Davido Shows Respect To In-law, Dele Momodu

If you have no idea that there has been a never ending beef between Dele Momodu and Davido, then you shouldn’t read further.

In 2015 the musician had a fall out with veteran writer and Editor-In-Chief of Ovation Magazine, Dele Momodu.

This started after Davido had a child with Dele Momodu’s niece, Sophia which led to their long term beef and resulted in Davido calling out Dele Momodu in some of his songs.

The heavy weights finally buried their differences during this year’s Ovation Red Carol event that took place at the Eko Hotel and Suites on Sunday 17th December when Davido graced the stage.

Seriake Dickson: Blessed Are The Peacemakers

By Dele Momodu

Fellow Nigerians, when I woke up yesterday morning in Lagos, little did I envisage I was going to bump into the ebullient Governor of Bayelsa State, Chief Seriake Dickson. I was heading to breakfast when I ran into the brand new National Publicity Secretary of PDP, Mr Kola Ologbondiyan, on the ground floor of my hotel and I congratulated him on his recent appointment. Thereafter, he informed me of the presence of the Governor and said he was sure Governor Dickson would be delighted to meet with me. I replied that I was fine with that especially as I have close friends who have spoken with great enthusiasm not only about the stellar work that the Governor is doing in Bayelsa State on infrastructure and education but also about his wonderful personality and humility. I went on to have my breakfast. As if well timed and choreographed, the Chief Press Secretary to the Governor, Mr Francis Agbo, walked in and I stood up to exchange pleasantries. He told me his boss would like to meet with me asap. So I followed him to the big man’s suite. Those who know him very well profess that he is not just a giant in physique but also in intellect, hard work, executive management and political engineering.

I met the Governor and some PDP Chieftains having breakfast. The Governor looked very relaxed. We hugged, like old buddies, and he made me feel very much at home. He said he follows my articles with keen interest. I thanked him for the compliment. After he was done with breakfast, he invited me into his bedroom for a one-on-one chat. He was very frank and candid. He said he was in Lagos to reach out to aggrieved members of his Party, PDP, particularly those from the South West who were miffed about not getting the Chairmanship position, as they lost to Mr Uche Secondus from Rivers State. I recalled that he had been similarly assigned the role of brokering peace and facilitating a settlement during the imbroglio for leadership of the Party, that saw former Governors, Senator Ahmed Makarfi and Ali Modu Sherriff, pitted against one another, in an epic battle that went all the way to the Supreme Court, before Makarfi emerged victorious. I am assured that Governor Dickson is not only a peacemaker but a kingmaker.

I fired the first shot. “Do you think PDP can bounce back in 2019 now that it seems your convention has produced more bitterness than joy?” He responded that he and his reconciliation team would do everything possible to achieve unity in the Party. He admitted that no serious Party can treat the South West like outcasts without getting punished resoundingly at the polls. I was stunned by his revelation. The South West has some of the most enlightened voters in the country. “We need every vote we can get and South West is definitely included…”

I told him that the battle ahead is going to be tough, especially the Presidential election. He agreed with me that PDP would have to field a very strong and formidable candidate against a man like Buhari. He agreed that putting a weak candidate forward would hand over the presidency on a platter of gold to

Buhari. I’m glad that he knows it is not going to be a walkover. We dovetailed into who and who can match Buhari in PDP. He picked them one by one while I gave my analysis and impression of them. “What do you think of Atiku?” he asked. I told him minus the age factor, Atiku is certainly one of the most prepared candidates in the country. Also, he would need to work hard at cleansing the corruption charges levelled against him. And that is not always an easy task. He agreed that Atiku is very experienced and has the wherewithal to run a great campaign.

“What of Rabiu Kwankwaso?” He asked. I was surprised and taken aback by his question which suggested that Kwankwanso who is a well known APC stalwart might be on the verge of crossing over to PDP like Atiku. The rumour mill has been agog with news of such an impending monumental defection and this to me was the first that it might be true after all.  However, I did not bat an eyelid. I merely candidly replied that “I like Kwankwaso for one main reason, his performance as Governor of Kano. I’ve just received a publication detailing his incredible strides in Kano. I’ve never seen a Nigerian leader with such eye for meticulous planning and execution.” The book is titled THERE WAS A GOVERNOR: A COMPEDIUM OF SEN. (DR.) RABIU KWANKWASO’S ACHIEVEMRNTS (2011-2015). According to the book, over 6000 projects were executed. If it is true, then Kwankwaso would be a good material for the transformation of Nigeria from a third world country to a first world nation. I told the Governor such a feat should be replicated nationally and I look forward to meeting Alhaji Kwankwaso very soon to find out about his presidential ambition.

It was obvious that Governor Dickson was picking my brains and I gladly obliged him. “ What do you think of Sule Lamido…” he asked, calmly. I told him Lamido is very experienced but I’m not sure of his national appeal. He has also been weakened by the incessant and endless harassment of his family by EFCC. The next question was unexpected. It turned out that instead of me interviewing him, he was now the journalist, probing adroitly like the skilled advocate that I am assured he is. He asked about my preferred candidates and I mentioned Donald Duke, Nasir El Rufai, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, Wasiru Aminu Tambuwal, Oby Ezewesili, Peter Obi, Babatunde Fashola, Charles Soludo, and others. I made him realise in effect that my leaders of today criss-crossed Party lines. For me, these are leaders who know their onions and have proven their mettle, but require proper executive powers to be very effective in steering the affairs of State.

The Governor told me that his dream is to have leaders who would see themselves first as Nigerians and in so doing believe in and commit to the need to develop a country blessed with so much potential without reference to religious or ethnic sentiments. He said he was fortunate to have a dual Nigerian background, as he hails from both Bayelsa and Ogun State. This makes him to feel comfortable wherever he finds himself. He strongly feels that every Nigerian should similarly be comfortable whether or not they have the kind of background that he has.  This can only be accomplished when the entire country is industrialised to such an extent that infrastructural facilities abound everywhere to generate, employment, income and growth.

He is very excited about his government’s policy on education. As far as he is concerned, no stone should be left unturned to educate the people, because it is only from sound minds that the kind of vision and dedication necessary to take Nigeria to the level that it should be, can come. This is why he and his government have invested greatly in the youths through education and one of his proud achievements is the link with Lincoln University in America where the State has more than 20 students studying various disciplines.  Indeed history was made earlier this year when a Bayelsan, Perewari Victor Pere distinguished himself as the best graduating student of that University and was honoured with the status of Valedictorian and delivered the valedictory at the University’s commencement.  The Governor stated that he felt proud to be a Nigerian on this accord and considered this a vindication of his education policies. He believes that investment in education will pay off eventually.

In concluding our chat, he told me that no matter what happens, PDP will get its groove back. For him, it was necessary to ensure not only the stability of the polity but also to institutionalise our democratic mores and structures. Whilst, I have no evidence that this will happen soon, I agree that Nigeria does not need a one-party State. As to the PDP bouncing back soon, I can only say that in Nigeria, nothing is impossible.

TEN YEARS OF OVATION CAROL

How time flies indeed. Ten years ago, we decided to start a project that would promote our young and talented artists. It was anchored on the spirit of Christmas as we felt that it was our opportunity to create a platform where we would not only give something financially  to worthy causes but we would also transform the lives of artistes in music, fashion, comedy and the performing arts generally. We decided to call the event Ovation Red Carol and one of the first decisions was that it would be a fun event and free to all.  It all started like a joke but today it has really caught fire. The event is now not only watched live in Nigeria, it is televised and streamed all over the globe.  It is based on our belief that in all things, technology must take the forefront and we must show that Nigerians and Nigeria are advanced despite out other shortcomings.

Apart from being a launch pad for various young talented artistes, and showcasing some mega international and domestic performers over the years, the event has become an annual entertainment jamboree which people look forward to, even before the current one ends.

It is gratifying to note with all sense of humility and modesty that people have congratulated us at Ovation for pioneering this kind of event on the grand scale that we have, as this is now being replicated in many parts of Nigeria.

We have been fortunate to have very good partners in this venture who have supported us with their time and resources.  They transcend every area of our national endeavour and we consider ourselves and the nation truly blessed. All those that have shared the adventure with us are important and dear to us but we cannot but mention the spectacular efforts of our first sponsors, versatile international bankers, UBA, and lately, international telecommunications giant, Glo. This year we also have had the honour and pleasure of including the Esther Ajayi Foundation in the list of those we are working with in order to continue engendering a special Christmas occasion for our teeming supporters and the generality of the Nigerian populace.

We are grateful to everyone for their support and participation in this grand project and pray for God to bless us all in this Christmas season. Thank you very much.

One On One Session With Atiku Abubakar

By Dele Momodu

Fellow Nigerians, I’ve always wondered what drives or propels the man, former Vice President of Nigeria, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar. For real, I have never seen a man so fastidious about his dream and so obstinate about achieving a lifelong ambition to be the number one Nigerian Citizen. I’ve followed his trajectory with keen interest since 1993 when he took on both Chief Moshood Abiola and Baba Gana Kingibe, in an epic Presidential primary, that Chief Abiola ultimately won. His formidability we were told was a result of the influence of his godfather and political colossus, Major General Shehu Musa Yar’Adua, now of blessed memory. Chief Abiola actually reached out to the General, as he was fondly called, to prevail on Atiku to pull out of the race and support him. A deal was subsequently struck, between Abiola and Yar’Adua, for Atiku to be Abiola’s running-mate. Everything looked good on paper until the powerful and influential Social Democratic Party (SDP) Governors threw spanners in the works, forcing Abiola to renege on his word. Whilst Abiola wanted Atiku, the Governors led by the irrepressible Olusegun Osoba, from Abiola’s home State of Ogun, insisted on Abiola picking Kingibe. They convinced Abiola that it was dangerous to pick Atiku who would have been more loyal and too submissive to his godfather.

I have no doubt that from that moment onwards, the June 12 Presidential election was already threatened and endangered. According to insiders, the General was so miffed and enraged that he swore Abiola would not be President for dumping his godson. Efforts were made by different personages to settle the matter, but it seemed the camaraderie was over between Abiola and Yar’Adua who, once upon a time, were successful business partners at African Ocean Lines.

Anyway, Atiku was kicked out of the race to fight another day. Abiola won the Presidential election eventually but was never allowed to assume power. The June 12 election fallout led to a cataclysmic eruption that consumed many of the big players, including Abiola, his wife, Alhaja Kudirat, Major-General Yar’Adua and General Sani Abacha. The boss of bosses, General Olusegun Obasanjo, escaped only by the whiskers. He was jailed but came back to be President. Ironically, the same Atiku who was not allowed to be the Vice-Presidential candidate in 1993 became the substantive Vice President in 1999, when he ran, and won, with Obasanjo. Whilst Obasanjo emerged, in a bid to assuage the betrayed and wounded Yoruba, Atiku’s choice appears to have been predicated on the sense of injustice that he had suffered as a result of being dumped by Abiola.

Everything initially ran smoothly between Obasanjo and Atiku in their first term in office, from 1999 to 2003. However, the relationship collapsed when Atiku started showing interest in the number one position. I will not bore you with the rest of that fiasco, including the anecdotal humbling of Obasanjo who allegedly had to beg his deputy, Atiku, to allow him a second term. My mission was to provide some background to Atiku’s uncommon trajectory. He has pursued his dream since 1993 and has never given up. That was 24 years ago. Indeed, Atiku has been in partisan politics for 28 years but only served in government for eight years. He has criss-crossed different political parties in search of that magic wand that could give him his heart’s desire. It has been a painful journey. He’s been dissed and lampooned as a serial “decampee” famed for wandering endlessly in the wilderness of Nigerian politics. That, for many people, is a major weakness which signals integrity issues. There are other minuses weighing on him like an albatross. How does he deal with these very serious issues of perception or misperception?

The opportunity came for me to engage him very critically, and very privately, yesterday afternoon in Lagos. A mutual friend had called to arrange the meeting at Atiku’s behest. I gladly accepted not only as I was anxious to bombard him with many nagging questions, but also because by some quirk of fate, the political gladiators for the number one hot seat in Nigeria seem to feel that a session with me is a sine qua non for their aspiration. I’m deeply humbled by that trust.

The meeting was arranged for Lagos. Atiku had arrived on Thursday. I arrived in Lagos yesterday afternoon from Abuja where I had been the Chief Presenter of Mallam Bolaji Abdullahi’s book, On a Platter of Gold, chronicling President Goodluck Jonathan’s twilight days as President. I checked into my hotel just before 12 noon and put a call through to his room. He told me to give him a short time to freshen up and invite me over. He’s obviously been doing a lot of consultations and was working well into the early mornings. I dozed off. Suddenly, I was awoken from my slumber by banging on my door. I stood up to look through the peephole and was pleasantly surprised to see the most-talked about politician of the moment at my door. I opened the door and Atiku immediately apologised for the intrusion. He came without any aide, so we were both comfortable to talk frankly.

I thanked him for the honour of actually coming to me and asked if he won’t mind me asking some tough questions. He said that was fine and I should feel free. My first shot was about his moving from Party to Party. Does this not make him look desperate and unserious? He must have answered this question a thousand times because he wasted no time in answering very calmly and confidently:

“There is nothing wrong with it. Ours is a fledgling democracy of barely two decades since the end of the last military regime. What it means is that the political parties are yet to mature and are going through constant transformations and changes. That is why even President Buhari has been able to move from party to party, including ANPP, CPC and now APC. And for those who read about world history and political books like I do, they will know that Abraham Lincoln, Sir Winston Churchill and others went through so much before achieving their dreams…”

He went further: “I’m not different. I know what I want for my country. I’ve served Nigeria in different capacities and I am one of the most experienced leaders around today. There is no part of Nigeria I’m not familiar with. I have friends everywhere. They know me and I know them. The benefit of being around for so long is that they have come to know me for certain principles and know that I have a rich knowledge of Nigeria and what it would take to move us to the height of greatness. They can also trust me that I’m not coming to government to steal their money. God has blessed me with business acumen. How can you run a nation if you cannot run your own business? I run my businesses to international standards. Let any of those who want to compete with me show what they have managed successfully. I’ve lifted over 45,000 families out of joblessness and poverty through my microfinance company in my State Adamawa and we’ve have empowered mostly women. The good news is these women have been very honest. Returns on our loans have been about 98 percent. They have not disappeared with the loans given then. We plan to replicate this nationwide…”

I asked if he was obsessed with being President at all costs. His answer was an emphatic, No! He asked rhetorically why he should not give back some of his experience and exposure to a country that has given him so much? Why should he allow incompetent people to run down the country when God has given him the talent and wherewithal to lift up Nigeria?

I told him the belief out there is that he is a corrupt man and that the stain won’t be easy to remove. His former boss, General Olusegun Obasanjo, has sold us that line, and would stop at nothing to regale the world that Atiku is a thief who nobody should vote for. Atiku’s response was very concise and assertive: “I have the highest regards for my boss. He gave me eight years to serve Nigeria under him. We had our differences but we both tried our best. But on the issue of corruption, I have challenged anyone, anywhere, who has any evidence of corruption against me to come forward. I’m sure they would have combed everywhere trying to find anything incriminating against me, but they have not found it, or they are still searching. Dele, I’m throwing that challenge again, let them bring out whatever they have on me…”

I followed with a bazooka and asked him “how come you are running away from the United States of America? What offence have you committed to warrant not being able to visit, since all this time?” Atiku fired back at me: “It is the sole prerogative of America to determine who they want in their country or not. I’m not running away from America. I applied, but wasn’t issued a visa. However, they did not decline me categorically either. They’ve only said my application is going through administrative process. This is not peculiar to me. For about 15 years, Buhari could not enter America on account of religious considerations. The current Indian Prime Minister, Modi, suffered the same fate for years. Today, he is being treated to red carpet treatment in America.. I fly to different parts of the world, including Europe, if America wanted me, it would be so easy for them to reach out to their allies…”

We soon dovetailed to the nitty-gritty of politics. Why did he not wait to contest the primaries in APC first and see the outcome before running away? I felt this was defeatist! His response: “After Buhari won the election, he was no longer interested in the Party that made him President. Every activity stopped and not even the Party Chairman, Chief John Oyegun, could take any decision. I called Chief Oyegun a few times to tell him our Party was dying slowly but he told me he would not do anything unless he got clearance from the President. At a stage, I gathered about 18 prominent members and began to meet in the hope that we can re-energise Party activities, but some people lied to the President that I wanted to use the forum to launch my Presidential campaign. That forum became simply dead on arrival. No BOT, no NEC meetings, as stipulated in our Constitution. The Party became a one-man property. Everyone grumbles behind the President’s back but they are too timid to raise a voice against the illegalities being perpetuated. I should be bold enough to know what I want, and can do so at my age, so I decided to leave…”

So, where is he going from here? He says he hasn’t formally declared for any Party, but is sure PDP is waiting to welcome him back into the Party he co-founded with others at the end of military rule. I asked if he has any guarantee of getting the PDP ticket. He told me why he should get it: “Nothing is absolutely certain in this life, but PDP needs a candidate with the brightest chance and that can only come from someone who has major experience, exposure, knowledge about running an economy, who is a Nationalist and not a sectionalist and whose brand cannot be intimidated in anyway by that of the current President. If PDP picks a weak candidate, then the Party is doomed. Some of those whose names are being touted and bandied about have not grown beyond their immediate domains.”

If he gets the PDP ticket, is he confident he can beat a sitting President and Buhari for that matter? “I will definitely beat him this time. He has wasted a lot of his massive goodwill. A lot of people are disgruntled but keeping quiet and lying low. Our youths are suffering terribly and now they are being sold into slavery. Everyone knows my track record of inviting and attracting a good team and giving them the opportunity to work professionally. Nigerians are tired of leaders who cannot think big and work big. Dele, I will be ready from day one…”

Is he not afraid of Buhari? “No, definitely not. Buhari is free to contest and I’m free to contest. And Nigerians will make their choice.” I could see that glow in his eyes. He sounded determined and more prepared at this time, than at any other time.

Will Atiku play a joker as his last card in 2019? Time will tell.

Now That Atiku Has Dumped APC, Who Next?

By Dele Momodu

Fellow Nigerians, these are not the best of times for the ruling Party, APC. It was a prophecy long foretold by me, though. As you all know, the trending news is that the serial “decampee”, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar has done what he knows how best to do, decamping from one political party to another. Let no one say it is not a big deal. And even if it is not, it is still big news, and an even bigger embarrassment to a Party that coasted to victory on the wings of a major alliance of strange bedfellows and an unprecedented conspiracy that succeeded in unseating a sitting President in Nigeria. I therefore, wish to disagree vehemently with my brother, Governor Nasir El Rufai of Kaduna State, who said yesterday that Atiku’s exit from their embattled Party is a non-event.

If truth must be told, I believe this is just the beginning of a mass exodus from a fledgling Party that is certainly on the road to perdition, unless drastic measures are taken to stem the rot in the Party, seriously and sincerely heal wounds and massage miffed egos. Let no one fool our dear President Muhammadu Buhari into thinking naively that he would win the 2019 election like he did in 2015, on a platter of gold. The masters of the game are already goading him on by pretending to be endorsing him and telling him he is the best thing ever to happen to Nigeria.

All you have to do to expose their hypocrisy and charade is to go back in history to see how previous Presidents had been praised to high heavens whilst these praise-singers were actually sneering and collaborating in their downfall. We saw how some people misbehaved and mis-jived during the draconian era of the Abacha regime and convinced him that Nigeria needs him to rule for life. Well, nothing of the sort happened.

Here we go again, our leaders are staging their absurdist theatre by falling over themselves in endorsing a man most of them abuse and stab behind his back. It is just unbelievable seeing how deceitful human beings can be. This is why I salute the courage of Alhaji Atiku Abubakar who has virtually become a pariah in a Party he partly founded and funded in recent times. Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu must also be mentioned, in this regard, for making bold to categorically assert that there is no automatic ticket or endorsement for President Buhari.

The reasons Atiku Abubakar adduced for leaving the Party are very valid to keen observers of events after the Party came to power, even though they may sound like sour grapes, coming from him. It is certain that APC failed to learn any lessons from how it sacked PDP and history is about to repeat itself so soon. This was how PDP allowed some of its golden assets to walk away from the Party. The same words being bandied now were the same we heard repeatedly then; “Rotimi Amaechi and company can go to blazes, they won’t be missed in PDP!” Unfortunately, their exit wreaked maximum havoc on the PDP, and today the Party is still wondering what hit it like thunderbolt.

I seriously doubt if Atiku would ever get the PDP Presidential ticket. I’m sure he is not under any illusion that it would be easy to defeat Buhari even if he gets the ticket. But what he has done is to put APC on the defensive from this moment on and probably try to encourage other dissenters to abscond and abandon ship as soon as possible from what appears a sinking ship. I would have been surprised if Atiku stayed much longer after the unfortunate harassment he’s received in recent time. His business interests have been under intense and incessant attacks and whatever love existed between him and his Party had since evaporated. If I were in his shoes, I will not contest again so that it doesn’t appear like I’m in politics and in any political party just to obtain a Presidential ticket. That may be wishful thinking given the man’s political history and his quest for the holy grail of the Presidency!

However, my opinion is that Alhaji Atiku Abubakar still has a big role to play in the affairs of Nigeria. At over 70, he is undoubtedly one of the most experienced and exposed leaders in our country. God has been very kind to him. He’s been able to establish a mega business conglomerate. He is blessed with a wonderful family. His children are well-educated and his brand is very big in Nigeria and beyond. He would do well to use his humongous resources to help drive the search for much younger and accomplished leaders for Nigeria. It shouldn’t always be about his personal ambition. I wrote recently that age is no longer on his side. Anyone above 70 cannot achieve more in Nigeria today. We supported Buhari in 2015 out of acute frustration against the recklessness and profligacy of PDP. For some of us, it was meant to be a stop gap. But as democrats, we believe the President has the right to run for a second term, if that is his wish but he should not be forced on the Party and cannot certainly be foisted on the nation.

I say with all emphasis at my command, that any attempt to impose President Buhari on his political party will backfire. The President should go through the laid down democratic processes and if he gets the ticket, fine and fantastic. If he fails, he should go home quietly and enjoy his retirement, finally. There is life outside power. It would be unfortunate if opponents of President Buhari are muzzled out of the race. The sweetness of democracy is in providing a variety of aspirants and wealth of ideas.

None should feel like a second class citizen in a political party that was jointly formed and consummated by many stakeholders. On attaining power, certain APC chieftains behaved like they had everything locked down and as if they forgot another election was going to come in a jiffy. Now that reality is beginning to dawn on them, they are hurriedly rushing frantically to please many of those they’ve ignored since 2015. It is doubtful if anyone would swallow the bait, hook, line and sinker, again. The talk in hushed tones is that President Buhari cannot change his style.

If he gets a second term, and chance, many politicians would be hauled into prison, for the right and wrong reasons. I hope the President gets the chance to read this script and adapt to the crisis situation he now faces. His current failure to do this, is why there would soon be a groundswell of conspiracy against him.. The trust issue would be a great determinant in the next election. Even if APC opens the vaults of the Central Bank to its leaders in the coming months, in clear and brazen disregard for its anti-corruption crusade, it is not going to be an easy ride this time around.

Now that Atiku has dumped the APC, I’m certain other rebels would be emboldened to follow his example. The Presidential race is looking hot already. I foresee the PDP ticket as being a much-coveted one because APC is likely to implode as a result of imposition. If PDP manages its affairs better, and more democratically, by eliminating fifth columnists among them, APC would be in hot soup. Nigeria is blessed with many fantastic leaders with proven records in both Parties. They should be encouraged to come out from hibernation. It is payback time and I’m suspecting that APC is about to be punished for its carelessness and insensitivity.

The tine to properly correct ills and wrong is now, otherwise it will be too late!

AND ROBERT MUGABE ACTUALLY RESIGNED

Wonders, as they say, will never end. One of those wonders of the world occurred early this week as President Robert Mugabe, one of the world’s longest serving leaders, finally agreed to step down after the military that swore to protect him as their Commander-in-Chief actually sold him out. After so much dilly-dallying and refusing to sign his resignation letter, he eventually agreed to handover to influential and his erstwhile deputy, Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa, aka the Crocodile, whom he had fired as a means of creating a smooth-sail for the Presidential ambition of his delectable young wife, Mrs Grace Mugabe. But this backfired big time. Indeed a veritable tale of a fall from grace to grass!

When I visited the then Vice President, Mnangagwa, in Harare a few months ago, at the behest of my good friend, Josey Mahachi,, little did I realise I was meeting with a President in waiting. He appeared and sounded very loyal to the old warrior, Robert Mugabe. He said he was happy to receive me and looked forward to partnering with Ovation International magazine in the promotion of investments and tourism in Zimbabwe. He promised to send a report to the President about my visit since I couldn’t wait the few extra days required to meet the old man in person.

I was thus dazed when news broke of the great rift between both of them. I had thought theirs was a perfect synergy until, it seems, Mrs Grace Mugabe’s unbridled and vaulting ambition put them asunder. The military intervention that eventually ousted and ended the nearly four-decade reign of Mugabe was exceptionally unique in its conception and execution. For the first time, we saw a military that refused to agree that it carried out a coup against a civilian government. The world was left confused and confounded by developments in Zimbabwe for a little while.

The Zimbabwean military, led by General Constantino Chiwenga, must be commended for the disciplined and professional manner it handled the impasse. It was a sight to behold seeing them showing respect for the President as he read that curious statement that had been predicted as a resignation speech but turned out to be a show of defiance by a usually loquacious and bewildered geriatric! The military was determined not to be tempted to derail democracy, but to be seen to correct an injustice and let democratic institutions do the rest. That is all history now. Mr Emmerson Mnangagwa was sworn in as Interim President yesterday in the presence of a tumultuous crowd.

Many are already wondering what the new President can and would do different from his former boss. He made a long and stirring speech in which he praised Mugabe for his service to their country and insisted that some of his policies including the controversial land acquisition from the whites were appropriate and would be followed. He asked for reconciliation, saying Zimbabweans should “let bygones be bygones”. However, he pledged to chart a new course and promised improvement in the economy and lives of Zimbabweans. He insisted elections would take place as scheduled and portrayed the image of a man of destiny.

He has the next few months to organise a credible election. I’m hoping that he would act like our own General Abdulsalami Abubakar by handing over power in record time, if that is the will of his people. The world would give him a standing ovation for it. But if he falls into the temptation of grabbing power, ignoring and curtailing the democratic will and zeal that brought him to power, it would be such a monumental shame and tragedy.

All eyes are now on Emmerson Mnangagwa and Zimbabwe.

Will The Donald Dukes Of Nigeria Ever Get A Chance?

By Dele Momodu

Fellow Nigerians, I finally caught up, and had a most productive meeting, with one of my favourite Nigerian leaders, Donald Duke, in Lagos last weekend. I have steadfastly remained his fan long after he left power ten years ago as Governor of Cross River State. Not even his most fastidious and vociferous critic would ever suggest that he did not leave a monumental mark in that fortunate State. It remains a mystery why, and how, Donald Duke, was abandoned, and wasted, by his Party, PDP, and nay Nigeria. I have written endlessly, and campaigned feverishly, that Nigeria desperately, and urgently, needs many leaders in the mould of Donald Duke. So, it was a pleasure not only meeting up with him again but having time to discuss a topic we both fervently and passionately believe in, Nigeria.

I do not know if Donald Duke is a saint, since we seem to be obsessed with seeking, and finding, angels from heaven to lead us, but I’m very certain that Donald Duke would have performed and delivered once more. Successful and progressive nations are not governed by saints but by performers with uncommon vision, zeal and the determination to succeed where others failed. This handsome, charming, charismatic, cosmopolitan, suave, visionary, audacious and cerebral gentleman, has so much to remind us of a Barack Obama. It is one of those cruel ironies that many of those Nigerian youths who shout the loudest about wanting enduring change never remembered to fight for the emergence of the Donald Dukes of this world. They preferred to fight based on ethnicity, religion and raw cash, the very primordial things that have kept us, both, down and extremely backward.

I’m writing this article on a flight from Dubai to London, and there is no better time to get inspired and simultaneously angered about the disgraceful and embarrassing state of things in Nigeria. I have since come to the conclusion that Nigeria is in this peculiar mess because we have consistently and stubbornly continued to do and repeat the same nonsense and rubbish while expecting a miraculous change. Truth be told, a leader can never give or deliver what he does not possess. A leader can only be fired up by the limits of his education, background, worldview, experience and exposure. Age is also a factor, a man who made a mess of important assignments in his prime is not likely to make a success of it when he has become totally weak and dim-witted. It is not his fault but the natural law of diminishing returns. This is the difference between Nelson Mandela and Robert Mugabe. While Mandela surrounded himself with the brightest whiz-kids to shore up whatever shortcomings he had, having been out of circulation for 27 odd years, Mugabe, on the contrary remained the omnipotent and all-knowing leader even in his twilight years. This Messianic complex is dangerously perfidious.

It was with this background in mind that I was truly elated when Donald Duke accepted the invitation to meet me for a private session. The first thing that struck me on his arrival was his very good looks. Also, his confidence and poise. And, of course, as our conversation progressed, his sharp brains and wits. I had no doubt in my mind that Nigeria has been haemorrhaging to death because of our self-immolating lack of respect for the likes of Donald Duke and our preference for enthroning mediocrity. If we made mistakes in the past, must we continue to wallow in our foolhardiness? This was my starting point with Donald Duke.

“Oga, thank you for honouring my invitation at such short notice Sir. You know I have been your self-appointed Campaign Manager all these years. It is so wonderful to have you here finally, one on one…” I stated. “I cannot thank you enough Dele for keeping faith with me without seeing me. I cannot say we’ve been close friends, yet you mentioned me regularly in your column and I’m always wondering what I have done to deserve this honour from you…” he responded.

I told him how much I was fascinated by his incredible work in Cross River State, especially, how Calabar was fast becoming the Dubai of Nigeria. I was not unaware that his critics often lampooned him as wasting resources on building a beautiful State while his people languished in squalid conditions. But I knew such arguments came from people of limited minds and dreams. The living conditions of a people will never improve unless and until leaders learn to create huge dreams and gigantic activities that would ultimately generate jobs and opportunities. Donald Duke looked a bit pensive. “You won’t believe this; I was totally disappointed to hear supposedly knowledgeable people utter such words like ‘na Dubai we go chop’? It is this sort of warped mentality that has kept us where we have found ourselves… Lack of big dreams… Lack of faith in our abilities to build our own big cities and compete against the greatest nations… Nigerians are naturally brilliant, and we have the population to give us the power and influence of China, but we are not ready to change our ways of doing things…” he said, with sorrow in his eyes.

This dovetailed to my most important question: “Will you run the Presidential race?” He paused for a moment, measuring his thoughts and probably his choice of words. “Dele, do you want to hear the truth? I seriously want to run but my party, PDP, would have to decide on many things… Our party is well-positioned to win the next election if we can change our style a bit and beat APC at its own game. We must take advantage and benefit from our experience since 1999. Despite our apparent mistakes, Nigerians can now compare and contrast us with APC. What do we need to win the next elections? We must go to the field with our best candidates. We must learn from how we select our footballers. No one cares where you come from. Can you play well? Pronto. We must show clearly that we are more democratic. Zoning is good, but it has not worked well in Nigeria. The time has come to unleash the best brains from every part of Nigeria. We must galvanise our youths. They will never follow or support us if we can’t show how we are different and far better than APC…”

I told him how much I detest the idea of zoning and the way we’ve all accepted this unconstitutional act, unquestionably and horribly, like victims of mass hypnotism. I do not mind the principle of Federal Character in certain appointments and promotions, but it has no place whatsoever in elective office. Even Federal Character must be based on sound merit. No one should ever be appointed or promoted only because of tribe or religion. No student should be admitted or promoted if he cannot meet minimum requirements. We have now seen the result of promoting mediocrity, hypocrisy and laziness in Kaduna State where Governor Nasir El Rufai has practically guillotined the teaching careers of about 20,000 hopelessly and ridiculously dull teachers.

Zoning is undoubtedly one of the biggest scams in Nigeria. It was forced on us by some control freaks in order to direct and manipulate the system in perpetuity. If we break it down, we’ll see that it has favoured some states and regions more than the others, while some are at serious disadvantage. Nigeria has been led to date by government heads as follows: Tafawa Balewa (Bauchi, Moslem for 6 years) jointly with Nnamdi Azikiwe (Onitsha, Christian for 6 years), Johnson Thomas Aguiyi-Ironsi (Umuahia, Christian for 6 months), Yakubu Gowon (Lur, Christian for 9 years), Murtala Muhammed (Kano, Moslem for 6 months), Olusegun Obasanjo (Abeokuta, Christian, two stints, for 3 years and 8 years respectively, totalling 11 years), Shehu Shagari (Sokoto, Moslem for 4 years and a few months), Muhammadu Buhari (Katsina, Moslem (two stints, for 20 months and currently 2 and a half years respectively, totalling over 4 years and counting), Ibrahim Babangida (Minna, Moslem for 8 years) Ernest Shonekan (Abeokuta, Christian for almost 3 months) Sani Abacha (Kano, Moslem for almost 5 years), Abdulsalami Abubakar (Minna, Moslem for about one year), Umaru Musa Yar’Adua (Katsina, Moslem for almost three years) and Goodluck Jonathan (Otuoke, Christian for 5 years). More significantly the North has held power for 34 years and shared power as the stronger of two heads for six years, whilst the South has held power for 17 years and shared power as the weaker of two heads for 6 years. Using religion, Christians have held power with 25 years to the Moslems’ 32 years. So much for zoning!

Furthermore, in reality, if zoning was a sincere and precise formula, Buhari should be seen to be completing Yar’Adua’s, and thus, the North’s, second term. After all, Yar’Adua spent three years in office before he died. If APC or PDP fields another Northerner and either manages to win, is that person going to serve one or two terms? Whichever way you look at it, those insisting the North must produce the next President are thus being clever by half. In fact, the South South has the right to insist Jonathan or someone from his zone should come back to complete their own second term. Just imagine such confusion and conundrum!

What is worse, zoning has never been of immense benefit to Nigeria or its utmost beneficiaries. Katsina has produced two Heads of State on three different occasions (Buhari, Yar’Adua and Buhari again). Kano has produced two (Murtala Muhammed and Sani Abacha). Minna has produced two (Ibrahim Babangida and Abdulsalami Abubakar). Abeokuta has produced two, also on three different occasions (Obasanjo, Shonekan and Obasanjo again). Have their sons turned their cities or States into Eldorado? The answer is a resounding No!

Donald Duke agreed with me that Nigeria needs to be reconfigured and repositioned urgently. We are respected globally for our brilliance, intellect, innovativeness and boundless energy, but we parade some of the worst leaders on planet earth and the global community wonders how and why we allow the dregs of our society to represent us. Duke believes things might change for the better if we don’t give up. He said there are times he feels frustrated about the Nigerian situation but wakes up the next day re-energised seeing the potentials instead of the horrendous challenges and difficulties. He said he would appeal to members of his Party not to waste this unique opportunity because history would not forgive them if Nigeria collapses so miserably.

He elaborated extensively on his vision for Nigeria. He said rebuilding Nigeria is not going to take rocket science but vision, passion and total commitment to the ideals of civilisation. According to him, this cannot be achieved if we keep Nigeria perpetually in the hands of those who play Nigeria like Russian Roulette. For such leaders, there is no hurry or any sense of urgency to develop. Theirs is to attain power by crooked means, warm the seats and quit without any tangible achievement. Nigerians seem comfortable in this ‘game of thrones’ that forces them to accept their bizarre existence as if it were God-ordained. We all complain but still do nothing to correct these foolish anomalies.

How hopeful is he that he, or people of his ilk and pedigree, may emerge in the next dispensation? His response was very calm and sober. “If I can get the ticket of my Party, I’m certain that with the support of our members and the youths of Nigeria yearning for urgent restoration of hope, we shall defeat APC. I’m certain Nigerians are anxiously waiting for a leader with proven record of vigour and excellence. They will come out en masse to vote if they see such a candidate. And I promise to join hands with my Party to free Nigeria permanently from recession, oppression and depression. We know what to do to unlock the potentials of our vibrant youths and we possess the most important gift of all, the trust in our ability to take development to every part of our great country and attract our most fertile minds back home from all over the world. Our international friends are also waiting to support the right leadership when they see one. It would be the dawn of a new era in Nigeria…” I couldn’t help but shout a loud Amen to that, as he stood up to take his exit.

I followed him to his car and I felt proud and privileged knowing that such a leader is available if ever we need him and are ready to avail ourselves of his quality services. The ball is in our court.

Let’s keep the conversation flowing as I search and serve you more leaders soon.

God bless Nigeria

An Afternoon With Ex-President Goodluck Jonathan

By Dele Momodu

In the 2011 Presidential race, President Buhari and I, and many others, lost the elections to Jonathan. It was a baptism of fire. I was somehow happy though that a quintessential minority candidate won that election. However, I became worried when the Jonathan government started floundering and waltzing from one crisis to the other. The fuel subsidy conundrum, for me, was the height of it. I participated in the demonstrations that nearly incapacitated Jonathan in the early days of 2012. Subsequently, I took it upon myself to be an unofficial, unpaid special adviser and consultant to Jonathan on political matters. I wrote copiously on how the government was frittering away its massive goodwill and equity. Of course, the Jonathan supporters did not want to listen and hearken to my sincere opinion and I was endlessly insulted for speaking out my mind.

By 2014, I was just too sure that the Jonathan government was heading for a cataclysmic fall. I wrote an article, ‘In Search of Mathematicians’, in which I analysed that the opposition Party was going to thrash the ruling Party. Again, I was called names my parents did not give me, but it was only a matter of time before my doomsday prophesy came to pass. One of the greatest tragedies of power is how acolytes often mislead the big boss. I have no doubt that Jonathan is a gentleman who meant well for our country but he was surrounded by several malevolent people who capitalised on his plain humility, abject simplicity and imagined weakness to wreak havoc on the nation.

Since then, I have longed to chat with him and ask a few questions about his tenure as President. My previous approaches had been resoundingly rebuffed. Realistically, I did not expect Jonathan to be too comfortable with vociferous members of the opposition like me. But I did not give up.

As fate would have it, I ran into one of our mutual friends, a very significant member of Jonathan’s kitchen cabinet, weeks ago. The man had wondered why I wrote an article predicting the possibility of Jonathan returning to contest the Presidential election in 2019. Most of my readers had said the notion was preposterous and that it was an impossible and unreasonable proposition. The more I watched events unfold the more I felt Jonathan’s second coming was not impossible and unrealisable. His man informed me that his former boss nursed no such ambition and promised to arrange a meeting so I could hear this from the horse’s mouth.

My thesis, though seemingly absurd, is not without reason. Firstly, I do not see the possibility of any Northerner defeating President Buhari in 2019, if he decides to run. Buhari is the most popular personality from the Northern part of Nigeria today. He is, as a matter of unassailable fact, regarded and treated as a cult hero. The North would not want to risk certainty for uncertainty by supporting someone else from outside power. If the PDP chooses to present another Northerner to run against Buhari, the Party would have presented a second term to Buhari on a platter of gold because the South would have nothing to fight for and may present a lukewarm attitude to that election. My view, is that the 2019 Presidential election would be fought principally on the account of ethnicity and religion like most of our previous elections.

Secondly, a Presidential candidate needs to lock down four out of the six geo-political regions in Nigeria. Buhari had always found it tough to do this. On his own, he can boast no more than two regions. Naturally, a strong Southern candidate will give him a run for his money, if he also commands cult followership from his zone. There are few people in this mould and, whether one likes it or not, this includes Jonathan. The Southern candidate would obviously have a decent foray in the North Central and South West zones as well as a few of the battleground States in the North West and North East. Buhari has always found it difficult to replicate a similar decent incursion into the Southern axis apart from the South West.

Thirdly, age and health will be substantial factors in 2019. Buhari would be 76 and has been very ill in the recent past though, thankfully, he is much better now. Jonathan, like most of the other strong Southern candidates, will be under 65 and seems virile. He is one of the few who can draw on his experience and achievement to offer comparative analysis to Buhari, project for project.

It was with this mind-set that I approached former President Jonathan two days ago after he personally phoned to reconfirm our appointment for that day. I was deeply humbled by this simple gesture. By the time I meandered my way to his understated but elegant office, I didn’t know what to actually expect from him. He had some visitors from the Bible Society of Nigeria who had come to present him with the biggest Bible I ever saw, written in five languages English, Hausa, Yoruba, Ibo and Efik, all in one holy book. He asked me to give him a few minutes to attend to these visitors and I gladly obliged.. When they left, I was ushered into his personal office. The first thing he said was, “Dele, I must thank you for your level of professionalism. I read your column regularly and must commend your maturity and objectivity. Even when I disagree with you, I still enjoy your style.” “Thank you, sir…” I replied. He was ostensibly excited about the visit from the Bible Society of Nigeria and showed me the massive wooden book that was jealously protected in a beautiful casket. He then lectured me (once a lecturer always a lecturer) on the history of the Holy Bible in Nigeria. That done, we settled down to serious discussions.

I was thinking of how to proceed with the conversation. I decided to start by telling him my mission. I just don’t want to write abstract articles anymore. I want to use the incredible access God has given me to virtually everyone, low or high, to set a roadmap for our dear beloved country. It is my duty to give my readers authoritative information as much as possible. I’ve taken it upon myself to go behind and beyond the regular news to educate and entertain my passionate followers.

I started with harmless, innocuous and easy questions. How has he been coping outside power? He said he was fine because he never expected to be in government forever. He was particularly proud that he left power without any bloodshed. He appreciates the intervention of very influential and well-meaning people who brokered the democratic initiative. He feels good and at peace with himself for honouring his word and his bond.

Does he feel harassed by the Buhari government? He said he expected some of the unfolding events since the government came into being on the platform of anti-corruption mantra. “You do not abandon a winning formula easily…” He said he accepts his foibles and weaknesses and has learnt very useful lessons from those shortcomings. “But we did very well on the whole…” he insisted.. I was touched by his candour. He believed that if he had won his second term in 2015, he would have consolidated on the gains of that “imperfect” first term. But that did not happen. He says his love for Nigeria would never make him wish failure for Buhari or any other future government. “I have had the rare opportunity of leading our country at very critical moments and did my best. I’ve left the rest to posterity to judge,” he said matter-of-factly.

Now to the delicate terrain. “Sir, will you run in 2019?” I fired the shot from the hip. I’m not sure he anticipated this important question at the time it came. “Contest again? No. People come to me every day saying they want me back. I’m always moved to tears whenever I go out and see the huge crowds shouting GEJ, we want you, even in the North. Instead of getting swollen headed, I actually reflect on my achievements and mistakes and feel humbled and feel very sober… I have never been a man of inordinate ambition. I’m a man of very modest means. I hardly travel because of the logistical costs. I’ve played my part and I have moved on.”

“What if your party decides to invite you again?’ I probed deeper. “Are you not aware that our Party has zoned the Presidency to the North, and the Chairmanship to the South?” he queried. I gave him my permutations but he insisted that the two major Parties are highly inclined to produce candidates from the North. “Even Fayose that has declared his interest may face big challenges because of the decision of our party…” he opined.

“So there is no way you can ever contest again?” I fired again and he returned the fire instantaneously, “I’m not God but I sincerely doubt the possibility…” he said with finality. I dropped the subject as it was not my intention to put him on the spot, like that.

“How will you rate the Buhari government so far?” another tricky question, I felt. “What do you think Dele?… You are their friend…” I kept mute “Honestly speaking, they have tried in the area of security and fighting corruption, even if they’ve tilted more towards us… But we did a lot in our time in the area of agriculture, transport, managing the economy, rule of law, free and fair elections… Only Nigerians can judge… It won’t be fair of me to pass verdict so soon on my immediate successor… I knew they would hit brick-walls on some of their promises, especially the school feeding program and the payment of N5,000 to unemployed graduates… We worked on feasibility studies on them in the past and realised Nigeria could not afford it… It is always the job of opposition to over-promise but reality of governance is always different…”, he said, animatedly.

I could see and feel this was his forte. He spoke confidently and eloquently about the art and science of governance. He said the figures are still fresh in his memories. I decided to digress again. What does he think about Alhaji Atiku Abubakar’s chances. “He can’t get the APC ticket. If Atiku gets our party ticket, he would compete well. He’s always a passionate politician. But he would have to reach out to our boss, Baba OBJ, the boss of all bosses. We’ve all learnt at different times that you ignore OBJ at your own peril. OBJ has the magic wand, respected at home and abroad…” speaking like a penitent student. Experience, they say, is the best teacher.

If PDP picks a Northern candidate, where does he expect the running mate to come from, I asked. “Strategically, since Professor Osinbajo is already running with Buhari, the South South and South East, remain the most fertile grounds. And there are many brilliant people there waiting for the chance. The Governors control some of the richest states in Nigeria except Lagos…” he posited.

With time far gone, I requested for some pictures with him. He accepted with his usual equanimity. I invited my protégé, Mr Ohimai Godwin Amaize, aka Mr Fix Nigeria, who was a prominent member of the PDP Youth Wing, who was really elated to meet Jonathan again, to do the honours. We took several pictures.

As we exchanged goodbyes, I looked back at President Jonathan and wondered what fate might have in store for him in the future.

A Special Tribute To The Vision Of Dr Tai Solarin

By Dele Momodu

Fellow Nigerians, thanks for this special honour and privilege of inviting me to speak to you in Perth, Australia. This journey would not have been possible without the insistence and tenacity of one wonderful gentleman, Dr Dele Babalola. After leaving University of Ife (now Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife) decades ago, we re-established contact via Twitter. He first contacted me in July 2015 but I apparently disappeared from his radar, shortly afterwards. We subsequently re-established contact on September 28, 2015. Dr Babalola had done the smart thing after all attempts to reach me had failed. He sent me a direct message on Twitter:

“I have tried to reach you via your Yahoo mail, called Ovation office in Lagos, tried you on Linkedin, everywhere! You would remember in July I asked if you would like to honour us with your presence at the event for the memorial for Tai. We want to give it a lot of publicity and would love your journalistic angle and special touch of panache to our icon. I am sure you would respect Baba Tai!… We would like to honour and appreciate you for your unparalleled work in celebrating Africans. You would complement the Tai event perfectly and I pray you will make it top priority…”

I was deeply humbled by his generous words. Who wouldn’t? Dr Babalola, a medical doctor, is indeed a public relations guru who only found himself in a different profession and career. He said he had already emailed me an official invitation.

He wrote further in his Twitter message:

“I am the Vice President of Ex-Mays Global Charity (Old Students of Mayflower School in the diaspora) for Asia and Oceania/Pacific Regions, also the Editor-in-Chief of Ex-Mays Global Magazine. Please note this is not a local school event/function but a national function recognising Tai, an illustrious son of Nigeria, Africa and the world. We want you to please be part of this celebration…”

I was sufficiently moved by his messages and my response would have been a resounding Yes, but I was unable to attend due to reasons beyond my control. I was booked to undergo cataract operations in London and the dates could not be shifted as my sight was rapidly failing me. I would have cancelled any other appointment, but I needed urgent surgery according to different tests in Lagos, Accra and London. This personal predicament was explained to Dr Babalola, who understood my dilemma.

Dr Tai Solarin was one of my childhood heroes. I met him sometime in 1976, for the first time, at the popular CSS Bookshops, Atiba Square, Ile-Ife, where I worked as a shop assistant, errand boy and cleaner all rolled into one. Dr Solarin was already a familiar face, through reports of his activities, in the newspapers. I therefore recognised him the moment he walked in to purchase some books. There were no camera phones then, I’m sure I would have pleaded for some selfies, had that been the case. I was instantly star-struck and was deeply touched by his simplicity and humility.

I doubt if I ever missed his column in the Sunday Tribune. I devoured everything he wrote. Who could ever forget his evergreen classic, MAY YOUR ROAD BE ROUGH? I also remember an article he wrote about Chief Moshood Abiola who treated him to a supersonic flight on Concorde during their trip to New York. Dr Tai Solarin’s writings introduced me to atheism. I often wondered how a man who claimed not to believe in God could turn out to be such a humanist who was more humane than most of those who shouted “God” from the rooftops…

As I grew up and became a writer and journalist myself, I had several encounters with Dr Solarin. His love for Nigeria was total just as his commitment to humanity was absolute. His passion was powerfully rooted in education and through that he could bequeath an enduring legacy to mankind. The establishment of Mayflower School, Ikenne, bears eloquent and everlasting testimony to the vision and mission of this man who today has given birth to so many world class scholars, geniuses and entrepreneurs, some of whom are present in this audience. I salute you all.

I thought Dr Babalola had moved on from our mutual disappointment of not making that occasion. However, he soon returned to my case on December 12, 2015, in another Twitter message: “Dear Chief Momodu. Are you happy to be the Chief Launcher of my Tai Solarin book in Mayflower, Ikenne, for the 60th Anniversary, Saturday January 30, 2016? I would be most honoured if you can attend please…” This man again, I soliloquised. It was not a convenient date and I felt so embarrassed to turn him down a second time. Little did I realise I would be severely punished eventually.

Dr Babalola bided his time before throwing the next sucker punch which landed thunderously on November 17, 2016, nearly one year after the last attempt: This time he was giving me more than ample notice. “We are planning to honour Tai Solarin in October 2017 in Perth Australia under the auspices of the Nigerians in the diaspora there. We have penned you as the keynote speaker. Are you happy to come – so we can send you formal invitation?”

This was like the last straw that broke my camel’s back. Although, I requested for time to ponder and said I would give a proper response in January 2017, I knew my goose was cooked and that I was faced with no choice but to accept, after studying my itinerary. Dr Babalola wasted no time in reaching out to me by January 22, 2017. I didn’t get to read his message until he sent another one on April 8, 2017: “My Brother, bawo ni? Kindly respond to my messages please. Even if it is a NO. We are all making a case for posterity. May God continue to bless and prosper you…” Wow, this was it! There was no escape for me this time. Thus, I granted a tentative approval.

Before I could say a final Yes or No, Dr Babalola landed another devastating punch on June 15, 2017: “You will be glad you come… The occasion promises to be a great event. Joshua, the new World Heavyweight Boxing Champion is an ex-Mayflower student! Please Google Dr Kunle Odunsi, a US-based gynaecologist, and Dr Oluyinka Olutoye, a Texas-based paediatric surgeon and you will begin to understand what we are showcasing…” Dr Babalola was probably a boxer himself unknowingly. He landed punches on me relentlessly: “…Before your busy calendar fills up, please commit to our event. The Yoruba Society of Western Australia has penned you down as a Great Omoluabi, and a very great cultural ambassador of the Black Race…”

I was intrigued by the stature and home-grown nature of two of the personalities he had mentioned. Anthony Joshua is a supreme Nigerian athlete that we must all be proud of.  He always enthuses about his Nigerian roots and by God’s grace his boxing career is set to hit the stratosphere. The other gentleman, Dr Olutoye, a fetal surgeon and co-director of the Texas Children’s Fetal Centre is currently making waves in medical circles and is the rave of the moment having successfully jointly operated on a baby, Lynlee Hope, who was taken out of her mother’s womb to remove a tumour and was re-planted into the womb and eventually born again after 36 weeks of pregnancy. I eventually said Yes, to be in the company of these and many more illustrious Nigerian alumni of Mayflower School, Ikenne. Unfortunately, the exigencies of his profession mean that Anthony Joshua is not with us tonight as he prepares for his Heavyweight Title Defence in England against Carlos Takam. We wish him the very best and pray for a resounding victory for him.

I knew I would encounter many hurdles as I planned my journey. True to form, more events popped up, including one of in London on Sunday. I’ve had to make a breath-taking journey to be with you this evening moving from London to Accra to Lagos to Johannesburg and then to Perth in the space of 4 days. From this event, I am heading straight to the airport. I will be flying for the next 30 hours through several countries and time zones just to catch my next appointment in London on Sunday. I’m happy to do this to honour one of the greatest Nigerians of the 20th century, Dr Tai Solarin.

The theme of this event has been aptly put as EDUCATION FOR NATIONAL TRANSFORMATION. Nothing could be more topical at this stage of our national development when our education system has greatly regressed. The blame does not lie on this government but on their predecessors who have woefully failed to plan.

My life is an eloquent example of the power of education to transform nobody to somebody. My father was slightly educated and was a civil servant. However, my mum was a stark illiterate who could neither speak nor write one word of English. I lost my father when I was barely 13 and it was left to my mother to look after me. My trajectory is best left to the imagination. The lesson I have learnt is that education is the greatest and ultimate leveller in the world. Without attending one school or the other, most of us are not likely to have met. Many of us would probably have ended up amongst the dregs of society or the wretched of the earth. We must thank God and our parents for the gift of life and education.

The downfall of Nigeria is definitely directly traceable to the collapse of education in our nation. In my view, some of our leaders deliberately killed our institutions from secondary to tertiary level in order to weaken, possess and enslave the minds of our people. In a bid to continue to enshrine and enthrone their mediocracy, they had to ensure that fertile minds are not allowed to germinate and snuff out their existence.

The deadliest thing that can deaden the brains is to inflict and afflict a people with a combination of poverty and ignorance. This is the sad story of Nigeria. The quality of leadership has deteriorated at the speed of light. A country that once paraded many cerebral leaders has fallen on hard times and you can now count such leaders on the fingers of your hands. Nigeria is being led astray and aground by those who have no value or appreciation for intellectual thoughts and principles. It is a crying shame!

Rather than continue to bemoan this monumental tragedy, my suggestion is to find an enduring solution. The only way to go, in my view, is to change our lackaidasical attitude to politics. For far too long, we’ve left politics to those who have neither managed people nor resources. Many of our leaders lacked any principle or ideology we can point at to determine if they are fit for their important positions or not. Many of our leaders are totally outdated and may never understand the current trends in the world. We’ve experimented with all sorts but it has because very obvious that we urgently require young, brilliant, stylish, visionary and cosmopolitan leaders to take over from where our parents and grandparents have taken us.

 

We can never change society without changing the terrible quality of our leaders. It is unlikely that anyone can give what he does not possess. I plead with you all to leave your comfort zones to participate substantially in politics to determine how our leaders are selected and finally elected. By this, I’m not saying you must necessarily contest. But you must join political parties, you must make personal contributions in cash and in kind. We must educate our families, friends and associates on the virtue of electing good and competent leaders. We would have no one to blame but ourselves when we reap the repercussions of arrogant indifference and carelessness.

In the good old days, most of us finished our first degrees at home before migrating abroad in search of more education. The situation now is we are all killing ourselves trying to pay school fees on our infants who are in schools abroad, including much poorer African countries. Nothing I can see suggests our current leaders know how to start and sustain a revolution in the education sector of our nation. It is business as usual. What we need urgently is not just about improving the squalid environment in which the youths are forced to study but to re-order our priorities. Education must prepare our children for the horrendous challenges awaiting them outside the school environment. The days are gone when students could go to school just to obtain certificates. Certificates must be relevant to societal needs. Many of our graduates remain unemployed just because they are unemployable to start with. They lack the pre-requisite qualifications that can fetch them the great jobs they fervently dream of. The school curriculum and the courses of study should be such that make them relevant and prepare them for the job markets. Everyone cannot be a lawyer or doctor. There are so many skilled workers that we currently import from neighbouring countries. Our institutions must, therefore, establish many technical and vocational faculties and departments. Only intelligent leaders can see the necessity for this.

I would love to develop this further but time and space won’t permit me. I have my next flight to catch out of Australia in a few hours. I hope I have provoked some thoughts in you. I leave you with the following adage: “IF YOU THINK EDUCATION IS EXPENSIVE, TRY IGNORANCE…”

This speech was made by DELE MOMODU in Perth, Australia on October 27, 2017

 

Now That Baba Akande Has Spoken, By Dele Momodu

 

Fellow Nigerians, let me state categorically that the great fun is about to begin in our dear beloved country. Walahi. Chief Bisi “Baba” Akande controversially stirred the hornets nest today when he proclaimed the death knell of zoning so far as the South West is concerned.

 

In case you don’t know, Baba Akande is a former Deputy Governor of old Oyo State, former Governor of Osun State, former Interim Chairman of Alliance for Democracy, former Chairman of AC, former Interim Chairman of APC and much more, is one of the most respected and revered leaders in Nigeria today. He has worked hard to earn that uncommon reputation. If you want someone who can bring about a consensus where it seems strife is inevitable, then Baba Akande is your man. He is very honest and remarkably frank. He is also a man of fairness, justice and peace. Most people I know see him as an icon and treat him as one. He is seen as one of the few Yoruba leaders who has remained steadfast and loyal to the lofty ideals and heights of the late sage, Chief Obafemi Awolowo. I have done this little introduction for the sake of our young ones who may not know how important and influential Baba Akande is.

 

When such a political colossus speaks, therefore, you must listen attentively to one of our most outstanding symbols. Yes, Baba Akande spoke two days ago and tremor reverberated across the nation. In fact, he said what many of us already knew was coming. I had written several times about it, more appropriately, against it. I’ve never hidden my disdain against the idea of zoning political appointments. Zoning and Federal character have both failed to cure the maladies that gave birth to them. They have mostly empowered and enriched some cliques and acolytes. Those policies could not have succeeded in any event because they fail to take account of the truism that merit cannot be sacrificed on the altar of expediency as the only result is doom.

 

My interpretation of Baba Akande’s salvo is that the alliance at the centre is about to collapse. The ruling party, APC, is about to splinter into many parts, unless a miracle happens very fast. A rebellion of monumental proportions is brewing even if it has not yet exploded into smithereens. I have no doubt in my mind that the cookie is about to crumble and the bubble is about to burst. Please, watch this space, and note more what Baba Akande has not said than what he said.

 

What Baba Akande has not said is simply that the days when the Presidency would be voluntarily zoned to exclude most sections of the country in favour of another section, whether the candidate presented and supported by the people is competent or useless, are over. The truth is zoning never worked anyway, as some Presidential candidates left their original parties for other parties in defiance of the zoning formula of their own party.

 

Without mincing words, it is obvious that the Yoruba leadership has decided it would no longer support other tribes, zones or regions to attain to power to the exclusion of their tribe. They would rather work hard, reach out, and join hands with like minds to get power.

 

Their decision is borne out of the acute frustration and disappointment that makes them feel cheated about the Nigerian configuration which does not throw up the best but regularly favours the dregs of society who have only contributed to drawing Nigeria backward, in most cases.

 

The campaign has probably started in earnest, culminating in the search for a Yoruba Presidency. Though the Governor of Ekiti State, Dr Peter Ayodele Fayose has controversially but ceremoniously thrown his hat into the ring, it is the fact that the capo di tutti capi, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, may be warming up for his turn to take a major shot at the race of his life that is most significant.
Mark my words. One of the greatest political strategists in Nigeria, Tinubu is tired of being a kingmaker and he would rather be the king. Indeed, that has always been his ambition but this has been largely curtailed by circumstances. Like many of those who supported Major General Muhammadu Buhari to attain power, after so many attempts, the former Senator and former Governor of Lagos State, feels he’s not gotten the respect and relevance he deserves for his monumental effort. Accordingly, he seems determined to make a personal push.

 

Apart from the virtues of Baba Akande that I have enumerated above, a lesser known one is his deep sense of loyalty. In thus regard he is known to he fiercely loyal to Asiwaju, who saw his sterling qualities and has promoted them on the national stage. When he spoke therefore, he was also wittingly or unwittingly acting as his friend’s voice and heralding Asiwaju’s aspiration to be top dog! The options that are likely to be pursued by Tinubu can be shortly and succinctly summarised.

 

BAT, as we love to call him, will contest as Presidential candidate. Clearly, such an audacious attempt would be in a party other than APC which going by recent events and noises, is likely to insist on fielding a miraculously rejuvenated President Buhari. This is obviously Asiwaju’s preferred move, but again the present dynamics and the dark clouds which hovers ominously over him may mean that he is better suited to hide behind another person as President.

 

Remember, age and health are going to be strong factors in the coming election and at 65 now, Tinubu is seen as having crossed the threshold.

 

The second option is to realise his limitations and pressurise APC into submission to the extent that he would have to be appeased and rewarded.

 

BAT’s former protégé and current Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo may be cajoled into stepping down for his political mentor. It is not known if President Buhari would agree to this fiasco, which would mean, not only a Muslim Muslim ticket but also one without the benefit and refreshing vigour of vibrant youth, out of desperation for a second term.

 

No matter what you think, these are not the easiest of times for APC. It is very clear that there are no easy options ahead with the number of hardened and resolute aspirants on parade, including the flighty former Vice President, Abubakar Atiku who seems on the way out of APC. Some are also suggesting an Atiku/Tinubu ticket but there won’t be much difference between that pair and that of Buhari/Tinubu on account of age and religion. This is why many feel Tinubu just wants to rattle Buhari to bring him to the negotiating table but I thing he’s very determined about being the president himself after helping a few African Presidents to power.

 

Sadly, it is not just about elections and ambitions, even the presidential team is rapidly falling apart. Everyone is fighting everybody and it is so disheartening and distressing! What we envisaged to be a change is fast becoming a mirage and turning out to be a riotous calamity!

How APC May Help PDP Redeem Itself

By Dele Momodu

Fellow Nigerians, this headline may sound somehow bizarre but that is the reality on ground in our country today. In the name of Almighty God, let us remember and be assured that nothing is impossible. Providence has a way of playing its own game which ordinary mortals may find difficult to understand. I know many had written off the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) after its cataclysmic crash from grace to grass in 2015. It was a prophecy boldly and clairvoyantly foretold by a few of us, in writing. The PDP apparatchik were the only ones blinded by power and could not see the hail of bullets coming their way until it hit them calamitously and fatally. Today the rest is history.
The All Peoples Congress (APC) that took over from PDP did so in style and the world celebrated that incredible feat. It was a classic case of good riddance to bad rubbish. But there was a caveat; APC was expected to perform a combination of magic and miracle. The new President was credited with the power of life and death. The Party that led him to victory, however, had a substantial influx of the so-called demons that had escaped from the pit of hell to join in leading President Buhari to the remarkable success that he achieved. Many more absconded from PDP to APC once it was obvious that things had fallen apart. This contradiction was going to haunt and hunt APC eventually. And the cookie has started crumbling already. The lack of principle and ideology has always been the bane of politics in Nigeria. This is why most of our leaders find it so convenient to crisscross political parties with such reckless abandon and shameless gusto. The saint of today can become an instant devil tomorrow and vice versa and this meandering and frolicking to and fro can go on ad infinitum.
Nevertheless, no one expected the PDP to bounce back so soon. As a matter of fact, many had wished, and commanded, them to eternal damnation and condemnation. But reality is beginning to dawn on even the most fastidious supporters of APC. Without mincing words, APC has been its own worst enemy. The Party appeared to have taken too many things for granted and sooner than later, it would have to pay dearly for it. The APC has studiously ignored the lessons of contemporary Nigerian history, as typified by the monumental failure and spectacular collapse of PDP. APC has blatantly refused to organise itself into a more disciplined and cohesive party. It started out fighting a war of attrition within itself, like babies scrapping over lollipops, instead of settling down to address the urgent and desperate needs of the people. The APC government, although it made significant progress on the war against Boko Haram and terror and to a lesser extent the battle against corruption, crawled like a millipede, especially on the economy, which led most people to assume that it neither prepared for power nor expected to win the election. This lack of preparation collided with the people’s giant expectations of an abracadabra moment in Nigeria.
Now in its third year in power, APC is wobbling along while PDP seems to be getting its groove and confidence back. The crack in APC has become too wide and palpably worrisome. It has not been able to organise any Party Convention. It is doubtful if any meaningful meetings are called or held at any level beyond the local one. The PDP that was supposed to be dead has since been almost fully revived and seems to be putting its house in order. If APC continues along its disastrous path of reticence and self-immolation, it may be in for a real and rude shock. It is obvious that many prominent members of APC are only bidding their time and merely hiding conveniently in the Party till they feel that there is an auspicious time to jump ship again. In hushed tones, they whisper and lament their disappointment, dejection, disgust and disdain at the turn of events in their Party. They moan and groan about the way the hawks, infamously known as the cabal, have grabbed and taken over power, with no one in sight ready or willing to checkmate them.
In the midst of this hocus-pocus the next set of elections are fast approaching. The prominent and populist PDP governor from Ekiti, Dr Peter Ayodele Fayose, has already declared his interest in becoming the next President of Nigeria, in 2019. Sule Lamido, former Governor of Jigawa State, has followed suit beginning with a launch in the South East by his supporters. Say what you will, no member of APC, except Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, has been bold enough to come out openly to replicate such audacity out of fear of stupendous reprisals from the powerful goons in Abuja. Every one of them is waiting to know if the omnipotent leader is going to run or not. Even then, they are not sure whether he will appoint an anointed one which will effectively scupper their aspirations. Meanwhile, time is ticking away at supersonic speed and before we know it the season of Party Primaries will be upon us.
PDP members are regrouping, rebranding and reinvigorating themselves for the great battle ahead. APC on the other hand is adopting a wait and see approach which has bedevilled the mode of administration since the Party took over in 2015. Reality checks show that PDP is no longer as weak as It once appeared, particularly in the early days of the Buhari Administration, when it was clearly a headless, directionless Party in abject confusion and disarray. Some of their Governors control the States that lay the golden eggs in Nigeria, namely Udom Gabriel Emmanuel of Akwa Ibom, Nyesom Wike of Rivers, Dr Ifeanyi Ukowa of Delta and Henry Seriake Dickson of Bayelsa. Those Governors appear to be making giant strides in the development of their States and there is plenty of potential there for a Presidential material to emerge. Those oil rich States also parade some of the most formidable godfathers, who themselves were former Governors and godfathers, such as Godswill Akpabio in Akwa Ibom, Peter Odili in Rivers, James Ibori in Delta and Goodluck Jonathan in Bayelsa.
The permutation is that PDP will hibernate cleverly and consult widely with the godfathers and kingmakers before picking its candidates. Their prayer is for Buhari to force and foist his candidacy for a second term on APC. PDP would then unleash its youth-friendly options on the nation. Some of them are already assembled and waiting for the opportune time to decide on the best and most ferocious combination. They include Governor Ibrahim Hassan Dankwambo of Gombe State, former Cross River Governor, Donald Duke, former Anambra State Governor Peter Obi, Charles Soludo … I am sure that PDP realises that it cannot afford to field a candidate tainted with the spectre of corruption and abuse of office for which the immediate past PDP administration of President Jonathan has now become notorious and infamous.
The PDP top chiefs are not ruling out the idea of poaching some of the disgruntled big fishes from APC. Those being considered for tapping include the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, former Governor of Kano State, Rabiu Kwankwanso, Governor of Sokoto, Aminu Tambuwal, and a few others under the searchlight. The PDP will aim to exploit the current schisms in the Nigerian nation, caused by agitations for restructuring and ethnic self-determination that is being terribly mismanaged, and benefit from it with their choice of Presidential and Vice-Presidential candidates. They appear determined to give Nigerians younger and more accomplished combination of candidates which they believe APC, with its proclivity for gerontocracy and seniority would not consider. Who knows if APC would fall into that trap by assuming that the youths, who form the largest portion of the electorate, would follow and support any candidate they push forward. If APC fails to respond to the cravings and desires of those who feel Nigeria is long overdue for modern, urbane and tested, cosmopolitan and visionary leadership, it will have only itself to blame, if at the end of the day it is left biting its fingers, rueing and regretting what may have been, as it is unceremoniously ejected from power at the centre.
It is expected that the next leaders of Nigeria would not be able to escape critical debates in order that people assess their competence and capabilities before the elections. Any Nigerian leader of the future, starting from 2019, must be articulate, computer savvy, creative and able to present coherent ideas on how to move Nigeria forward in a new world of scientific advancement, technological innovation and economic wizardry. It is the Party that recognises that Nigerians have moved on and demand a lot more from their leaders not only in terms of accountability and integrity but also in terms of social and economic development that will carry the day. The PDP may seem better positioned in this regard because it knows that its ambitions cannot fly with any of the discredited old guard and maybe that is where its good fortunes may lie. APC is fortunate that it is not presently burdened by any such perception but, with events presently unfolding, even that aspect of its goodwill may be eroded or lost if it does not manage its affairs well.
What seems assured is that Nigerians wait with bated breath to see the calibre of leaders that the Parties will thrust upon them as they seek that elusive Eldorado.
World Cerebral Palsy Day: A Mother’s Passionate Appeal
Wife of the Governor of Kogi State, Mrs. Amina Oyiza Bello has once again taken a bold step in her efforts to call attention to the plight of Nigeria’s children with special needs. The compassionate Founder of Hayat Foundation has made a passionate appeal to President Muhammadu Buhari to sign the Person’s With Disability Special Protection Bill into law.
Speaking in Abuja at a news conference to mark the October 6th, 2017 World Cerebral Palsy Day, Mrs. Bello also appealed to the government and school owners to make school environment-friendly for persons with disability while, putting in place measure to end stigma against such persons.  For about a year now, Mrs. Bello has been championing the cause of children with special needs. Through Hayat Foundation, a Pan-African Organisation dedicated to promoting the cause of children with cerebral palsy, she has been at the forefront of sensitizing Nigerians to stop the stigma against persons living with disability. Mrs. Bello noted during the conference that Hayat Foundation was born as a result of her personal journey and experience with cerebral palsy, while taking care of her own son, Hayatullah Onoruoyiza Bello, who lives with cerebral palsy and in whose honor the foundation is named after.

Now That The Race Has Started, By Dele Momodu

Fellow Nigerians, let me say exciting times are here again. You may ask what is so exciting about this period with our myriad of problems? Please, allow me to put it this way. Politicians are like students while the voters are their teachers. Every now and then the chickens come home to roost and politicians are forced to test their popularity and performance. The examiners are the voters who have waited patiently for this time to come so that they can pass or fail their representatives as they deem fit. Sometimes the electorate get things right. Oftentimes they get it wrong, as we’ve seen on many occasions. What is important is that it is payback time, for good or for bad.
There is no time for any long preamble today. The nitty-gritty of this epistle is dictated by two major events that occurred almost simultaneously during the week, signalling the beginning of the 2019 Presidential race. First, was the open and frontal declaration of Ekiti State Governor, Dr Peter Ayodele Fayose, a man of immense courage. Second, was the release of the electoral timetable by the electoral umpire, INEC. Prior speculations about who’s running or not will soon be affirmed or refuted. The time has finally come for the masquerades to come out of the groves and dance in the marketplace.
Love him or hate him, Governor Fayose’s declaration is bound to kick-start the electoral jamboree and give impetus to others who have been rather squeamish or “squirmish” about throwing their hats into the ring. Also, I love the fact that the ruling government can no longer afford to be complacent. We now have an aspirant, who for whatever he is worth will definitely keep the APC on its toes. The controversy has already started because Fayose is the quintessential hype-man. If he does not court publicity, propaganda would always trail him. He is a master of the game who understands that a bully only respects a bully. The ruling government may pretend that he is no threat, but they understand the adage that “a leper may not be able to squeeze milk but he definitely knows how to spill it…” Let no one dismiss Fayose. Remember the way some of us swore Donald Trump will never defeat Hillary Clinton in many lifetimes to come.
It would be a big shame if APC fails to see the urgent need to reposition and repackage itself as quickly as possible. My ideas may seem a bit radical and far-fetched but they remain my kobo advise to President Buhari and his team. If I were President Buhari, I will start grooming a successor right now. By the time he finishes his first term in 2019, he would have attained the age of 76, or thereabout. By then, he should be thankful to God for preserving his life after a rigorous battle with some near-fatal ailments. At that age and stage, Nigeria deserves some fresh leader, in body, mind and soul. The world has moved beyond the type of leadership we are currently saddled with. Buhari was a choice for a special reason and purpose. He has served and fulfilled that righteousness. I believe, with all due respect, that he should set Nigeria on the path to higher glory by getting his succession plan right. Many of his predecessors were too pre-occupied with self-adulation that they forgot the future. By the time the future inevitably arrived, it was too late to turn the hands of the clock backwards.
President Buhari still has over one year to prepare for the epic journey ahead.. It is certain and obvious that he would be tempted like all mortals to cling to power, and as a matter of right anyway, but may God grant him the uncommon wisdom and that spirit of selflessness to be able to resist the allure of office and power. The APC has a lot to gain from his sacrifice and he would have placed himself on a higher pedestal in global reckoning. He has many able disciples who can carry his legacy to a much higher level. The world would remember him as a leader who came at a time of serious crisis and averted the cataclysmic collapse of Nigeria, laid a solid foundation and handed over to competent builders and performers.
In other to avoid an acrimonious transition, the President should invite some interested and influential members of his party and allow its politburo to vote or decide amongst themselves the shape of the new government they wish to form. Their decision is more likely to be binding on the party in general. President Buhari owes it to Nigeria to kill the ethnic and religious tension in our country. He’s always been viewed as a religious bigot and ethnic jingoist but he can redeem himself gracefully by championing new causes, breaking down walls of superstition as well as exterminating those primordial sentiments that have bedevilled our country and sent us several centuries backward. Buhari should help in combing every part of Nigeria and beyond for the best brains and talents that God has kindly endeared and endowed us with. He should realise that nothing could be as fortunate as being handed a second chance on a platter of gold as has happened to him. He has nothing more to gain but plenty to lose.
I would not be shocked or surprised if those currently enjoying the spoils of power dismiss my appeal to our dear beloved President as arrant nonsense. However, the truth is that Nigeria is in crisis and critical mode, deserving the most accomplished surgeons the country has, to excise the cancers and tumours ravaging her. We can no longer continue to wobble and fumble at the present snail speed. Time does not wait for anyone. And it will certainly not wait for Nigeria. APC parades many fantastic leaders but they are not able to blossom and glow in full bloom because of the overpowering aura of President Buhari. That power can be put to better use by helping APC to remain intact without experiencing the type of implosion that sentenced PDP to its shallow grave.
I will like to see APC retain the support and loyalty of Atiku Abubakar (who I believe should act like a true father of the party rather than desperately trying to return to power 12 years after he retired as Vice President) and Bola Ahmed Tinubu (who should continue in his now acclaimed role of kingmaker). These two titans of the party should support President Buhari in harnessing the talents and strengths of the Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo, Bukola Saraki, Dogara Yakubu, Rabiu Kwankwaso, Nasir El Rufai, Aminu Tambuwal, Babatunde Raji Fashola, Rochas Okorocha, Rotimi Amaechi, Olorunnimbe Mamora, and several others who may be hovering in the wings with the hopes of becoming President or Vice President in the not too distant future. If these great assets are not well-managed and encouraged to sacrifice their personal ambitions and interests for the sake of Nigeria, history might just repeat itself because a house divided against itself will not stand.
Such a similar situation was mismanaged by former President Goodluck Jonathan who inadvertently lost the election the day he allowed some key members of PDP, to saunter away to join a new coalition called APC. With the benefit of hindsight, I am sure Jonathan would have eaten humble pie and stopped those aggrieved party members, by fire by force. Unfortunately, he was goaded and egged on by sycophants who probably boasted that Atiku, Saraki, Amaechi, and company were easily dispensable. They were dead wrong. Their exit led to the tsunami that swept away the Jonathan government.
My prediction is that if Buhari decides to stubbornly pursue his own personal ambition and agenda by not making the necessary sacrifice at this crucial moment, he may be swamped and consumed by the lava of the volcanic eruption that would definitely hit his party in a most devastating manner. Truth be told, Buhari would not have even picked the ticket of APC in the last primary election but for the herculean task and audacious effort of Tinubu, Amaechi, Saraki and others who performed the miracle of turning water into wine.
Believe me, nobody wins election in Nigeria based on sainthood or clean records. Elections require the ability to raise cash, tonnes and tonnes of it. In case he is oblivious to what transpired in the last election, the President should ask his campaign team what it cost to oil that blistering operation that catapulted the “invincible” Jonathan out of power. Who donated what and how were APC agents funded nationwide? It is not going to be that simple this time around. Most of those who fell for the change mantra have since changed from billionaires and millionaires to paupers. Many supported Buhari hoping they would not be hounded but permitted to henceforth do business the proper way. They were unprepared for the fury unleashed against them which has ensured they’ve not been able to do business, clean or dirty. They are just licking their wounds with equanimity and hoping that this nightmare shall soon pass away. Undoubtedly the Nigerian economy has suffered as a result.  The main beneficiaries have been shady multinationals who continue to steal us blind whilst claiming to support a failing corruption crusade.
Therefore, APC has to urgently re-strategize by picking one of its trusted and tested younger personages, hoping that he may reignite the much-needed passion in Nigerian youths, the business community and all those who feel short-changed and brutalised by the Buhari government. If APC lacks the courage to rejig its modus operandi, it may be forced to swallow its own phlegm sooner than later…
I will soon offer an analysis on what PDP needs to do to bounce back and beat the APC. My advice to all those who think PDP is dead and buried is that they should perish the thought because Lazarus may still rise. As a matter of fact, PDP is not dead. It is merely a sleeping and snoring giant. We may yet be in for a rude awakening on all counts!
 
 
THE UNTOLD STORY OF CHIEF MOSHOOD ABIOLA
On July 7, 2018, it would be exactly 20 years since Chief Moshood Kashimawo Olawale Abiola suddenly died in solitary confinement. No one has been able to give a comprehensive account of the June 12, 1993, saga till this day. Nigerians, and the world at large remain in total darkness about why Nigeria’s best election was annulled, those with noble or dastardly roles, why the winner ended up in detention instead of Aso Rock, and how finally, only his lifeless body was brought back home.
Ovation Books, a new arm of Ovation Communications, is poised to offer a special publication on what remains another dark chapter in the chequered existence of our country. We need your help to make this dream a reality. All we need is access to hitherto never revealed information. We shall also be knocking on doors to seek definite answers to pertinent questions.
Did you know Abiola one on one, or do you have credible information that can help recapture the period of campaign, election, annulment, incarceration and disappearance from public glare from 1994-98? Were you a personnel at some of the detention centres he was kept? You may wish to write to us, even anonymously, about your experience. You may send text messages to us via +2348055069220, +233233751111. We promise prompt responses and where necessary will get one of our researchers to meet with you.
At Ovation Books, we plan to reduce the dearth of information on very distinguished Nigerians, by publishing biographies of great men and women. We are counting on your kind prayers as always.  The Abiola and June 12 debacle is just a tantalising beginning!

On The Road To Port Harcourt, By Dele Momodu

Fellow Nigerians, I finally returned to Port Harcourt after over two years of absence. It is strange how time flies and how it changes everything. Port Harcourt had always been one of my favourite cities in our dear beloved country. Once upon a time, Port Harcourt was known and referred to as the garden city because of its blossoming flowers. The good people of Rivers State are particularly warm and affectionate and I really enjoyed their generous hospitality which is so lavish and sincere. I will never forget the wedding of one of the daughters of the great Chief and former Minister, Alabo Graham-Douglas. Port Harcourt, and Rivers State in general, was so peaceful that I flew in our European photographer, Dragan Mikki, to cover the epochal event for us. Security was not even an issue as we boarded a speedboat to go to Abonema, the ancestral home of the Graham-Douglases. There was no fear of our Oyibo photo-journalist being kidnapped. We also flew Dragan from Port Harcourt to Abuja to shoot pictures of our dear First Lady, Mrs Stella Obasanjo, now of blessed memory. Wow, I feel so nostalgic about those good old days.
I made so many wonderful friends in Port Harcourt. Ovation International magazine has had one of its biggest fan base in that fun-loving city till this day. I remember and treasure the evening I was hosted by the big boys of the garden city and I was treated like a visiting President. I saw enjoyment at its best. I was given the title of O-talk-na-do of Port Harcourt and the whole place reverberated powerfully as a result of the Ovation invasion. I was received at the Government House by the Deputy Governor Sir Gabriel Tamunobiebere George Toby, on behalf of the Governor, Dr Peter Odili, who was out of the country when I visited.
I would later meet and become inseparable friends with the then Speaker of the Rivers State House of Assembly and later Governor, Rt. Hon. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi. I visited whenever I was chanced or invited by Amaechi. Our relationship blossomed when he left his Peoples Democratic Party and joined All Progressives Congress. We worked actively and passionately for the success of Major General Muhammadu Buhari, now President and Commander-in-Chief. While Amaechi’s stupendous efforts won at the Federal levels, he could not replicate the same on his home tuff. His Governorship candidates and other aspiring legislative ones failed as they were roundly and soundly defeated by the opposition party. I doubt if my friend agrees till this day that his candidates were truly humbled but that is a matter for the courts as events unfolded.
I don’t know, and may never know, what happened in Rivers and how Amaechi the physician could not heal himself after fixing Abuja admirably. That is another story for another day. All I know is that Rivers has not been the same. I read a lot of blistering attacks on the new Governor, Nyesom Wike, who used to be one of the closest friends of Amaechi before things fell apart between them and the center could no longer hold. Since life is about perception, I did not look forward to going to Rivers anytime soon.
All that changed when I least expected. A phone conversation with the great man many of us refer to as “the godfather” in journalism circles, Mallam Ismaila Isa Funtua, changed all that. He had called while I was in Ghana to personally invite me to the 2017 Nigerian Guild of Editors Summit in Port Harcourt. He informed me he was also talking to Nduka Obaigbena, Chairman of Thisday newspapers, as well as Kabiru Yusuf, Chairman of Daily Trust newspapers. I was indeed honoured by the invitation and I agreed to return to Abuja and fly from there with these distinguished personalities to Port Harcourt.
The journey to Port Harcourt was smooth as the four of us flew from Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja on a small chartered plane and landed under an hour. Everything was in place for our arrival including, cars and security provided by the Governor. We drove straight to our hotel, checked in, freshened up and rested a bit before going to join the Governor for dinner. I had not seen Governor Wike since he moved into that Government Lodge where I used to visit my dear friend, Hon. Rotimi Amaechi. As we walked in, the Governor rose to salute “the godfather”, Alhaji Funtua: “my father welcome…” he said. He turned to Nduka Obaigbena, “my boss, how are you?” To Kabiru, “how are you Sir?” And to me, “my brother, I can’t believe you came. I told Alhaji you won’t come…” I smiled and we hugged briefly. I immediately understood why he felt that way but I love peace and would always work for peace.
Wike appeared extremely happy to see us. I saw firsthand why he is regarded as a consummate politician, regardless of what side of the political divide you belong. He understands the game of reaching out to friends and foes. He did not hold any grudge against me for being one of those who fought tooth and nail to sack their Federal Government from power. As we walked to the garden where he hosted us, he held me at a stage and recollected how I dealt him some heavy blows in my column one day when he was still Minister. He said his whole body was vibrating with emotion as he read my article. As he spoke, I remembered a Yoruba adage, “the man who used the toilet can forget but the one who cleaned the mess would always remember.” We both laughed over it.
We spent several hours with the Governor who regaled us with exciting tales from  behind-the-corridors of power. Believe me, the man knows so much about Nigeria and sure knows how to navigate the murky waters of power as dished up by the political class. He’s a powerful networker who has no bounds or restrictions. His biggest assets are his disarming smiles, raucous laughter and general affability. It is impossible to sit with Wike and not laugh. He had many of his friends and political associates around. It was obvious that he enjoys a grip on the major political actors in the State, including a former Governor, a former Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, a former Party Chairman in the State and several others  who sat with us.  They were all there to testify to Wike’s ability to unite them. Also with us were senior journalists, Eric Osagie, Managing Director of The Sun and Louis Odion, former Commissioner for Information in Edo State.
We took a walk round the beautifully refurbished State House, including the spanking new Presidential Lodge for visiting Presidents. Everything was tastefully done. The Governor looked confident and very much at home. He walked us back to our cars and we said goodnight. We drove back to our hotel at about 1am. It was quite an experience. As I prepared to dive into bed, what kept ringing in my head was that I hoped our leaders could unite for the sake of their people and disagree to agree but it seems a tall order and mere wishful thinking. There is nothing wrong in fighting about principles but there is no need to do so on the basis of personalities. What we often have in Nigeria are personality clashes which do us no good as it detracts from good governance through the unhealthy and unnecessary distractions that it causes.
The occasion of the Editors Conference was superbly put together. We arrived in good time and took our seats. We met Chief Olusegun Osoba, former Governor of Ogun State and certainly one of Nigeria’s greatest journalists of all time. I was delighted to see him because he was still recuperating from a recent surgery, but still made the sacrifice nonetheless. There were so many greats of our industry on parade and I was proud to be a member of the fourth estate of the realm. The speeches were awesome.. Our Chief host, Governor Wike spoke from his heart during his welcome address. He berated those he saw as busybodies maligning the State of Rivers.
He asked rhetorically, why everyone is coming to host one event or the other in Port Harcourt if there was total breakdown of law and order as being peddled by certain sections of the media. The discussions on the media itself were revealing, especially the one on the media as business. This is because it will always be a pertinent topic if our media houses are to stay focussed and relevant in the development of our great country. I enjoyed the contributions of media icons, Azubuike Ishiekwene and Kabiru Yusuf. I came in briefly as one of the commentators. I spoke on how to stay relevant in the media business.  I had no regrets attending the landmark event and I’m grateful to Mallam Ismaila Isa Funtua for the kind invitation extended to me and the entire arrangements made for the trip.
 
How the Yahaya Bellos Are Fighting Cerebral Palsy
In most African societies, children born with cerebral palsy are often victims of social stigmatization. Superstition holds it that these children are either descendants of the gods or children who have been offered by their parents for rituals or other nefarious spiritual purposes. For most of these children, it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than to be admitted into any school just like other children. In many homes and neighbourhoods, they are separated from other children, treated with contempt and ridicule and eventually pushed to the fringes of society as outcasts. Indeed, it is a most gruelling and traumatic experience for these children, their parents and other loved ones, many of whom are now forced into a journey of hopelessness, having tried all means possible to find help, to no avail. Not for the Yahaya Bellos.
The story of Kogi State Governor, Yahaya Bello and his wife, Amina Oyiza Bello, a lawyer, is a remarkable tale of hope and resilience in the crusade to de-stigmatise cerebral palsy, educate people and bring hope and love to the children who are the most affected. The hand of fate dealt the Bellos an unkind blow in 2007 when what began as celebration with the birth of their son Hayatullah Onoruoyiza Bello was soon cut short upon discovery that their new bundle of joy was stricken with cerebral palsy. It was a pain too hard to bear. Defying the odds, they hit the ground running. From one hospital to another, from country to country and continent to continent, they travelled with Hayatullah in search of a resolution.
In the midst of this crisis, Hayat Foundation, a special intervention foundation that focuses on issues dealing with persons living with Cerebral Palsy and other Disabilities was born. The objective of the foundation is to bring succour, support and improvement to the lives of persons, children, parents and siblings alike, living with cerebral palsy and other disabilities. By this singular gesture, the Bellos have not only confronted their challenge headlong but also stretched out their arms to the less privileged in our society who may not be as lucky as their son. “Because I experienced and felt loved while I was growing up as a child, I became convinced that I have same responsibility to my son and therefore would not abandon him by hiding him in an obscure corner of the house where people will not see him”, Mrs Bello affirms.
Putting words to action, the Bellos will launch the Hayat Foundation on Friday October 13, 2017 in Abuja. Through this foundation, they hope to set up a Pan-African institute for children with special needs in the mould of the Kennedy Krieger Institute in Baltimore, Maryland, United States. Already, several well-meaning Nigerians have united behind this noble non-political, non-profit initiative. They include Toyin Saraki, Folorunso Alakija, Abah Folawiyo, Florence Ita-Giwa, Ben Murray-Bruce, Ademola Adeleke, Abike Dabiri, Mo Abudu, Sade Okoya, Laja Adedoyin, Daisy Danjuma, Osasu Igbinedion, Aisha Falode and Adesuwa Onyenokwe. Others are still calling in to support this humble and highly courageous lady who has refused to be cowed or intimidated into hiding her son from the public just because he is physically challenged.
I seriously salute her for this worthy project.. She needs our prayers and support.