Mr. Dele Momodu, Publisher of Ovation magazine has explained why he backed former Kwara state governor, Bukola Saraki for Senate Presidency against the wish of a national leader of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Bola Ahmed Tinubu.
You were, before the general elections, one of the unofficial spokespersons for President Muhammadu Buhari, who was then the APC presidential candidate. But of recent, your thoughts about the President appear to be changing?
I am surprised at your comment because I have never changed. I am the biggest supporter of President Muhammadu Buhari today. All I have done is to tell the president what people are saying outside, that is my job. We don’t tell our leaders the truth. I told former president, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, the truth throughout his tenure. This is detailed in my forthcoming book, titled, ‘’Pendulum, a book of prophesy’’. Everything I told President Jonathan happened. I owe that to our president too today.
Once you become the president in Nigeria, people stop telling you the truth. They only tell you what you want to hear. I am a stakeholder in this government. I wonder what would have happened to me if the PDP had returned to power. I was already under constant threat. I received threat messages. I had to name all the numbers anonymous because they were all attacking me for supporting Buhari. I didn’t support the president because I wanted anything from him. I supported him because I believed at this time of our lives, we need a father-figure, what I called the Mandela- option in Nigeria. And I thought Buhari, as a man of integrity, of impeccable character, fits that bill.
But, three months after the election, Nigerians are getting impatient because most of them cannot wait for even one second. I was the first to write an article titled, ‘’In Search Of Patience’’, telling the people to exercise patience with the man. But being patient does not mean we should fold our arms indefinitely. There are things that can still be done. I found a proverb somewhere which says ‘’the meat of antelope tastes very good, but while it is cooking, we can still make do with groundnut’’. While we are waiting for that big action, some things must keep us going, whether popcorn, ice cream or something. If the National Assembly, within some minutes, approved about 15 Special Advisers; so, what is stopping us from picking our National Security Adviser, if we have to change the one there now.
How about the Chief of Staff, the Principal Secretary, the Secretary to the Federal Government?
The longer it takes, the longer the tension, and also the longer the pressure on Mr President. I want the president to know that if they begin to put pressure on him, things may begin to fall apart. Had it been some things are already in place, I am sure the tension would have reduced.
But things have rotten so much so that many people support the president taking his time before making any appointments.
No. I was once a presidential candidate. Before a man says he wants to be president, he must have his plans and blue print of things that he saw not working properly. As such, he thought he had solution to them. Yes, you might not have 100% solution to the problems, but you have a fair idea of what needed to be done urgently. And you said you have the answer to them before you offered yourself to serve. And there is nobody more experienced than President Muhammadu Buhari. He was there over 30 years ago. He also acted in other capacities before now.
So, I expect him to be able to know what he wants to do. Your principal staff, you will know who they are, and you will appoint them. Even the ministers, by now, there is no law that says all the ministers must be ready at the same time. The problems we have in Nigeria are so big that one second is like eternity. I pleaded with people few weeks back to be patient, but I am telling you that the public outcry is no longer favourable to our cause. And I don’t want us to lose that moment to the concerns of the people. It is like a plane that is about to take off.
The outcry, some have said, is genuine but that people are not well informed about the enormity of the problems at hand?
No one is crying foul. Don’t let us misuse language. They are only asking for action. They have the right to that. Their expectation was that of a magician. That was what I wrote in my article. What the Nigerians expect of you is like that of Jesus Christ turning water into wine, raising Lazarus from the dead. I wrote another article, ‘’Buhari and the burden of expectations’’. To whom is given, much is expected. Nigerians saw him as magician. They believe he has talismanic powers to transform Nigeria from penury to prosperity. You can’t blame them. Nobody is blaming Buhari, we are just saying ‘please sir, time is not on your side’. I am not one of those who will rush him.
I am just reflecting the mood of the nation. I am a journalist. I gave him hints of what people expect him to do. I am not one of those who write abstract nonsense. I write constructively as a patriotic citizen. I joined the struggle since my days at University of Ife in 1978. I have never stopped since then. I also a country my children can live in and live in peace. I want a country where no girl would vanish into thin air for two years without any trace. I want a country where young school leavers would get jobs. I want a country where I will not spend all my money to generate electricity. I want a country where the infrastructure meets international standard like other oil producing countries. I want a country where our people will not be too distant from their leaders.
Talking about sudden change, you were known to be a friend and admirer of the APC National Leader, Asiwaju Ahmed Tinubu, but suddenly you started supporting the Senate President, Senator Bukola Saraki, against his party?
There is nothing sudden in that. From day one, I supported Saraki for various reasons. I will say that, boldly, anywhere. And I stand by it. I supported him based on empirical facts of what I know. One of it…..
Cuts in) But you are not a member of the party?
Yes, that is the beauty of it all.
So how come you are saying authoritatively that ‘’from what I know’’?
I interact with people. At my level, a 55-year-old man, I have friends everywhere. I have contacts. I say this with every sense of responsibility. I don’t know of anybody who worked harder than Saraki, Amaechi and the rest of them for Buhari. Yes, so many people worked for Buhari, but I am telling you that from my own stand point, from my interactions, these people mentioned almost worked themselves to death for Buhari. As a matter of fact, at a time, some people were saying it was better to have consensus candidate for the party so that there won’t be rancour after the primaries; but some people refused, saying they were not ready to step down for Buhari.
Saraki was one of the first people who declared total and unflinching support for Buhari. Amaechi adores Kwankwaso. I know that for a fact. Ameachi loves Kwankwaso to death. But because of Buhari, Amaechi refused to support Kwankwaso. I don’t know if Kwankwaso will forgive him for that. But, he was honest enough to tell Kwankwaso that ‘’I have given my word to Buhari, I cannot turn back’’. Same thing with Saraki. I know for a fact that Saraki worships Tinubu. Quote me. Maybe our Oga (Tinubu)does not know it. You know, sometimes, you don’t know those who love you if you have a lot of crowd around you. But I am saying it to you that Saraki, the Senate President, worships Tinubu.
Then or till now?
I am sure till today. Saraki was one of Tinubu disciples. In fact, when some people were saying Tinubu wanted to hijack the party by installing his men, Saraki and Amaechi were among those who said ‘no, we must give our leader whatever he wants; we must not humiliate our leader’, because they(new PDP) had the power at that time to install their own candidate and they would have won, because the new PDP that joined APC at that time was formidable enough. But, they insisted they must defer to Tinubu. It is what I know, not that they told me.