By Horatio Adurogbangba
Dele Momodu has once again exhibited his unique talent for spinning fables without even a thread of truth connected to his prolific eruption of words. It is his penchant to attempt turning a grain of sand into a mountain, or ants into giants.
Perhaps, too nimble with the pen while too careless with factual analysis, Momodu is more showman than journalist. He seeks sensation and attention more than veracity. Sadly, his ego, swashbuckling pen, his passing acquaintance with the truth, all highlighted on the back page of THISDAY Newspaper, means that he is well-placed to spin false narratives that sometimes trap the uncritical reader. More often than not, Momodu is hoisted and entrapped by his artifices.
Three examples will suffice. During the Osun gubernatorial campaigns, Momodu falsely claimed that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) had frozen seven bank accounts belonging to Senator Ademola Adeleke and his family, including popular musician Davido. Momodu later had to apologize for this flight of fancy. However, unrepentant in his pursuit of untrue scandal, Momodu quickly moved into another fabrication: He circulated a video of an American man declaring his support for Senator Iyiola Omisore as Governor of Osun State. This video was quickly debunked by an activist, Kayode Ogundamisi, who showed that the video was clickbait created via an online platform called ‘Video Spokesperson’ that allows purchasers to create such pretend or jocular videos for $30. The third instance of Momodu dissembling was when he falsely posited that Femi Otedola had confirmed to him that he would run for Governor of Lagos. Otedola quickly said he never told Momodu such a thing. Momodu never replied to Otedola calling out this outrageous breach of truth and of friendship. It is in this context that we should view Momodu’s recent contribution to the genre of political fiction entitled ‘Buhari, Tinubu and the Abdication of Responsibility’, published in the January 12 edition of THISDAY Newspaper. In this article, Momodu complains that President Buhari intended for Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu to campaign in his stead. Momodu claimed this is why President Buhari named Asiwaju Tinubu as his campaign co-chair. Momodu went into a verbal tirade that designating Tinubu as co- chairman was a historic abdication of presidential responsibility that should automatically disqualify the president’s re-election bid. One must feel sorry for Momodu. It seems that ever creeping envy has driven the mad hatter even madder.
Momodu squanders an entire page of valuable journalistic real estate on essentially a non-issue. My goodness, every presidential campaign I have ever heard of has a campaign organization wherein someone other than the candidate manages the daily operations of the campaign. Even Momodu’s new found hero, former VP Atiku Abubakar, has people managing his futile run for office. Strange that Momodu grouses about Buhari when Atiku is guilty of like infraction. In fact, objectivity would compel one to admit that a sitting president has a lot of work to do with regard to national governance. It would seem the sitting president has a greater reason to have someone manage his campaign. Atiku, the man of rich and easy leisure, has no such demands on his time and can devote himself fully to the pursuit of what he sees as the golden chalice.
Momodu knows well that every campaign needs a proper structure and an important reason for that structure is to create a division of labour whereby the candidate can focus on those things that only the candidate can do. If Momodu bothered to read the President’s statement on this matter, he would have seen that Asiwaju was to oversee day-to-day operations on the president’s behalf but not campaign in his stead.
President Buhari made it clear that he would campaign. Putting a lie to Momodu’s speculation, the president, after the inauguration of the presidential campaign council, attended the January 12 campaign rally in Bauchi. Let’s be honest here. Momodu is not mad about the president attending or not attending a campaign rally. Momodu is mad that the president has been governing without making recourse to the fount of wisdom that Momodu believes only he possesses. The president’s crime is that he did not put Momodu first. Thus, Momodu wants to put the president last. Momodu is the type of person who upon seeing a happy parade pass by rushes to call his friends that he just saw a funeral procession simply because the parade organizers were at fault by failing to designate him the grandmaster of their affair. Momodu is an interloper cum laude.
Since his paymasters have hired him to attack the president, he will do what a hired larynx is paid to do- shout at every opportunity. Imagine if the president had taken the opposite approach and told us that he is placing governance on hold so that he could focus on the campaign. Momodu would have excoriated the president to no end. Momodu would have shouted that the president was sacrificing governance of the nation in order to satisfy his personal ambitions. Now, when the president places his personal wellbeing in the back seat, Momodu claims this is an abdication of duty. I am familiar with the duties the constitution bestows on our chief executive. I am much less familiar with any law or even moral obligation that requires a president to campaign as Dele Momodu would have it. If such a rule exists, it exists only in the self-conceit of its author.
Yet, even in the interstices of his retreating moral conscience, Momodu must admit to himself that the president’s position that he will focus on governance but campaign as required is the most stately and appropriate stance any leader could take. Trying to turn the practice of every decent president in all democratic societies into an offense because President Buhari is involved merely shows the shallow nature of the opposition. They believe that they can turn a speck of ice into a raging fire just by screaming long and loud enough. They may try as is their right to do, but they ought not to complain when one points out how foolish they look in attempting the futile task.
In another section of his article, Momodu takes a clumsy broadside swipe in an attempt to create disaffection between the President and Vice-President. He claimed that the president only fully allows the VP to operate when the president is out of country and the VP becomes the acting president. This argument is meretricious in the extreme. The Vice-President can only be given the powers of Acting President when the President is out of country. When the president is in Nigeria, he cannot well cede his powers to the VP. If he did such a thing, it would be abdication of constitutional and legal authority several magnitudes greater than the false abdication that gave rise to Momodu’s article and crocodile tears. How can Momodu logically rail against this imaginary abdication yet promote an abdication of a much more grievous nature? He can do so because logic and truth mean nothing to him. He was hired to spit fire and before you spit fire you must first eat it.
Again, Momodu has to admit to himself that the Buhari-Osinbajo pairing is the most amiable and productive partnership that has occupied the top two slots of the presidency. This speaks volumes about the character and quality of these two men. Let’s go back to 1999-2007 when the opposite was the case. President Olusegun Obasanjo and VP Atiku were poised to lunge at each other’s throats. Both slept with one eye closed and the other eye fixed on the other man. This too speaks volumes of the character and quality of the men involved in this infernal distrust.
Prof. Osinbajo is one of the most impactful vice presidents in the history of Nigeria. This is because the President has reposed great faith and confidence in his running mate. When Atiku was Obasanjo’s VP, Obasanjo would not give the man the freedom to order a box of paper clips on his own. The Obasanjo Atiku tandem was a study of clinical dysfunction while the Buhari –Osinbajo pairing is a case study in able management and unity of purpose. Yet, to help Momodu see through his misperceptions, let him know that the constitution provides for one president and one VP at a time. The president cannot cede equal powers to the VP while both are in the country. Let Momodu name one nation where such a thing exists as he implies should exist here. His position runs contrary to all norms of good governance and management. Again, he is manufacturing drivel because he was hired to shout but was given a poor script to work with. He is making up these counterfeit arguments in the dark and on the fly.
Momodu next tries to create disaffection between the President and Asiwaju Tinubu by dredging up anecdotal, long debunked narratives about ‘sidelining’ and ‘cabals’. Yet, this assertion is patently in contradiction to the claim that the President asked Tinubu to campaign in his stead. How can the two be at loggerheads yet the president be easily comfortable having Tinubu as campaigner-in-chief as Momodu purports? Placing his political life in the hands of someone he seeks to estrange is indeed an odd way for the president to proceed. The positions Momodu posits cannot stand together. Much like Atiku, Momodu is prone to say any and everything in hopes that something will gain traction. As such, again like Atiku, he seeks to travel east and west at the same time. In effect, he goes nowhere except further down into the morass of his inconsistencies.
For some reason, Momodu’s eyes are stuck on the figure of Asiwaju Tinubu. In this article, he expresses his fears that Tinubu will campaign for the president. However, in a previous article, Momodu brags that Bukola Saraki would have carried the Southwest in a landslide if he was the PDP presidential candidate. In a certain sense, one has to commend Momodu for boasting about his friend and obvious current benefactor, Saraki. There is something touching in making oneself appear like a fool on behalf of a friend. Yet Momodu takes this to the extreme again. If he feels Saraki is such a political force in the SW, then he should welcome the idea of Tinubu campaigning for Buhari. Implicit in Momodu’s statement is that Saraki is more popular in the SW than Tinubu, Fashola, Fayemi, Aregbesola, Akande, Ajimobi, Amosun and Akeredolu combined. This is a fantastic assertion that should be put to test. If Saraki is so popular in the region, he can still sway the region to Atiku by campaigning vigorously in Lagos and elsewhere on Atiku’s behalf. Let him do so and let’s see what happens. If what Momodu says is true about Saraki’s popularity, then Saraki is quite a selfish man for not campaigning in such a manner for his party’s standard bearer. While the APC is heavily relying on Tinubu and other stalwarts in the region to carry the day, Momodu says the PDP just needs Saraki to smile and the contest is over and done. That Saraki refuses to do this, then, says much about his disdain for his party’s candidate. Instead of succeeding in his goal of sowing trouble within the APC, Momodu inadvertently reveals dissension in the ranks of the PDP.
You may ask why Momodu would deliberately try to create an untrue picture of the APC campaign structure on the one hand, and of the relationship between the President and his chief supporters on the other. Your guess is as good as mine. Some say that Momodu is personally frustrated that the President did not appoint him to any position. Others say that he is just supporting his friend, Bukola Saraki. Regardless of what his motivation may be, he must be held to account; or he will run the risk of being permanently labeled as a Purveyor-General of fake news.
Adurogbangba, a retired Foreign Service Officer writes from Bodija, Ibadan