On Dele Momodu And His “Brotherly Advice” To Governor Godswill Akpabio

By Kelechi Oparaku

One would wonder why I have chosen to respond to Dele Momodu's recent well publicised “brotherly advice” to the amiable, widely acclaimed and indefatigable governor of Akwa Ibom State, His Excellency, Godswill Obot Akpabio. To justify my intervention in this regard, it is convenient to assume that uncle Dele actually intended that his advice be subjected to public scrutiny. This is because I am aware that if he had no such intention, he would have sought to deliver his advice privately to His Excellency rather than publicising it in the manner he did. It will therefore be incongruous to think that uncle Dele intended the public to read his advice to the governor and not voice our opinion on same.

Having said that, I will begin by stating that I have never met Dele Momodu in person. Nevertheless, I have always admired him greatly from afar for the following reasons: First is his avowed commitment to the Nigerian cause in particular and Africa in general. This commitment and belief in our beleaguered country and continent, no doubt, led him to establish the iconic Ovation magazine which is focused on the celebration of the successes of the best of Nigeria and Africa. Anyone who has lived among Europeans and other non-Africans would know how very important a magazine like Ovation is. From my experience during my stay in the United Kingdom while undertaking LL.M at the University of Manchester, I found out that 95% of the news one hears or reads about Africa is only bad news; of famine, wars, poverty, terrorism, corruption, disease, etc. While it is accepted that these challenges do exist in Africa, it is also true that Africa has her own stories of success as evidenced by the Aliko Dangotes and the Adenugas and other successful entrepreneurs who have succeeded in placing our continent on the world map by dint of hard work and resilience.

This reminds me of a programme that aired on British Channel 4 television station sometime in 2010 entitled “Welcome to Lagos”. The two part documentary was a very careful expose on the very worst of Lagos: the ghettos and images of Lagosians living atop mountains refuse and filth and practically eating from the gutter. I was so embarrassed in class the day after the documentary was aired as my classmates harassed me with their uncomfortable questions, in their bid to find out if my family back in Nigeria lived in conditions like those televised on Channel 4 the night before. It was a hard job trying to convince this particular lady from Mexico that Lagos wasn't all filth and ghettos, and that there are also places in Ikoyi, Victoria Island and Lekki where rent is paid in dollars and can possibly rival the amount paid in the most expensive and highbrow areas of London and New York. A copy of Ovation magazine on that day would have made the job easier for me. This is because the magazine celebrates our successful sons and daughters as an inspiration to others and also to show that we are capable of success. I digress.

My second reason for admiring Dele Momodu is his renowned belief in youth and his loyalty and dedication to his friends. I am aware that Dele Momodu is arguably the only Nigerian politician who would have the courage to appoint a 26 year-old as the national coordinator of his presidential campaign organisation. The young man's name is Ohimai Amaize, presently an aide to the Minister of Sports. Such demonstration of faith in the Nigerian youth (to which I belong) and which he incidentally shares with Governor Akpabio, is unparalleled in these parts, where the ruling class have consistently and meticulously promoted gerontocracy. It is also Dele Momodu's fierce loyalty and resolute dedication to his friends that is undoubtedly the springboard of his “brotherly advice” to Governor Akpabio, and by extension, this rejoinder. In an earlier article, Dele Momodu had eulogised Governor Chibuike Amaechi of Rivers State and emphasised their personal friendship. This fact, coupled with his well-known reputation as an unrepentant critic of President Goodluck Jonathan makes it easy to decipher on whose side Dele Momodu is in the on-going tussle between the PDP (not the presidency) and Governor Amaechi of Rivers State. Therefore, Dele Momodu's “brotherly advice” is not brotherly afterall, as it is tainted with bias and personal interest and therefore can hardly be frank or objective. I do not hold brief for His Excellency, Governor Godswill Akpabio. He doesn't even know who I am. Nonetheless, I am, like Dele Momodu, and millions of other Nigerians at home and in Diaspora, a great fan of Governor Akpabio for the simple reason that he has effectively deployed the resources at his disposal for the uncommon transformation of Akwa Ibom State, through unequalled development and people-oriented leadership.

Now to the major issues: Dele Momodu had claimed in his advice that Governor Akpabio has lent himself to be used by the Presidency to fight a proxy war against Governor Amaechi. He went further to claim that the prevailing impression is that “you view Governor Amaechi as your arch-rival and that you are all out and determined to run him out of town”, and that this attitude shows Governor Akpabio as “someone who would do anything and everything to damage and destroy any form of competition”. With respect sir, this allegation against Governor Akpabio can best be described as fanciful, whimsical and absolute hogwash. Governor Akpabio certainly has no reason whatsoever to see his counterpart in Rivers State as a threat. Furthermore, if both governors are in any form of competition whatsoever, it is the healthy competition of trying to outdo each other in the provision of dividends of democracy in their respective states. This, however, does not detract from the fact that Governor Akpabio is a loyal member of the PDP who has remained loyal to the party that brought him to power.

It is on record that Governor Amaechi has used every platform available to him to work against the interests of the very party which he still claims to be a member and which brought him to power. At the twilight of his chairmanship of the Nigeria Governors' Forum (NGF), Governor Amaechi introduced politics into the group by effectively lending himself to the opposition parties to use the platform as a pressure group on the PDP and the Federal Government, thereby abandoning its original objective of being a peer review forum as conceptualised by its founding fathers. It would be naive of anyone to expect that the PDP, given its numerical strength within the forum and position as the ruling party, should have allowed this bizarre situation to continue. Therefore, PDP had an obligation to challenge this ugly status quo and so it did with the necessary establishment of PDP Governor's Forum (PDP-GF) which Governor Akpabio was elected as chairman. Evidence that Governor Amaechi used his position as chairman of NGF to seek to control the Federal Government and indeed the PDP machinery abound, but I shall cite just two to buttress my point.

First, after a query originated from INEC over the conduct of the PDP congress in Adamawa State, the PDP national leadership ordered another congress for the purpose of electing new state executive members. Sensing that he may lose his grip on the party machinery in his state, the governor of Adamawa State, Murtala Nyako, ran to the NGF for help. Instead of telling Governor Nyako that the PDP congress in Adamawa State was a PDP affair and not the business of the NGF, Governor Amaechi's NGF launched itself into a purely PDP affair in the bid to protect Governor Nyako. This was not right. Secondly, on May 13, 2013 Governor Amaechi's NGF in anticipation that President Goodluck Jonathan was about to declare a state of emergency in some parts of the north, where militant activities of Boko Haram had killed and maimed thousands of Nigerians, and completely destabilised the security and governance in that region, issued a statement “rejecting” any declaration of a state of emergency in any part of the country. This action, it would appear, was taken as the NGF had reasoned that the declaration of a state of emergency in any state would imply the temporary removal of the sitting governor for the period of the emergency rule, as was the practice during the regime of President Olusegun Obasanjo. It would later emerge that Governor Amaechi's NGF miscalculated on this and did not appear to understand that President Goodluck Jonathan is a stickler for due process and has a knack for doing things according to the rule of law.

I have taken time to extrapolate on these two examples in order to buttress my point that the PDP (and not President Goodluck Jonathan as Dele Momodu would have us believe) was right in its decision to replace Governor Amaechi as the chairman of NGF, with a governor who is loyal to the party and who will not offer himself as a willing instrument in the hands of the opposition to serve as the arrowhead of attack on the PDP controlled Federal Government. If indeed Dele Momodu means well and sincerely desires the quick resolution of the lingering imbroglio between the PDP and his friend, he should direct his “brotherly advice” to the right quarters being his friend, Governor Amaechi, in the manner of the revered Yoruba socio-cultural group, Afenifere which recently advised Governor Amaechi to immediately reconcile with his party, the PDP or defect to the opposition in order to resolve the crises in the state. In the words of Afenifere's spokesman, “he (Gov. Amaechi) is the cause of some of the crises in Rivers State. If he wants to defect to the opposition, let him do so. He cannot continue to use the platform of the PDP to hold the party to ransom and think there will be no crises. Most of the people who are supporting him from the opposition will not tolerate this kind of behaviour from any of their members.” Dele Momodu should be re-echoing this advice to his friend and leave Governor Akpabio alone.

Dele Momodu also tried to draw superficial similarities by referring to some discredited past governors in his vain attempt to justify disloyalty to one's party. Certainly, Governor Akpabio is not in the league of these discredited former governors such as DSP Alamesigha (arrested for money laundering in the UK, jumped bail, returned to Nigeria, was impeached as Governor, convicted and recently pardoned), Joshua Dariye (accused of corruption and case still pending in court), James Ibori (currently serving time in the UK for money laundering). While it is true that former President Olusegun Obasanjo has a reputation for vindictiveness against perceived and real enemies, it also not be correct to attribute the downfall of most of the persons mentioned to OBJ because they actually were the architects of their own misfortune. To conclude that these men who did not cover themselves in glory encountered their misfortune as a result of the handiwork of “him-on-high” in Abuja would amount to standing truth on its head.

Dele Momodu also advised Governor Akpabio to “forget about the Senate and climb the world stage”. This he reckons, will be achieved if the Governor secures appointment to teach leadership courses in Harvard and propounding political theories” after his tenure as governor of Akwa Ibom state, as this will give him “a chance of joining world figures as global ambassadors while also earning a decent living from speaking engagements. This particular “brotherly advice” got me really worried. The reason for my worry is because uncle Dele has consistently sought the exalted office of the President of this country. This, as he has made us believe, is borne out of his belief in Nigeria and determination to lead Nigeria to glory. Therefore, for someone who desires the best for Nigeria, and having acknowledged that Governor Akpabio is a rare breed in the annals of governance and leadership in Nigeria, why then would he advise Governor Akpabio to disregard the call from his people of Akwa-Ibom North-West senatorial district to represent them in the Senate in 2015? Does uncle Dele still want the best for Nigeria? Is he happy with the present crop of senators who earn the highest pay in the world while most of them have little or nothing to offer to the Nigerian taxpayer in justification of such eye-watering pay check? Why does he want the Governor to “climb the world stage to propound political theories” when there is urgent work to be done at home (assuming both are mutually exclusive)? Put differently, in whose interest is uncle Dele voicing this particular “brotherly advice”?

Finally, Dele Momodu's fierce loyalty to his friends is well documented, but it is also the hallmark of true friendship if he can summon the courage to look at his friend straight into the eyes and tell him the truth. Governor Amaechi needs to be told that he cannot remain in the PDP and continue to use the platform to champion the opposition agenda, aided by the highly partisan Lagos press which is firmly under the control of the Bola Tinubu led opposition. President Goodluck Jonathan should be commended for being very tolerant. Former President Obasanjo would never have tolerated what Governor Amaechi is doing and neither Tinubu nor Buhari would condone such disobedience and intransigence. Dele Momodu should advise his friend to learn to respect constituted authority. Governor Amaechi should learn to respect President Jonathan and the Presidency, and he cannot show respect to the president without respecting his wife, the first lady. In the estimation of Governor Amaechi and the opposition, President Jonathan may not be the best candidate for the presidency but the fact is that Nigerians have chosen him to lead them till 2015, and vox populi, vox dei (the voice of the people is the voice of God). Therefore, President Jonathan deserves our respect, support and encouragement, least of all from his party members. This is not to say he should not expect criticism or difference of opinion, but not the type of hateful criticism from the opposition parties which is predicated on bad blood, malice and outright contempt; and for such cancerous opposition ideology to be championed by a prominent governor from the ruling party leaves a very sour taste in the mouth.

Finally, Govenor Akpabio will do well to take uncle Dele Momodu's advice with a pinch of salt because it is manifestly dubious and predicated on self interest. Governor Akpabio should be left alone to continue his good work for the people of Akwa Ibom State, and when that is over, proceed to the senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria to contribute his quota to nation building through robust legislations, incisive debates and legislative advocacy. Our senate will surely be enriched if people like Governor Akpabio are able to make their way into that hallowed chambers and Nigerians will be the better for it. Governor Amaechi's headache is self inflicted and any attempt to drag an innocent man into a self-made problem is an exercise in futility.

Kelechi Oparaku is an Abuja based legal practitioner and he tweets @kelechioparaku email:[email protected]

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