by Dele Momodu
Fellow Nigerians, I remember the prodigiously gifted Fela Anikulapo Kuti today, as always on occasions like this. I had searched for an appropriate title for this column since I read the first of the staccato attacks against my simple-and-straight-forward piece on our thunderous Central Bank Governor, Mallam Sanusi Lamido Sanusi. Not that the sporadic reaction was unexpected after-all one would expect the CBN and its Governor to at least have some cronies. What I didn’t bargain for were the scurrilous interventions of two particular columnists who should apparently know better, Ethelbert Okere and Pini Jason.
If they must write, for whatever reason, I would expect them to do so seriously and not ignore leprosy to treat eczema. To call the CBN Governor a bully is not an abuse, it is a character-analysis of a controversial public figure. It does not warrant the crocodile tears being shed by town-criers who are weeping louder than the bereaved. Mallam Sanusi is enlightened enough to know I merely expressed an opinion. From every indication, he has put it behind him .But those who profit from confusion must hype it out of proportion. The question is, who did we slap and who’s complaining of headache?
I will ignore the other writers and concentrate on just these two, Pini Jason and Ethelbert Okere, because when you carry an elephant on your head, you should worry less about ants on the floor. To be quite honest I know Pini Jason well but Ethelbert Okere I didn’t know at all. Thanks to Google, I found some scanty reports about Ethelbert and was indeed shocked that he had passed through Thisday as Chairman, Editorial Board without my noticing his tenure.
I could not get his full bio-data but a peep into his writings led to the discovery that he is notorious for writing all manner of junk in newspapers. He has also been accused of writing fiction about Champion newspapers being sold off to former INEC Chairman, Professor Maurice Iwu. This invited the wrath of media baron, Chief Immanuel Iwuanyanwu against Thisday newspaper. (See Champion, March 18, 2011)
Ethelbert clearly used his artcles to disparage people who are not in the same political boat with him. His last port of call was the Imo State Government House, where he worked as media aide to former Governor Ikedia Ohakim. He did well as an attack dog such that he wrote an acerbic piece and rubbished the Owerri tribe of Imo state thus: “The steadfastness and cohesion for which Owerri people were known flew overboard and in their places took over envy, pettiness, jealousy, greed and even avarice…
“According to pundits, it was because the manipulators, who were recruited mostly from outside the state, saw that Owere people had compromised that gave them impetus to carry out their acts of perfidy.” Please, help me here, how many people actually go out to vote in any community that a writer would hack down an entire people for not supporting his candidate?
Ethelbert’s hatchet man’s role extends to other states where he’s often hired to help men of power. I stumbled on his column on former Governor Chimaroke Nnamani: “…the state government under Nnamani was able to execute projects which even regional government could not, and which states whose resources are far bigger, then the Enugu enigma becomes total.” (Daily Sun, June 30, 2006). Was he writing about the same Enugu state or a different state on Planet Mars?
This is the same man casting aspersions on me for merely describing Mallam Lamido Sanusi as a bully! Hear him: “Momodu lived up to his bidding namely, to use his weekly column to lambast one notable Nigerian or the other. And when he was not doing that, Momodu, former Presidential candidate, was boring Nigerians with his trite rehash of their collective history. In the article under reference, he combined what he knows bests to weave together hyperboles in painting a picture of an immitigable national hopelessness.”
These are weighty words to use against me for daring to call someone a bully. I wish to state categorically that I use my column to attack useless policies of government or its agencies and not its notable individuals who may be affected by the slipstream. I don’t know when he did an opinion poll about the popularity of my column, or if the Thisday publisher complained to him that his paper was not selling on Saturday, or if he wants to solicit for my page to restart a column. What does Ethelbert want me to rehash if not our depressing history in a country where our kids hardly know anything about their origin. I do not know of Nigerians who don’t feel a sense of acute hopelessness about our country today except the likes of Ethelbert who flood the corridors of power.
Ethelbert said I lacked intellectual rigour for quoting Wikipedia. Holy Moses! What should I have done, plagiarise, and get sued like someone has done to Sanusi lately? I was taught in elementary school to quote my sources, no matter how trite those references may be. Finally, he accused me of “probably doing an unsolicited biography on Lamido Sanusi.” May I ask, who solicited Mr Ethelbert Okere to do his jaundiced piece on me?
More revealing, but extremely pitiable, is the article written by Uncle Pini Jason, a man I hold in the highest esteem. We must thank God always for small mercies because if not for the hasty intervention of this gentleman in my matter, I would not have uncovered more damaging things he had written about me and others in the past using subliminal codes. I discovered that he had assaulted us mercilessly during the fuel subsidy saga. He had this to say about a famous man of God: “At the Ojota, Lagos, rally the politician, Tunde Bakare, a born Muslim who found a lucrative business marketing Jesus, said “this revolution has started and will continue…”
If you think that was bad enough, please wait for the vituperations he poured on those of us who demonstrated against the subsidy removal at the Nigeria High Commission in Ghana, in his article titled Hypocrites in Ghana: “The most pathetic hypocrites are those Nigerian “Andrews” who demonstrated at Nigerian embassy (sic) in Ghana…It was (therefore) pathetic watching utterly shameless Nigerians disturbing the peace in Ghana… Why in the first place is Ghana a haven for Nigerians…
“Every Ghanaian who lives abroad worked to send money home. That was the major fillip to the recovery of the economy of Ghana. Ghanaians are very disciplined and orderly people who let things work out as they should.
“But in Nigeria what do we do? It is fashionable to steal in order to own property and fat accounts abroad.” Here is a self-professed patriot fighting innocent Nigerians living in Ghana as if they have no stake in Pini Jason’s Nigeria. When did it become a crime to migrate? The Chinese are conquering Africa, why can’t Nigerians rule the world? Our brilliant brother reduced the change in Ghana to Western Union remittances sent home by Ghanaians. He forgot there was a bloody revolution expertly executed by Jerry John Rawlings, aka Junior Jesus!
If Ethelbert accuses me of using hyperboles, none surpasses that of my boss, Pini Jason, who like Ethelbert incidentally worked as media aide to the same Ohakim in Imo State. I quote his sugar-coated opening: “I wonder how many people whose jaws did not drop in horror as they read the pummelling of Sanusi by Otunba Dele Momodu…I’m expressing my horror publicly because we must want justice not just for ourselves but also for even our enemies!” Great advice, if you ask me.
Before I’m accused of impersonation, let me quickly note that I’m not yet an Otunba. In fact, I was horrified to read that dramatic intro in Pini Jason’s The Mugging of Sanusi (Daily Vanguard, October 2, 2012), but I managed to pick a few salient points.
For example, he wrote: “Dele Momodu is the publisher of Ovation, an international magazine and a former presidential candidate in the 2011 election. And when you vie for the highest office in the land, you become a senior citizen, even if you don’t believe it. You are not expected to demean the high office you vied for or diminish yourself and your generation.” As the Yoruba would ask, Mr Police, why are you cursing?
Why is Pini Jason cursing me over an article? Is it not in the character of Presidents to rise stoutly to call their troublesome staff to order? I did the job President Jonathan should have been doing, to protect the rights of every Nigerian, saint or sinner, from the hands of dictators and aspiring tyrants. I enhanced that office by being boldly decisive. It is consistent with my belief that the same kangaroo system used to deal with sinners and bad guys would be employed someday against innocent people and saints. This was what I told Nuhu Ribadu in 2007, and it came back to haunt him, as the hunter later became the hunted.
I had received spirited attacks from Nuhu’s aides at that time but I remained committed to my views that Nigerians must determine what they want, democracy or militocracy. My position has not changed since then. It is in the nature of man to abuse power, especially absolute power. So, I didn’t set out to abuse Sanusi but to help him apply the brakes as he hurtles down the slopes to ruination in his cataclysmic approach to policies. There must be method to madness, as they say. It did not matter if I would be called names for standing on a long-held principle. Nothing can be worse than not being able to express yourself freely in a democracy others and I passionately fought for. Mba!
Mr Jason said I went physical with Sanusi but did not say how. “Dele Momodu who cannot be described as an inexperienced journalist resorted to body punches and even ear biting.” That’s so unfair. I’m not a relative of Mike Tyson. He didn’t end the assault against me there, he continued: “Going down the literary brutalisation of Sanusi one could only put a finger on Sanusi’s sacking of some bank chief executives and his putting down General Obasanjo as a bad economist as the source of the provocation.”
No matter Pini Jason’s conspiracy theory, I wish to state categorically that I was never provoked by considerations of any sacked and/or humiliated bank executive and certainly not by his cynical remarks against Obasanjo. I was by the over-the-top aggression of Sanusi’s Central Bank to every issue they are interested in.
Someone should go back and study television clips of Sanusi’s speeches, especially during the fuel subsidy brouhaha. Those who are fascinated by the kill-and-go style are on their own, they can’t drag me into their fray.
The man who accused me of getting physical with Sanusi has written worse things about people in the past. If indeed I mugged Sanusi in my article, Pini Jason murdered Femi Fani-Kayode in cold blood, in his own article titled “A Presidency Debased”, Vanguard,
February 03, 2004:
“…But what we have been asking since Femi Fani-Kayode’s crude, vulgar, inelegant and desperate reply to Col Umar is when did the presidency descend to this cesspool where area boys bait citizens to bolekaja fight?…
“Nigeria is a secular Republic, not a monarchy or a theocracy. Nigeria must be moved away from the “folksy “ medieval state governed by the whims of “babas” based on some archaic “African culture” of obeisance to autocratic chiefs and patriarchal elders to a contractual Republic governed by the rule of law as set out in our constitution. Anybody so enamoured by his primordial social order should seek such from his village, and not in Aso Rock….”
Pini Jason wasn’t done as he went for Femi’s jugular: “Femi Fani-Kayode gave himself away as a shallow mind when he questioned Col Umar’s June 12 and pro-democracy credentials…What else does Femi Fani-Kayode have to his name except his surname?” The master of abuse then descended on President Obasanjo himself:
“When did Aso Rock become a mountain of fire and brimstone? When did we substitute sound policies with Holy Ghost Fire?..
.We should be spared the hypocrisy of those who, with one corner of their mouth spew forth incantatory testimonies of “what God has done to my life”, and from the other corner issue incendiary curses and damnation!”
Is this HOW Pini Jason wants me to tackle issues? Fela, pls come to my rescue:
Teacher, don’t teach me nonsense!