Tribute to Prince Tony Momoh, 27 April 1939 to 1 February 2021

Tribute to Prince Tony Momoh, 27 April 1939 to 1 February 2021

February 02
05:24 2021

Prince Tony Momoh

The death of Prince Tony Momoh was quite surprising to me because on 17 January 2021, when he chatted with my wife via text, and she complained that he had abandoned her family, Prince Momoh jocularly said that it was due to the covid-19 pandemic! To use his very word, he said, “No can never. Covid-19 is d enemy! Tm”. He seemed hale, hearty, and his quintessential self. My wife was like a daughter to him, and they always crack good jokes.

I had known Prince Tony Momoh in the heydays of General Ibrahim Babangida’s military government when he was Minister of Information and National Orientation. I was then in the University and regularly read his famous Letter to Nigeria column in the Daily Times Newspaper. Prince Tony Momoh carved a niche for himself in the 1970s when he was the Daily Times Newspaper Editor. He studied Mass Communication at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, and Law at the University of Lagos. He was a very calculating and profound intellectual. He had plenty of guts and courage. He took on the National Assembly in 1981, when the Senate invited him to appear before the Senate of the National Assembly to explain an article that was highly critical of the Senate in the Daily Times Newspaper, but rather than appearing; Prince Momoh elected to go to Court to challenge the constitutionality of the National Assembly’s summons on him. The decision to challenge the National Assembly’s power to invite him to appear before the Senate caused a major constitutional legal battle. Momoh successfully argued that he had the right to hold the government accountable at all times as a Journalist.

In Tony Momoh v. Speaker, House of Representatives (1982), it was decided by the High Court that a person had the right to refuse to disclose their source of information. However, in Senate v. Tony Momoh (1983), the Court of Appeals held that the Press is not the Fourth arm of government. A newspaper publisher has no special immunity, and a journalist could disclose his sources in some cases. This challenge to the powers that be attests to the fact that Prince Momoh was a formidable personality who was not afraid of speaking truth to power.

I never physically met Prince Momoh till in January 2011 at the Eagle Square, Abuja, where the maiden National Convention of the defunct Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) was held, to affirm the nomination of the then General Muhammadu Buhari as the Presidential Candidate of the CPC for the 2011 Presidential Election and also to elect the National Officers of the CPC. Prince Momoh was a Candidate for the position of the National Chairman. I was a candidate for National Deputy Secretary and Campaign Manager for Mrs. Joi Yowika; she was a Candidate for the same position Prince Momoh was also vying for – the National Chairman. Before then, I had resigned as National Legal Adviser of the CPC (from 2009 to 30 December 2010) to contest for National Deputy Secretary zoned to the South/South.

Prince Tony Momoh won the election to become the National Chairman of CPC, and I succeeded in becoming National Deputy Secretary. Even though I did not support him, he never bore me any grudge. My wife and I become very close to him from then on till his death. Prince Tony Momoh used to regale us with lots of stories in his usual humorous way. He told us that President Buhari’s support was total and uncompromising because the Otaru of Auchi donated him to President Buhari. He told us his father was a Traditional Ruler and an Islamic Cleric who had 45 wives and 245 children.

Prince Tony was a cool-headed administrator and smooth politician. He managed and ran the CPC well even though the party had only one governor and about 45 members in the National Assembly and had limited financial resources. To his credit, he saved the CPC from being hijacked by some reactionaries and turncoats within the CPC to destabilize it or scuttle its merger with other opposition political parties in 2013.

Undoubtedly, Prince Tomy Momoh was one of the founding fathers of the All Progressives Congress, APC. He was a moral opposition leader. He saved Nigerian democracy from sliding into a one-party dictatorship in the last decade.

He lived well and has made his mark in history. Towards his later years, he had health challenges and has bowed to those challenges. May his soul find eternal rest in the Lord.

Adieu, Prince Tony Momoh!!!

Chief Okoi Obono-Obla

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February 2021