Dele Momodu, a presidential aspirant of the Peoples Democratic Party who recently lost out with no vote at the primary election, talks to TOPE OMOGBOLAGUN on the Nigerian politics, southern candidacy, consensus and other issues
You didn’t garner any votes at the Peoples Democratic Party primaries, were you surprised by the outcome?
I was not surprised because I paid for nothing, so I got nothing.
So, what was your game plan?
My game plan was, in every contest, to establish that there are good, competent, self-accomplish, non-corrupt, cosmopolitan and well-educated Nigerians that are available. Because if I didn’t join the race, they would say you people didn’t join the race. That was the first motivation for me.
Secondly, I have worked laboriously for over three decades globally. I have operated in over 60 countries and I know that the president of a country is the Chief Executive Officer or the Chief Operating Officer of the country. He doesn’t have to be a politician. That is why you see the world is getting more and more populated with technocrats in government. But in Nigeria, our problem is that we overemphasise politics over leadership; whereas politics is only a means to leadership why leadership is the end of politics.
Politics must begin to produce the Dele Momodu, the Akinwunmi Adeshina and other technocrats who have made their names globally not local champions who just found their ways into becoming governor and then you become an icon that must be worshipped. That is the problem that we face. Even the media are guilty of these. They are culpable for promoting only governors who have failed in their states as serious candidates.
My game plan also was to sell myself to Nigerians while everybody was going to delegates; people were abusing me that they had not seen me with delegates.
Do you know that the names of our delegates were not supplied until about 24 hours before the primary election? So, which delegates were they visiting? I was smarter than all of them. Also, how can I say I want to change the country and I will be encouraging corruption? I told the people who intended to collect the money, I am a practical politician. I said, collect your money back from them but don’t vote for them.
Unfortunately, I don’t know if they got them to swear an oath, so they collected money and voted. Although some people collected money from multiple aspirants, I was not involved in it and I was very proud of my decision not to pay a kobo to anybody.
We saw many reports on dollar rain. Do you have an idea of how much each delegate got?
I don’t work for the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission; I have no idea of how much was paid because it’s all in the realm of rumours. I don’t even have evidence that people were paid but the rumour was right within our convention grounds that money was exchanging hands.
But for me, those who collected, good luck to them, when they get home and their children ask whether they collected anything, they would confidently say to their children, yes, I was part of the corruption. When they go to their mosques and churches on Friday and Sunday, they will be able to look up to the sky and pray to Allah or Jesus that I collected money because I was hungry and poor and I sold my country just for a few dollars.
You said earlier that you lost because you didn’t share money. Are you saying that Atiku and Wike who got the lion votes respectively got them because they shared money?
You see sharing money could be two folds; there could be promissory notes and there could be direct dispense. So, I don’t know which one worked for either of the direct contenders.
A few days to the primary, Peter Obi left the party and his camp cited vote-buying among others. Why didn’t you also leave as he did?
No. If I were Peter Obi, I would remain in the party to continue to fight. You do not run away, you have to be a big fish in a big pond. Sometimes, when you are a big fish in a small pond, you get suffocated. I was a member when I started crawling before I started walking. I was first a member of the Labour Party before I went to the National Conscience Party. If Peter Obi had consulted me, I would have discouraged him because he will now be asked and possibly forced to fund a party that has nothing; no structure, no money. Yes, they have some men and women of integrity but that is not all that works in politics.
He would need to at least establish structures nationwide, fund offices and I am not sure he has the capacity to do that. Nigerians are not used to contributing money to politicians or the political processes. The Labour Party is the party of organised labour. They claim to have structures all over.
I love Peter Obi. He is my brother and friend. In the PDP, we shared a lot in common but I am telling you that I do not believe that the Labour Party has what it takes yet. I tried when I joined I think in 2010. I linked them up with the British Labour Party in England; they were going to assist us with policy formation in education, health care, agriculture, transport and so on.
But the Labour party in Nigeria is not a workers’ platform. That is the error, I made. I had wanted to galvanise all the workers of Nigerians under one umbrella as the Labour Party but trust me, some politicians in the party are much more conservative than the PDP.
He would soon realise that the structures are not there. But if he can mobilise all the workers of Nigerians – though I don’t know how feasible that is – he may have the chance. Trust me, the All Progressives Congress and the PDP weren’t built in a day.
During your campaigns, you visited almost all the monarchs and some past leaders. Why did you feel the need to visit these people when it was certain that it was the delegates that would vote and not all these people?
I was already acting presidential even before being the President. Part of my strategy was to sell myself to the people of Nigeria and let them see my capacity. I don’t see why delegates should pick someone if they are not persuaded that the person knows Nigeria well enough.
That was what I was trying to show that there is nobody in politics in Nigeria today who is more connected, knows the problem of Nigeria, who can reunite Nigeria more, who can galvanise the youth, who dares take up the challenges of Nigeria’s more than Dele Momodu. That’s why you’d see me go to meet Gani Adams, go to Cotonou to visit Sunday Igboho, no politician did. My strategy was different. Even if the delegates did not vote, I have shown that they wasted a chance to vote for a very good potential candidate.
People were earlier meeting statutory delegates then later we found out that it’s only the non-statutory delegates that would be permitted to vote. Did this in any way affect your campaign?
No. That’s why I am telling you that I am far smarter than most of these politicians. They wasted their money visiting statutory delegates only for them to realise that 24hours before the election that those were not even relevant to the convention.
Now the PDP has produced a northern candidate who seeks to take over after President Buhari, another northerner who would have done eight years. As a southerner in the PDP, what do you see to this development?
me. He was angry. I told him the truth but the truth is what happened. I am one of his biggest fans. In fact, in the article before the convention, I said that if I got the ticket, he would be the first person that I would offer a portfolio either in power or in words because I know his capacity.
Did any of you foresee Governor Aminu Tambuwal stepping down on Saturday?
Yes. On Saturday morning, I told my team that Tambuwal would be asked by the powers-that-be, the owners of Nigeria, to step down for Atiku. Tambuwal didn’t tell me, I think he didn’t want anybody, especially southerners to know what was happening. I am very close to Tambuwal and have tremendous regard for him. People are blaming and abusing him but to his people, he is a hero, that’s the game. Southerners should learn how to play the game by working together. I have requested many times for our governor to carry us along, to take us as the same. But no. Those who wanted Wike, only concentrated on Wike while others who didn’t want Wike concentrated on Atiku. That was what happened. They can’t blame anybody for that.
A lot has been said about Tambuwal, in 2011, he went against PDP’s wishes to become the speaker. In 2015, he went against APC’s wishes to endorse Dogara as the Speaker of the House of Reps. Now, he has gone against Wike who supported him in the 2018 primaries where Tambuwal came second to Atiku. What do you say about this behaviour of Tambuwal?
You see, I am closer to Wike than to Tambuwal but one thing you must give to Tambuwal is that he understands the nature of power and politics in Nigeria. Politics require some humility, that you respect every shade of opinion. I have realised that a lot of our governors don’t have respect for non-career politicians. That is why anybody would ignore a Dele Momodu today in Nigeria when I have been a private secretary to the governor of Ondo State as far back as 1983 when some governors were probably in primary or secondary school.