These are trying moments for Mo Abudu, hostess of Moments With Mo, a television talkshow ostensibly fashioned after the Oprah Winfrey show. The presenter has been engaged in a battle of wits with the Lagos State Government over the proceeds of the benefit concert for street children, held in January by her foundation “Inspire Africa Foundation” in conjunction with the Lagos State Government and UNICEF.
UNICEF and the LASG now faces dust-raising and contentious issue because of the refusal of Mo Abudu to append her signature to a Memorandum of Understanding, which she had initially agreed to sign prior to the hosting of the much publicized concert that paraded top acts in the wave-making Nigerian entertainment industry. Reports have it that Mo Abudu, representing her non-governmental organisation, Inspire Africa Foundation had sought Lagos State Government assistance to drum up support for the concert, a request to which the state government agreed based on certain conditions spelt out in the the now-abandoned MOU.
Governor Babatunde Fashola had thrown himself behind the project and deployed great resources to the initiative on the understanding that the proceeds would benefit the state in general and that Mo Abudu would be honourable enough to run a transparent accounting and fulfill her noble part in making the project useful to its intended beneficiary. Instantaneous state endorsement followed; funds were approved and released for logistics and the Lagos State Government seal was conspicuously displayed on all adverts and publicity materials used for the event. In a nutshell, the public patronage of the event was spontaneously terrific; it was a first-class show of corporate citizenship, as top reputable organisations in Nigeria defied the excruciating effects of the global economic meltdown and generously donated to the Mo’s cause. Private individual donations were as awesome as pledges and promises. Verdict: The turnout was a huge success! Nothing short of total success must have been unacceptable judging from the ubiquitous influence of LASG and popularity of its governor, Fashola.
With such an exceptional success, one had hoped the relationship would be consummated and would assume an upward swing between Mo Abudu and the LASG, how wrong! No sooner had the money realised from the concert found its way into the “Inspire Africa Foundation’s” account than Mo Abudu’s brusque attitude took over. The tripartite arrangement earlier agreed upon was to become a unicameral responsibility of Ms. Abudu alone. The Lagos State Commissioner of Women Affairs and Poverty Alleviation, Mrs. Joke Akinfulire, alluded much to this when she lampooned Ms. Abudu for taking “the goodwill of Lagos State to raise money but she has not come back to sign the MOU that we drew up.”
When the Commissioner reminded her of the existing pre-concert agreement between them concerning the MOU, she swiftly made a volte-face and employed all forms of legalese to ‘educate’ Lagos State government and the public that she alone had the ‘inalienable right’ to know how much was made at the concert and that since only she had ‘unimpeded access to the fund’, she could spend the money on any project of her choice. She damned everyone who cared to know why the once cuddly relationship between her and LASG went sour. When prodded to give account of funds raised at the concert, her response was that of a caustic tongue, “I don’t owe the press my management accounts. I don’t care what people think. Let them say what they like. I don’t think it is anybody’s business.” It beats my imagination that Ms. Abudu who has carved an image of a staunch champion of transparency and accountability as always canvassed on her talk show only paid lip service to it on this occasion. The system is gradually unveiling the faces of those who would rather see the Freedom of Information Bill thrown to into oblivion.
Rather than relentlessly dissipate her energy to fighting imaginary enemies “who are not happy because of the success of my talkshow and charity” and who are “out to destroy me using whatever comes their way”, Ms. Abudu should retreat from the needless battle and address the paramount issues raised. She should stop whipping up sentiments. As a matter of credibility, she should go public and give account of the pre-concert, concert and post-concert proceeds-the public deserve a right to know how much was raised on behalf of those long suffering children she purports to defend, attempts to hold on to public money without accountability would be a confirmation of prevailing opinion that Inspire Africa Foundation was founded to further enrich her private pocket and finance Vic Lawrence, Protea Hotels, Lekki, and her other questionable acquisitions.
It beats me why Mo thinks that larger percentage of homeless children are found in Lekki, or what could have justified the choice of Lekki Expressway as location of her N300million building project, “The Harbour”, which according to her, intends to shelter “about one hundred children.” Much more children are wasting away on the Lagos Mainland than the Island; as such the project would have been better sited on the Mainland for the sake of cost and necessity. This is sheer profligacy, error of judgment and misplaced priority.
Mo is also seeking God to bring justice to bear on all her invented assailants, whom only exist in her imagination; she has forgotten the age-long maxim that they that seek equity/justice must come with clean hands. Mo hands have been soiled with her greed and haughtiness; her deliberate delay in releasing the financial records amount to surreptitious attempt to tamper with the figures and funds. Mo Abudu has enjoyed patronage from men and women of influence, clout and means but all the governmental romance and corporate seduction would have to hit the rocks.
It no doubt appears that the torrent of heat generated by Mo’s grandstanding over her insistence to keep the account of the foundation to herself has hit her “below the belt”. As at the time of going to press, she quickly released a nebulous press release, which to me has only succeeded in begging the question. Issues thrown up by the Honourable Commissioner are still unanswered; was there a ‘gentlewoman’ agreement imploring you or Inspire Africa to sign a post-event MOU with LASG? Your propaganda release did not confirm nor deny these issues. What a porous literary piece by a respected Alder Consulting and unbridled waste of public cum charitable funds entrusted to the care of “Inspire Africa Foundation”, as accentuated by her placement of advertorials in some of Nigeria’s dailies, among which are THISDAY and PUNCH whose advert rates are reputed to be the highest in the industry. Again, sheer profligacy and misplaced priority that robs the real children of the most desired support for which these funds are carelessly expended.