BASHORUN Dele Momodu is not only a politician, he is also a businessman of note. Though he didn’t clinch the crown in the last presidential election, he is willing to give it a shot again. And he has been strategizing to have a upper hand. He is also very passionate about his country, Nigeria, that is why he criticizes the present regime at the least provocation.
ENCOMIUM Weekly had an interview with him about the state of the nation, the forthcoming elections and sundry issues.
Why are you passionate about Nigeria?
To start with, Nigeria is my country. Nigeria is a place where I lived for the first 35 years of my life. According to a saying ‘to whom much is given, much is expected’. Nigeria has given me so much, Nigeria made me who I am, I believe so passionately in my country. But I will say the main reason is that as a student, I was a bookworm. I read about great missions and great leaders and I came to the realization that no country could be great without a good leader. So, I decided to take it upon myself to be a good and proud ambassador of my country. Not just within but outside and this has taken me all over the world. Nothing for me is more fulfilling than doing that and I have also come to the realization that all the richness in the world cannot guarantee happiness. I’ve also come often to the realization that happiness is how you define it. If I should quantify it, you don’t need so much to be happy. In fact, the greatest joy is the joy of giving, I love to give because everybody knows that I love to give and the little that I have, I give it out. I am a reporter, journalist, politician, publisher, etc. But I have confidence and I know of so many people who want to be quick in riches than anything. I gave my children the best education in the world and so if you ask me why I’m so passionate about my country, I think those reasons should take care of it.
What has always been the Nigerian of your dream?
It is a place where no man is offended, a country where we can all live in peace and harmony. I realized that most Nigerians don’t know where I come from. I am Yoruba, my father came from Edo State and my mother came from a village called Gbongan in Osun State. They met at Ile-Ife, it doesn’t matter where you come from. In fact, I don’t know what happened because most Ijebu people live in Ife. There are a lot of people in Mid-west and Dele Giwa was born in Ile-Ife, I was born in Ile-Ife. We have so many Deles born in Ife. We should all live in peace and harmony and that is Nigeria of my dream. A place where we grew up, one of the greatest things to be in Nigeria is to be a Vice Chancellor. Today, Nigeria has changed so drastically and I feel that all men and women of good behavior must rise up and rescue this nation because the nation where our youth don’t remember MKO just 14 years after his death, they don’t even know him. I was shocked that I have been on Twitter and reading all kinds of comments saying who is Abiola and what he has done for education (laughs). I said this is dangerous. A nation without history is doomed and if care is not taken, it will get worse.
Is it still attainable?
Oh yes, it is. It is just that I don’t know how (laughs). There are two ways a nation can survive and progress. The first is through the ballot box and the second is through the use of force by the strong leaders but I pray we don’t get to that.
The blame is always on our leaders, what about the followers?
What Nigeria is lacking is one strong man at the top, a strong leader with a vision a clear vision of what he wants to do and achieve. A leader has to be decisive, determined to succeed where others have failed. That is extremely important and so when you have that leader, you will see that the followers will file in properly. You don’t need a multitude to move a nation, I have read so many books about Singapore, China, India. I believe that if we can get a right leader, we can get good followers.
You are one of President Jonathan’s biggest critics, what is really wrong with his government?
Most things are wrong with his government. The first thing is lackluster leadership, very, very uncharismatic. I watched the speech read on Democracy Day, there was no drama, no life. It was just dry, the world belongs to vibrant people who can publicly announce their plans for the country. We want a self-disciplined leader who will declare a state of emergency against education, poverty. You cannot change a country if you are spending recklessly and wasting resources the way our leaders are doing. What is bothering Nigerians today is that our leaders cannot even control members of the team. A leader must be able to tell his wife and children, please don’t dent my name and reputation. He must show the seriousness of a leader, a leader must not go there just to enjoy power, seated there warming the seat and waiting for his four years to be over and re-contest for another election. That is not the best thing a leader should do. A leader must be a clear visionary. It is not how long a leader spends that matters but how well. So, when I criticize, I do it with common sense, I don’t just criticize for the sake of it. I provide solution as well, Saturday in This Day newspaper, when I criticize I use the last two paragraphs to provide solution, that this I what we can do.
What are the areas you can give him credit?
(Laughs) I don’t know, I will thank him for honouring Abiola not just the university but also seeing what our forefathers couldn’t see, acknowledging that there was a day called June 12 and as from that day, a man called MKO won an election. He was voted for by Nigerians, there was no discrimination. For me, the roads are still bad, people are still suffering, we don’t have water, hospitals are no-go areas. Our leaders are still flying abroad for medicare because they know that our hospitals are mere consulting points.
Can you please hit the areas President Jonathan should concentrate on, and what are the practical steps to take to make things work?
Good. The number one is the economy, the soul of the nation is its economy. If the economy is good, people will not be lavishing the money we are supposed to use to develop our projects. The cabal is so strong and their mouth is so wide. Their reservoir is so massive that to feed them will be so difficult, so we need a firm and fair leader. Even if he is as big as me, he should be ready to grow lean in the next couple of months. But all these ones are not ready for that. They are there just to enjoy life to the fullest. I want something done to the economy, we must do something about our education, it is the bedrock of success. He should look at job creation. I’m not saying government must provide job for people but government must provide a conducive environment. For instance, if ENCOMIUM is doing very well, ENCOMIUM will be able to employ more journalists. If Ovation is doing very well, I will be able to employ more people but we have to struggle for every single thing. The amount of money we spend on diesel at work and home is too much. I don’t know of any company today that will make substantial profit to create more jobs and wealth. Infrastructural decay in Nigeria has reached an alarming level. I came across a 1986 newspaper yesterday where NEPA gave a deadline that from 1986, light will never go off and 26 years after, NEPA has not even met its own deadline. They have even changed their name to PHCN, so we can’t sue NEPA. Likewise, PHCN. It is ridiculous, something has to be done about our infrastructure because a nation without good infrastructure is like a jungle. The Nigeria of today is a jungle.
So, you have nothing personal against Mr. President?
Oh no, I don’t operate on that level and I give honour to whom it is due. I have never gone to him one on one to ask for anything.
Can you work with him if given any political appointment?
No, I can’t. I have studied this government for the past two years and I could see that they are going nowhere, I don’t waste my time. I’m not a typical Nigerian politician. Politics for me is a way of addressing formal fundamental issues and I believe if Nigerians truly desire a good leader then they should testify and vote for me. I will not disappoint them. But if we continue with our merry go round then good luck to Nigerians. I love my country and I know what I can do.
You once had an issue with Dr. Reuben Abati on your constant bashing of Jonathan, any regrets?
None at all. Reuben Abatti is my friend and brother, we only disagree on fundamental issues. Unfortunately, other external forces came into it but we have settled it and he has called me and my wife to apologise and I respect him for that.
And now Jonathan is running again, what’s your reaction?
It is a very reckless ambition, he has spent two years doing nothing. People who should ask for a second term are people who have records to show for it. Most people who are appreciating him are the people benefitting from his government and of course they want to eat for another four years. But if there is a God, Nigerians won’t take that kind of treatment.
How can Nigerians stop him?
By voting against him, and I believe in the next four years, telephoning and telecommunication would have spread round the whole of Nigeria and rigging will be reduced.
Do you believe in Buhari’s prediction of violence if 2015 elections are manipulated?
He didn’t say there will be violence in 2015. People are misquoting him, I read one of his articles, he said if they rig again like the always do, there could be violence. They named a university after Abiola recently and people were demonstrating, that’s acute frustration.
What are the odds against Jonathan and PDP in 2015?
Nigerians are becoming more and more conscious of their rights and everybody is hoping if it is supernatural or divine intervention that could take place. We are all waiting.
Are you going to run again?
Yes, if there is 2015. I will run with other good candidates, if they agree for me to lead. Last elections, I realized that bad people are more than good people. They don’t like stubborn people, my idea is that people should seize this opportunity to bring Nigeria back to prosperity.
What is your overall assessment of our democracy?
It is not rocky, it is shaking. I was in detention then to exile, I don’t wish to go through it again. But we are rising to the occasion. We must do everything so that the house will not collapse.
What about the economy?
The economy is bad, we are just a big white elephant. Our wealth does not reflect on the people. Capitalism that doesn’t care about the generality of the people but only a few cronies in government. I don’t buy into Jonathan’s economy.
There is a lot of confusion, what started as a religious matter has been politicized. They must dialogue with them because they are human beings, government lost out because of bad fate, lives are being wasted. We should find out their agenda, nobody seems to know. I believe charming leadership should be able to attract them. Some of those people around Jonathan are making unwarranted noise by saying we know them. The foundation for terrorism in the world is the fact that there are too many disenfranchised citizens.
In President Jonathan’s democracy day speech, he changed UNILAG to MAU, what is your reaction?
My reaction is that for whatever reason he did it, I will say thank you. The important thing is renaming UNILAG after a great Nigerian. There is nothing so big about changing UNILAG to Moshood Abiola University. He sacrificed himself and his wife was murdered in cold blood on the street of Lagos. He contributed largely by donating N30 million to schools, so to name an institution after him, is not a big deal. They should have consulted with the school authorities by passing through due process. He wants to score a goal at all costs, to bribe. He can’t buy us, it wouldn’t work. He created a presidential museum for what purpose, so that they can put his burst there when he dies. These are his misplaced priorities. We could name former National Assembly after Abiola, build a park like the Gani Fawehinmi Park.
Let us go a bit personal, how is family life?
We thank God Almighty. My family is doing very well.
Other than writing for This Day newspaper and publishing Ovation International, what else do you do?
I play politics. I own a restaurant in Ghana called House of Ovation.
How do you relax with your tight schedules?
That is difficult because most times, kids are in school. But during summer, I take time to stay with them.
And only recently, Dr. Abati defended President Jonathan for not saying Amen to a prayer for God to deal with corrupt leaders. Was he right?
My mind wasn’t there, but I don’t believe it. I think that was a joke and I don’t think Reuben Abati meant those things. There are times when you might be physically present but your mind might not be there. The problem of Nigeria is so enormous that it can make anybody forgetful. I believe his mind wasn’t there when the prayer was going on.
- BUNMI SOPELOLA
This story was first published in Encomium Weekly edition of Tuesday, June 5, 2012