New book reveals how Nigerian journalists ‘betrayed’ Dele Momodu

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Dele Momodu’s media constituency dealt the heaviest blow on his presidential ambition in 2011, a book written by his then-campaign director has alleged.

The book, ‘Fighting Lions: The Untold Story of the Dele Momodu Presidential Campaign’, written by Ohimai Godwin Amaize, is due for public presentation on Wednesday, July 11, in Lagos.

Amaize, who still holds the record of the youngest presidential campaign manager in Nigeria at the age of 26, recounted how the media derided the ambition of the publisher of Ovation International magazine.

The book, currently made available to only TheCable, highlighted the media pedigree of Momodu, who got his first journalism job in 1988 as staff writer with the African Concord, the now rested magazine owned by MKO Abiola.

“Perhaps one of the biggest blows to the campaign came from Momodu’s own constituency – the Nigerian media. Here was a man who began his career in journalism nearly three decades ago at the African Concord, who in 1990 became the highest paid editor in Nigeria at the age of 30. A man who, as far back as 1991, was Founding Editor of Leaders & Company (which would later morph into Thisday Newspapers). Without question, Dele Momodu had paid his dues not only as a media practitioner but to the Nigerian society as a whole. Alas,” he wrote.

“We had started off with the conviction that the media would support one of their own. We could not be more wrong. The politics of the newsroom had some surprises in store for us, for the media practically wrote off one of their own. To them he stood no chance, and they gave him none. Many of his colleagues were dismissive of his aspiration and were not ready to listen to him. Those that bothered to listen, refused to take him seriously as a contender.

“Indeed, the media constituted the biggest bloc of anti-Momodu cynics, and their unwillingness to give his message of a new Nigeria a chance, played a big role in the outcome of the 2011 presidential election. In our post-campaign analysis, we concluded that after the issue of campaign financing, the next major setback our campaign suffered came through the cynicism of the Nigerian media. I learnt from my days as a campus journalist about the agenda-setting role of the media. The media had the power and influence to set a change agenda for the country; and in this case, it appeared the agenda was different.”

He listed instances in which the media made Momodu look like a non-starter.

“A few weeks to the presidential election, the media had successfully narrowed the presidential race down to four candidates: Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, General Muhammadu Buhari (Rtd.), Mallam Nuhu Ribadu and Mallam Ibrahim Shekarau. One thing was common to these four candidates; they had at different times held government offices at different levels with access to networks, contacts and resources. At this time, Jonathan was incumbent President with unlimited access to the apparatus of government at the highest levels. This was evident in the heavy spending witnessed in his presidential campaign. Buhari was a former military Head of State. Ribadu was former Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC). Shekarau was then Governor of Kano State,” Amaize wrote.

“To the Nigerian media, these could only be the serious contenders. These were the candidates capable of organising big rallies and erecting gigantic billboards across major Nigerian cities. Just as the people of ancient Rome were held spellbound by gladiatorial shows, the Nigeria media was fixated on the street carnivals and usually rented crowds of these campaigns; no one seemed interested in questioning the source of all that campaign spending. Rather, the media spent more time analysing why a candidate like Dele Momodu had no chance. The situation looked helpless.

“In a rating of presidential aspirants by The Nation,the newspaper had rated our candidate’s chances of securing the Labour Party (LP) ticket as “very slim” – Momodu was initially in the Labour Party (LP) before he moved to the National Conscience Party (NCP). The newspaper’s reasoning was simple. A former Governor of Cross Rivers State, Mr. Donald Duke, had reportedly moved from the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) to the Labour Party (LP) where he was now seeking their presidential ticket. Meanwhile, from the records available to us at the Labour Party’s National Secretariat in Abuja, Duke was not even a member of the Labour Party (LP), let alone being a presidential aspirant under the party.

“The National Chairman of the Labour Party (LP), Barrister Dan Nwanyanwu later granted a newspaper interview where he declared that Donald Duke was not a member of Labour Party (LP). Yet, the following week’s analysis in The Nation not only mentioned Mr. Duke as a member of Labour Party (LP) but still rated him above Dele Momodu as the presidential aspirant to beat in on that party’s platform. All our attempts to get the newspaper to research properly before going to town with spurious report, fell on deaf ears. This is just one of many examples in the wider Nigerian media.”

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