By Chinelo Obogo, Aidoghie Paulinus, Abuja, Gyang Bere, Jos and Lukman Olabiyi
Former military Head of State, Gen. Ibrahim Babangida (rtd) has led tributes to commiserate with the family of the late veteran journalist, lawyer and former Minister of Information and Culture, Prince Tony Momoh, who died in Abuja on Monday at the age of 81.
Momoh, a chieftain of the All Progressives Congress (APC) was born on April 27, 1939 in Auchi, Edo State and served as Information minister during Babangida’s regime from 1986 to 1990.
In his tribute, Babangida said: “He was such a teacher, a patriot, with uncommon brilliance, who deployed his intellect to shape national discourse in the course of our intervention in government. He was very blunt, honest, and frank when he needed to put issues across, and was fond of interrogating submissions to be sure they are based on facts. His sense of loyalty was profound.
“I was utterly shocked to learn of the death of this great Nigerian, such a rare enigma, a quintessential thorough-bred journalist and lawyer. He was a successful mass communicator, a didactic letter writer, a brilliant legal mind, a family man, and an unusual politician. He never hesitated to state his piece of mind, irrespective of who was involved. Once he believed in a cause, he followed through, no matter the outcome. As a principled Prince, he was never frivolous and flippant, he was thorough, contented, well researched and essentially pan-Nigeria. His death, no doubt, has left a huge void in our heart of hearts. My condolence to the Momoh Royal Family of Auchi Kingdom, particularly the Otaru of Auchi Kingdom, his widow, his children, friends and associates. May Allah grant them the fortitude to bear this painful loss.”
Ekiti State Governor, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, in a statement by his Chief Press Secretary, Yinka Oyebode, described the late Momoh as a journalist whose life was worthy of emulation as he firmly held the view that the media had the responsibility to hold the government accountable at all times.
Fayemi who is Chairman of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum said the former minister was a man of honour and distinction with impeccable reputation for standing firm in the face of intimidation, especially during the struggle for press freedom.
“Prince Momoh would be remembered for so many distinguished roles he played both in his chosen career and in nation building. On behalf of the government and good people of Ekiti State, I commiserate with his immediate family members, the people of Auchi as well as the government and the people of Edo State, and prayed God to grant the family the fortitude to bear the great loss.”
Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, in his tribute, said Momoh’s death has robbed Nigeria of a rare patriot and a respected elder statesman.
In a statement by the Special Assistant to the President (Media), Office of the Minister of Information and Culture, Segun Adeyemi, Mohammed expressed sadness at his death, saying Momoh was a strong believer in Nigeria’s ability to surmount its challenges to become a highly respected member of the comity of nations.
Similarly, Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr. Chris Ngige, in a statement, expressed shock at Momoh’s passing, describing it as a colossal loss to the nation.
He said: “I spoke with Momoh nearly a week ago but incapable of seeing through the plans of the maker of mankind. His was a long trajectory of excellence in professional journalism and deft, patient and principled political undertakings. He was the founding Chairman of the Congress for Progressive Change ( CPC) one of the legacy political parties that formed the APC. While we laid the building blocks of the APC, he chaired one of the party’s Ad-hoc Committee comprising Bisi Akande, Audu Ogbe, myself, Danjuma Goje, Sam Jaja and Ahmed Yerima. The Committee was charged to brainstorm and come up with an unassailable report to assist the party’s Presidential candidate, Muhammadu Buhari choose his running mate from the southern part of the country. We were given just an hour but Momoh, painstaking, thorough and meticulous, decided otherwise. We spent three hours but answered all the critical questions and cleared all knotty issues; helping our presidential candidate choose an acceptable running mate.”
National leader of the APC, Bola Tinubu, described the late Momoh as a statesman, patriot and exemplary journalist.
In a condolence message sent by by his Media Office, Tinubu said: “I’m deeply saddened by the passing of Chief Tony Momoh. I recall reading his interview in one of the national newspapers a few days ago where he restated his love of this country and his belief in its future. He was a statesman and patriot resolutely committed to the unity and progressive development of this country. Exemplary journalist, he earned domestic and global recognition as Editor of the old Daily Times in those challenging days for journalists.
“His death is a great loss at this time his wise counsel is needed in the country. My condolences to his family. I pray that God give them the strength to overcome this loss. I commiserate with the Newspaper Proprietors Association of Nigeria, the Guild of Editors and indeed with the Media Confraternity. I also mourn with the government and people of Edo State and the entire country.”
Chairman,Northern Governors Forum and Governor of Plateau State, Simon Lalong, in a statement on behalf of the forum said Momoh was a giant in the media industry and played a great role in promoting freedom of the press as well as the opening up the media space which eventually culminated in deregulation that saw the emergence of many media outlets.
Lalong also commended his leadership and achievements as Pro-Chancellor and Chairman of Council, University of Jos, where he helped in the academic performance and general development of the institution which is now a leading University in Nigeria and Africa. While praying God to grant his soul eternal rest, Governor Lalong asked his family to be consoled with his testimony of honesty, hard work and patriotism.
Aare Onakakanfo of Yoruba land, Gani Adams, in a statement by his Special Assistant on Media, Kehinde Aderemi, described Momoh as a genuine leader who was one of the leading patriots that offered his wealth of experience for national progress and development.
“The late Tony Momoh was one of our heroes in the struggle for this democracy. He was an apostle of restructuring, and one of the leading voices in national politics. Most times, he attends our programmes without rigours. With his death, there is no doubt that we have lost one of our great men, whose generation of patriots are depleting by the day. I want assure Nigerians that we will not relent in our efforts, by ensuring that the ideals he lived and died for remained evergreen in our minds,” Adams said.
The Nigerian Guild of Editors (NGE) also reacted to the passing of Momoh. In a statement by the acting president, Mustapha Isah and General Secretary, Mary Atolagbe, the NGE said Momoh was a distinguished elder statesman, patriot and nationalist of the first order and will be greatly missed.
“Undoubtedly, Prince Momoh was a distinguished elder statesman, a patriot and a nationalist of the first order. He will be greatly missed by the Guild, the entire Nigerian media industry and the country at large. The body of Editors joins the royal family of Auchi Kingdom and the government and people of Edo State to mourn Prince Tony Momoh, a quintessential Nigerian, who gave his all to the service of his beloved country,” the guild said.