tomorrow you decided to zone the ticket to the South West or to the South South or to where ever. There are complications but we are still far better than APC. I don’t even know how APC will resolve their issues.
In 2019, PDP specifically zoned its presidential ticket to the North while Southerners, who had ambitions stepped down. What game is PDP playing now, because the Constitution of your party was emphatic about rotation of power?
I have told you in the days of tribulation you go to the elders of the house. Nothing in life is cast in stone or iron, it is practical. I have told you that there are powerful forces within PDP, who see this as their last chance of ever contesting; if a man has contested for 29 years and he is already approaching 80 and he has humongous networks and money. But my consolation is that a billionaire has never been produced as the President of Nigeria. It is usually the underdog.
They are going to fight themselves to stand still; they are going to cancel themselves out. We know who they are, you know who they are, and people will start saying, ‘Look these guys are not even talking about the problems of Nigeria.’ They are only talking about grabbing power; this fight is not about the people of Nigeria. Dele Momodu is the only one right now, who is fresh, I have never been a commissioner, never been a councillor, never been a senator, never been a former vice president, I have not been a governor.
What Nigeria needs today is a new C.E.O., a global brand. Fortunately I specialise in media and public relations, today I am a fellow of the African Public Relations Association (APRA). I was given fellowship of APRA just about two or three years ago in Kigali, Rwanda. I was the only one selected from Nigeria, while the former President of Ghana, John Mahama was selected from Ghana.
I don’t know if you have ever heard this: that you are fronting for Governor Wike and he is the one sponsoring you and when the time comes, you will step down for him?
It will be the biggest insult of my life, I am over sixty and I will be fronting for someone who is younger to me, on what basis? Look without sounding immodest, there is nobody in Nigeria today, who has my type of credentials from the private sector. You can have an Ngozi Ikonjo Iweala, she’s on the world platform, because she is working for world organisation. I have been in business since 1991 when I was moving in the circles of Chief Akin Omoboriowo, I was the private secretary to then deputy governor of Ondo State at the age of 23 in 1983.
At 26, I was working for the Ooni of Ife, Oba Okunade Sijuade, Olubuse 11. I met all the politicians in this world at that young age. At 28, I started working for Chief M.K.O Abiola, tell me any of the politicians you know today, who were functioning then. I got married at the age of 32 in 1992.
Tell me any of the current governors, who were around. My wedding was rated one of the top three that year and that was the year Abiola’s son, Kola got married. My wife was handed over on December 19, 1992 to Chief M.K.O Abiola in Ijebu Igbo. He asked us where are we taking your wife? We went to Ijebu Ode in the home of Chief Chris Okunowo.
What are people talking about? Me? I will be fronting? If I wanted to front, then I would have been a Minister or a Commissioner long ago. I was in exile with Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu from 1995 to 1998. Which of these governors was around then? Some of them were probably in school or working for their parents somewhere. I am too legit to quit; I am too legit to front for anybody. I respect Governor Wike, that is all, for his investment in infrastructure. I will front for him? He is the one sponsoring me? Upon all the hard work, let me tell you, I came to Lagos in 1988 and started working at African Concord Magazine.
Within two years of working at Concord newspaper, they moved me to Weekend Concord in 1989. By 1990 I was exactly 30 years old, I was the highest paid Editor in Nigeria when I became the Editor of Classic Magazine, May Hellen started Classic in 1989 but I joined them in 1990, Richard Mofe Damijo was her husband and was part of that team. In September 1991, I resigned and started my own business; Celebrities Goodwill Limited, that was when I started Public Relations.
My first account was one of the biggest accounts. I beat all the top PR companies to that account. It was an account from Summit Oil International, Chief M.K.O. Abiola’s oil company. I was the founding Editor of Leaders and Company, which became ThisDay today. The first two vehicles bought for that purpose, Nduka Ogbaigbena had one, I had the second vehicle. In 1993, I joined the Moshood Abiola Campaign Organisation. Tell me the politician today who was around then.
On June 12, 1993 I wasn’t even in Nigeria because I represented Chief Abiola in Vienna, Austria, where Chief Gani Fawehinmi was getting the Bruno Kreisky Award. I left Nigeria June 9 and got to Austria June 10. The event was June 11, I left Austria June 12 to London and then on Monday, June 14, I called Nnduka in Nigeria; he said he has been looking for me. We didn’t have telephones like now. I said, ‘what was happening?’ he said, “I should reach Abiola urgently, because he is going to win the election but they are not going to give it to him.”
I have been a major player in the political scene; I can’t be intimidated by money. I have seen it all. Then I was one of the first to be arrested under Babangida, between July to August 1993, I was in Alagbon detention camp, Abiola was arrested in 1994, and by 1995, on June 22, I got wind of the fact that the Abacha government said that they should go and arrest me, that I was one of the brains behind the private radio station, Radio Freedom, which later became Radio Kudirat. I wasn’t a part of it at that stage, later I joined them. I escaped Nigeria on July 25 1995 through Cotonou, what Sunday Ighoho did now, I did it long ago.
You have a very rich history, but why are people saying, where is Dele Momodu getting money to run for presidency?
Because we live in the age of ignorance, Thomas Paine wrote a book, one of his best-known books; it is the one called ‘Age of Reason.’ Today we live in the age of reason, and then an oppressed man respects only his oppressor.
That is a theory from the seminal work of the Brazilian author Paulo Freire, it is titled, ‘Pedagogy of the Oppressed’. I have all these books in the library and the theory is that the oppressed man is so oppressed that the only person he respects in his life is his oppressor. The only person he loves in his life is his oppressor and the only person he fears in his life is his oppressor.
That is why some Nigerians ask me, ‘What are you going to do about Atiku?’ and I said, when I started functioning and God was blessing me, I never heard of any of these names.
Dele Momodu’s presidency, what are the differences you’re going to make?
The first thing is that for you to change anything, you must first change the personnel, even at your company. If you feel the C.E.O is not performing, what do you do? You fire, change or retire. We must retire our yesterday men, that’s the whole idea, so what difference is it going to make? The difference is that one, you are going to have someone from day one who is already a global player.
Go and check, when you finish I will take you through my wall of fame and then you can see all the people I have been interacting with. I have been hosting Presidents in my private capacity. I have been hosting governors in my private capacity, I have travelled globally in my private capacity, I have managed a business empire which I started from about a take off ground from about 20,000 pounds into a multi million dollar empire. It is not a joke, Ovation International is 26 years old now.
How many businesses in Nigeria have survived 26 years from nothing? That is why some funny people will say a governor bought me form. Bought me form to do what? I am okay, I worked for everything. Where did you meet me? I left this library about 5:30a.m., by two hours after I was already working. One and a half hours sleep, if you see my bed, if I show you my bed you will see the little space I sleep, the rest you will see my telephones and my books I am working on. So I am a child of destiny, I am a child of diversity.
In Dele Momodu’s presidency, you are going to have someone who will only appoint people based on merit. There is no part of Nigeria where there is no talent. When I went to Maduguri, I met a lady, one Dr Chelobe, a woman I couldn’t believe she had a Ph.D in Chemistry. When we were discussing you know the kind of knowledge this woman has and she is right there in Maduguri where they are firing bombs are everything. Every part of Nigeria you have them.