RIGHT OF REPLY
BY TUNDE RAHMAN
Shaka Momodu’s tirades go beyond aggressive journalism. What motivates him is something that stands on the wrong side of the pathological. He seems possessed of some irrational phobia concerning Asiwaju Bola Tinubu. Judging from Momodu’s latest article, the old animus he holds against Tinubu for not inviting him to be part of his team should have ebbed by now. Instead, Momodu keeps the fire of hatred burning. He seeks revenge for an insult that never happened. A man has a right to choose the team of his liking. Momodu cannot deprive Tinubu or anyone else of that right. Momodu should get on with life and do something constructive instead of brimming with anger over what might have been.
Momodu has published at least four articles in as many months on Tinubu, repeating the same hackneyed lines again and again. His desire to snipe at Tinubu beclouds his reasoning. When it comes to Tinubu, Momodu becomes so apoplectic that he cannot manage the simple exercise of counting to two. For instance, after publishing the article titled “Lagos Shall Be Free Part 2” last October, someone must have kindly whispered into his ear that there was never a part one of this screed.
Momodu really sunk low in his latest off-target hit piece, “Tinubu Tightens the Noose,” published last Friday. In his babble, Momodu claimed Tinubu “labels others corrupt and awards them gold medals for corruption when he is more deserving of them.” However, Momodu can offer no evidence of the corruption he alleges. Tinubu was beloved by neither Presidents Obasanjo nor Jonathan. They commanded their agencies, particularly the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, to subject Asiwaju to every investigation imaginable. Obasanjo left no aspect unattended in trying to destroy Tinubu. If there was something to be found, Obasanjo surely would have used to guillotine Tinubu as he was the only person standing between Obasanjo and his dream of one-party domination of Nigerian politics.
Momodu claims one of Tinubu’s awful deeds was that “he picked from a three bedroom flat in Surulere, with an old Mercedes Benz (flat boot) and a Sagem mobile phone” a close aide and made him “the occupant of the seat of power in Alausa.” Tinubu should perhaps be flattered that Momodu attributes so much power to him.
Momodu has not the courage to name the aide because naming the aide would refute the very argument Momodu is trying to make. The mystery aide is none other than Babatunde Raji Fashola. By all estimates, Fashola was an excellent governor. Momodu could not say otherwise, thus he tried to blur Fashola’s identity. Moreover, as Minister of Power, Fashola doubled the power output of this nation in four short years when Momodu’s PDP wasted 16 billion dollars in 16 years without improving our power supply. If Tinubu is to be adjudged by the people he selects for his team, he is clearly vindicated by selecting a Fashola.
The writer tried another put-down by claiming that President Buhari breached all norms in designating Asiwaju the Co-chairman of his campaign. Regarding a sitting president allowing someone else to manage their campaigns, Momodu asked, “Now, tell me who does that?”
Well, let me tell him: Every American president of the 20th and 21st centuries, including the two Roosevelts, two Bushes, one Kennedy, one Clinton and one Obama. They did as Buhari has done. Also, if you go to Canada, UK and other democracies, you will see that the elected heads of government did similarly. Not to follow this pattern would be the anomalous and wrong thing to do. Perhaps Momodu is confused. So perhaps a sports analogy might help him understand better. Take a tennis player or a boxer. In both cases, the athlete has a manager, who helps him achieve his goals. But no one in his right mind would confuse the manager for the athlete. Perhaps the difficulty is that Momodu had once been a pugilist himself. If so, he was likely not a very good one for his writings bear strong evidence of a man, who has suffered too many blows to the head.
Momodu also cries about Alpha Beta, the accounting firm. He says that a petition written to EFCC last year against Alpha Beta, “a company he is suspected to own a major stake in,” had been gathering dust on the EFCC shelf. What Momodu forgot to add is that the person who filed the petition has absconded from Nigeria. That person fled after having bilked Alpha-Beta. Let that person return to Nigeria to see which petition has more validity. In this and in most things, Momodu sides with the fugitive from justice because Momodu himself is a fugitive from the truth.
Lest we forget, it was the ingenuity of Tinubu’s government that brought Alpha Beta. Because of this innovation, the Internally Generated Revenue of Lagos moved from N600 million in 1999 to over N25 billion monthly today. Powered by this increase in IGR, Lagos’s economy today is ranked fifth in Africa and social services in the state have improved across the board. Alpha Beta also has been invited by many states and other countries to do for them what was done for Lagos.
Momodu then chirped: “Now consider that a petition dated January 9, 2019 against the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Walter Onnoghen, was investigated with supersonic speed and by January 11th charges had been filed against Onnoghen at the Code of Conduct Tribunal, CCT, without following due process.” What Momodu neglects to say is that undergirding the matter of the inaccurate assets declaration is the matter of an unexplained large sum of American dollars in the accounts. Momodu should explain the presence and source of these funds as the justice is having a very rough time telling the people how the money fell into his lap.
Momodu also claimed Tinubu recently boasted in Osogbo that he was richer than Osun State. This is patently fake news. During the election there, Asiwaju‘s paid a courtesy call on Ataoja of Osogbo to seek royal blessing for the aspiration of Governor Adegboyega Oyetola, then APC governorship candidate. What Asiwaju said on that occasion was that Oyetola, a successful private sector player, had achieved success in that sector; that Oyetola was not running for governorship because he wanted to help himself with the state’s resources. How this clear and innocuous statement could be distorted into being depicted as a show of arrogance shows the danger of the reckless journalism that has become Momodu’s trademark.
Momodu seems incensed that Governor Ambode failed at the APC governorship primary. Showing his inconsistency, Momodu does not complain about Ambode’s path to the governorship as he complained about Fashola’s even though the two are similar. Well this is not so strange at all. Momodu is doing his paymaster’s bidding; consistency and veracity are early and frequent casualties of a mercenary pen.
Momodu has the nerve to claim the APC primary was flawed but he neglects to say in what way. The only flaw Momodu really sees is that he disliked the outcome. Over 1 million Lagosians voted in an open, transparent exercise. The result was clear and resounding. The Lagos primary was as fair and visible as they come. Momodu would be hard pressed to point to a primary in his beloved PDP that equals the high quality attained in Lagos.
Alas, the counterfeit democrat Momodu reveals his true colors. He is unwilling to accept the voice of the people. If he does not get his way, he falsely paints that as a lack of democracy. Momodu is guilty of the very thing he accuses Tinubu of doing. If he had the power, Momodu would surely substitute his single voice for the collective decision of nearly 1million Lagosians.
Momodu then criticized the appointment of Hakeem Muri-Okunola as the Head of Service. Here, Momodu needs a basic lesson in the state civil service. In 2015, Governor Ambode retired in one fell swoop 21 Permanent Secretaries in the state civil service. Because this purge did not occur at the hands of Tinubu, Momodu accepts it as being proper. A direct consequence of this massive removal of a score of senior officials is that Muri-Okunola became the second most senior civil servant. With the subsequent retirement of the head of service, Mrs. Folasade Sidikatu Adesoye, in December, again at the behest of Governor Ambode, Muri-Okunola became the next in line to be the number one civil servant in the state. That he was Tinubu’s PA several years ago should not be used to somehow erase his many years of distinguished service to the state.
Armed with a first degree in Law from University of Lagos and a Master in Business Law from the University of London, HMO began his career as Company Secretary at the Lagos State-owned Ibile Holdings from where he moved to the Ministry of Lands as Executive Secretary and later Perm Sec between 2005 and 2011. Since then, he has been Perm Sec Ministry of Youths and Social Development. There is no doubt about HMO’s ability and competence. But for Momodu and his irrational way of thinking to have worked for Tinubu is now a disqualifier for higher office. Yet, if this is so, why does not Momodu write that Governor Ambode should not be where he is. Momodu dare not stray across this line because he knows the confines of the smear job he has been hired to do.
Momodu even descends to talk about Asiwaju’s mien. Momodu cavils that Tinubu is not an eloquent speaker. He says Tinubu’s gait is not inspiring. He even says Tinubu’s cap is oversized. Mr Momodu, you really have ladled the sauce too thickly. If what you say is so true, then I must ask, how can a man who cannot talk, walk, or even dress properly reach the place of immeasurable power that you ascribe to him?
Momodu, you evidently have in abundance these traits which you claim Tinubu lacks. Yet, look at what you are reduced to doing: yelping through the window like a pet left outside in the rain. Let’s give you a quick lesson in civics and perhaps a nice towel to dry you off.
You are wrong to think that leadership boils down to how you talk, walk or even your sartorial flair. All of these things are superficial, if not vain. If a smooth tongue was all that is needed, then any auctioneer, carnival barker or confidence man would be the world’s great leader. If walking was the litmus test, glamor models would also be the world’s leading statesmen. If clothing really made the man, I suppose your tailor would be our president. Thank goodness none of this is true.
What distinguishes a true leader is his vision, his capacity to solve problems and his compassion for people. In these things, Asiwaju excels. It is because of these qualities that he remains an influential and prominent leader. He is far from the leviathan you claim. He is a humane and caring person with much forbearance and tolerance for people wronging him. He even has goodwill toward you despite your enmity toward him. He is someone who wants the best for Lagos and is willing to open the door to allow talented people to work according to their abilities.
Thus, keep your fancy talk, swaggering walk and your dressy haberdasher. These things will make you flash for a moment but they get you nowhere important. True progressive leadership withstands the test of time. This is the place where Asiwaju resides and into which you can’t even muster a visitor’s pass.
Rahman, former Editor, Thisday, The Sunday Newspaper, is Media Adviser to Tinubu