A former presidential candidate and publisher, Chief Dele Momodu, talks about 2023, his political ambition and reasons for joining the Peoples Democratic Party among other issues with GBENGA ADENIJI
Did you recently join the Peoples Democratic Party to contest the presidency in 2023 since you hinged your decision on the resolve to “contribute to the development of the country?”
No one joins a political party simply to contest elections, and certainly not one as massive as the PDP. It would be foolish and foolhardy of me to enter the political arena and join a party, not to mention PDP for the sole purpose of contesting presidential election or any other election for that matter. The PDP parades some of the most experienced politicians as well as many of the brightest technocrats in Nigeria. It would be preposterous and premature to assume you are the messiah and would be welcomed as such instantly, as soon as you join the party. You must know that you have to demonstrate your ability and capability before you can offer yourself for any position. All I am doing now is making myself available to assist the party in the gargantuan task of rebuilding and uniting our dear country.
But you once vied for the presidency?
I’m sure you’re asking the question because having contested in 2011 and with 2023 drawing close, it must mean I am back to contest 12 years after my first shot at the presidency. Some analysts have even compared this to how Chief Moshood Abiola left the National Party of Nigeria in 1981 and returned 12 years later in 1993 to contest. The watershed election of June 12, 1993, will be 30 years old in 2023, and Nigeria has known no peace since them. So they believe as an Abiola protege, I must be out to see if I can replicate the Abiola magic from the private sector. Of course, I’m aware that politics is a game of permutations and it would definitely be a privilege to be given such an opportunity by my party especially since I know that this is something I can do. I am a much better, broader and experienced person than the Dele Momodu who contested in 2011. Besides, if I believe that the time is right, and I am given the nod by the party, I would be challenging on the best possible platform. I can deliver for my party in this role, just as I can assist any other candidate that the party may choose to succeed. I see myself as a child of destiny and my trajectory is clearly indicative of this. Time will tell.
What has changed about your past political decision that you wouldn’t re-contest the presidency because you knew what it entailed and didn’t have it?
I have not told you I want to contest or that I have changed my mind. However, I am aware that everywhere is already awash with such speculation. Even the big fish in our party, former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, wasted no time in telling me at our national convention that he’s been told that I want to contest the presidential election and that “we shall meet on the field.” For me, that was a special acknowledgement of the maturity of my brand and the possibility of a healthy clash between the older generation and the younger. I must confess that I have been under intense pressure from the young and old, at home and abroad, since I joined the PDP to contest the 2023 presidential election. Many have told me I fit the recent description painted by a former president Ibrahim Babangida on the people he has discovered in their sixties who are capable of leading Nigeria successfully; that I’m accomplished in my private capacity and untainted; that I’m a detribalised Nigerian with friends in every part of Nigeria; that my parents cover both South-South and South-West while I have been a non-Igbo champion of Igbo presidency and inclusiveness in Nigeria. I have been preaching to my friends who wish to contest or even contribute to the urgent regeneration task ahead to be in either of the two mainstream political parties to have a good chance of winning and improving our country with our bright ideas and technical savvy. Sadly, most are not convinced of my suggestion. They include Professor Kingsley Moghalu and Mr Omoyele Sowore. I’m back in politics to practise what I’ve been preaching and hope my fellow youthful travellers on this road will heed my call and make the challenge stiffer for the older generation and corps of politicians who need to be made more accountable. Politics is not a vocation or a means of patronage in any form. It is a call to service.
Political observers have variously maintained that both the PDP and the ruling All Progressives Congress are two sides of the same coin. The former had ruled for 16 years and the latter on the second term of four years yet the country is still in a mess. Why do you believe that the PDP is the only party which can make amends to rectify what you described as the dangerous and disastrous drift the country had experienced in the past six years under the APC?
I do not believe that only the PDP can salvage Nigeria but I’m certain that PDP has learnt useful lessons from the past unlike APC that continues to sink deeper and deeper in the abyss under the supervision of (the President) Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd). I must first of all note that politics is a game of numbers and democrats, not about saints and sinners. No country is ruled by saints but all progressive and developed countries are governed by performers. Incidentally, I campaigned for the APC in 2015 because of the rot in the PDP. Some of that is still there. We cannot wish it away with the wave of a hand. Nevertheless, what obtains in the APC today is far worse and odious than what we were fighting against in 2015. I am fortunate to be able to choose between both. Had I been in the APC I would have worked from within. I do not believe in cross-carpeting or jumping ship at the slightest difficulty or opportunity. For me, what determines the success of a leader is primarily his performance. While it may be true that there is no marked difference between the APC and the PDP, what is urgently needed is for the credible leaders and their conscientious followers and supporters to populate the two leading parties and encourage good governance and change their mindset so that principle becomes the watchword and a means of distinction. Of course, you must first win elections before you start talking of performance and morality.
Our search for a supposed saint was the fatal mistake that led us to supporting Buhari in 2015. While it is desirable to seek and find men and women of impeccable character in leadership, this must be matched with great accomplishments, freshness of ideas, cosmopolitan outlooks and democratic ideals. The PDP presently is like a blank canvas because of the reverses that it has suffered. That is why I believe it is better to join hands with those already in the PDP to recreate Nigeria. I enjoin other well-meaning Nigerians to join the PDP crusade.
Some people think you should have begun your political ambition from the state level to the National Assembly before running for presidency? What is your view on this especially as you noted that you hoped to make a meaningful difference you demanded of others by joining mainstream politics and becoming a member of one of the leading opposition parties?
Nothing irritates me more than this particular suggestion that tends to make leadership look more like rocket science. Some Nigerians claim to crave fresh leadership but yet promote mediocrity by suggesting that you must have passed through the very processes that threw up our worst leaders in the first instance. I am sure what we have in many of those who have travelled through that route in Nigeria are failed leaders. What experience do you therefore want or ask from me in that regard? Moreover, what experience did most of those who contested in 1999 and 2003 have? The few who had any experience had survived failed democratic experiments. They brought their failings into the political process and this mainly accounts for the crass morass that we have found ourselves in today. Furthermore, examples abound in other parts of the world where leaders have emerged from the private and academic sectors who never went through the rigmarole of civil or public service.
America had a Donald Trump not too long ago. Nigerians voted for our own Moshood Abiola in 1993. Many of our founding fathers Tafawa Balewa, Nnamdi Azikiwe, Obafemi Awolowo, Peter Enahoro and others started quite young and went straight to the top. Some of the main protagonists of the time even had journalism backgrounds like me. Indeed, it was practically a sine qua non because they were the mouthpieces. The same should obtain today but most of our people are blinded by pettiness, pecuniary interests and envy.
You contested the presidency in 2011 on the platform of the National Conscience Party but didn’t get the required votes to occupy the position. Would you say the country’s voting populace is ready for fresh candidates away from the old, recycled faces notwithstanding the political party?
My only mistake then and the lesson I came away with was that I contested on the platform of a party that had no chance whatsoever of winning a national election. I have no doubt that I will win overwhelmingly if given the chance on a major platform such as the PDP. Already, I have triggered massive registration of Nigerian youths online for PDP by those who were earlier disinterested in joining mainstream political parties. I intend to galvanise a mass global movement for the PDP with every sense of seriousness and humility. This is regardless of whether I eventually decide to run for the presidential ticket of my party.
Nigeria is engulfed by agitations for secession promoted by what had been identified as injustice, ancestral preference and nepotistic acts of the current regime. Are these not enough threats to the 2023 general elections which you perhaps also think will birth a new Nigeria?
Unless Nigerian politicians show visible sensitivity to the existential threats we face, the 2023 elections may be jeopardised. This is why those seeking to ignore the obvious marginalisation of the South by the Northern irredentist Federal Government (an oxymoron of sorts) should have a rethink and make the urgently needed sacrifice. We need to unify the country again. This can only be achieved by practical federalism with a Nigerian hue.
Given the horse-trading in the two major political parties and defections by politicians ahead of 2023, do you think they are altruistic moves to alter the country’s age-old ineffective leadership considered its bane?
It has yet to be seen if the two main political parties are ready to alter the age-old ineffective leadership quality in our long-suffering country. However, with people like us making fervent and frantic contributions and engaging in dialogue with other older colleagues in the party, the narrative will surely change soon. That is one of my missions by joining the PDP.
Why didn’t you join forces with other Nigerians who floated alternative political platforms to attain the Nigerian Dream?
I will no longer dissipate my energy on patently fruitless political adventures. I have learnt great and useful lessons. These newfangled parties simply cannot cut it. We have already seen instances of that. I have been one of those burnt by such optimistic and unrealistic notions. It is a different thing if the major parties were to implode and cause a paradigm shift as that which led to the birth of the APC in 2015. This isn’t on the cards yet but may still happen if the old brigade in both parties do not heed or harken to the yearnings of the youth.
You once said a former governor of Lagos State, Akinwunmi Ambode, showed that governance wasn’t rocket science and you were believed to be the mastermind of the press conference where he accused the now state governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, of committing a crime in the United States of America among other unsavoury allegations during the wrangling of the state APC. What is your relationship with the Epe-born civil servant turned politician?
For me, former Governor Akinwunmi Ambode remains one of the most productive leaders of this republic that is worthy of emulation. Like all human beings, he has his failings, but overall, I will say he was very successful. I always try to be as objective as possible. I was a big fan of his infrastructure revolution in Lagos. His brief stint of four years only revealed a great leader. I attended his ill-fated press conference, strictly by invitation. I had no input whatsoever in its organisation. Or in what he said on that occasion. I can only imagine the pressure that he was under, but you have to ask him what informed his decision to do so. It is personal to him.
How do you plan to use your recent installation as Aare Atayese and your wife as Yeye Atayese by the Oluwo of Iwo, Oba Abdulrosheed Akanbi, to deepen the ethos of public good?
While I do not want to sound immodest, most Nigerians can attest to my abilities and visionary skills as amply demonstrated globally over time. The Aare title has become a great impetus for me to aim to attain and achieve higher goals of public good for all Nigerians and Africans including those in the diaspora.
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Publish date : 2021-11-06 23:36:45