TONY Momoh, veteran journalist and former minister of information, is not new to Nigerian politics. His insignia is deeply engraved in the nation’s political landscape both during the military regime and in the current civilian rule which started since 1999.
During the unsavoury military administration of General Ibrahim Babangida, Momoh was appointed minister of Information and Culture from September 1986 until 1990. He was chairman of the African Conference of Information ministers from 1988 to 1990. In his position as minister, he vacillated on some views he had on topical issues in the country. For instance, in 1983, Dele Giwa, editor-in-chief of Newswatch, was detained for a week by police for publishing what they called “classified material”. He was later killed. At first, Momoh pledged that there would be a government probe of the incident but he later reversed, saying a special probe would serve no useful purpose.
Speaking at a seminar in Lagos in 1987, Momoh said that radio, television and newspapers should be seen as tools “for the promotion of national unity and integration”. In 1988 Momoh announced that the government was trying to find radio sets that could only receive approved broadcasts from the federal and state radio stations. This was “as a means of ensuring that information about the country was adequately disseminated”.
In a February 1990 interview published in Ebony magazine Momoh talked about the rich and diverse Nigerian culture. He stated that British-style parliamentary democracy and the American-style presidential system had both failed in Nigeria because they were not compatible with these local cultures. He said that Nigeria was now establishing a system of grass-roots democracy in a two-party system. In May 1990 party elections were held for local ward positions using an “open ballot”, where voters showed their preference by standing in front of a photograph of the candidate. Party elections were then scheduled for the state and national elections. Momoh said the government would not interfere in the inner workings of parties. Soon after, all the National Republican Convention candidates for national offices were disqualified on the grounds that there were irregularities in their application forms.
Babangida followed a policy of donating money, vehicles, offices and so on to local governments, political parties and others on the basis that this would keep them free of influence by the rich and powerful. As minister for information, Momoh justified the practice, saying of democracy that it is not as expensive as people are thinking in relation to the alternative. The alternative is allowing one man to dictate to the whole Nigeria because you don’t want it to be expensive. If money is not spent on democracy and a one-man dictatorship emerges … it is the same Nigerians who are talking of expensiveness now that will shout that one man is a dictator”.
Babangida was tough on the press at times, but tried to avoid open conflict. According to Wikipedia, “When the press began calling for Momoh’s dismissal he was slow to respond, since Momoh was intelligent and reflective, and had experience from his own days as a newspaper editor. However, he finally dismissed Momoh and replaced him by Alex Akinyele, who had previously been in the customs services.
Momoh was also the director of the Alex Ekwueme Presidential Campaign Organisation in 1999. He was chairman, Media and Publicity of the All Nigeria People’s Party, ANPP, Campaign Organisation in the 2003 and 2007 elections.
One thing certain about Momoh is that he is not shy to air his views in support of a particular cause. He has long been an ally of General Muhammadu Buhari, the presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress, APC. He was the chairman of the political committee of the Muhammadu Buhari Organisation.
In January 2011, Momoh was appointed chairman of the Congress for Progressive Change, CPC, in the lead-up to the April 2011 national elections. Soon after being appointed, Momoh said the CPC would bar any of its aspirants to become candidates if they were to engage in corrupt practices or thuggery during the primaries. Following disappointing results in the April 2011 elections, Momoh asserted that massive rigging had taken place. However, he described the CPC as a mass movement that was bound to grow and achieve the high goals of its founders. He has not changed his views about Buhari’s anti-corruption tendencies and believes that his choice candidate will do well in the March 28 presidential elections.
Momoh at a very short notice graciously granted the magazine an hour telephone interview which is the cover story for this week’s edition of Realnews entitled: Why Buhari Will Not Probe Corrupt Leaders. The interview was conducted by Fedelia Salami, our hardworking special correspondent. Enjoy it.
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— Mar. 30, 2015 @ 01:00 GMT