Opinion: My Journey In The Forests Of A Thousand Daemons (1) – By Dele Momodu
Fellow Nigerians, beginning from this week, I will give you exclusive blow-by-blow account of my experience during the just concluded PDP Presidential Primaries and from time-to-time dovetail into my views concerning other Party Primaries.
My journey into the forest of a thousand daemons started with a meeting with my core team in Epe sometime last year. I had invited a few friends to my apartment in a resort and shared my dreams with them. I started by reminding them of my foray into the Presidential race in 2011 and how that experience left me devastated about the possibility of electing self-accomplished and globally distinguished technocrats into the highest political offices in Nigeria. I’m sure a few of my friends were shocked that I was back to considering travelling again through such a rough terrain that most sane people would avoid at all costs.
However, the main reason for my carefully thought and fully considered comeback was that our career politicians were leading our country to Golgotha and perdition and a few patriots needed to halt this perfidious drift as quickly as possible. I was under no illusion that it was going to be an easy project to execute. I was aware that it was a yeoman and Herculean task, but no matter how daunting the prospects seemed it was ultimately important to venture on this voyage, if only because future generations would ask what we did when we realised that we were on the precipice, and at the edge of the abyss.
I laid out my elaborate plans before my “captive audience.” I will never take crucial decisions without thinking hard and deep. I was taught by my mentor, Chief Moshood Abiola that “you must first convince yourself about anything before you can convince others.” So, no one was going to discourage me because I had already convinced myself that this was realistic, and that the journey was not simply a flight of fancy but one worthy to be undertaken. I had made up my mind that I will only listen patiently to a critique of my plans but not to any attempt to kill my dreams and aspirations. I was concerned about the future of our great country and knew that whatever the outcome, I would have contributed to the onset of a new beginning.
The first step to take would be to join a mainstream political party, either APC or PDP. I reached that conclusion after my 2011 attempt to contest the Presidency, first on the platform of Labour Party and eventually on that of the National Conscience Party. My naïve thought process at the time had led me to conclude that all I needed was a platform to be a Presidential candidate and that the rest would be straightforward, a doodle. How wrong I was! I discovered from raw and bitter experience that it was almost impossible to win a national Presidential election using fringe and fledgling political parties without elaborate, extensive and formidable structures. Neither the Labour Party nor the National Conscience Party had any expansive or major structure across the nation… Not much has changed since 2011 in those two political parties.
When contesting for the Presidency, a political party and its candidates must start by assuring itself of grassroot support. Its tentacles must spread far and near. The personality of one man, no matter his cult following cannot make the party or that person cross the Rubicon. There must be foot soldiers all over the country dedicated to the cause. I accept that in 2011 social media was in its nascent stages and that today it is fully developed. However, I have also realised that Nigerian elections cannot be won, or even reasonably or decently contested through social media. It is a tool, but it is beyond the reach of the generality of Nigerians, particularly the poor masses of our great country who need to be reached by any serious contender. They are in the villages and hamlets, not in towns and cities.
While most of my younger friends had vehemently disagreed with me on the issue of joining a mainstream party, especially either of the big two, APC and PDP, saying the biggest parties were virtually tainted and useless, I was studiously convinced that politics is not and will never be a game of saints versus sinners, even if principles, philosophies, ideologies and ideals must be held sacrosanct. Politics is a game of popularity, numbers, vision and mission. Some of the best leaders have been the worst sinners. No leader would ever be voted for by, or ultimately govern over, saints alone! Politics is a means to Leadership while Leadership is the end of Politics. It is notable and regrettable that in Nigeria, we only practise politics of optical illusion, abracadabra and razzmatazz. There’s hardly any significant difference between the varied political parties, the reason it is so convenient and seemingly normal to wake up in one political party and go to sleep in the evening of the same day in a different political party. In Nigerian politics, there are no strange bedfellows.
I knew therefore that I would require a mainstream party to ignite and attract the sort of monumental attention and media frenzy needed to make appreciable impact in a Presidential race. I had to piggyback on their existing structure if I were to make any appreciable impact or impression on the polity notwithstanding my hitherto well-established brand and face recognition globally.
I also knew that I would have to invest my personal resources to kick-start the project since I expected incurable doubters to shoot down my ideas even if all they should have done was to make their modest contributions and leave the rest to God, the ultimate judge and game-changer…
I knew I would have to be a daredevil, bold and audacious, to be relevant at all in the race. From my previous experience and my scientific and empirical analysis, I anticipated considerable ack of faith and support from my own media constituency who would sometimes underrate one of their own iconic figures, for whatever reason.
I understood, and I was prepared for the fact that I would have to make a spectacular appearance, and burst once more onto the political scene, only by demonstrating my uncommon global network, intellectual prowess, professional and business achievements, raw courage, impeccable pedigree, solid reputation and integrity.
The choice of a mainstream party was easy for me because I had since given up on APC to bear positive fruits even if the party had more than enough capable hands who were just roasting and wasting away. I was also able to arrive at a decision since I had voluntarily supported the PDP Presidential candidate, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, in the 2019 Presidential election, without being a member of PDP. I support candidates more on principle, rather than parties, since we’ve already agreed that the two biggest Nigerian political parties being Siamese twins.
At our retreat in Epe, we examined so many critical issues and permutations and one of my friends who has been a member of PDP forever, Bashorun Bola Orolugbagbe, eventually said my ideas made sense to him and that it was a project worth pursuing. This lifted my spirits because he is a dogged political fighter and grassroot motivator and influencer. One by one, my other associates and friends who were with me, including Seyi Orolugbagbe, Wale Bob-Oseni (now of blessed memories) and others pledged their solid support for my aspiration and promised to do their best to convince others that this project was achievable because they themselves were convinced.
Notwithstanding their support, I had to come up with some of my own strategies and timelines and keep them close to my chest in order to avoid leakages. Henceforth, events were designed to move at supersonic speeds, using the secret weapons of surprises and confidentiality.
The first action would be how to join PDP and make an instant resounding impact. A day to my declaration, I was already in Abuja and made a call to my wife in Lagos. I told her about my decision to return to politics and go mainstream. Mobolaji, a prayer warrior, asked if I was serious or just pulling her legs. I confirmed I was serious. She said, “o ti ya, go for it” and I thanked her. I was grateful to her although I was not much surprised. She has always given me her unflinching and unalloyed total support once she understands that this is what I want. In essence, she accepts me for who I am and appreciates that I am a determined person with a steely nature, particularly once I have made up my mind about a tough decision. I called the Editor of Ovation International, Mr Michael Effiong James, and informed him of my decision and told him to get the Ovation and Boss teams ready to roll at the sound of my whistle.
Once I had sorted out the domestic side, involving household and business, I was ready to drop my bombshell by letting the Party, PDP, know that I was in the race for real. I called the immediate past President of the African Public Relations Association and Group Managing Director at CMC Connect (Perception Managers), Mr Yomi Badejo-Okusanya. I called Mr Abiodun Richard Oshinibosi, the Project Marshall at Abelinis Limited. I needed him to assist with the technical aspects of my presentation at the PDP Party Secretariat. Mr Oshinibosi immediately dispatched a top member of his team, Mr Oyedeji Akindele, to help prepare my presentation. I also called Chief Dele Balogun, one of the PDP Leaders from Igarra, in Edo State. It was important for me to have one of the frontline politicians from my neck of the woods in Edo State, my home State, to accompany me. He promptly flew to Abuja for this assignment and accompanied me to the PDP National Secretariat at Wadata Plaza, Abuja, where I presented my letter to our highly cerebral National Chairman, Dr Iyorchia Ayu.
My idea and strategy were to travel the route less travelled by politicians. While they will most definitely use dollars to oppress me, I will also most certainly utilise my media power to showcase international best political practices in Nigeria. I was never afraid of being defeated but I knew I will permanently convince Nigerians at home and abroad about my excellent trajectory and boost the morale of coming generations that no Governor, Minister, or former ex-this and ex-that has a bigger profile than me. I would then leave it to our delegates and/or electorate to decide if they wish to live perpetually in servitude or if they would see the light and join in embracing a new dawn of political adventure that would be the beginning of uplifting our stoical and quiescent populace from the doldrums of drudgery, poverty and insecurity.
In every game, you must expect, watch out and plan for the obstacles. The element of surprise is also always key. You must always seek to be several steps ahead. Plan to confound and astonish. You can never go wrong. I was ready to do just that. On October 28, 2021, I sent a WhatsApp message to Dr. Iyorchia Ayu requesting to see him the following day. He immediately responded, “12 noon at the office”. That was a positive sign, and I was very excited. I invaded his office at the appointed time with a barrage of journalists and thereafter I addressed a world press conference.
I was trending and this truly lifted my spirit.
My next strategy was to show off the love of my people of Edo and Osun States. It is uncommon to have an aspirant with the capacity to combine his paternal and maternal lineages, simultaneously, but I was determined to make this happen. I have remained close to both of my lineages, and this was the time to make this visible to the world. Off I went with my entourage to Ihievbe village, my paternal ancestral roots in Owan East Local Government, where I was accorded heroic welcome…
•To be continued…
– Momodu is the publisher of Ovation International magazine and a PDPpresidential aspirant