Osita Okechukwu pays tribute to Tony Momoh, former Minister of Information
As our chairman, Prince of Auchi Royal Kingdom, Tony Momoh goes home morrow,11 February, 2021, after a sojourn of 81 years, and nine months on Mother Earth. We his children of extended clan, and adherents can only quip that to whom we cherished, we can never lose. And as Irving Berlin’s lyric posited, the song has ended, but the melody lingers. The letter to my countrymen like many of his lucid prose have no new ones henceforth, in fact had seized from legendary Prince, it can only be found in the archives.
For the sage says that death is a universal destiny and uncommon denominator, which spares neither the royal rich nor the poor, neither black nor white and neither young nor old. He was intensely spiritual, making him seem as if he operated between the living and the dead.
Our chairman was an octogenarian and lived an exemplary and successful life. Prince was chairman, of Editorial Board, Daily Times, chairman Alex Ekwueme Campaign Organisation (ALEPCO), chairman Media and Publicity Committee of the defunct All Nigerian Peoples Party (ANPP), chairman The Buhari Campaign Organisation (TBO) Media and Publicity and chairman defunct Congress for Progressives Change (CPC). Indeed chairman of all chair.
Prince was pan-Nigerian, patriot per excellence, kind hearted and charitable persona. He touched many lives, mentored uncountable hundreds and a model to be emulated. He was passionate in his beliefs and spiritual even in politics. A spiritual realm vividly captured by his grandson, Esivwe Momoh, “As if he knew it was time, he told us shortly before he passed on that he was going for SPIRITUAL CHECKUP.”
He was in the same league with Rt.Hon. Chuba Okadigbo of blessed memory in prophesying as early as 2002 that President Buhari will not only halt the pet project of former president, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, who was then constructing a one party system for Nigeria, but will one day win the presidential election.
We thank Almighty God that their labour, indeed our labour for multiparty system in Nigeria is not in vain. It is with nostalgia that one will recount my encounter with him after an AIT television session where one was paired with PDP’s spokesman, Kola Olagbodiyan. I got kind of emergency call from him. If you know Prince, you dare not fail to honour his summon, so I abandoned my schedule, headed to his Utako home at Abuja, after greetings, good morning Sir, he sat me down. As an old teacher cum professional journalist, he queried my answers on what Mr President has achieved.
He cleared his throat, gave me pass marks on issues like Buhari’s Agrarian Revolution and infrastructural development, but rebuked me on what he rated the most remarkable achievements. He reminded me of multiparty system as the hallmark of liberal democracy with unique feature of two dominant political parties. He said without the strident, passionate and uncommon resilience of Mr President and some of us his foot soldiers that Nigeria could have remained under a one party system, hence unbridled dictatorship. Quoting him, “never forget the land mines placed on our tortuous route to merger that gave birth to All Progressives Congress on 31, July 2013.This is the most important achievement of Mr President, like him or hate him, this is a historical fact.”
He added the issue of prudent management of scarce public fund by Buhari’s administration as a major achievement. For him anti-graft war is work in progress. On the issue of herdsmen/farmers clashes he expressed misgivings and promised to meet Mr President to advise him to take decisive action. Whether he did, one doesn’t know. Suffice it to say that he intoned of decisive action from our dear president.
It was lecture series one will ever miss from this icon. Albeit, Prince reminds us that when you are sorrowful, look again and again in your inner heart and recount the useful lessons he bequeathed to us. The lessons are unlimited, as one cannot easily forget his stand at Railway Guest House Jos.
Alex Ekwueme Campaign Organisation used the guest house as TAC Hq and was confronted with a big dilemma, between the devil and deep blue see, as the presidential primary election was shifted to Sunday. Opinion was divided whether there could legally be a shift of date without National Executive Committee of the Peoples Democratic Party’s meeting. The late Dr Emeka Enejere and some of us contested the shift because we were angered first, because Chief Obasanjo’s camp had earlier allegedly shot our Campaign Director General, Chief Audu Ogbeh who was contesting Benue South Senatorial District with Senator David Mark. Added salt to injury was the shift, resulting from the fact that we booked full, most hotels in Jos and Obasanjo camp was left out in the cold Jos weather. They were forced to be quartered miles away outside town. Prince, late Adamu Ciroma and Dr Ekwueme stood on the side that contesting the date may derail the transition program and that nothing on earth should halt Nigeria’s move to democracy, whether Ekwueme lost or not. And with the military establishment push Ekwueme lost, but democracy triumphed.
Another remarkable event which demonstrated Prince’s professional dexterity as a journalist was immediately after our exit from the defunct ANPP, when late Chief Edwin Umezoke, then chairman and his cohorts post 2007 mangled presidential election, abandoned Buhari at the Presidential Election Tribunal. Prince invited ANPP Media and Publicity team to his hotel and marshaled out media action plan. He said, “Osita, we are going to use your platform as the Publicity Secretary of the Conference of Nigerian Political Parties (CNPP) to advance our narrative against their bogus claim of National Unity Government. For the spokesman of the party didn’t exit with us.
It was then that he reminded us that he had made legal history in the classic-cus judgement of Momoh Vs National Assembly. A Grapevine report akin to today’s constituency project grapevine news of building bridge to no where story. The judgment was one of his golden medals, that the source of news is sacred and cannot be disclosed by journalists as guaranteed by the constitution.
In sum, Prince was my dear chairman at different at times at different fora, spanning over two decades; accordingly in adieu tribute, permit me to end with one of the the occasions when he demonstrated his most remarkable commitment to democracy. When most APC leadership were losing their heads consequent upon the brouhaha over the National Assembly election which produced former Senate President, Dr Bukola Saraki, he remained calm and philosophical.
In a crucial meeting of core legacy members of APC he assigned me to go and plead with my brother, Senator Ike Ekweremadu to vacate the office of Deputy Senate President. That it was an aberration and antithetical to the cohesion of our great party, the ruling party. For him that was the only snag and he was ready to plead with all those that were offended in one way or the other, if he will resign or withdraw. There and then I told him, there is no need broaching it, for the Ekwemadu I know will not agree.
I then whispered to him that we should go to Mr President as members of the defunct CPC family and to fashion out ways and means of managing the presidency. He shouted, are you one of those who still talk of CPC family, when we are now one family under APC. He frowned seriously and named some prominent individuals he rebuffed on this score. I calmly took time to narrate how we need to assist Mr President as the center can no more hold, as Asiwaju Ahmed Bola Tinubu after contributing immensely in the construction of APC merger either by commission or omission, breached one of the Igbo maxims. He quietly as usual asked me whether am coming with another Igbo proverb?
I said no proverb this time, but a maxim that “you do not allow the sharing of shops of a new market to denigrate into a fight,” especially when Asiwaju has gotten the VP’s slot. He could have avoided such fierce struggle for National Assembly slots, more so when Mr President had publicly pronounced that he was ready to work with anyone. That after such fight, it becomes very difficult or almost impossible for shareholders to sit amicably. That we are going to be the bridge. He refused and up to death was committed to one APC family. For this, I once more salute his tenacity, resilience, learnt a lot from him and wish we all emulate him.
Prince, the Song has ended, but the melody lingers!
Adieu! Adieu! Adieu Prince!
Voice of Nigeria