A young Dele Momodu had it very rough. The kind of rough that would make a lot of people want to give up on life and curse the heavens for meting out ill-luck on them. In 1995, he sat in dark prison cell, seemingly abandoned by his creator having been charged with treason and punished severely for speaking his mind and propagating the creed of democracy.
Truth be told, the Dele Momodu who turned 56 today is nothing like he was years ago. He is refined; a Nigerian journalist/publisher, polemicist, businessman, philanthropist, actor and motivational speaker. Most of all, he is a conqueror and this is the story of how he became that person.
Growing up without a Father
Dele, whose full name is Ayòbámidélé Àbáyòmí Ojútelégàn Àjàní Momodu lost his father at the age of 13. He is the last of three siblings and who all had to be trained by a single mother. Dele had to rely on his mother immensely who passed away on the 18th of May 2007. He often talks about the golden upbringing he received from his mother which has played a major role in shaping him up into what he has become. She taught him to always weather the storms of life and never despair when the chips are down.
More importantly, she never gave up on her son.
When Dele was unable to scale the hurdle that was WAEC twice, his mother never for one wrote him off even when those around him had concluded he was a failure. At a time when income was a problem, Iya Dele dug deep into her pockets to produce the funds to help him enrol for the exams a third time. As Dele Momodu would say after those trying years, “She didn’t give up on me”.
His foray into media
The thought of a Yoruba graduate becoming a media mogul might appear mind-boggling to a Nigerian university undergraduate reading this but it sure happened. No ‘film trick’ whatsoever.
Dele snagged up a degree in Yoruba from OAU in 1982 and by 1988, he had a masters in English Literature. That same year, he got his first job as Staff Writer with the Late MKO Abiola owned African Concord magazine. He wrote his first ever cover story for Weekly Concord in March 1989 after his transfer there. He went on to spread that Momodu fire in several other publications after that and by September 1991, he was the editor for May Ellen Ezekiel’s Classique, a celebrity magazine an appointment which made him the distinguished title of highest paid editor in Nigeria. Now that is what you call steady progress.
His exile from the shores of Nigeria
A 33-year old Dele Momodu, brimming with vigour and doggedly championing the cause of democracy would soon come to realize that to make an omelette, you are bound to break a few eggs. In 1993, after resigning to join the Moshood Abiola Presidential Campaign Organization, Dele Momodu was arrested and detained at Alagbon Close in Lagos, after the annulment of the 12 June Presidential election by General Ibrahim Babangida. He was severely punished for his pro-democratic views but his spirit was never fazed. He was resilient.
By the time 1995 came knocking, Dele was picked up and charged for treason by the dictatorial government of Sani Abacha. He was accused of championing the cause of the pirate radio station, Radio Freedom later changed to Radio Kudirat, after Alhaja Kudirat Abiola was assassinated in plain cold blood. Dele Momodu knew he had to get crafty so he devised a plan.
Before Alamieseigha attempted the travel by disguise move, it was initiated by Dele Momodu who managed to escape Nigeria clothed as a farmer through Seme border into Cotonou, in Benin Republic, from where he fled to Togo, Ghana and eventually found refuge in the United Kingdom.
For three solid years, Nigeria was but a memory to Dele as he could not step foot in the land of his birth. He had to bid his time and as if it was his birthright, that time eventually came.
Dele’s Return, The Ovation Story And Becoming A Force To Be Reckoned With In Nigeria
Mr Momodu finally had the chance to return after the death of MKO Abiola, and his principal detractor, Sani Abacha. Ovation, Dele’s brainchild, was birthed during his exile and upon his return, was expanded into Ovation International, now a leading celebrity magazine in Africa. It even has editions printed in French now to cater to its wide reader base.
Since his return, his influence has spread all across the nation and even beyond. In 2001, Dele Momodu wanted a more ‘hands-on’ approach to his beliefs and values and to this effect announced his intention to run for the presidential election and wrestle for a grip on the nations reins of power. he got as far as emerging the Presidential Candidate of the National Conscience Party (NCP) but sadly, that’s where his sojourn ended.
Dele today rubs shoulders with the elite in Nigeria and being the media mogul that he is, is always in the know. Blessed with four children from his wife, Mobolaji, it is pretty safe to say that Mr Momodu has benefited from the true meaning of his first name, Ayobamidele which, as Yoruba elders would tell you, means ‘my joy has followed me home’.
Yes, when you see Dele Momodu with his robust tummy and wide grin, you see a very joyous man.