The Chronicle Gambia

The Toyin Falola Interviews – A Conversation With Dele Momodu, Part 1

Dele Momodu: A Child of Independence in Search of Freedom

Toyin Falola

Deserving ovation in any part of the world is a matter of maintaining a positive impact after the evaluation of one’s accumulated deeds. Humans are not popular with the habit of giving accolades to people who are not deserving of it, and if they are compelled to do so, it would be noticed from the get-go that they are merely following instructions, making motions, or being sarcastic. One of the notable people whom Nigerians may give accolades to without compulsion is Chief Dele Momodu. Many people have written their names in the golden book of Nigeria, and it appears the journalist and businessman is one of them. Dele Momodu has not only written his name on the sand of time as far as Nigerian celebrity and popular life are concerned, but he has also brought himself to the forefront of national and international debates, showing up in public issues for all things good.

Ayobamidele Momodu was born to Nigerian parents in the same year Nigeria secured its independence from its foremost colonizer, Britain, in 1960. His birth became symbolic with the country of birth because he represents freedom for his immediate parents and a family of people who have benefited from his immense intellectual efforts. From an early age, Momodu developed a passion for journalism and became steadfast in the pursuit of this lofty ambition. To him, that profession means more than being a platform for interviewing the big fishes in the world who have made substantial changes in human history. He considers journalism an opportunity to connect with the masses and represent those rendered voiceless in their respective societies.

One would be enthused by the mind-opening input that Dele Momodu has contributed to Nigeria’s and, by extension, Africa’s journalism profession, going by the mouthwatering initiatives he has been making with his different journalism outlets. He blends passion with opportunity and creates effortless ideas that are record-breaking and intellectually stimulating. His undying and enthusiastic passion for journalism drove him to meet notable personalities as far as Nigerian politics and economic engagement are concerned. Because he was outstanding in his chosen profession, he has had the opportunity to meet top politicians in the world and used that opportunity to advance himself personally. Through his journalism profession, Momodu has increased his self-worth so much that in contemporary times, there is no place his name would be mentioned in the Nigerian political and media landscape in particular, and in the African continent in general, where he would not get special recognition and impressive remarks from people. His name has become so domestic that people do not struggle to fix who he is in their minds. Momodu believes in activism, and he does not limit the ground for activism to the political ring since, in his opinion, activism can be introduced to one’s profession in a grand style and maximum impact can be made through it irrespective of the field.

One gets to understand what he means with his ideological stand about using journalism as the launchpad for activism when he stood behind a man whose political mandate was forcefully and criminally taken away from him in 1993. Chief Moshood Kashimawo Abiola (MKO) became the victim of the power play of General Ibrahim Babangida’s administration, where the latter denied MKO Abiola of his democratic mandate. The action ruptured the people and angered many well-wishers because the denial of his right could steer inter-ethnic conflict, as the country was delineated along ethnolinguistic and ethnocultural lines, and could wreak untold emotional and political havoc on the country generally. Momodu was strongly behind MKO, not only because he had worked under him as a Staff Writer in the African Concord magazine, but also because he believed that part of a global democratic process is to stand against dictators when they decide to challenge the will of the majority. For this ideological conviction, it would be interesting to know that the man remained steadfast behind the victim of military veto power, not without paying a heavy price, however. Ibrahim Babangida’s administration was succeeded by that of the late General Sanni Abacha, and one does need to be reminded about the extreme high-handed nature of these dictators.

Momodu was one of the heroes who championed the canonization of June 12, the occasion of which saw the annulment of the presidential election that registered MKO Abiola as the victor. It did not require the intelligence of Wole Soyinka to understand that he was up against an insurmountable challenge by calling the dictators by their name. He was mercilessly punished and subsequently detained because he followed pro-democratic ideas that supported the recognition of Abiola’s political mandate. Despite the growing challenges and mounting intimidation, Dele did not throw in the towel against the dictators. He continued to demonstrate his commitment to revolutionizing Nigerian politics through democratic means and insisted on his loyalty to his mentor, the late MKO. However, when Abacha became the head of state, he compounded the challenges because he was devoid of a sense of justice or fairness and was unconcerned about tearing the fabric of the country’s democracy by pursuing extremely selfish interests at the presidential seat. Before being confined to the prison, this man allowed his Radio Freedom to continue engaging the military dictators and exposing their irrational fantasy about power and its flagrant abuse. He became the maverick of the society and dared to challenge a totalitarian whose sole language was forced. Momodu stood his ground and registered his grievances and those of the masses, but not without corresponding consequences.

When the situation got to the climax, Momodu was forced to seek freedom in another man’s land because it seemed the government of General Sani Abacha would not adopt a gentleman’s approach concerning issues of protests or disagreement with totalitarian disposition. Momodu had to take the option of running away from the country under disguise. He traveled to the Republic of Benin, where he eventually found his way to Togo and then Ghana, before fleeing to the United Kingdom. These periods were a moment of reflection for him and a test of his resolve, especially regarding his ideological beliefs. He was aware that Nigeria’s military government had never demonstrated a gentlemanly approach to national issues; nevertheless, Momodu desired to pursue the course of justice regardless of whose ox was gored. This level of commitment to one’s philosophical position stands Momodu out and explains why he has garnered for himself the international accolades that are globally accorded to him in the past and present conditions. Even when he was in exile abroad, he would not allow his candle of truth to be blown off by the wind of fear, or melted into oblivion under the shadow of intimidation. He provided the opportunity to expand his agitation beyond the borders of the country, and through his continuous delivery of sound journalism, he attracted the right minds to his trade and revolutionary ideas.

The cliché still holds that “Tough times do not last, only tough people do.” This saying has reflected its true value in the life of Dele Momodu because not only did he survive the harsh government positions against him during the time of his pro-democratic ideals, but he also established himself as a reliable voice in the time of despair when the government slips into the abyss of dictatorship and lawlessness. Momodu has contributed significantly to the democratic ethos that the country is not basking in, and he has not reneged on giving his country of birth the best things that showcase democratic culture. Despite the history of torments and frustrations that has greeted him in different times when he raised his voice in the country against apparent totalitarian governments, Momodu continues to offer the best of his services to douse people’s despair and restore their confidence even when things are going sour in the country. He has demonstrated on countless occasions that he does not belong to the group of people who cow away from their philosophical position because a leader decided to be high-handed about their political activities. And this has brought him great patronage from people who understand the importance of his voice in setting the country on the right trajectory.

Beyond his activism in the journalism profession, Momodu has been a man who represents a good character in career development. The story of his growth to fame is replete with daunting experiences and the determination to survive unusual conditions, and the swift progress he has made in the course of his career development is sure to leave one amazed. For a man that officially secured his first employment in 1988 as a Staff Writer in Concord Magazine, a journalism firm owned by the late MKO Abiola, is immediately transferred to Weekend Concord as a pioneer staff by the same company was evidence of his brilliant performance on the previous job. He obviously showed outstanding contributions that led to admiration from his employer and subsequent promotions. Nearly has he spent a year in this position than he was made the Literary Editor, and barely spent six months on the new job, he was made the News Editor of the Weekend Concord. His involvement in all these engagements brought out the best in him, and he continued to break boundaries where people made excuses for their failures. Dele Momodu followed this line of thought and excellence and was eventually considered a beacon of hope in the Nigerian editorial and journalism profession. Apparently, he was not a man to be restrained by unfavorable circumstances, as he defied numerous challenges to write his name in gold.

Additionally, through his habit of moving geometrically, Momodu’s journalism career has been transformed in every position and condition. Momodu’s fervor as a journalist placed him at quandary with military dictators as he was at loggerhead with numerous Nigerian heads of state in the post-annulment of the June 12 presidential elections. During the period, he launched Ovation International in 1996 despite being in exile for his involvement in the political affairs of his home country. He was not deterred by the exile experience, which naturally makes some people lose a good deal of their emotional and psychological well-being. Instead, he made himself more relevant and created a celebrity magazine forum that would promote him beyond his imagination. Today, Momodu embodies all the qualities of a good social being and a committed individual, such that his influence spans beyond his cultural and political shores because his newspaper takes him into prominent territories where people now have a better understanding of what he represents. Ovation International’s reputation in Africa remains golden because of its linguistic flexibility and content. It adds more color to the famous publisher that the magazine is written in both English and French.

The story of this great man would not be complete without a leaf from his educational career. He is considered successful and accomplished to the extent that his academic skills are exceptional and excellently glamorous. For someone who studied Yoruba as his undergraduate degree, one should be impressed to understand the transformative capacity of the man who made sufficient success in English and literary engagement. Although his master’s degree is in English Literature, it cannot be contested that his background in Yoruba helped skyrocket him into the stardom of journalism. Before he became eternally glued to the journalism profession, he was a lecturer at the beginning of his career. This period of teaching in a higher institution was the time of his National Youth Service Corps (NYSC), where he was given the opportunity to test-run his intellectual capacity. During the one-year program, Dele Momodu registered a stellar performance that granted him the opportunity to be more received by people of national values. After this experience, he began to attract members of the society who have added so much economic and financial value to themselves.

Serving as the private personal secretary to an erstwhile Deputy Governor of Ondo State, Chief Akin Omoboriowo, was a feat that brought him to the political limelight because not only did he manage the reputation of his principal very satisfactorily, he also gave his professional touches to everything assigned to him. During his professional experience under the deputy governor, Momodu understood the country’s political system, and he was able to gather maximum experience that helped shape his career path in the long run. As the deputy governor’s private personal secretary, Momodu did not get any negative appraisal that would have potentially dented his image just because he did not lose sight of what mattered most. His success in that position attracted him to many other personalities who wanted him to manage their portfolio for them one way or another. While serving and making numerous accomplishments under his principal, his dedication made way for him with other notable personalities in society. One year after working with the deputy governor, he was made the manager of Motel Royal Limited, a business owned by the then Ooni of Ife, Oba Okunade Sijuwade Olubuse II. The Ooni also obviously enjoyed Momodu’s services, and this catapulted him to greater heights.

Despite making a substantial impact and improving himself in all these engagements, Momodu is not easily carried away by minor accomplishments. He decided to advance his studies, knowing full well that having a solid educational foundation and diverse skill sets to function well is one of the most reliable ways to excel in an evolving country like Nigeria. He left his job as a manager to pursue his master’s degree in English Literature. This exposed him to different academic strategies and knowledge of literature which he used to sharpen his writing skills. As a result of his versatility and advanced literary scholarship through his different engagements and activities as a journalism expert, he received an honorary doctorate from the University of Professional Studies, Accra, Ghana.

One of the best ways to allude to the social and political impact that Momodu has made within the relatively short period that he emerged in the Nigeria sociopolitical and socio-cultural milieu as a very important personality is by making mention of the number of the awards, accolades, and honors associated to him. Beyond the recognition as Doctor of Humane Letters are other numerous accolades and awards in recognition of his outstanding contributions to the advancement of Nigerian political and journalism affairs. He is a columnist with This Day newspaper, where he writes a weekly feature for “PENdulum.” The articles he writes in this newspaper are celebrated because they highlight emergent national issues that happen in the socio-cultural environment of the country. The readership of his weekly column is continuously expansive because he carries people along in matters that have to do with their day-to-day political experiences. To the extent that all these writings are cardinal to the socio-political conditions of the country, and individuals across the country find something to relate with when he pens down his ideas.

It is unarguable that this man is eclectic in approach, and the coverage of his intellectual and professional interests is essentially wide. For someone who ventures into journalism, the addition of fashion and entertainment issues into what he discusses makes him more received by people who are always expectant of his engagement. Since 2008, he has annually organized the Ovation Red Carol, which eventually morphed into Ovation Carol and Awards. Usually in attendance at the program are great people who have made commendable accomplishments in their various careers and have an advanced society with their valuable contributions. The popularity of this event is widespread so much that it has won the accolade for being one of the most celebrated events during the yuletide period in the country. The event is known as the avenue for music celebrities to perform and showcase their talents for the audience who have also come to relieve their all-year-long emotional tension. Beyond that, Momodu provides opportunities for emerging talents in the music industry who use the opportunity to showcase their talents and expand their networks of influence.

Dr. Dele Momodu is a committed journalist and a respected public opinion shaper. He dives into political issues and provides alternative perspectives to burning national issues. He has faced totalitarian governments and challenged them to their face, highlighting issues that need urgent national attention even when they feel uncomfortable with his style of bringing up issues. This man has built an image for himself that he is not particularly interested in tuning down his voice because his facts hit the most powerful people in society. Even when he has to face the brutal hands of the despotic leaders who have come to demonstrate their aversion to due process, Dele Momodu never shies away from standing his ground, even if it means standing alone.

He is a loving father, an admirable husband, and a responsible man who strenuously ensures that his family is upright and responsible. He is accessible, down-to-earth, and does not have the attitude of a dissident. He would not promote rivalries because he has to sell himself to the people, and neither would he allow personal sentiment to cloud his judgment in issues of national importance. Chief Dele Momodu is a friend that would stand for any cause he believes in. He did not desert his principal, Chief Moshood Kashimawo Abiola, when he was embattled by the military dictators. He sacrificed his freedom so that the voice of the masses would be heard loud and clear in the corridors of power. In fighting for you and I, the child of independence is in chains, seeking a second freedom.

Please join us for a conversation with  Dele Momodu:


Sunday, October 10, 2021

5:00 PM Nigeria

4:00 PM GMT

11:00 AM Austin CST


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