Renowned Nigerian journalist, astute administrator, politician and former Minister of Information and Culture, Prince Tony Momoh, recently passed on in Abuja. The deceased made indelible contributions to the development of journalism, law, culture and politics. He studied Journalism and Law and excelled in both fields. Prince Tony Momoh served as the Minister of Information and Culture from 1986-1990 during the regime of Gen Ibrahim Babangida.
He excelled in his various fields of endeavours which spanned the media, law, politics, teaching, writing and the corporate world. He was bestowed the respected Japanese Seikyo Culture Prize in recognition of his “great contributions to society.”
Despite his lofty achievements in many spheres, his life was a study in humility. Therefore, his remarkable life is worthy of emulation by practising and aspiring journalists. He was a role model and mentor.
While mourning the demise of some of his peers in the journalism profession some weeks ago, Momoh took solace in the words of the Bible that humans are in the world, but not of the world. His death is unarguably a huge loss to Nigerian journalism, law and politics. He will be missed by his friends and admirers.
Prince Momoh will be remembered for his famous “Letters to my Countrymen” when he was the Minister of Information and Culture from 1986 to 1990. He was a defender of press freedom and human rights.
Momoh was the 165th child of King Momoh 1 of Auchi. He was the third of the four children that his mother, a junior wife, had amidst 48 mates. He attended Government School Auchi, which was founded by his father in 1922. He later moved to Anglican School Okpe, where he served as a Pupil Teacher. He also served as the Headmaster of the Anglican School, Ubuneke, Ivbiaro, Owan Local Government Area of the state. Later, he studied at the Provincial Teachers’ Training College, Abudu, Edo State and Government Teachers’ College, Abraka, Delta State. He studied Mass communication at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, (UNN) and Law at the University of Lagos. He attended the Nigerian Law School and was called to the bar in June 1975.
Momoh started journalism as a sub- editor at the Daily Times in October 1962. He rose through the ranks and became Editor and Deputy General Manager in 1980. In 1996, he became a director of the defunct Newswatch magazine. He also served as chairman of the board of the defunct Nigeria Airways. Until his death, he was a strong supporter of restructuring the country as well as a regular commentator on some burning national issues.
In one of his media interventions in 2014, Momoh, among other things, made a strong case for restructuring. According to him, “there is no doubt therefore, that the present arrangement is not healthy for us. It cannot work in any federation. The way out of this problem is restructuring the political arrangement to make it manageable and less demanding on our resources.” His position on restructuring is still relevant today.
As a politician, he served the country in various capacities in the last two decades. In 1999, he was director of the Alex Ekwueme Presidential Campaign Organisation and later served as the chairman, media and publicity, of the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP). He was also the chairman of the political committee of the Muhammadu Buhari Organization and national chairman of the defunct Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), which later merged with others to form the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC).
We mourn his death and commiserate with his family, the government and people of Edo State and the Nigerian media as well as the legal profession on the great loss. May God grant his soul eternal rest.