Governance Lifestyle

I’m Christian and Muslim when they are not fighting-Tony Momoh

  • Born Suleiman Momoh as the 165th child of 257 children of the then King Momoh 1 of Auchi
  • Was the second Christian in the Momoh family after abandoning Islam in 1955
  • Adopted his nickname, ‘Tony’ at baptism for his love for Anthony Enahoro, a leader in the then Western Region and Tony Oseni, first university graduate in Auchi

It is no longer news that the former Minister of Information, Prince Tony Momoh is dead. Meanwhile the above are among many things about him not in the public domain.

The news of his demise came as a rude shock being an amiable Nigerian with a very rich background.

He was once quoted in an interview giving reasons for refusing to swear with neither the Holy Bible nor the Quran at his swearing-in as a minister in 1986. According to him, he is a Christian and a Muslim when they are not quarreling and he believes in one true God.

Former Head of State, General Ibrahim Babangida (Retd.) also eulogizing the former Minister of Information said he was a patriotic Nigerian who always worried about Nigeria.

“Tony was a formidable mind, always worried about the place of Nigeria and Nigerians, in the scheme of things. He was a successful mass communicator, a didactic letter writer, a brilliant legal mind, a family man, and an unusual politician. He never hesitated to state his piece of mind, irrespective of who was involved.

“Once he believed in a cause, he followed through, no matter the outcome. As a principled prince, he was never frivolous and flippant. He was thorough, contented, well researched and essentially pan-Nigeria. His death, no doubt, has left a huge void in our heart of hearts,” Babangida said.

Governor of Edo State, Mr. Godwin Obaseki in his words said, “My condolences to the Momoh royal family of Auchi kingdom, particularly the Otaru of Auchi Kingdom, his widow, children, friends and associates. May Allah grant them the fortitude to bear this painful loss.”

Momoh was born on 27 April 1939 in Auchi, Edo State and he attended Government School Auchi (1949–1954) and Anglican School Okpe (1954). He was  a Pupil Teacher at the Anglican School, Auchi (January–December 1955) and Headmaster at the Anglican School, Ubuneke, Ivbiaro, Owan Local Government (January 1958 – December 1959).

He went to the Provincial Teachers Training College, Abudu, Edo State and Government Teachers College, Abraka in Western Region (1960–1961).

Later, while working at the Daily Times or on sabbatical, he attended the University of Nigeria, Nsukka (September 1964 – October 1966) where he earned a degree in Mass communication, and then the University of Lagos where he studied Law.

He attended the Nigerian Law School, Lagos (October 1974 – May 1975), and was called to the bar in June 1975.

Momoh started his journalism career as a sub-editor at the Daily Times in October 1962, rising steadily through the ranks to become Editor and deputy general manager (June 1976 – May 1980).

In June 1979, during the lead-up to the transition from military to civilian rule at the start of the Second Nigerian Republic, Momoh said of the five presidential candidates: “They are all the same … It’s going to turn into a personality contest”.

In 1981, the Senate of Nigeria led by Joseph Wayas summoned Momoh for contempt. This caused a major legal battle in which Momoh successfully argued that as a journalist he was empowered by the Constitution of Nigeria to hold government accountable at all times.

The former minister passed on 1st February 2021 at the age of 81.

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