The A Star event saw the venue, Main Hall of Nigeria Institute of International Affairs (NIIA) filled to its capacity with quality guests from all walks of life. The event which was very emotional and intellectually-stimulating, began with an opening prayer by good friend of the author, Pastor Dotun Ojelabi. This set the stage for the Master of Ceremonies, top Comedian, Gbenga Adeyinka 1st to invite the Keynote Speaker, the Serving Overseer of the Latter Rain Assembly, Pastor Tunde Bakare to make his presentation.
According to the straight-talking man of God “Over the centuries, the phrase ‘the pen is mightier than the sword’ has come to define the power of the written word in statecraft. Those words have since stepped out of the pages of Edward Bulwer-Lytton’s The Conspiracy, a play written in 1839, to become words on marble.
“At the heart of this notion of the might of the pen is the idea that the course of a nation or people can be determined at the stroke of a pen.
“Nations can be built, and nations can be ruined; generations can be made great, and generations can be rendered wasted; civilizations can be birthed, and civilizations can be buried-at the stroke of a pen! At the stroke of a pen, millions of Africans were “legally” transported across the Atlantic and Mediterranean and became the property of slave owners. At the stroke of a pen, the slave trade was abolished centuries later and emancipation was proclaimed to former slaves, thus formally criminalising an immoral enterprise. At the stroke of a pen, the kingdoms and city states of Africa were partitioned and transformed into the estates of European monarchs. At the stroke of a pen, cultures were dismembered, nations were balkanised, and territories were amalgamated into colonies and protectorates. Decades later, colonies and protectorates became independent states-at the stroke of a pen.
“The likes of Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, Kwame Nkrumah, and Chief Obafemi Awolowo, armed with no other weapon, mobilised the Queen’s language in the struggle for independence from the Queen. They fought their battles through such media as West African Pilot, Accra Evening News and The Tribune. Decades after independence, when free, fair and credible elections were annulled, and a tyrannical dictatorship held sway, the Nigerian press took up the baton and contended against the sword of oppression by deploying the armoury of vocabulary. I am so glad that the labours of these pen warriors and all others who fought for the democracy we enjoy today have not been in vain after all.
“From now on, any time the name Bashorun M.K.O. Abiola GCFR-Grand Commander of the Order of the Federal Republic -is mentioned with full honours, it is an honour first to the man who paid the supreme price to pave the way for Nigeria’s democracy, and then to the heroes and heroines who stood up behind him, including those in the Fourth Estate of the Realm who marshalled the written and spoken word against tyranny. Indeed, the members of the press who fought for the June 12 mandate were fighting not just for democracy but in defence of one their own, for, amongst his many endeavours, Bashorun M.K.O. Abiola was a media entrepreneur and founder of the African Concord, where Dele Momodu, the man at whose behest we are gathered here today, cut his teeth as a journalist. I totally agree with Ralph Waldo Emerson that “talent alone cannot make a writer: there must be a man behind the book.”
Bashorun Dele Momodu and his ilk have proved themselves over the years to be real men. In addition, by deploying their skill against tyranny, the members of the press have aligned themselves with a biblical truth that recognises authorship as an instrument of battle, because the same God who is militarily presented in Psalm 18:2 as “the horn of salvation” is revealed in Hebrews 5:9 as the “author of salvation.”
Pastor Bakare maintained that “the writings of Dele Momodu has over the years addressed the fundamental issues facing our nation, stating that he was confident that the likes of Momodu will intensify efforts to ensure that the welfare and security of the people as well as the overall development of our people becomes the main discourse at this pivotal moments. He went on to refer to Bashorun Momodu as Pen Prophet.”
Bakare’s pwerful paper gave way to a short interview with the man of the moment, Dele Momodu, conducted by veteran broadcaster and founder of WFM, Nigeria’s first Women Station, Mrs Toun Okewale- Sonaiya.
Bashorun Momodu took time to explain the person behind MKO Abiola, his vision for the Nigerian people and everything he stood for, thanking the many that stood behind the enigma as the June 12 crisis lasted.
Afterwards, seasoned journalists were then invited to review the books before they were publicly presented. Taking his turn first was the Chairman, Editorial Board, ThisDay Newspapers, Mr. Olusegun Adeniyi, who went down memory lane, bringing to fore the life and times of Dele Momodu. He was followed by Mr. Simon Kolawole, Publisher, TheCable, who reviewed the second book, Pendulum: The Writings of Dele Momodu 2 while the Managing Director, Arise News Channel, Ms Ijeoma Nwaogwugwu did a thorough job in the deconstructing the third book, Fighting Lions: The Untold Story of Dele Momodu’s Presidential Campaign. Nwaogwugwu revealed the frustrations, Momodu suffered while attempting to become the President of Nigeria in 2011. One painful one being the part played by his primary constituency, the media, which wrote him out of contention.
The highlight of the event was the short speech presentation by the Chairman of Forte Oil, Mr. Femi Otedola, where he highlighted the sure steady steps that brought Dele Momodu to his present status. The billionaire business also used this rare speaking moment to make some revelations about his encounters with the late Pillar of Sports.
“I have studied Chief Abiola’s life in politics, philanthropy and most importantly building people and his doggedness, fairness, wisdom and good heart are traits that should be emulated. He was a man for all seasons” “As a young entrepreneur I had a taste of Abiola’s magnanimity and kindness. I developed the idea for an Papa Awolowo Memorial Concert which I shared with my good friend and papa Awolowo’s grandson, Segun who went to see Chief Abiola on our intention to have him as the chairman of the event and despite his political difference with Pa Awolowo in his lifetime, he not only showed up but arrived with his late wife, Alhaja Simbiat Abiola and they danced to the various artistes especially Sir Shina Peters. The highlight for Segun and I was the NGN100,000 cheque he gave us at the event. A huge amount back then and we admired it all the way to the bank.
“In 1991, I sold the idea to run for the governorship of Lagos state to my late father, Sir Michael Otedola and he dismissed it saying politics is not for Omoluabis and he also made a reference to the travails of Chief Abiola with the NPN leading to his much-publicized retirement from politics. After much persistence, I succeeded in getting him to run and the rest is history. He also revealed how he tried to get MKO released.
“A sad reminder of his arrest in 1994 was the picture of him alighting from a Black Maria. Upon seeing this, I called Ibrahim Abacha ( who later died in a plane crash) and requested to see him and we met at the South-West Ikoyi residence of Mr. Peter Igbinedion, the then MD of FAAN. I told Ibrahim to tell his dad to release MKO as it was not fair for a man who has been denied his mandate to be so humiliated by being put in a Black Maria to which our host, Peter, interjected by saying who is this and he swiftly walked me out of his residence.
“I later ran into Mr. Igbinedion at Asiwaju Bola Tinubu’s London residence in 2013 and he was begging for my number. How the tables have turned! He then revealed another encounter with the Great MKO “After my father’s victory at the polls and seeing the need to rest, the then governor of Lagos State, Brig. Gen. Raji Rasaki Rtd, advised him to rest for two weeks and restricted visits and provided the LASG Guest House by Joel Ogunnaike Road Ikeja for the purpose.
“After a week there, I went to see my late father to around 7.30am and lo and behold, I met Chief Abiola and Alhaja Simbiat waiting to see him in the living room and when he saw me, he said Great man, where is your daddy?A great man referring to me as a great man struck a chord in me.”
He also used the occasion to pour encomiums on Ovation Publisher, Dele Momodu. The book launch proper was another exercise in professionalism as personality after personality stepped out boldly, made a short speech and launched the books.
The book launch was attended by the cream of Nigerian Society such as Aremo Olusegun Osoba, Pastor Tunde Bakare and wife, Alhaji Rasak Okoya, Mr Peter Obi, Former Governor of Anambra State, Hajia Bola Shagaya, Mrs. Modupe Oguntade (wife of NIgeria’s High Commissioner to Great Britain), Mallam Bolaji Abdulahi, Mr Fola Adeola, Mr Jimi Agbaje, Engr Rotimi Fasakin, Dr Dakuku Peterside, Rev. Mother Esther Abimbola Ajayi, Oba Adedokun Abolarin, Olori Ladun Sijuwade,Senator Musiliu Obanikoro, Chief Dayo Adeneye (representative of Ogun State Governor), Hon. Kehinde Bamgbetan (Representative of Lagos State Governor), Mr Andrew Okeleke and Arinze Anapugars (Representatives of Globacom Chairman, Dr Mike Adenuga Jnr.), Sir Tony Chiejina (Representative of Alhaji Aliko Dangote), Mr Idowu Ajanaku, Habib Aruna, Pastor Dotun Ojelabi, Mrs. Betty Irabor, Dr Kayode Are and wife, Ngozi, Amb. Toye Okanlawon, Prince Damola Aderemi, Richard Mofe-Damijo, Siji Ogundele (Sujimoto), Princess Toyin Kolade, Mrs. Oyinkan Badejo-Okusanya, Mrs. Toyin Seriki, AIG Tunji Alapini (rtd), Mr. Kunle Bakare, Sir Gbenga Badejo, Ohimai Godwin-Amaize, Femi Akintunde-Johnson,Mr Abisoye Fagade, Mr Dayo Adedayo, Ms Joke Sogunro, Dr Reuben Abati, Simon Kolawole, Segun Adeniyi, Chief DonatusMs Ijeoma Nwogwugwu, Azuh Arinze, Biodun Oshinibosi, Omolara Wood, Mrs Toun Okewale-Sonaiya, Wale Oluwaleimu, Mr. Mayor Akinpelu, Mr. Tito Okpaise, Mr. Gboyega Okegbenro, Mr. Mr. Gbenga Olunloyo, Biodun Ponle, Messrs Lanre and Kayode Alfred, Ms Kemi Akinyemi, Chris Kehinde Nwandu, Ms Azuka Ogujuiba, Mr Adewale Jafojo and members of the Abiola family.