Prince Suleiman Anthony Momoh, popularly called Tony Momoh or by his initials TM, who came into the world on Thursday, April 27, 1939 in Auchi, his home town and joined the Saints Triumphant last week Monday, February 1, belonged to a rare group of human beings. These are the people with the combination of such attributes as striving for perfection in all they do, good nature disposition, humility, betterment of their communities and selfless – service to their nation without counting the cost.
In addition to these qualities, Prince Momoh was also a likeable, brilliant, detribalized and progressive person who was generous to a fault and an exceptional Prince of Peace in the drive for national unity and stability.
The 165th child of the 245 offspring of King Momoh I, the Otaru of Auchi in Edo State, who had 45 wives, he was born into a Muslim family and given the name Suleiman, but dropped it for Anthony when he converted to Christianity. He started as an Anglican but in the 1970s or 80s became a member of the Grail Movement.
This is a spiritual group founded in Germany in the late 1940s by Oskar Ernst Bernhardt (a.k.a. Abd – ru – shin). The Movement which has ten thousand members world – wide found in 16 countries in Europe and the Americas and 22 nations in Africa worship in ways different from those of Christians. Theirs is based on disseminating the spread of Abd – ru – shin’s message of In the Light of Truth which is on ideal lifestyle and commitment to the good of the society and obedience to the laws of God.
It is a pity that a year and two months after Professor Tam David – West went to glory in November 2019, that Prince Tony Momoh has had to join the Saints Triumphant that I now have to pay tribute to him as I did 14 months ago to the other elderly friend of mine. They were high – standing academics and important personalities who read and appreciated my column and at times phoned or sent text messages giving kudos to me on some of my articles.
Prince Momoh and Professor David – West were highly cerebral, principled and philosophical personalities who were also outstanding and captivating debaters and great newspaper columnists for more than twenty years and the authors of much sought after books and men who spoke English impeccably and with admirable phonetics.
They were also persons who were exceptional in their professions and national affairs and who became Ministers in the military administration of General Ibrahim Babangida (1985 – 93). Although it was regarded as the most corrupt government in the history of the country up to that period, Prince Momoh and Professor Tam David – West came out unstained and remained men of integrity until they answered the call from Heaven.
In politics, Prince Momoh was one of the few who commanded respect as decent and high – caliber politicians and people not in public service to make money. He made his mark that he became the National Chairman of the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) when it was founded in 2011.
In that capacity he was one of the leaders who got the CPC, All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP), Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) and a faction of All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) to team up in 2014 to form the All Progressives Congress (APC), a party that made history in 2015 as the first in the history of the country to defeat a ruling party.
Tony Momoh would be remembered as one of the few in Nigeria who belonged to two professions and made a name and was a leading light in both callings – journalism and law. With a degree in Mass Communication from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka he rose to become the Editor of the Daily Times, the first newspaper in Nigeria established in 1926. He served in the position from 1976 – 80.
Prince Momoh who also had a Bachelor of Law (LLB) degree from the University of Lagos would remain evergreen in people’s memory as a man who in 1981 sued the President of the Senate, Dr. Joseph Wayas at a Lagos High Court on the grounds that the Senate could not force him to disclose the source of the information in an article he wrote on the Upper Chamber. He won the case.
It was the same in 1982 when Momoh sued the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Chief Umeh Ezeoke on the same issue. But when the Senate sued him in 1983 the Court of Appeal ruled that a journalist does not enjoy special immunity and that the press can be ordered by a court to disclose its source in some cases.
In other words, Prince Momoh was a journalist who fought for press freedom, taking the issue to court which nobody did before him and by his action caused it to be established that it is only on issues affecting national security that a journalist or anyone can be made by a court of law to disclose his or her source of information.
I first met Prince Momoh in the Daily Times compound at Kakawa Street on Lagos Island in 1974 when I was a pioneer part – time columnist with the Times International, a weekly magazine published by the company. I was then a Senior Current Affairs Officer with the Nigerian Broadcasting Corporation (NBC).
I was in Prince Momoh’s office a couple of times in 1976 when he was the Editor of the Daily Times with one of my younger sisters (now Mrs. Adeoti Oluwatoyin Adefemi) as his Secretary that year and in 1977. From 1975 – 80 I invited him about thrice to take part in the three or four – man weekly Current Affairs discussion programme of the NBC called ‘Behind the Headlines, broadcast on Sunday afternoon.
In the course of inviting him for the programme I was at either his office in Kakawa Street or his residence at Randle Avenue, Surulere on Lagos Mainland. But it was not until April or May 1985 that we became close. And this came about at a media executives’ meeting the Chief – of – General Staff and Deputy Head of State Brigadier Tunde Idiagbon had with newspaper Editors and the Managers of radio and television stations in the country at the State House in Marina, Lagos.
That day I was one of those who were given the opportunity to ask Brigadier Idiagbon questions and I raised the issue of Decree 4 introduced by the Buhari junta administration in 1984. This was a law that made it an offence punishable with a two – year imprisonment without fine, if a writer was found guilty of embarrassing a public officer with a news report or in an article. It did not matter if the story was true and non – libelous.
Tunde Thompson and Nduka Irabor who were reporters with The Guardian newspaper were convicted in 1984 under the Decree for publishing the list of those the Federal Government had chosen to be the country’s High Commissioners and Ambassadors abroad. A few days later when the government released the official list some of the names published by the Guardian were not there. Thompson and Irabor were arrested for embarrassing those whose names were not on the government list.
As the story went the government deliberately changed some of the names in order to get the journalists arrested and tried under Decree 4. The introduction of the law did not come as a surprise because two months after he assumed office on January 1, 1984 General Buhari in March said his government would clamp down on the press.
At the meeting Brigadier Idiagbon had with media executives in 1985 I had suggested that the Federal Government should repeal Decree 4 because the law on libel was enough to deal with any news report or article that was offensive. Brigadier Idiagbon’s reaction was a stern warning in which he said: Sina Adedipe, be careful, if not, you will be next to be tried under Decree 4 and put behind bars.
To be continued next Wednesday
Hereafter advice to Nigerian leaders – IBB & Atiku in focus (7)
An error was made last week in the tail – end announcement that today I would write on why General Ibrahim Babangida should heed my advice. The statement should have been, to be continued next Wednesday. Why Babangida should heed my advice will go along with that of Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, Nigeria’s Vice – President (May 29, 1999 – May 28, 2007), whose story I am starting in this write – up.
More to come next week
After General Babangida in 2005, Almighty God did not send me to anyone as His candidate for the elections held in 2007, 2011 and 2015. It was for that of 2019 that He sent me to Alhaji Atiku in September 2017. But it was not until December 26, that year that I was able to deliver the message to him when his wife, Alhaja (Mrs.) Titi Abubakar, phoned and told me that her husband was around to speak with me.
Having informed him that God sent me to him as His candidate for the 2019 presidential poll, I told him of the spiritual exercises to be carried out for him to be successful. I also informed him that the Lord sent me to Chief Moshood Abiola and it was because he used the 41 Muslim clerics The Most High raised in Ado – Ekiti and who fasted and prayed for 41 days that made him win the primaries of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) in Jos in March 1993. Alhaji Baba Gana Kingibe came second while Atiku placed third in the primaries.
I also informed him that a similar 41 – day fasting exercise was carried out for Abiola to win the presidential election three months later, on June 12. Alhaji Atiku said he would do as the Lord had said and that he would get back to me through his wife.
More to come next week