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YOU come across as a son of nobody rising to flex with the high and mighty. How was that possible?

There is always the God factor in the life of every man. I was born into an Aladura church in Ile Ife in 1960. My father died when I was barely 13 years old, and I was left with an unlettered mum. It was tough after my father died. So during my holidays, I had to look for a job because my mum was poor. I got a job as a cleaner at CSS Bookshop in Ile Ife. After that, I became a village teacher; after that I became a library attendant at the University of Ife library before I became a student there.  I read voraciously, and by the time I became a student, I was already in touch with Prof Wole Soyinka, who was a lecturer on campus at that time. I said I wanted to be like him.

Though I studied Yoruba as my first degree, I was already in love with literature in English. That’s why after my first degree, I went to do a masters in literature. And I was the only Nigerian who had gone that route. So I have always been a rebel, a child of destiny, a child of diversity. Even my life story is a lesson. I came to Lagos in 1988; I wanted to be a teacher and I couldn’t get a job; and that was why I came to Lagos in the first place. The Guardian was where I was writing and they were paying me N25 per article; but when I went to the same Guardian for a job, they said there was no job for me. I almost died. Then Onukaba Adinoyi-ojo – God bless his soul – said let’s go to Concord newspaper; and I said, ‘Oh no, Abiola’s paper?’ And that was because they had really damaged his image at the time. And see life, unknown to me, my destiny was awaiting me in Concord. And that’s when I learnt the lesson that you never judge a book by its cover. If not out of joblessness, I would not have gone there.

My grouse with Osinbajo – Dele Momodu

Presidential aspirant under the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Chief Dele Momodu, is seen by many as a lightweight, going by the number of big career politicians he is up against in the race for the party’s sole ticket. However, the businessman publisher of Ovation International magazine is not cowed as he insists he is a global brand. He spoke with Gboyega Alaka about his upbringing, career,presidential aspiration and his misgivings about Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, among other issues.

YOU come across as a son of nobody rising to flex with the high and mighty. How was that possible?

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There is always the God factor in the life of every man. I was born into an Aladura church in Ile Ife in 1960. My father died when I was barely 13 years old, and I was left with an unlettered mum. It was tough after my father died. So during my holidays, I had to look for a job because my mum was poor. I got a job as a cleaner at CSS Bookshop in Ile Ife. After that, I became a village teacher; after that I became a library attendant at the University of Ife library before I became a student there.  I read voraciously, and by the time I became a student, I was already in touch with Prof Wole Soyinka, who was a lecturer on campus at that time. I said I wanted to be like him.

Though I studied Yoruba as my first degree, I was already in love with literature in English. That’s why after my first degree, I went to do a masters in literature. And I was the only Nigerian who had gone that route. So I have always been a rebel, a child of destiny, a child of diversity. Even my life story is a lesson. I came to Lagos in 1988; I wanted to be a teacher and I couldn’t get a job; and that was why I came to Lagos in the first place. The Guardian was where I was writing and they were paying me N25 per article; but when I went to the same Guardian for a job, they said there was no job for me. I almost died. Then Onukaba Adinoyi-ojo – God bless his soul – said let’s go to Concord newspaper; and I said, ‘Oh no, Abiola’s paper?’ And that was because they had really damaged his image at the time. And see life, unknown to me, my destiny was awaiting me in Concord. And that’s when I learnt the lesson that you never judge a book by its cover. If not out of joblessness, I would not have gone there.

It looks a bit strange that you are contesting for presidency under the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), a party you helped push out of power about seven years ago…

In life, they say there are no permanent enemies or friends; there are permanent interests in politics. My case is better than that of some of my co-contestants in the sense that when I went against the PDP, I was not a member of the mainstream opposition. I was in the NCP (National Conscience Party). Number two, there were those who were in the party, like Atiku Abubakar, Abubakar Bukola Saraki, Aminu Tambuwal, Rabiu Kwankwaso, who all left the party to join the Buhari’s party, the APC, and still came back. And if they can come back after fighting against their party, then in my own case, I am very innocent.

You would recall that I was a presidential candidate in 2011. One lesson I learnt then was that it is practically impossible to win a national election if you are not in a national party. There are only two national political parties in Nigeria as we speak – the APC and the PDP. And since I had already given up on the APC, the only other option I had was the PDP.


You were also a big fan of General Muhammadu Buhari going into the 2015 elections until you switched. At what point did it actually dawn on you that you had had enough?

I wouldn’t say I was a big fan. I supported him based on a few assumptions. The first was that Buhari after 30 years of retirement would be a father figure, like a Nelson Mandela of Nigeria. Of course, I knew his limitations, but I expected that he would rely on the knowledge and expertise of Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, a technocrat, so that whatever he lacked, Osinbajo as VP would provide the counterbalance. Unfortunately, it’s like they snuffed the life out of the VP and he became almost like a lame duck in many instances. It seemed he was more afraid for his job. One of the things I have against him, and we were quite close, was that he was more afraid of Buhari and the cabal.

For Buhari, I didn’t just give up on him; I gave him a chance. I wrote memos to him. On one occasion, he invited me to Aso Rock and we had a one-on-one meeting. I liked him. He looked simple, so I don’t know what happened to him. Maybe the ill health affected him. I don’t know what the cabal did to him. Unfortunately, I realised he was not going in the right direction, and every advice I offered through my column on the back page of Thisday, because I promised him I was going to do that, fell on deaf ears. I even gave him an autographed compilation of my articles, on request. The point of departure for me was the division in Nigeria. The lack of unity. That really touched me.

You are contesting against political juggernauts and money bags for the PDP ticket. What is giving you the conviction that you could get the PDP nomination?

You see, my party will have to learn from its previous mistakes. We have to understand the mood of the nation. Most of the contestants are people who have either been vice president, senate president, House of Reps Speaker, senators, governors; all the big juggernauts. However, what makes an election is not the juggernauts; it is (i) your pedigree, (ii) your reputation (iii) your personal accomplishments. Leadership is about managing people and resources. So, the PDP will have to deliver something new to Nigerians. If all that the PDP has to offer are the same people that Nigerians have complained and given up on, then it will be difficult for us to dislodge the APC. PDP must show that they have the capacity for that new Nigeria, which we all crave. And who best to deliver that new Nigeria than a Dele Momodu? You can’t have such a man donated to you and still be looking elsewhere.

There is this consensus pendulum hanging in both parties. How do you hope to deal with that?

I expect a PDP that lost the election and was not able to win again in 2019, to know that they have to do something differently this time. That’s what I am hinging my confidence on. When people say, why are you so confident? I tell them look, there is the God factor in everything. I’ve just told you the story of my life, my trajectory. It’s not every day that a country can produce a Dele Momodu. I’m not trying to be immodest. And we’ve seen it elsewhere. Look at Obama, he wasn’t a hardcore politician. As far as I am concerned, the man is a Kenyan. Same with Donald Trump, MKO Abiola, Macron, and the president of Ukraine. Nigeria is the only country where we are still talking about juggernauts. What have these juggernauts achieved for Nigeria? Juggernauts of failure?

Forty million naira nomination form; a lot of your colleagues in the media have wondered how you would sign out such an outrageous sum for form.

I am the only aspirant who complained publicly about the price of form at our national secretariat. It was a tug of war for me to raise the money because I don’t have access to easy money. I almost couldn’t raise that N40m. But I did something quite smart, I registered an account and sent it out on Facebook, Instagram and co, and people were donating. The least we got was N500. If one million Nigerians donate N1, 000 each, I will raise one billion. Politicians don’t reason like that.

What do you hope to do differently as president? Can you solve the insecurity problem?

Oh, I just told you that I’m already solving it, by my actions and interactions across the country. If you make every Nigerian comfortable, if your people love you, they will flow with you. A president must be tolerant, he must love everybody. That is who Dele Momodu is. He must be the brand manager and image maker of Nigeria. Why is everybody going to Ghana? Perception. I’ve followed President Mahama of Ghana to a few international conferences, and when he’s talking, you would think he is a professor. That is what Nigeria needs. Nigeria needs intellectuals in government. We can then back him up with politicians. But a situation where two politicians are presented will not take us everywhere.

What is your recipe for solving the economic problem?

The recipe is easy. You can’t give what you don’t have. People think economic theories can solve economic problems; if it could, we have them in abundance. Talk of the Bismark Rewanes, the Salamis; and they are close to the government. But if the man at the top does not even have an idea of what to do, it’s always going to be a problem. I’m a businessman. I grew a business in the last 26 years from the City of London with just 20,000 pounds. When social media became the vogue, we were able to diversify. Today, I have over 1.7milion followers on twitter. I am over sixty; there is no young man who can say that technically he is better than Dele Momodu on social media, apart from musicians. And theirs is based on fame. You can see my office; I operate all the gadgets myself. Because I have managed a business successfully, I know what it takes to create job opportunities for the people. Under my watch, there will be no wastage, because I will first of all downgrade my lifestyle. Then you must be able to build trust at home and abroad.  Then of course, we would have to work urgently.

The number one problem facing business in Nigeria is electricity. I have all the contacts at home and abroad in the electricity business. We will also have to fix the problem of transmission. In Nigeria today, even if we generate 20,000 megawatt, there is no way of transmitting it. We also have to work on our bureaucracy. A leader must understand deadlines. If you don’t give deadlines, before you know it, four years is up and you will start chasing a second term. I am not even bothered about being given a second term. That first term, I must build my legacy. Let Nigerians see it and support me or say ‘Oh, this guy did not allow us to chop, kick him out.

How do you hope to address our dependency on imports, especially refined petrol importation?

Again, it is pure madness. There is no reason why our refineries should not work. This was one of the reasons we supported Buhari. We felt that as a former Minister of Petroleum many years ago, he would understand the issues behind the perennial crisis. Fortunately, I have the contacts and I know how it works elsewhere. I have been going to OPEC in Vienna as far back as 1998. You would be surprised. The first time I went, I wanted to recruit Dr. Rilwan Lukman to run as VP to Chief Olu Falae. I spent my own money to go on that trip. Unfortunately, that was when he told me about the owners of Nigeria and how they had settled for Chief Olusegun Obasanjo. I was disappointed, and that was when I first wrote about the owners of Nigeria.

Are you not worried that these people are still there and they may have settled for their person even as we speak?  

I don’t think so. I have interacted with most of them. I have met the boss of all bosses, General Olusegun Obasanjo, who is a father figure and someone I respect. Of course I’ve heard my criticism of him. General Ibrahim Babangida is one person that speaks fondly of me, and despite the fact that his administration put me in detention; I don’t hold it against him. I am a very tolerant person and that is what Nigeria needs, not a vindictive person. If Mandela was a vindictive person, he would probably have killed all those who dealt with him. So I’ve learnt a lot from studying and reading about world leaders. I am a much prepared leader. Even General Adulsalami Abubakar; they are all very fond of this village man, who is not a local champion but a global brand, and I’m hoping that they would be able to translate this into supporting me. Currently I am reading My Story, the memoirs of the UAE leader, Sheik Muhammed bin Rashid Al Mahktoum. About 20 years ago, I was one of those who marketed Dubai to Nigeria.


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