The Dele Momodu Effect on Poor and Rich Nigerians

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Olabode Opeseitan 

The chequered story of his life will draw tears not only to the eyes of the over 83 million people living in extreme poverty in Nigeria today but also melt the heart of most Nigerians; rich or poor, young or old. It is relatable, poignant and edifying. His story speaks pointedly to every Nigerian who has given up hope either because of the circumstances of their birth or the forlornness of the hopelessness they have found themselves later in life. It is a story that tells you that you may be a rejected stone today, penniless, down and out but could become one of the chief cornerstones tomorrow, not by cutting corners but by building a network of influence and working extra hard to transform your dream into reality.

Bashorun Ayòbámidélé Àbáyòmí Ojútelégàn Àjàní Momodu was born into a peasant family. He struggled through very challenging circumstances to obtain university degrees. As he started working, he started living his dream. He started earning the trust and respect of not only his contemporaries but also the leaders of the society such as Chief Akin Omoboriowo, The Ooni of Ife Oba Okunade Sijuwade Olubuse II, Chief Moshood Abiola, Dr Mike Adenuga Jr., Mr Hakeem Belo-Osagie, and other distinguished personalities. Then, suddenly, fate dealt him a devastating blow in the aftermath of the June 12 1993 Presidential election. This upturned the next couple of his years into a hodgepodge, punctuated by daunting moments, including the inability to fend for his family. That would indeed break any man! Momodu was so desolate that at some point while he was in exile, he contemplated suicide. But today, the same Chief Momodu, for the second time in his life, has offered himself to become the chief servant of Nigeria, the President of the Federal Republic.  

When he announced his intention to run, some, failing to come to terms with the painful sacrifices he had made for his fatherland in his own way, scoffed at the proposition. Some derisively dismissed his ambition as a pipe dream. They forgot that if George Weah of Liberia, once the world’s best footballer, or Pedro Castillo of Peru, a rural primary school teacher, or James Garfield, known as the poorest man to ever govern as US President, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, a former actor and comedian and now President of Ukraine, or the 36-year old President Gabriel Boric of Chile, a former students union President, did not venture, they would not have become the Presidents of their respective countries. The most instructive was that of businessman and showbiz impresario, Donald Trump, who became American President. Some even asked him to go and start from the grassroots like the Afenifere leaders of yore would have counselled. They forgot that Dele Momodu, egged on by the circumstances of his formative years, had already entrenched himself in the ways of life at the grassroots and understood their nuances and expectations.

Many, however, instantly realized that a Dele Momodu on the ballot on the platform of a major political party like the People’s Democratic Party in 2023 is bigger than the Momodu persona. It will finally settle the score in Nigeria that irrespective of the circumstances of your birth and your station in life, if you work exceptionally hard, chase your dreams and believe in yourself, you can rise to the very pinnacle of any public office in this country. Even without ever holding any elective office or having an iniquitous political Godfather. It will ignite a new wave of the Audacity of Hope. From the son of a bricklayer to the daughter of a palm wine tapper, the children of petty traders and the grandchildren of subsistence farmers, a new seed of hope and self-belief will be planted in a new generation of Nigerians.

It will bridge the social divide where Nigeria has been split down the middle between the extremely rich and the extremely poor; where the justice served to the extremely rich is the exact opposite of the injustice dished out in swift succession to the poor; where the impoverished, their children and great grandchildren have no option than to use decrepit  educational, health and social infrastructures while the ruling class that engineered the ruin, fly out unabashedly with their children to relish superior amenities in other more organized climes where their own leaders treat their people, rich or poor, with humaneness and dignity.

Of all the aspirants who have signified their intentions to run for the highest office in the land, Dele Momodu stood out for the unusual combination of some rarified features. Without ever occupying any political office in Nigeria or elsewhere in the world, Momodu has met with more Nigerian, regional and global leaders than most of the people who have so far indicated their interest to become the next Nigerian President. He is what is called in the Yoruba etymology  “Atobatele” (already ordained with the characteristics of royalty). It is a bankable asset that will count at critical moments.

In the crowded field of Presidential hopefuls, Dele Momodu is one of the very few who feel extremely comfortable in the company of the old and young, rich and poor, peasants and elites. He is not detached from the realities of the excruciating pains of the masses. He is close to them. He talks to them directly every day, either on social media or in-person. He socializes with them. They are part of his daily routine. He knows where the shoe pinches them the most. He knows what he needs to do to flip their despair to joy. No adviser can hoodwink him and tell him all is rosy when people are gnashing their teeth in the pangs and distress of poverty. He has been one of them. He has shared with them from his personal resources to uplift as many as he could.

As President, he will judiciously deploy the resources of the state to bring the greatest joy to the greatest number of people. He is a firm believer in the axiom of utilitarianism. He knows that happiness is the only thing that truly has intrinsic value. Those who know Dele Momodu know that he will not partake in anything that will spur unhappiness. He will not approve any action or policy until he is sure it will promote the happiness of Nigerians. Just as he is pushing for the happiness of the masses, he will promote the happiness of the rich. For him, everyone’s happiness counts. He is as close to Aliko Dangote as he is to the vendor who sells his Ovation magazine. He is an ardent believer in the live and let live mantra. If the Dangotes of Nigeria live happily, they will create more wealth and more jobs for the masses. If the masses become buoyant with more disposable income, they will have more resources to patronize the Dangotes or have the opportunity to become more Dangotes. It is a virtuous cycle, a win-win for all. He will lead a government that will provide the enabling environment for all sides of the divide to thrive. There is no zero-sum game in his world view.

As a social engineer, he knows that nothing thrives in the face of insecurity. For him, guaranteed security is an irreducible minimum for desired and sustainable growth. Also, as a voracious reader, he has read many books on the Art of War and military tactics. He has interacted with many military Generals from General Alani Akinrinade to General Ibrahim Babaginda. He has their ears, and they are ready to avail him of the wisdom of their experiences. On his 60th birthday, former President Ibrahim Babangida, in his tribute to Bashorun Momodu said, “Dele… you have made a lot of impact especially on the young generation of this country. May God continue to bless you. You are an inspiration to journalism in Nigeria…”  He understands the importance of strategy and preparation. He knows how to equip and reward our servicemen to motivate them to victory against bandits and terrorists. Over 20 years ago, he was combing the forests of Sierra Leone and later in Liberia, to check on the well-being of our military men. He knows how to work with our best talents in the Military to get results. He is an excellent listener who will encourage his military chiefs on how to bring the best ideas to the table to protect Nigeria against internal and external aggression. He has shown that he is a man of courage who will not hesitate to take the fight to anyone who attempts to sabotage his plan for the great people of Nigeria.

He treats everyone with dignity and respect. He treasures and respects women. He admires their loyalty. I recall a scenario when his company was staging an event for the Prophetess, Iya Adura, Reverend Esther Ajayi, who would later describe Bashorun Dele Momodu as a national treasure, at Movenpick Hotel, Accra, in 2018. Being a General who will never send his men to war and go to sleep, Dele Momodu was on ground to personally monitor proceedings. The hall was packed, everything was splendid. Amid the euphoria, Bob Dee as we all love to call him, leaned closer and said to me, “You know if not for the women we invited, this hall would not have been full. Many of the men we invited did not show up even after confirmation while almost all the women turned up. They are always loyal. They are always there for us. You can count on them.” One needs no soothsayer to know that a Dele Momodu Presidency will readily concede one third of the slots in his government or more to competent women.

I don’t know how many people of Chief Dele Momodu’s age work as hard as he does. I doubt he sleeps for up to four hours in a day. His work rate has been heightened by the brisk nature of social media where a platform can lose its competitive edge if it misses critical posts. It is the Per Second generation. He is a hands-on leader. Anywhere he is, he monitors social media and responds to issues promptly. Irrespective, he has not allowed that momentum to affect his other responsibilities. He is the grandmaster of multitasking. It tells you of how he will treat his assignment if Nigerians recruit him as our President. Being hardworking has become second nature to Dele Momodu. His brilliance and hard work were what attracted him to Chief MKO Abiola, Dr. Mike Adenuga and a host of others. This was what made him excel in journalism when he was working for Weekend Concord where he was the shining star. He has taken the same philosophy to Ovation International Magazine which has been the Number 1 celebrity magazine in Africa for over two decades. As the CEO of Ovation Media Group, a flourishing media empire, Chief Momodu has shown his dexterity in successfully navigating a business entity.

Chief Dele Momodu is a widely travelled man in five continents and over 60 countries and territories. He knows the power of travel and tourism as a major contributor to the global GDP and job creation.  Personally, I am thrilled that he will recreate the best of tourism he has seen elsewhere around the world including Dubai, which he helped to turn into a global phenomenon, in Nigeria. While travel and tourism contributed 3.3 million jobs and 4.4% to the Nigerian GDP in 2019, an equivalent of $18.1 billion, the same sector contributed 12% to the Egyptian GDP at the value of $34 billion. Yet, the Nigerian GDP is rated bigger than Egypt with a population double that of its North African counterpart. With the growth in the global travel and tourism sector projected to exceed the pre-pandemic level this year and beyond, Chief Momodu has seen the opportunity for growth in the tourism sector. He has marshalled plans that will stimulate the provision of jobs for millions of Nigerian youths through tourism, the digital economy and the creative industry. 

Even without any overwhelming government support, the creative energy of Nigerian youths has been unleashed on the world in digital technology and creative economy. While mapping out his strategy, Chief Momodu and his team saw that the digital economy and creative industry have a combined global annual market value of $7.55 trillion. His vision is to ensure that Nigeria gets a substantial bite of the apple by working with all stakeholders, local and international, to create fast, available and affordable internet service that will be devoid of the current disruptions in service delivery. He will also provide training and other levels of support, including renewable energy, that will see Nigerian youths dominating the global digital space in the next decades with many of them becoming legitimate multi billionaire tech entrepreneurs like 40-year-old Tope Awotona, the founder of Calendly valued at over $3 billion.

Ethnic division among Nigeria’s 215 million people and 371 tribes has never been more pronounced than it is today. It is so bad that virtually every part of the country is calling for balkanization. Only a true patriot, a detribalized personality in its truest form, can steer the ship of state from imminent breakup if utmost care is not taken. Chief Momodu is one of the most detribalized Nigerians you can meet. East, North, South or West, he feels at home in any part of the country and relates with everyone equitably, across party lines. He will be fair in appointments, contract awards, geo-economic developments and equitable distribution of Nigeria’s resources. Shoddiness rankles him to his bone marrow. Merits and meritocracy are embedded in his DNA. Yet, he believes in collaboration, encouragement, skill acquisition and skill development to drive anyone or group lagging to the level where all can contribute effectively to building a developed, peaceful and united nation we can all be proud of. His relationship with Nigeria’s sub-nationals is symbiotic. Dele Momodu loves everyone, and everyone loves him reciprocally.

One of the most endearing qualities of Dele Momodu is his loyalty to people. He accords those who come across him with respect. He humbles himself and remains loyal to people whether dead or alive. Up till tomorrow, he celebrates the virtues of MKO Abiola. He is not a fair-weather friend. He is dependable, reliable and consistent. When I was working for one of Africa’s richest men, Dr. Mike Adenuga, several times, the Guru as we called him then would ask me, “Bode, how do I show gratitude to Dele who is always there for me without asking me for a kobo?” We would then strategize on what to do before the Chairman’s Office would reach out to him directly or through me.

One thing Dele Momodu prioritizes in everything he does is his family. He made up his mind that he would send his children to the best schools in the world, and he did. While he was on this mission, he cut his coat according to his size. He could not embark on other personal development projects until he sorted his family out first. He is happily married to Mobolaji Momodu, a Chartered  accountant as well as a woman of faith he proudly calls his Prayer Warrior. Blajo, as close associates call Bob Dee’s wife, is as meek as the Dove. She is gentle, pleasant and resourceful. She loves children and would do anything to support the system and ensure that all the 10 million out-of-school children in Nigeria return to school in dignity so that they can be groomed to become the pillar that will hold the future of Nigeria and accelerate its growth.

How do world leaders see Bashorun Dele Momodu? I will paraphrase some of their remarks. 

HE, John Dramani Mahama, former President of the Republic of Ghana: “I call him Dele Momodu of Africa because his activities truly transcend the continent and reach every part of the globe. The first quality you want in a friend is loyalty. And I can say well and truly that you cannot have a more loyal friend than Dele.”

Chairman, UBA Group, Tony Elumelu: “Through Dele Momodu, we have seen that the pen is actually mightier than the sword.”

Chairman of THISDAY Media Group and Arise News Channel, Nduka Obaigbena: “If we are to pay tribute (to Dele Momodu), we can write very many pages. But one of the more important ones is his time with MKO Abiola, the man who could have been President of Nigeria. Dele Momodu is a great Nigerian Original and today, we celebrate his good health, tenacity, never say die spirit, his mastery of the literary art, his mastery of politics, his mastery of the African continent and in making sure that as a nation, the best of us is ahead of us.”

Billionaire businessman, Olufemi Otedola: “Your success in spite of the vicissitudes of life as a human being, is a manifestation of the hand of GOD in your life.”

Iconic businesswoman, Bola Shagaya: “I recall my association with you over very many years with great pleasure, which has afforded me a ring-side experience of your noble heart, illustrious hands, high intellect and patriotic zeal. Worthy of mention is your dependability, a trait everyone privileged to be your associate will gladly attest to.”

Former Senate President, Bukola Saraki: “You have been committed to a quest for social justice in Nigeria and for the establishment of systems and institutions that protect the rights and civil liberties of the Nigerian citizens  at all times and in all circumstances.”

REINCARNATION OF HOPE

Bashorun Dele Momodu has fittingly themed his campaign for the 2023 Presidential election as HOPE 2023; A NIGERIA FOR ALL. I believe him. Hope is such a powerful tool of mobilization. It galvanizes people to hold on to something meaningful and believe that a better tomorrow is possible. He will do all in his power to make Nigeria work for all. He is my friend, big brother, senior colleague and confidant. I wish him the very best in this journey.

Chief Dele Momodu, born on May 16, 1960, in the ancient town of Ile-Ife, Nigeria, is an exceptional African Journalist; he is a Publisher, polemicist, businessman, philanthropist, actor, politician and motivational speaker. He is the CEO and Publisher of Ovation International, a magazine that has given publicity to people from all over the world in over 60 countries. He is the Chairman of the Ovation Media Group, comprising Ovation International magazine, Ovation Television and The Boss newspaper. His media empire leads the charge in changing the negative perception of Africa as a dark continent of vampires. He is one of the most prolific essayists in Africa and he has authored and published several books in his name. He is one of the biggest voices on the African social media platforms and his Twitter account is already 1.7 million followers and growing.

Concerned by the perennial disruptions of academic calendars, health care delivery, and lapsing fuel queues, Chief Dele Momodu, has been reaching out to key players in different sectors of the economy such as ASUU, PENGASSAN, NMA, etc, seeking dialogue to articulate lasting solutions to the problems plaguing our country.

Chief Dele Momodu does not have any case of financial misappropriation of public funds hanging over his head like the sword of Damocles. He has lived a modest and humble life. 

Chief Dele Momodu has admonished that the PDP Presidential ticket and the Nigerian Presidency must not be for mediocre, poorly educated political jobbers or highest bidders. He believes the President of Nigeria should and must be able to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with any President or head of government all over the world and be able to hold his ground, without any form of intimidation or low self-esteem. 

If the PDP decides to give its Presidential ticket to Chief Dele Momodu at the party’s convention in May, the surprise element and his popularity among the people will bolster PDP’s chance of winning the general polls in 2023.

Olabode Opeseitan is a business developer, digital business strategist and integrated Marketing Communications consultant