By Dele Momodu
Fellow Nigerians, let me put it as simple as possible, with God all things are possible. Mine has been a life of miracles, too numerous to mention, or believe by doubting Thomases. The story of my foray into the world and business of journalism is as dramatic as it is surreal. My dream was always to be a teacher, marry a teacher, and live happily thereafter. But I couldn’t secure a teaching appointment and it was joblessness and desperation that drove me in a different direction. Though I bagged a first degree in Yoruba language from the then University of Ife in 1982, and completed a Master’s degree in Literature-in-English much later in 1988, it never occurred to me that I would eventually end up being a journalist, writer and publisher. This is why it is often said that “man proposes but God disposes.”
Only God could have re-navigated my route towards writing. And even when it all started, I never envisaged or anticipated that I would ever come this far. I started as a writer slowly from around 1982 and steadily from about 1986. By 1988, I had galloped to the level of a full-fledged reporter and Staff Writer at the Concord Newspapers where I soon discovered myself and distinguished my career in a jiffy. From 1988-1990, I worked with the agility of a horse and fame and fortune smiled on me in a modest way. Though I had written articles mainly in The Guardian and Sunday Tribune newspapers, it was at the Concord newspapers that my career blossomed like a flower in full bloom. From my last duty post at Weekend Concord, I was poached by May Ellen Ezekiel, later known as Mrs Mofe-Damijo, wife of the madly popular actor and journalist, Richard Mofe-Damijo, both Publisher and Director respectively of Panache Communications Limited, owners of Classique magazine.
It was while in Classique that my Pendulum column was birthed. The idea to write a weekly column arose out of necessity when my boss, who wrote the celebrated MEE column was going on leave and left me to feel the vacuum in her absence. What was meant to be a temporary affair soon turned into addiction for many readers. I got hooked on it myself and wrote copiously on varying topics which I have since published on different platforms, including Fame, Global Excellence, The Sun and now Thisday.
I first mooted the idea of publishing my first collection of articles and essays with my dear friend and colleague, Dr Reuben Abati, and he agreed that I needed to put something together before the words vanished and evaporated. Thus my first selection was selected and edited by Reuben Abati. The first collection was ready as far back as 1997 and Reuben unleashed his power of poetic prose in its introduction and left it with me. And that was it.
Procrastination is a very bad thing. For 21 odd years, the book was left to ferment inside one old rickety laptop until I had the inspiration to publish it recently, and the jinx was finally broken. God finally used a very dear Brother, Sola Ojewusi, to open my eyes to the great potentials in publishing books. We had collaborated with another young Brother of mine, Ohimai Godwin Amaize, on the biography I produced on the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Rt. Hon. Yakubu Dogara, which was launched with fanfare on the occasion of his 50th birthday on December 26, 2017. That seemed to have been the impetus needed to kick-start my book projects. Aside the first Pendulum collection, I had many other books in the pipeline, simply because I had several short articles to compile into many books. Since I had been writing an average of 50 articles per year, I already have a large reservoir of essays stockpiled. There was also a book, titled Fighting Lions, written by Ohimai Godwin Amaize, my former Presidential Campaign Manager, on that amazing experience, which had also gathered dust over time.
I drew great inspiration from my dear friends, Segun Adeniyi and Bolaji Abdullahi, who published and launched their books last year. My original plan was to finish a biography of Chief Moshood Abiola, and launch it on July 7 2018, the occasion of the 20th anniversary of Chief Abiola’s death. That also proved difficult. But God’s time is always the best. I then decided to publish two volumes of Pendulum, one a bit ancient, and the other more contemporary. I was determined to make that happen, by fire by force. I called Sola Ojewusi, and we went all out. We were grappling with that when Ohimai came up with the idea that we should include his book since it would be very relevant in this season of political electioneering. I agreed and, pronto, I told him to update the book. I also decided to do some final editing on all the books, including those earlier edited by Dr Reuben Abati and my best friend, Prince Adedamola Aderemi. It was going to be a herculean task but between Sola and Mrs Molara Wood, nothing was going to be impossible. And we made it happen.
We worked on very tight deadlines. While at it, President Muhammadu Buhari stole the thunder from our secret plans to honour Chief Abiola by dedicating the books to his memory. But that for us was a welcome development that made ours even more necessary and compulsory. We set up a powerful WhatsApp committee headed by the Yes Magazine Publisher, Azuh Arinze, and went to work. The rest is history. Sola headed to Dubai to produce some world-class books and returned triumphantly with what I’m sure would soon become bestsellers globally.
We launched the books at the Nigerian Institute of International Affairs on Wednesday, July 11, 2018 and it was just so beautiful and glorious. Special thanks to all the wonderful people who defied all odds to throng the occasion. The Abiola family was well represented and it brought tears to my eyes as they spoke one after the other. We could not have asked for a better keynote speaker than Pastor Tunde Bakare, whose eloquent address was powerfully delivered. Mr Femi Otedola also set the place on fire with his witty and salacious anecdotes about Chief Abiola. Dr Doyin Abiola displayed the true stuff of a PhD holder and was well-applauded for her presentation.
The launchers helped us to mop up the copies that we were able to bring in at such short notice. Our friends of several decades turned up in droves. I could hardly believe my eyes. Many I did not know came, but I have since discovered their presence while reviewing the pictures and videos. What a great day and event it was and I remain eternally grateful to the best friends in the world…
THE OPTIONS BEFORE KEMI ADEOSUN
I was elated when Mrs Kemi Adeosun was invited to serve the government of President Muhammadu Buhari as Minister of Finance. Many considered her too young and too inexperienced for such a big portfolio, but I didn’t see anything wrong with the appointment particularly since I have championed the cause of youths in government forever and a day! The same young people who regularly complain about the non-inclusion of young people in government were the same gang that wanted to shoot her down. I didn’t know much about her other than the fact that she had served as Commissioner for Finance under Governor Ibikunle Amosun of Ogun State. I remember writing an article supporting her and encouraging President Buhari to let our youths learn through mistakes. No soul can be perfect without going through the furnace of life.
I ran into the Minister about two or three months ago at a society wedding in Lagos and she was the first to see and recognise me. She practically jumped off her seat to greet and exchange pleasantries with me. She was full of thanks and appreciation for the brief article of support I wrote at the time of her turbulent appointment. If I had expected to meet a pompous and arrogant person, Mrs Adeosun totally disarmed me. I saw her for the second time at the Aso Rock Presidential villa a few weeks ago during the International Press Institute Summit which was hosted by President Buhari, and she took pictures with me, Mrs Ijeoma Nwogwugwu, now Managing Director of Arise News Television, and Mr Eniola Bello, the Managing Director of Thisday Newspapers. Again, I saw a simple and humble lady who’s holding a very powerful position and I was excited for her.
You can thus imagine my shock and horror reading about the explosive stories about her National Youth Service debacle and how sad at the way the whole saga is ballooning and spreading like bushfire in harmattan. As always, I have watched with incredulity how mortals have fed voraciously on her unfortunate twist of fate. Social media seems to have turned us all into saints who pontificate at the slightest opportunity. Many have said she should resign and get ready to go to jail; after-all, if this had occurred overseas, from whence she had emigrated to Nigeria, she would have done the needful by now.
Others, obviously more sympathetic to her, have argued that her mistake, or whatever you want to call it, is not as grave as being portrayed in certain quarters, and that Nigeria is not yet ripe for the kinds of standards people are advocating. In their view, we should never throw the baby away with the birth water because they ascertain that she’s been doing a good job stabilising the economy against all odds.
Yet there is still a third camp propounding the conspiracy theory that she’s being hounded and victimised by some powerful subterranean forces within the government who want to get rid of her for poking her British noses into the ugly Nigerian deals that are better left to the imagination. This is normal in a country where ordinary headache can be attributed to witches and wizards. It is in the same vein that I felt scandalised that the upright man of God, Pastor Tunde Bakare, who had only been keynote speaker at my book launch a few days ago was shamelessly dragged into the debacle by those who have no sense of propriety. Pastor Bakare had gone to the Villa to thank President Buhari for the singular honour done to him when the President had sent a high-powered Federal Government delegation to attend his mother’s funeral in Abeokuta. As fate would have it, there was a chance meeting with Mrs Adeosun in the corridors as he was about to proceed to meet with President Buhari. Pastor Bakare and the Minister exchanged pleasantries like all normal beings and no more, yet the rumour mill has been agog with the tale by moonlight that the highly esteemed and revered Pastor had gone to see the President at the behest of Mrs Adeosun to intercede on her behalf. I know, and I am assured, that nothing could be further from the truth because not only was such a request not made by Mrs Adeosun, but the principle upon which Pastor Bakare stands are so well known that it would be unproductive to expect that he would accede to such a request.
As usual the Adeosun saga has become politicised. Politics often obfuscates serious issues in Nigeria. No matter our opinion in this hocus pocus, the final decisions are always taken at the highest levels. The Attorney-General would brief his principal on the implications of the controversial expose. The Commander-in-Chief would weigh the options to see if it is within his power to sack or pardon, or cause her to resign. None of these options would be easy considering the fact that Nigeria is very close to the next general elections and government may not wish to rock the boat.
Her silence, and resilience, has infuriated many people but only God knows what advice she is getting from the top. I would have expected she would address a press conference to explain her side of the story, with her lawyer close by, if her clarification is indeed viable or tenable. There is nothing more to do than to either speak up and die or keep mute and postpone the doomsday. As for me, it is always a pity, each time a beautiful career is shot down and torn to shreds. But I also believe in probity and accountability in public life. May God help Mrs Adeosun through her ordeal as facts continue to unravel.