TONY MOMOH: A RENAISSANCE MAN TURNS 80
By Mack Ogbamosa
In the annals of professionalism, only a few people have been able to successfully combine many disciplines. Prince Tony Momoh, who is now 80 years old, is one of them.
He has made giant strides not only as a journalist but also as a lawyer, teacher, writer and politician.
In fact, many of us in the journalism profession who had the opportunity to work closely with him in the old DAILY TIMES in our younger days were told by our older colleagues not to dare argue with him as such an exercise would end in futility. We were told that whenever you started any argument with him on any subject and you appeared to be having an upper hand, he would switch to another subject. For instance, if you were discussing politics, he would change to philosophy. Those among us who had no courage did not get near him for fear of being thrown into CONFUSION But the courageous ones stayed close to him and discovered that he was and still a RENAISSANCE MAN : A man of many parts.
This is a man who decided early in his journalism career to arm himself with degrees in mass communication and law. In fact, he was the first Nigerian to do so. This is after he had attained the position of a headmaster in teaching.
While at the DAILY TIMES, where he worked for many years, he became the first and only journalist to assume the position of the Editor of the paper through examination.
He was also the first editor to take the National Assembly to Court over the issue of disclosure of his source of information. He won that case as the Court ruled that a journalist had the right not to disclose his or her source of information.
As Minister of Information and Culture, he was the first and only minister to write “Letters to my Countrymen ” explaining the philosophy behind the policies and programmes of the military government of President Ibrahim Babaginda at that time. Even though many Nigerians did not buy into some of the programmmes especially the Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP) of the administration, that did not deter him from writing his letters.
His foray into politics was dramatic. First as a professional in politics and later a full-blown politician.
One of his major achievements as a politician is the masterminding of the merger of three main political parties -Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) and All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) with a faction of the All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA) and the New Peoples’ Democratic Party (N-PDP) to form the All Progressive Congress (APC) Which defeated the incumbent government of President Goodluck Jonathan of the PDP, thereby ushering in President Muhammadu Buhari as the nation’s leader in 2015. He had earlier in 2011, assumed the position of the national Chairman of the CPC, thereby surpassing the achievements of his idol as a young man – the late Chief Anthony Enahoro. It was because of his admiration for Enahoro that he decided to change his name from Suleiman to Anthony.
Although, a loyal party man , Momoh as a politician has found himself working closely with individual politicians as a result of their character rather than the political parties they belong to. Thus, in all his political career since 1998, he has professionally handled the media and publicity campaign of only two politicians – Dr. Alex Ekwueme and President Muhammadu Buhari.
He has been supporting the President since 2003 when Buhari first decided to contest for the highest office in the land. This, he did against popular opinion from many of his friends and relatives who WARNED him that Buhari can never win election as president in the country
Born on April 27, 1939 as the 165th child of king Momoh the First of Auchi Kingdom, Etsako West Local Government, Edo State, Momoh attended Government School, Auchi (1949- 1954) and Anglican School, Ubuneke, Ivbiaro, Owan West Local Government Area of Edo State (1954). He later became Headmaster of Anglican School (1958- 1959) after teaching in the school for a while. Afterwards, he proceeded to Provincial Teachers College, Abudu, Edo and Government Teachers College, Abraka, Delta State (1960- 1961). He starred his journalism career in the DAILY TIMES as a trainee Sub Edior in 1962. He went on study leave to the University of Nigeria, Nsukka to read mass communication and completed the course at the University of Lagos because of the Civil war in the country at that time.
He later studied law at the University of Lagos and was Called to Bar in 1975 after attending the Lagos Law School (1974- 1975).
He occupied various editorial and administrative positions in the DAILY TIMES before he was appointed Minister of Information and Culture in 1986. He was one time Secretary and later President, Nigerian Guild of Editors, Chairman, National Registration Council of the Nigeria Union of Journalists and also, at a time served on the Board of the Nigeria Airways. He is a fellow of the Commonwealth Journalists Association. He is currently the Pro-Chancellor of the University of Jos, Plateau State.
Momoh is married to Janet and the union is blessed with four children.
Mack Ogbamosa ,a Lawyer/ journalist wrote from Lagos.