Tony Momoh: Mastermind of change at 76

By Mack Ogbamosa on May 6, 2015

THE story of the rough road that President-elect, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (Rtd), took to Aso Rock cannot be told without the contributions of Prince Tony Momoh.

He was not only one of the masterminds of the merger of the three main opposition political parties-Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), All Nigerians Peoples’ Party (ANPP) and Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) as well as a faction of All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) to form the All Progressives Congress (APC) but has been on the project with Buhari for about 12 years when he headed the Media and Publicity Campaign Council of the president-elect under the then All Nigerians Peoples’ Party (ANPP). He later became Chairman of the defunct CPC.

When Buhari lost in 2003 and 2007, he was one of those who helped pursued the case all through the Appeal Court to the Supreme Court.

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At a time the president-elect had given up having publicly declared he was not going to contest elections again, Momoh was one of those who convinced him to rescind that decision. In fact, he went ahead asking Nigerians to beg Buhari to contest.

Having convinced Buhari to contest the primaries after the merger into All Progressives Congress (APC), he formed “Those Who Care Group” (TWCG) promoting Buhari as “The Face of Change”

The result is there for all to see.

With the level of his participation in politics, he appears to have surpassed the achievements of the late Chief Anthony Enahoro, one of those he admired in his younger days and decided to name himself ANTHONY.

But does Momoh see himself as a professional politician? Not really. Rather, he believes he is a professional in politics. Like Buhari, Momoh is also very honest, disciplined, hardworking and incorruptible.

Also like Buhari, Momoh is a simple man- who insists on following the rules. But do Nigerians believe in following the rules? Momoh once said that Nigeria is a country with laws while the United States (US) is a country of laws, meaning that Nigerians have laws but do not obey them while the Americans obey their laws

Momoh as a journalist

Beyond politics, Momoh is seen by many Nigerians especially those in the in the media as their mentor. He has distinguished himself in journalism. In the annals of the profession, Momoh was the first to have degrees in Mass Communication and Law- having attended the University of Nigeria, Nsukka (UNN) and the University of Lagos (UNILAG).

He was also the first to become the Training Manager of the Times Newspaper Training Centre (TNTC) later Times Journalism Institute at Iganmu, Lagos. Among all the Editors of the Daily Times, he was the first and only to be made Editor Of the daily paper through examinations. He was also the first and only to take the Senate of the Federal Republic to court over press freedom.

He was also the first Minister of Information and Culture to write letters to his countrymen, explaining government policies and programmes as well as preaching patriotism. There is hardly any journalist in the country that has written as many books and journals as Momoh has done. These include: Reflections on Letters to My Countrymen; Each man His Time, the Biography of an Era; and Democracy Watch, A Monitor’s Diary.

Momoh as a humourist

Unknown to many, Momoh is a man of humour. He applies this from time to time.

As General Manager of Times Publications Division (TPD) in the eighties, he had responsibility for also supervising all editorial matters in the Group. On one occasion, the Daily Times Newspaper was published with wrong spelling of the word ‘‘tomorrow’’ on the front page. Instead of shouting at the Production Editor who cast the headline, he came to the production desk to tell the story of his son who could not spell the word ‘’TomTom’’. He asked that he should be assisted to do so.

When a volunteer did so, he asked if tomorrow had a single M like TomTom to which we all agreed. Momoh then asked us to check the spelling of tomorrow on the front page of the paper. It was spelt with double m. When he was appointed Minister of Information, he was away in the United Kingdom (UK) on an official assignment for the Daily Times of Nigeria (DTN). On his return, this reporter was congratulating him in the Daily Times newsroom. Instead of celebrating his appointment, he said what the government wanted to do was to ‘‘Rope me in’’. Did subsequent events prove him right? What many Nigerians did not understand, however, was that as minister, Momoh was now a Public Relations Manager for the government.

Again recently when this writer asked him for celebrations over Buhari’s victory at the presidential polls, he queried him for doing so, saying that this was the time to face challenges and tackle them instead of celebrating. To him, if the challenges are not properly tackled, the leaders would find themselves being stoned in the next four years.

Biography

MOMOH was born into the royal family of Auchi, Edo State on April 27, 1939 as the 165th child of Momoh the First.

After obtaining his Teachers Grade three and two certificates as well Ordinary and Advanced Level General Certificates in Education and acquiring teaching experience for several years, he was employed in the DAILY TIMES as a Sub Editor trainee in 1962.

From here, he left to the University of Nigeria, Nsukka (UNN) to read Mass Communication, which he later completed at the University of Lagos (UNILAG) because of the Civil War in the country at that time. He also read law at UNILAG and was called to the Bar in 1975. He occupied various editorial and administrative positions in the DAILY TIMES before he was appointed a minister in 1986.

He was Secretary and later President, Nigerian Guild of Editors, Chairman, National Registration Council of the Nigeria Union of Journalists and has also served on the Boards of Nigeria Airways, the Nigeria Media Merit Award (NMMA), the Nigerian Press Council and African Refugees Foundation. He is a fellow of the Commonwealth Journalists Association and the Nigerian Guild of Editors. He is married to Janet and they are blessed with four children.

Ogbamosa, a Lawyer/Journalist, wrote from Lagos, Nigeria

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