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Opinion: An Open Letter To Laolu Akande- Dele Momodu

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By Dele Momodu

My dear Pastor Laolu, let me start by saying I wonder what people eat or drink inside the Aso Rock Villa that makes some of those of your ilk, who we once admired, misbehave the way you did last night. I’ve known you for over two decades as a young, brilliant, respectful and likeable character and a dutiful, urbane journalist. And my affection for you and your good friends, including Adeolu Akande, Wale Adebanwi, Bode Opeseitan, and others, has never waned. When you travelled to America, your spirited journalistic work continued as you churned out good reports, especially in The Guardian newspaper of Nigeria. Anytime I was in the New York area or, indeed, any part of the United States, I kept in touch with you and your dear wife, as regularly as possible. We became a family.

Dele Momodu with Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo

About nine years ago, I called you from Maryland, USA, and told you I was attending the Nigerian Reunion Meet, an annual and biggest gathering of Nigerian youths in the US at any single event, at that time. You said you would like to meet me, and I was quite elated, as I have always been. When you came, we sat down over breakfast and you expressed the difficulties and vagaries of life you faced in America, and I said I understood perfectly well. I had faced similar experience in the United Kingdom during my exile years. So, we were partners-in-suffering. I told you that was why Ovation International was for me a matter of life and death.

Dele Momodu with President Muhammadu Buhari

On that visit, you expressed interest in becoming the North American Bureau Chief for Ovation International and I was glad to accept your proposal. I told our Editor to liaise with you and I moved on to deal with other issues. You got some events for coverage which we published in the magazine. At some point the Editor complained about the way you handled transactions and so on, but you and I never saw each other again after the day we met, till you got your appointment and returned to Nigeria as the Vice President, Prof Yemi Osinbajo’s spokesman. You never handed over to us at Ovation till this day. You simply abandoned a company that provided some modest income for you in America. But we never complained and made excuses for you that this was probably occasioned by the exigencies and circumstances of your appointment. On your return home, there was never the courtesy of “E ku ile…” I’m back home to any of us. Nevertheless, we were happy when your good news reached us.

Dele Momodu with APC Chairman, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole

 

We met for the first time, after your appointment, at the funeral service for Mama, Chief Mrs Hannah Idowu Dideolu Awolowo, and I told you how unfortunate it was for you to be greeting me for the first time since your return to Nigeria. How would you have felt if someone treated you the way you treated us? No worries, I forgave your shortcomings, since none of us is perfect in life.

Dele Momodu with Babatunde Fashola SAN

I have a policy of maintaining some distance from friends in power and accept whatever God has for me in other areas. I had volunteered and supported Major General Muhammadu Buhari in 2015, without being a member of APC. I campaigned to the best of my abilities without expecting anything in return but good governance. I am bemused whenever it is suggested that I have any ulterior motives in this regard. Let me tell you that if I set my heart on it, I would be offered government position of choice, but I prefer my independence and the opportunity to speak with candour even if what I say may be unpleasant to those I am addressing, at that moment.

Dele Momodu with Mr Rotimi Amaechi

Very early in the life of the government, I noticed and noted that many things were  going wrong and that we were working against the promises we made prior to the elections. I promptly wrote a memo to the President and was pleasantly surprised when I got an invitation to meet President Muhammadu Buhari. It remains a singular honour and privilege for me as I have a high personal regard and esteem for the President, even if I no longer agree with some of his politics and policies. I was alone with the President for enough time and the camaraderie between us was palpable. Many people, including Ministers, still wonder and ask how I got the President to relax and smile so much. I didn’t go to him for personal reasons but simply took the opportunity to tell him what the people of Nigeria expected of his government, the mistakes the Jonathan government made, and the need to learn from lessons of the past. The President seemed happy that someone was saying it as it should be. I never made any personal request since that was not my mission.

 

However, things went from bad to worse. Many started lamenting and complaining, including the wife of the President, Mrs Aisha Buhari. What made matters worse was the ill-health of the President, but the Vice President, Prof Osinbajo worked assiduously, smartly and loyally, to ensure the government began to give prominence to those matters which had won victory for APC and the Presidential team, for which the Vice President was commended by so many people, including me.

 

Thereafter, when the President returned and things appeared to slide back to the inglorious state that they were before he left, I wrote several letters to the President offering my 10 kobo advice and still continued to report his activities “formally.” Even long after I gave up on his government ever changing its fumbling and wobbly style, I continued to fulfil all righteousness. I must note that my criticism of the Buhari administration never elicited insults directly from Femi Adesina and Garba Shehu, both of who are highly respected and admired professionals, except that some overzealous people who felt the job of journalists is to praise leaders and governments, endlessly did so on their behalf, but without their knowledge at times.

On February 3, 2019, I had sent you a message of congratulations on the miracle of the Vice President and his entire team surviving the helicopter crash and suggested all of you should please see Doctors and you thanked me. “May God continue to protect you and Oga and all as you travel around. That was really shocking…” I prayed. Nothing else was expected of reasonable human beings particularly as I consider the Vice President a dear brother that I will continue to respect.

I have gone through this long preamble to prepare the ground for the shock and shocker I got from you last night. The next time I heard from you was on March 13, 2019, when you said you needed a “right of reply” to the Pendulum column I wrote last week, which was an open letter to your boss, the Vice President, a gentleman that I will continue to hold in high esteem and admiration, no matter the provocation from people like you. I instantly agreed to release that page, as is not only my personal approach, but also the Thisday tradition. I even messaged you, “Pls let me know if you need the entire space…” and you responded “Bob Dee Baba, I told them you will never block a right of reply…even if you give out the whole page. Will revert.” I immediately alerted the Editor, Yemi Adebowale, that Laolu Akande has requested for my page this week, and we both agreed that it should be given to you to respond as you wished. It was obvious from your message that there were some hawks and hounds baying for my blood, but such is life.

Dele Momodu with Alhaji Lai Mohammed

Pastor Laolu, as a journalist, I knew you should know about deadlines and respect it. I told you to, please, let us have your rejoinder on Thursday, March 14, 2019, and you said yes, in writing, but you never did. So, I went ahead to write a tribute to our departed colleague, Professor Pius Adesanmi. But, suddenly, you resurfaced at 15:47pm on Friday, March 15, 2019, in one word, “sent,” no apologies, just like that. Still, I immediately checked my mail but did not find your rejoinder. I called and you then sent a WhatsApp version, which I read. I always send virtually everything I write and any rejoinders to my good friend and Lawyer, Prince Adedamola Aderemi, and the only sentence we both singled out, separately, and without any consultation, was where you said “For good measure, Bob Dee, maybe we should just remind our readers that not only are you an active member of opposition, you also retain with top notchers of the PDP significant business relationships.” For us, you were entitled to your opinion and views on all other matters, just as I had expressed my views in my column, but this allegation was patently false.

 

I couldn’t believe those words emanated from a man who knew me well and knows my disdain for money politics. For the avoidance of doubt, I am not a member of the PDP whether card-carrying or otherwise. I have never attended any of its meetings or those of its members, and I have never been paid by the Party for any kind of work. If, by opposition you mean generally, then of course, I will admit to being a member of the National Conscience Party (NCP). As much as anyone who is my friend, you should understand how opposition politics, including supporting APC, has robbed me of the fabulous “free monies” that often litter the landscape of Nigerian politics. If, that was attractive to me, there was no way I would have ignored PDP to support APC in 2015, and there is no way I would not have continued to support APC, now. I called you and explained to you that your accusation was false and that this sentence should be expunged, and you said yes, you will do so immediately and resend. Just to delete one sentence, Pastor Laolu, I waited from around 17:01 pm till about 20:18, nothing came from you. At 20:21, you fired a message and said “No, I want to make substantial additions sir…that is why it is taking time. Wanted to proof (sic) every claim I make.” And I told you to feel free.

I sent messages to you till 21:28 but got no response, whatsoever, to say whether you still wanted the space or not. The Editor gave me a 10:00 pm deadline and I quickly got the Pius Adesanmi tribute ready for its original space. Unknown to me, you and whoever was misleading you, and goading you on, were very busy cooking more vituperative and irresponsible attacks on my person. You eventually sauntered back at 23:18 pm, for God’s sake, and you expected everyone to wait for you. The Editor had taken the decision to run Adesanmi’s tribute and run your rejoinder fully next week. But you insisted yours would be late by then and you returned my call at 00:02 am and informed me that you had been in touch with the Editor who said it was up to me.

Thereafter, you told me, verbally, that whether we use your rejoinder today or not, you will release it to other media houses and platforms. I then pointed out to you, that your new rejoinder was even far worse than the one I had complained about earlier. Obviously, your fake adviser or informant had convinced you that I was Saraki’s agent and that was eating and heating you up. You screamed Saraki’s name so much that I wondered what had suddenly possessed you. You were dripping with venom and so convinced Saraki was my Lord and saviour. Your previous reasonable and personable mien and disposition had vanished like a mirage. It was like you were pliantly succumbing to some sort of exorcism conducted by a manipulative demon. I promised to respond to this new Rejoinder, and you raised your voice against me that you will continue to respond to me. You asked if I was threatening you and I responded that it was not a threat, but my right to tell you, unequivocally, that I supported Atiku, voluntarily, the same way I supported Buhari without ever being a member of APC. Your voice was so harsh and vociferous that I was alarmed and worried about your personal health and safety, all because of power. You were rude to your older Brother and former boss.

Dele Momodu with Alhaji Atiku Abubakar

The saddest part of your uniformed, ill-thought and ill-judged piece was when you wrote, in your opening paragraph, that I had dumped Saraki for Atiku. I would have thought you were taught logic in school. If Saraki lost the primaries and I supported Atiku, how did I dump Saraki? If Saraki that you said I dumped was the Director General of the Atiku Presidential Campaign, how can you claim I dumped Saraki for Atiku. So that your paymaster knows, I have never worked in Saraki’s office or been mandated to act for him as a spokesperson or mouthpiece. I simply loved the passion he put into the Buhari campaign in 2015 and the way he prevented Nigeria from becoming a one-party state. My admiration for him has not diminished with time or circumstances since then. That is my view, to which I am entitled. I was the first to salute Saraki’s courage after he conceded defeat, like all democrats do. My advice to Atiku urging him to congratulate President Buhari, notwithstanding his perceived displeasure and disappointment about the conduct and outcome of the elections, was an act of statesmanship. How can you translate my innocent, peaceful advice to mean I dumped Atiku? After I said so, many eminent Nigerians have echoed my sentiments and advised Atiku in exactly the same way and words.

The truth, which you acknowledged in your rejoinder, is that I still complained about the conduct of the elections. It is up to you to support your treatise with any manner of facts and views. The public and I know the truth which may not be palatable for you to hear. My aim is not to demean the victory of APC, but to ensure that lessons are indeed learnt. The same lessons that should have been learnt from 1983!

I pray you get your mind back, like many before you, whenever you return from the gilded cage. By God’s grace, I will be here waiting to receive you with open arms.

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Akpabio Commits to Collaboration with Tinubu, Governor Umo Eno

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The President of the Senate, Godswill Akpabio, has stated his commitment to working closely with Nigeria’s President, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, and Governor Umo Eno to ensure the delivery of democratic benefits to the people of Akwa Ibom State.

Akpabio stated this in his country home, Ukana, Essien Udim Local Government Area of Akwa Ibom, while briefing his constituents on the journey so far as their representative in the red chamber.

He assured the people of Akwa Ibom North West Senatorial District of his commitment to their welfare in appreciation of their total support for him, President Bola Tinubu and the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) in last year’s election.

The Highpoint of the constituency briefing was the distribution of over 10,000 bags of rice and other essentials for his constituents from the wards, to the local governments.

A statement by his Special Assistant on Media, Jackson Udom, quoted Akpabio as saying, “I am here once again, to thank you for standing by me, our President and the party, before, during and even after last year’s elections. I have come to say thank you and also bring Renewed Hope to you all.

“As the President is doing his own, the Senate President is also doing his bit and being complemented by the state governor, Akwa Ibom would be the better for it. We have finished elections and politics, we are now into governance. The governor of the state must touch you, because he is the governor of all the people in the state irrespective of political affiliation.

” As I am touching you now from the political angle, I will also touch the state without any political party affiliation. Most of the projects we are putting in place would be used by people resident in the state. Relax, things are getting better.”

The former Governor of the state, assured his constituents that his current position as the Senate President would be used for the development of the state in collaboration with the President and the Akwa Ibom State Governor.

Hear him: This Senate President is not the one that would be fighting the state government. I will collaborate with , I will collaborate with , to make the state better for us all. We cannot be out of government for a long time. You have to go to a government that carries you along”

Akpabio promised to work for his constituents and Nigeria with all his strength, noting that, “as the President of the Senate, I am for the Southern region and the entire country. I may not come here regularly to tell you what I have been doing for you, but you will be feeling the impact on way or the other. Our unemployed youths would be gainfully employed. I will construct a mini stadium in all the local governments in the district, for our youths to develop their sporting potentials. ”

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Akwa Ibom Government Invests N112 Billion in Road Infrastructure Projects

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…DAKKADA OIL PALM FACTORY COMMENCES MILLING SOON

“Since May 2023, Akwa Ibom State Government Invests N112 Billion in Road Infrastructure”

Commissioner for Works and Fire Service, Prof. Eno Ibanga disclosed this when he presented a breakdown at the State Executive Council meeting in Uyo.

He revealed that 39 new road projects have been undertaken with N78.77 billion released to fund them, while old projects have been funded to the tune of over N30 Billion, with an additional N12 Billion recently released by the Governor.

Details of the Exco meeting were made public by the Commissioner for Information, Ini Ememobong.

The Executive Council also approved the increment of pension for pensioners who retired before 2012, effective April 2024.

Following the ongoing harvesting of fruits, milling will soon commence at the Dakkada Global Oil Palms.

The Managing Director of the Akwa Ibom Investment Corporation, Pastor Imoabasi Jacob announced this during his presentation at the State Executive Council meeting presided over by Governor Umo Eno.

Two projects executed through the Direct Labour Agency have been completed with 19 other ones ongoing.

The Director of Operations of the Agency, presented a status update on the projects under their supervision, also disclosed that 31 of the 100 initial ARISE Compassionate Homes will be completed and presented soon.

The Council was also briefed on the progress at Ibom LED, where 800 people have been trained and N400m has been approved to fund the grant of N500,000 to each of the participants, which will soon be done.

The Governor charged all the Executive Council members to ensure that all the projects and programmes under their supervision are people-centric from ideation to execution. He advised that project monitoring should be ramped up to ensure quick completion.

Major Highlights of the meeting are as follows:

√Status update on Food sufficiency received; proposal on increased cocoa, rice production & Ibom Model Farm submitted by HC for Agriculture & Rural Development

√Presentation of proposal by MD, AKICORP on Ibom Towers, FalconNext, Landmark Beach Resort.

√Dakkada Global Oil Palms Ltd ready to commence milling of ongoing harvested fruits

√Confirmation of N400m disbursed at N500,000 each to 800 IBOM-LED trainees in two batches

√Briefing by HC Works & Fire Service on N112 billion disbursed by the Governor for road infrastructure since May 2023, with 39 new road projects receiving N78.77 billion & N30 Billion for old projects, with additional release of N12 Billion

√Presentation by HC Culture & Tourism on tourism blueprint for proposed development of Tourism hubs at Ikot Abasi, Itu, and Oron

√ Two projects ready, 19 ongoing through Direct Labour Agency on 1 Project per Local Government Area; 31 ARISE Compassionate Homes nearly completed

√Approval for increment of pension for pensioners who retired before 2012, effective April 2024.

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Oyo Prince Encourages Peace and Continued Charitable Acts Among Muslims

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Prince Afeez Siyanbola Oladigbolu, the grandson of the 40th Alaafin of Oyo and the youngest contender for the Alaafin throne, is calling on Muslims in Oyo State and across Nigeria to uphold peace and carry forward the spirit of sacrifice and kindness observed during Ramadan.

Prince Oladigbolu made the call in his Eid-El- Fitri message where he bemoaned the state of affairs in Oyo Kingdom.

According to him “We don’t have an Alaafin and we also currently do not have a Chief Imam. The two vacuums remain unfilled due to the passage of HRM Oba Lamidi Adeyemi and late Mashood Adebayo Ajokidero and this requires urgent attention because of the leadership gap it has caused in Oyo.

“The absence of the Alaafin has led to a state of stagnancy since Oba Adeyemi joined his ancestors in April 2022, while our spiritual growth has not been at its highest without a Chief Imam”

The young prince challenged Muslim leaders and communities to be fervent in unstoppable prayers for Almighty Allah’s intervention in the affairs of Oyo town, the State and Nigeria.

He also used the opportunity to urge the youths to be calm, stay away from violence and embrace hard work.

In his words ” Violence leads to crime , while crime leads to jail”

He further also advising youths to abstain from being used against the government, noting that nobody or group of people have the capacity to fight the government at any level.

” If the political behaviour of any candidate is not going down well with you, wait for the next election and vote such a candidate out. That is the civil way to react.

” Violence, insults, and most especially curses on our leaders are not options we should explore and will not change anything. Let’s pray for them so that they can always fulfil their campaign promises.

The former Mariner and real estate Entrepreneur also extended some assistance to senior citizens to commemorate the season.

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