|General Sam Momah…..’The Level of ignorance at the top echelon of Leadership i Nigeria is very disturbing’|
Saturday January 31st, I was invited over to Abuja, the Nigerian
seat of power to meet with and interview a long time elderly friend, General Samuel Ifeanyichukwu Momah, a
72 years old veteran soldier, diplomat, engineer and statesman. My first
encounter with General Sam Momah(As he is globally known) was
on Monday January 3rd 2005 when I was invited to Abuja by the then
FCT Minister now Kaduna state APC gubernatorial candidate, Malam Nasir Ahmad El-Rufai for an encounter at his private
residence. Since that encounter ten years ago, General Momah has remained one of world’s most sincere human beings
I have ever came across. His passion for leadership transcends ordinary thinking
and his large heart for national development I am yet to come across in my 17
years of journalistic practice. The unknown biggest fact is that General Momah was equally APC’s
presidential candidate’s General
Muhammad Buhari’s Private staff officer (PSO) when the General was in
charge of 4th Division, Lagos in the 70s. And because General Momah felt the kind of insults
heaped on his former boss by the PDP in the name of politicking was too much,
he felt the need to iron out some of the pressing issues in the media. His
private secretary in Abuja had sent invitation to this blog and few other media
houses on Thursday January 29th. The encounter was to hold on
February 1st and this was the sole reason we had to hit Abuja on the
last day of January. It was an interesting and incisive encounter as you will
find out here.
Technology (1995-1999). He served under the military regimes of late General Sani Abacha and General Abdulsalami Abubakar. He formally retired after the military handed
over power to an elected civilian president on May 29th 1999. The pioneer
Commandant of the Nigerian War College has held numerous positions in his
Military career which includes; Adjutant General of the Army, Commander
Training and Doctrine Command, Member of the Provisional Ruling Council.
General and Gentle man is equally a council member of the University of Jos and Nnamdi
Azikwe University, Awka. He was also the Vice President, Third World
Academy of Science with Headquarters in Italy. During his training at Royal
College of Defence Studies (RCDS), London, in preparation for his lecturing
career at War College, he became a Research Fellow in Strategic Studies and
later earned a PHD in strategic Studies and was in addition, honoured with a
fellow of War College (fwc).
|General Sam Momah….’Nigeria needs a rescue team’|
Momah has a first Class honours degree in Civil Engineering and a fellow of
Nigerian Society of Engineers (Fnse). The General is also a member of the
national institute, (Mni) and was conferred with the national honour of
Commander of the Federal Republic in 1998. A strategic thinker, and a voracious
reader; General Momah has authored six high profile books on economy,
technology, global disorder and the new world order and national security.
encounter took place before the February 14th elections were shifted
to March 28th and April 11th. It was done on Sunday
February 1st and it was a very incisive one for that matter. General Momah, a patriot who believes
in One indivisible Nigeria examines many issues among which is the preparedness
of INEC for the election, the quality of the on-going political campaigns, the
effect of the notorious insurgent, Boko
Haram on Pre and Post-election activities
and what the Nigerian populace should do to change their destiny in the
coming elections. He spoke to a group of selected journalists in Abuja. Your
soar away Africa’s number 1 Celebrity encounter blog, Asabeafrika was there. Enjoy the excerpts.
senior citizen of this country, what do you think about the preparedness of
INEC with regards to the incoming general election?
courage in registering APC as a political party. It is the most defining political
development in our political history, since the amalgamation. That has brought Nigerian politics to the
fore, and given the country, that international recognition. That is because
when it was just one big party and a splinter of so many smaller parties, PDP
used to have its way and the PDP didn’t bother to develop itself. But now that
it is two big political parties, I believe that Nigerian politics has now come
of age. And as from now, we will expect something better. I believe that INEC
is ready to have a free and fair election. But whether the players will play to
the rule is disturbing to some of us.
was privileged to visit him in Daura when I went there to attend an event; I
was amazed to find out that Buhari has only a bungalow! There were no luxury
leather chairs there but simple wooden chairs. He lives a Spartan life because
he does not believe in tampering with money that is not his. I think we have a Mandela in him and a Julius Nyerere in him”.
|The General who is also an author autographs one of his books for the media executives|
you optimistic that Nigerians are ready to vote?
vote. They have been sensitized enough. To my mind, this election is the most
crucial event Nigerians has ever faced since the amalgamation of 1914 because,
this election is important for many reasons. We have had the first 100 years as
a nation; we know how Nigerians fared, very poorly. Now 2015, we are entering
into the second 100 years of our existence as a nation. So this election is
crucial, it will determine what happens to Nigeria in the next 100 years. There
is need for Nigerians to take it seriously and vote the right person. I believe
that there is need for change. Boko Haram is a menace; we never had it so bad,
for a country to have some other persons hoisting their flag in the territories
of this country, is un-heard of. Therefore, we need somebody who will deal with
Boko Haram instantly and expeditiously. Secondly, the price of fuel coming down
at this time, is a divine arrangement or blessing to give Nigerians the idea
that if a government that has been there for 16 years has not improved their
situation, now that the oil money is no more there, it calls for concern and a
re-think because definitely, someone who couldn’t manage you during the boom
era, will definitely not be able to manage you during the burst era! So it is important
for us to see the hand writing on the wall, and vote for change.
|General Sam Momah….’What we need in the face of falling petrol price is massive and bountiful agricultural drive’|
Of course, we
have tried a political party for 16 years without major change, so we must give
another political party a chance so that there will be competition between the
parties. If we don’t effect this change, some analysts foresee Boko Haram
over-running Nigeria in two years’ time, apart from other internal crisis. And
it will happen. We can’t gamble with that kind of thing! That will fulfil the
prediction of the United State of America about the country breaking up. So
this change must take place to avoid Nigeria disintegrating. It is ridiculous
for a sitting president to tell us to re-elect him, so that he can defeat Boko
Haram. Then why is he the president, because as president, he already has all
the powers to defeat Boko Haram, he doesn’t need to wait for re-election to do
so! If he has in the last few months collected back more than half of the
territories that Boko Haram has got, he wouldn’t need to campaign. We would
have voted for him! But he didn’t and now that election is here, his people are
junketing about the place raising petty issues and leaving the real issues that
should be discussed aside. It is unfortunate. We need a change.
|Gbenga Dan Asabe of Asabeafrika with other media executives takes a snap with General Sam Momah after the encounter|
Principal Officer in the Nigerian Army who served under General Buhari when he
was in charge of 4th Division, Lagos, what have you got to say about
the controversial missing certificate of the General?
embarrassing to some of us because, here we are talking about the survival of
Nigeria. We know that Nigeria is at the brink of collapse, and here we are,
with one of our best Generals, who have trained in the best institutions in
Europe and America, even in the US War College which by all standards is a Post
Graduate institution, and you are talking about school certificate. I find it
ridiculous and unbelievable, how our political class, and political parties
could be so petty and mundane at this particular crucial time. It is
unnecessary to go that low because we must win at all cost.
they should realise that they are denigrating the image of Nigeria and not just
General Buhari. That is one of your best Generals and you are denigrating him,
what should outsiders think of us! We must be careful of what we do, and not
take it that far. The point of change that the nation has now reached is
natural. It is the point that we must reach, to effect a change. And if they
don’t want that change and they continue with blackmailing and denigration,
then that will be unfortunate. The campaign should be issue-based, not on petty
personal things. So the certificate issue should not be entertained by
Nigerians. We should concentrate on choosing the best candidate come February
came as a headmaster coming to address his students! A foreign secretary coming
to talk to our president! If it was Obama that came, that would be
understandable. And the president had to go and meet him in Lagos and I saw the
president giggling and feeling happy. For Christ sake we are the giant of
Africa, why are we made to seem inconsequential”.
|General Sam Momah….’The 2015 election will be a free and fair one if all parties can play by the rules’|
do you rate the two major contenders in the forthcoming presidential elections?
hat for him for holding the constitutional conference; he has given the women
affirmation 35% gender equality, he has tried to tinker with agriculture, the
cassava bread issue, which has now virtually died, and now he is trying to
bring up a rice issue. I know he voted about 100 billion naira to revive the
textile industry. But the point is that when you have a president that says
stealing is not corruption, treats corruption with kids gloves, then most of
that money released, just disappears. There is no system that will progress if
there is no accountability. Jonathan has tried, but he has left the core issues
which are security. If you cannot secure the lives of Nigerians, then I do not
see why you are there as the Commander-in-Chief of the country! You are keeping
some of us sleepless. Right now, we have a country where kidnapping is the
order of the day, a country where unemployment is off the roof, about 80
million Nigerians unemployed, we have a country that God has blessed with
petroleum, but we are importing oil and refineries are left unutilised. We have
a country where the index of growth which is power, virtually non-existent. Nigeria
is 187 out of 189 on the global index, so we are almost the last in the list of
countries in terms of availability of power. We generate less than 4000
megawatts of electricity for 170 million people; while South Africans are
50million people and they generate about 40,000 megawatts of electricity. The
president has not dealt with the core issues that would have made Nigeria what
it ought to be. We know what our foreign reserve was when he came in. It was 48
billion dollars now we know what it is. Naira is going down the drain with
about N200 to the dollar; our money is almost getting valueless. So when you
ask me to compare the two, I think that we do not have a comparison to make.
|General Sam Momah….’2015 election is the biggest event after Nigeria’s 100 years of amalgamation’|
convinced are you that General Buhari can perform better than Jonathan when he
becomes the president of Nigeria?
under Buhari as his Principal Staff Officer when he was a GOC. We know him as
incorruptible, we know him as being a man of Spartan life, one who is
disciplined. We know him as a man of his words; his word is his bond, so he can
be trusted. He has been patriotic, he is an achiever, one that you give a task
to, and he gets it done. To us in the army, we know that there is no doubt that
General Buhari is vying to become the president of Nigeria virtually for only
patriotic reasons. I was privileged to visit him in Daura when I went there to
attend an event; I was amazed to find out that Buhari has only a bungalow!
There were no luxury leather chairs there but simple wooden chairs. He lives a
Spartan life because he does not believe in tampering with money that is not
his. I think we have a Mandela in
him and a Julius Nyerere in him.
Nigerians should better realise the quality of leadership that Buhari intends
to bring to them, to regain Nigeria’s image abroad. Having seen Nigeria in
those good old days and now seeing Nigeria degenerate, to what it is now, a
country where graduates come out ten years after, no jobs, no plans for the jobs
because the facilities are not there, and the environment to create such jobs
is not in place. Someone like Buhari believes that, the situation should be
|General Sam Momah signing his autograph on his 6th book ‘Nigeria|
about the insinuations that General Buhari is a religious fanatic?
That shows the level of ignorance among some Nigerians. That is because, in
Nigerian Army, there is no way you can climb up to become a General if you are
a religious fanatic. The troops are made up of people from various tribes and
ethnic groupings. To be an effective Commander, you have to be seen as being
neutral. So in the army we do not tolerate such. The troops are made up of
Christians, Muslims and other religions, and you have to command them.
|General Sam Momah giving a copy of his book ‘Nigeria|
can you say about the quality of the election campaigns?
campaigns have been very poor in quality. It has been very disgraceful because
they have not been issue-based. It has been praise-singing and mud-slinging.
The issue should be about the candidates telling us what they want to do in the
next four years and how they intend to implement their programmes. The
campaigns have not been what it should be. It has been more of a jamboree. Even
a debate at this time does not make sense because people have trivialised the
election issues to the point of asking for certificate of a General in the
Nigerian army. So you can imagine what a debate will look like. Why are they
not telling us how they are going to deal with Boko Haram? Obama became re-elected based on two issues. They asked him, ‘if
you are elected, what will you do about Osama
Bin Laden,’ and he replied, ‘I will kill him.’ Journalists were shocked
that Obama could be that brutal and
blunt. When he became president, he quietly planned and killed Osama Bin Laden. Based on that, he was re-elected. Americans like someone
keeping his words. Again during Storm Katrina, it was towards the election,
Obama left his campaign preparation to go and look after the people that were
affected by the storm. He used his incumbent opportunity to prove that he is a
caring person. That is what I expected the incumbent Nigerian president to have
done. All the displaced persons should have been taken care of and Boko Haram
crushed. If he had done that, he wouldn’t need to campaign, people would vote
for him. So these issues are clear and straight forward. We can’t go on this
way, we need a change! We are toying with something that can spell disaster if
we fail to effect a change now: May God forbid such disaster upon us.
|General Sam Momah explaining a point during the media encounter|
There has been the heating of the
polity with the militants in the creek threatening war if the election dos not
go in favour of the incumbent president, what do you have to say to this?
I am not surprise that this is coming up because, for long or too long we have
treated militants and all sorts of law-breakers in this country with kid’s
gloves. We have even talked of negotiating with Boko Haram, people who do not
just shoot but also slit throat! They have been killing people like goats. It
is hard to believe that the government spends N24b annually to the militants
for them to guard our pipelines! Yet they do not guard the pipelines. They
break it and scoop oil making us to lose about $1m everyday minimum! So if an
individual now goes to buy warship, you can imagine what is on ground! A war
ship is never switched off; it is always on twenty four hours of the day. It is
a task to maintain it and expensive to run. And that is what an individual has.
We have given them too much latitude and too much money. It has come to a point
where we must assert our sovereignty as a people, because the country belongs
to every one of us. They buy war ships, build universities abroad, they are so
wealthy. This impunity must stop else Nigeria will go down the drain. It’s
unfortunate that many Nigerians do not know that Nigeria is sinking! It must be
prevented. When people make such statements, you can imagine the state of
madness that we are in.
|General Sam Momah (CFR)|
Looking at the price of oil now,
and the federal government’s austerity measures, the Minister of Finance has
said that we should tighten our belts this year, how do you think this will
play out for and against the economy?
have my respect for the Minister of Finance, she is an intelligent lady, but
the issue remains that in the budget, we haven’t seen how they intend to
counter the downturn in oil price. I was expecting to see major agricultural
programmes, how to mobilize Nigerians: Like what we had during Chief Olusegun Obasanjo”s time where he went
behind his house while in the state house with his hoe and started farming-
Operation Feed the Nation. He demonstrated it and Nigerians then realised that
farming is for everybody, that it is not just for farmers. We have reached that
stage where you just have to have a tomato garden behind your house. There must
be collective farming. I expected Jonathan to mobilize Nigerians like that. The
price of oil will continue to go down; the prediction is that it could even go
down as far as $30, and then the cost of producing the oil becomes more than
its value price. So we must go back to land, as we may not be able to import
rice, import this and that from abroad. What I see the Minister of Agriculture
doing now is gimmicks. The austerity measure is neither here nor there, because
from her calculation, the country can only save about N10.8b that is not enough
money for Tompolo to spend in a week!
|Some of the awards given to the General by several organizations|
implication of the visit of the American Secretary of State to Nigeria against
the back drop of the drum beats of war after 2015 election?
is sad that Nigeria is now treated more or less like a banana republic. They
know that the country’s currency is battered, the country’s future is not
assured so therefore the coming of Kerry is with all good intentions, but it
also goes to show how Nigeria’s image has been dented internationally. He came
as a headmaster coming to address his students! A foreign secretary coming to
talk to our president! If it was Obama that came, that would be understandable.
And the president had to go and meet him in Lagos and I saw the president
giggling and feeling happy. For Christ sake we are the giant of Africa, why are
we made to seem inconsequential. And he was telling the politicians that they have
to behave or they will not give them visa to visit their country. That is why
we are saying that there has to be a change, because unless this change comes,
things will go worse, and before we know it, it will be like Sudan, Somalia and
Afghanistan. These countries are just 10 million people, and so on, the
international community can manage their nuisance value, but for 170 million
people to be rendered useless, it is going to spell disaster for the entire
world. We will be eating up ourselves, we will be worse than animals. We must
avoid that kind of situation. The president said that terrorism is everywhere,
that we should be patient. But Nigeria is not just any country. It is the
leading country in Africa. We have to deal with Boko Haram and other internal
issues so that we can face real development. When the president does not have
that urgency of situation, I get worried!
|More awards in honor of General Sam Momah’s diplomatic expertise|
do you think is the main problem in our approach to the fight against Boko
main problem is that we are trying to fight insurgency warfare like a
conventional warfare. Our troops are conventional soldiers. That is, fighting
from trenches. But Boko Haram is mobile, difficult to pin down so we need a
terrorist approach to deal with them. We need to infiltrate their lines. You
don’t fight them by dropping bombs from aircraft you will be killing poor
innocent civilians; you infiltrate their commands and deal with them
internally. By now we should have thousands of trained spies. Go in there and
be sending us information and eliminating their main leaders one after another.
We should terrorise the internal structure of Boko Haram. We are not doing
that, and they are waxing stronger. They have seized Baga to ensure their
economic life because Baga is a major commercial centre. They are strategizing
for future warfare against the entire country. When they capture the Lake Chad
area, the fishing area, they are sure of some sustenance, and then they can
start moving in. So this is the reason why we must wake up now from slumber.
Right now they have surrounded Maiduguri, if they get in; it becomes more
difficult to dislodge them. This is the time to fight with all our breath. In
terms of worst global terrorism, Nigeria is now number three. It is that bad.
So these are the real issues.