Late Prince Tony Momoh
Prince Tony Momoh, PMT, entered politics as a journalist; not as a lawyer or politician. The murky political waters and his person/values are two worlds apart.
Prof. Ben Obumselu offered him the post of media director, Alex Ekwueme Presidential Campaign Organisation, ALEPCO, in the PDP 1998 primary race. Prince accepted and took me along. Funds were very low. Ekwueme lost the Jos PDP primary primarily to brazen horse trading. Chief Olusegun Obasanjo and the PDP swept the polls as could not be otherwise.
A year later, PTM started surveying national politics in the Sunday Vanguard. Democracy Watch: A Monitor’s Diary x-rayed the dramas tearing down due process, gathering hawks and bizarre bazaars under the umbrella of governance.
Dr. Ekwueme’s entry in the 2002 primary race was reactionary, poised to fail; not otherwise. PDP’s zoning formula of two terms to the south and two to the north lured him to sleep. Each side was meant to share among their three geopolitical zones which implied one term tenure and inconsistent with the Constitution. Obasanjo’s second term could not be up set on a deficient zoning formula.
Dr Ekwueme was disgraced at the 2002 PDP convention. His supporters were deemed anti-party elements disloyal to President Obasanjo and the party.
Prince took the door as matter of honour.
General Muhammadu Buhari (Rtd), GMB for short, stirred the political waters in 2002 with joining the All Nigeria People’s Party, ANPP as a presidential candidate. Prince was approached to head the media campaigns. He accepted and again, took me along.
Strong concerns trailed the candidate. His records as a former military head of state painted him a dictator. We pushed the fact that people change. Buhari said that events in the former Soviet Union have convinced him that the future is in democracy; not dictatorship.
Mr. George Izobo, a former NUJ president and I joined Prince to interview GMB in two no holds sessions. Mr Seyi Aluko took the photographs. Day one lasted 9 p.m. to 1 a.m. At day break, Chief Harry Marshal, ANPP’s Rivers State chairman was found murdered in his Abuja home. Buhari led the protests to the party’s secretariat and to the office of the Inspector General of Police. Our closing session therefore had to shift to the next night.
“This is an ‘inquest'”, GMB said when we rounded up after midnight. He noted that the military authorities didn’t drill him as hard when his regime was toppled.
‘Many Questions and Buhari’s Answers’ captured his worldview and politics and remains a reference material of value.
Our campaign efforts failed in 2003 and 2007. Obasanjo’s dictatorial tendencies levied stronger doubts on Buhari. GMB will be worse than OBJ became the battle cry that re-echoed nationwide.
After the 2011 elections, the war veteran threw in the towel but his party chairman wasn’t done yet. The idea of a merger as the way forward hit Prince while on the sick bed in Cairo, Egypt where he went for knee surgery.
Claims on who started the merger talks are political grandstanding. Buhari’s exit would impact the political future of Prince so that he had to find a way forward.
The All Progressives Congress, APC, was a political child of necessity born of the union of the CPC (Buhari group), ACN (Tinubu camp), the ANPP and factions of the PDP and APGA. CPC and ACN became joint drivers of sort. CPC took the presidential flag bearer and the ACN, the VP slot.
Buhari won Nigeria 2015 election against his wildest dream. Prince trusted and believed his character and commitment would turn Nigeria around. This trust and loyalty made the difference. A staunch believer in Nigeria’s destiny of a great nation, Prince knew that sacrifices were needed for the dream to even take root.
Buhari lets his appointees take charge, and so Prince committed himself not to influence the president in any way.
As the merger evolved, Prince invited Mr. Lai Mohammed to his Anthony Village office for a chat on a radical human capital development project. Another Prince associate and two aides of Lai joined us.
Nations, towns and families empower and inspire their members to success or face crises sooner or later. The greatest assets of nations are human but without empowerment, many a person turns useless and destructive rather than useful, creative.
Over three hours of discussions, Lai was delighted but noted that APC’s manifesto and economic team would produce plans to turn the nation and the economy around.
A month to the elections, I ‘saw’ Buhari receive the certificate of return. I told Prince and asked him what he wants; also what those who worked with him on Buhari over the years would get.
No personal gain politics
“I became a minister about 30 years ago without lobbying. I want no personal gain in politics. If you want anything, go to the general,” he said. So, I told Mummy (Mrs. Momoh).
“You know Tony well. He will not ask for anything for himself. Those of you who worked all these years won’t be forgotten if General wins. Let’s pray he wins.”
APC won and Prince asked for my CV. In all, he sent five names to the Presidency but one of the nominees died. After two years, I asked him what was happening. He pulled a drawer in his office and showed me the files of his nominees.
“The President has thousands of posts to fill. I will not beg but let’s remain hopeful!”
Towards the end of the first term, I went to Abuja with a letter to the Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo. I told a colleague who gave me a contact. Before and on arriving Abuja, I tried reaching him but couldn’t. I called Chuks, Prince’s PA to direct me to his office. But he didn’t know, then noted that Prince was back from the UK.
When we chatted two days earlier, Prince said he would stay a few more days. So, I had no plan to see him.
Getting to the house, I gave him a copy of the document I came to deliver.
“You can leave them with me. I have a lot of work waiting. I will read through when I can. If it’s OK, I will deliver it.”
Two months and Prince wrote a covering letter to the VP entitled: ‘An Unusual Approach to Tackling Poverty,’ and was acknowledged January 2019. With no further response months after, Prince wrote a reminder last August.
Western nations are pushing hard to help their peoples survive Covid-19 crises. Money has become critical and political. Prince urged the Vice President to support the project as it may well be the long awaited vaccine against poverty.
Artificial income is innovative Fintech product that may put Nigeria on world’s financial map. Great nations do great things and no nation ever became great doing what others have done.
The path to Nigeria’s greatness is doing the unthinkable: empower her entire peoples and humanity, materially, mentally and spiritually. There is no nation on earth today endowed as Nigeria with human capital…
‘Stone us if…’
Prince was a member of the APC Board of Trustees as he was in the PDP. Hence, supporting the president and the party was his duty.
About the end of his first year in office, debates arose on whether the president has done well or not. Prince replied that much have been done and more would come.
‘Stone us if we do not perform after two years,’ Prince declared openly borne of knowledge but later reframed it: Nigerians should use their votes to sack the party if it failed to deliver.
To him, leadership is accountability, responsibility, engaging knowingly and delivering exemplary services.
GMB promised three things: stop corruption, revive the economy and defeat Boko Haram/insecurity which Prince believed are deliverable.
Corruption arises when institutions and the economy are weak/failing. Solution: strengthen the institutions and the economy.
Weak/failed institutions and economy birth the trinity of poverty, corruption and insecurity. The three always go together. Since weak/failing economies breed weak citizens, empowerment is so essential.
With Covid19 pandemic, developed nations work so hard to support citizens as basic to national health.
Education, employment and security are vital but empowerment is strategic.
Nigeria can empower half of her peoples in four years at little cost and if seven percent make good, Great Nigeria is born! No person should to be left behind. Mass empowerment is feasible. The age of competition is over; now is the age of cooperation. The secret to great Nigeria is cooperation, not competitions. The lessons of Rivers Niger and Benue joining have been lost on Nigerians! Each human being has value and can add value. Worthless and useless masses are state failures to help weak persons add value to selves and others.
Nigeria has one path to greatness: reinvent the world.
GMB said that Nigeria has no business with poverty. And this is true. Poverty is politics more than economic.
Nigeria must kill corruption or corruption kills her, said the president…
A thoroughbred journalist, Prince saw Nigeria’s future bright and beautiful. But hold governments accountable is the starting point. Corruption can be halted; poverty is curable. Prince believed the APC would deliver because failure is not an option but rather too expensive to bear.
At independence in 1960, corruption was about one percent. 1966 was about two percent when the military struck! President Shagari was called government of ten percent while IBB more than doubled what he met.
Sir Tafawa Balewa, Gen. Yakubu Gowon and Alhaji Shehu Shagari were sacked for running corrupt governments and yet none had any assets on leaving office.
To know the state of corruption, follow the money. Currency fluctuations owe much to corrupt practices in the system. Of truth, some Nigerian leaders did not loot…
In September 2015, Prince invited me to Abuja to help in producing ‘100 Days of President Buhari’ as part of the October 1 celebration. I was to see a presidential aide at 11 a.m. Tuesday and so arrived Abuja on Monday. Three days passed and no news. I told Prince my misgivings. ‘Stay or leave if you like but I advise you wait’, he said. Friday afternoon, a call came that the project was off for lack of money.
OK, but what of my costs. I have been in a hotel, I pressed.
“You don’t seem to get it; there is no money!”
Prince submitted five names and none made it. In the second term, he sent four; again nothing. Would the chairman of the party that produced the president not having a nominee in the government be an expression of vote of confidence?
Prince entered politics to hold governments accountable from close quarters; not for self enrichment.
Journalism of quid pro quo (brown envelopes) and material favours taint the profession, hence alien to his soul and politics.
Politics of exclusion
Prince was not in President Buhari’s orbit but was the President aware? After being together for over 12 years when things were tough, would making him the Pro chancellor, University of Jos and none of his nominees in government suffice?
Prince wrote the Vice President twice on a project that could change Nigeria and global economy for good and for two years no due reply or action was given. But again, was the VP even aware?
Why didn’t he go to Mr President in person, some would ask.
Well, he decided at the out set that he would not!
Prince Tony Momoh distinguished himself as a rare breed. What separated his politics from the rest are self-evident: public, not self interests; public service over and above personal gains.
Firm believer in great Nigeria, go forth, brave soldier!
Anyamele, a journalist/author wrote from Lagos.