… Says cabals ruling Nigeria, not Buhari
By Christy Anyanwu
Veteran journalist and Publisher of Ovation Magazine, Chief Dele Momodu, who is active and versatile on issues relating to the nation’s socio-political developments contested the presidential election on the platform of the National Conscience Party (NCP) in 2011. In this chat with the Sunday Sun, Momodu spoke on some issues including the present state of the nation, his political plan, and 2019 general elections.
2019 is round the corner, are you vying for any political office?
No. I contested in 2011 against President Goodluck Jonathan and President Mohammadu Buhari and a few other people and, of course, I lost. But I gained a lot from it. I gained experience, I gained exposure and visibility. The experience is still very much with me. What I have also done is to study presidential elections globally, look at winners and losers. There is a pattern to it. And that pattern is that you cannot ordinarily win an election if you are not prepared. This means, if you aspire to be a president of a country, there is a process of preparation. So, I don’t think I’m prepared now based on my past experience. Secondly, you have to talk about readiness. You have to be ready and when you are ready there will be no controversy as to whether you are qualified or not. Since you are now ready , you can then win the election. I will give you a few examples. I remember Chief MKO Abiola had wanted to run as far back as 1981 under the Shagari government. He was preparing, but those who didn’t want him made sure that they frustrated him out of NPN. He resigned in anger and went away. As part of the plot to frustrate him, they told him that presidency was not for sale. He even wanted to be the chairman of the party, but they did not give him a chance. So, he went away. He, however, re-strategized and he planned very well. Between 1981 and 1993 when he came back that is a period of 12 years, he was ready. That is why I said there’s need for someone to be well prepared . He prepared and he was ready. When he ran there was no question about it that he won. But sadly he was was not allowed to govern, but it is on record that he won the freest election ever in the history of Nigeria. George Weah, the president of Liberia wanted to run. They told him, no you can’t do it, you are not properly educated and he withdrew after losing the election to Madam Johnson Sirleaf. Then he went back to school in America to prepare. He went through that school of preparation and after preparing he got himself ready. After about 12 years just as Abiola did, he was ready and he won the election. If you look at President Mohammad Buhari, he started running in 2003, he contested and re-contested and 12 years later in 2015 he won. If you look at President Nana Kufor Ado of Ghana, he also went through the process and contested and recontested and after that third attempt, he also won. Today, he is president. So, I have learnt from their examples that it is not always easy to win at first attempt and when you lose in that first attempt, it is better to withdraw into your shell, restrategize, replan, regroup and hopefully if God says yes, then you win. God factor is very crucial. If God says you will get there then you get there.
That means you have not given up totally?
For me, I have not stopped dreaming. I have not stopped working, I’m a realist. In the last election I supported Muhammad Buhari for a few reasons. One, I felt PDP was getting too big and too full of themselves. They are too reckless and as such someone needed to stop them and Buhari was one of the people we felt was well positioned to make that happen. Buhari for me was a stop -gap. Buhari was not a permanent feature. That’s why I tell people I’m not supporting his second term bid. Buhari for me was a Mandela option. In the days of tribulation you run to the elders of the house ,and so we ran to Buhari to rescue us from these prodigal sons and daughters. After that has happened, I expected that within four years, he will stabilize the country and then find a worthy successor because age will no longer be on his side. Even at that time, age was no longer on his side, but it will be worse now, he will be 78 next year. Health has not been on his side, I pray that his health will continue to hold out the way it is. We thank God for the miracle that brought him back to Nigeria. What I expected of him was to groom a successor within those four years like a team to support that worthy successor and then retire in dignity , in glory, in majesty, but that is not going to be the case now that he has said that he wants to run. I believe that the 2019 election will be the last time people of his generation will ever dream of contesting in Nigeria. I believe the 2019 election will be the last time anybody above 65, the mandatory retirement age in civil service will ever dream of contesting again. Some of us who are still under 60, I believe at 65 years, I will be a useless man vying for elective office at the first time. Maybe if you are already in government under 65 years and then you spill over slightly above 65 people can pardon you. If you are 65 and you contest election and you win and you want to do two terms you will be over 70 years. There is what we call law of diminishing returns and there’s nothing we can do about it. I’m going to be 58 this year, I already feel old. Not to talk about a 76 years old. So for me, if ever I will contest again it will not be 2019, it will be 2023, That is ,if ever. Presidential race is not a family affair, it is not a personal affair, if there are good people running Nigeria, why can’t I support them? So, I’m not desperate to be the president of Nigeria, but I’m desperately looking for good materials and we have them. I hate when people tell me who is the alternative to Buhari? In a country of 200 million people? Those who were born when Buhari was in government some of them are already qualified to be senators and governors. So, this is my response to you, 2019 is definitely not it for me. Let this old men fight themselves to finish and hopefully clear out of our system permanently and let us have fresh air so that Nigeria can take its rightful place and position in the committee of nations.
When Buhari announced running for second term, how did you feel?
I wasn’t surprised. I knew he was under tremendous pressure. Let me tell you, power is like an aphodrosdiac. It is very irrestible. And for people who have tasted it I hear it is worse than opium. People get drunk of power. Unfortunately for someone like Buhari ,I don’t see him enjoying the power rather than all the paraphernalia, but people (cabal) around him are ruling by proxy. What they do is that they know the man is weak and there’s no way he can operate optimally at his age. So, it means some people will be acting as president behind the scene. And we have seen so many examples. I don’t know if you have seen the story that the Boss did on the Mambila power project. Go and read it. You will be embarrassed, you will be scandalized on behalf of Nigerian that why should our country have people who just don’t care. By now, the government would have achieved minimum 3,000 fresh megawatts of power but just because some people want to control power desperately for themselves and for their families it doesn’t mean anything to them. Buhari wanting to come back is more about people enjoying power around him more than the man himself. Myself, Generals Obasanjo, and Babaginda, we have all spoken at different times publicly about the reasons he doesn’t have to come back, but it is his right to seek re-election. I’m a democrat. If Nigerians vote for him fine, but personally I won’t support him. I have said that repeatedly.
So, which party are you in, APC?
No, I have never been in APC. That is the beauty of it. A lot of people don’t know this. I supported Buhari as a volunteer. I’m a member of the National Conscience Party. As a matter of of fact, my former running mate, Dr Yinusa Tanko is now a presidential aspirant though our party is yet to endorse him. Maybe if there are other contestants then he has to go through primaries like I did. These are young guys, he’s an accountant, he grew up in Lagos, he’s from Kano, he’s a detribalize Nigerian; I don’t see any reason why he cannot be the president of Nigeria. I hate when people tell me some people cannot be president. They say that you have to be a governor to be a president; was Donald Trump a governor before he became a president? Was MKO Abiola a senator or governor before he won that election? People just talk out of ignorance. I tell you there are millions of Nigerians who can govern Nigeria. Governance is about managing people and resources. It is not about being a politician.
What would you say about the incessant killings, even in churches these days?
Well, it is sad that Nigerians are killing themselves. If they say it’s foreigners, it is even worse. It is the duty and responsibility of every serious government to ensure the safety and security of lives and property. Nigerians killing themselves and foreigners killing Nigerians on their own soil makes it worse. The government must wake up to its responsibilities and they must live up to the expectations of the people because those who voted for Buhari that was one of the reasons they voted for him that there will be security of lives and property and when they are not able to deliver it is embarrassing that people will see it that no other person can lead Nigeria. If people fail exams they get chucked away.