The death, Monday evening, of former Information and Culture Minister and chieftain of the All Progressives Congress, Tony Momoh, a scion of the Auchi royal family, has evoked outpouring of grief, emotions and encomiums from prominent Nigerians with the President Muhammadu Buhari, as the chief mourner. Late Momoh had been a very close political ally and personal friend of the president for several decades.
Born April 27, 1939 (82 years), Momoh, famous for his prolific letter writing, through his regular “Letter to My Country Men” series, died in an Abuja hospital after a sudden illness, according to close family sources.
Reacting to the death of the former chairman of his defunct party, the Congress for Progressive Change, CPC, President Buhari noted how Momoh stood with him through thick and thin, positing that “His brand of loyalty is very rare in the politics of today. I will greatly miss him.”
He recalled that as chairman, media and publicity of the then All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) Campaign Organisation in the 2003 and 2007 elections, and CPC chairman, the veteran journalist contributed immensely to the growth and strengthening of both parties, which culminated in the formation of the All Progressives Congress (APC).
The President, in a statement issued in Abuja on Monday by his special adviser on media and publicity, Femi Adesina, commiserated with the media industry on the loss of a veteran who put in a lot to raise the bar of the profession in various ways as editor, manager, administrator, President and Trustee of the Guild of Editors, and urged them to sustain his legacies.
In his condolence message, Nigeria’s Senate President, Ahmad Lawan , said he shared the grief of the family, friends and political associates of the deceased. Lawan described Momoh as a journalist who made indelible contributions to the development of the noble profession in Nigeria.
According to him, “As Minister of Information, Prince Momoh, through his ‘Letter to my countrymen’ series, professionally and effectively disseminated and managed public information in a manner that was unique to him”, adding “As chairman of the Congress for Progressive Change, (CPC) he helped nurture the party to a very strong showing at the polls within months of its formation”.
Noting that Momoh was also a key facilitator of the emergence of the APC in 2014, the senate president said “The APC will miss this principled political leader particularly in this period that the party is repositioning as a grassroots-based political party and for improved performance of its leadership of our great country”.
Edo State governor, Godwin Obaseki, noted that though a great son of Edo State, the late Tony Momoh “was a total Nigerian. He was forthright, driven and spoke with candor. As a nationalist, he was unapologetic about the Nigerian project. His lasting legacy remains the enthronement of democratic values in Nigeria”.
Obaseki described the former information minister as“A progressive and committed Nigerian” whose “wise counsel would be greatly missed especially as we navigate our current challenges as a nation.
His Lagos State counterpart, Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu, described Momoh’s death as a colossal loss to Nigeria and the ruling APC. In a condolence message signed by his Chief Press Secretary, Gboyega Akosile on Monday, Sanwo-Olu said the death of the elder statesman, politician and journalist was “painful and heartbreaking” and urged family, friends and colleagues of the deceased, as well as leadership of the APC to work towards immortalizing him.
“The death of Prince Tony Momoh is a great loss to Nigeria. The late Momoh made lots of positive impact in Nigeria during his life time as a journalist, media manager, lawyer, politician and elder statesman. As Minister of Information and Culture between 1986 and 1990 during the military regime of General Ibrahim Babangida, Prince Momoh served his nation meritoriously.
“As a democrat, he played active roles in the formation of various political platforms at the transition stage of Nigeria from military dictatorship to civilian rule. He led his former party, the Congress for Political Change (CPC) to form the APC with other political parties and contributed positively to the party’s victories in the 2015 and 2019 general elections,” Sanwo-Olu stated.
On his part, former Lagos State governor, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, expressed shock over Tony Momoh’s death, describing him as a “statesman, patriot and exemplary journalist”.
In a condolence message on Monday night by his media office, Tinubu said: “I’m deeply saddened by the passing of Chief Tony Momoh. I recall reading his interview in one of the national newspapers a few days ago where he restated his love of this country and his belief in its future. He was a statesman and patriot resolutely committed to the unity and progressive development of this country.
“An exemplary journalist, he earned domestic and global recognition as Editor of the old Daily Times in those challenging days for journalists. He was not just a journalist, he was also a notable politician. He was one of the true founders of the APC.
“A close associate of President Muhammadu Buhari, Chief Momoh, as Chairman of the CPC, worked day and night to bring about the historic merger with the ACN and other parties that led to the APC. His death is a great loss at this time his wise counsel is needed in the country”.
Mourning the loss of an illustrious son of Edo State, the deputy governor, Philip Shaibu, described late Prince Tony Momoh as “a consummate politician and a master strategist whose impact in the nation’s development will not be forgotten”.
Shuaibu, in a statement in Benin signed by his media aide, Benjamin Atu, Monday night, said with the death of Momoh, who was a member of his immediate Etsako constituency, “The entire Afemai community has lost a father, mentor and brother”. He described his demise as “a monumental and an irreplaceable loss’’. Shaibu said the Auchi prince “was a leading light who charted the course of peace, unity and politics without bitterness”.
According to the deputy governor, the late Momoh consistently maintained his carriage as an elder statesman in the Nigerian political scene. Shaibu described Momoh as a doyen of mass communication and one of the last living legends of the journalism profession in Nigeria.
Also mourning the demise of the APC stalwart, Yoruba socio-cultural organisation, Afenifere, described it as “a sad moment for Nigeria”. In a statement by spokesman of the group, Yinka Odumakin, Afenifere said Momoh was “an unrepentant adherent of restructuring until his death”.
The late Tony Momoh was educated at Government School Auchi, which was established in 1922 by his father, Momoh, Ikelebe 1. He at different times attended the Teacher Training College, Abraka, the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, the University of Lagos, and the Nigerian Law School. He had various degrees in Mass Communication and Law and was called to the Nigerian Bar as a solicitor and advocate of the Supreme Court of Nigeria.
The veteran journalist was also the Pro-Chancellor and Chairman, Governing Council of the University of Jos. He emerged National Chairman of the defunct Congress for Progressive Change, CPC, in January 2011, and he played a pivotal role in birthing the merger of CPC with other political parties to form the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC.