Founder and publisher of Ovation International magazine, Dele Momodu, received a worldwide social media bashing for his stance on corruption in Nigeria. Momodu appeared on SaharaTV on Saturday to discuss last week’s sentencing of former governor James Ibori of Delta State to 13 years in prison in a London Court.
He declared that members of Nigeria's judiciary system should be embarrassed that Ibori was held legally accountable in England, and not in Nigeria.
A flurry of Skype calls, Twitter messages and Facebook posts from Nigerians around the globe emerged immediately after Momodu's interview on SaharaTV. He was accused of “glorifying corruption” and of associating himself with the, “rogues that advocate corruption” in Nigeria.
In his defense Momodu, a 2011 presidential aspirant, told SaharaTV’s Chika Oduah, “I am so confident about what I’m talking about. The difference between us and other publications is that we at Ovation magazine publish world-class magazine. The problem is that people judge you by what they expect you to be.”
Momodu, a former News editor at Weekend Concord and editor of Classique magazine, became a household name in Nigeria when he established Ovation magazine that showcased the lifestyle of the rich and the famous. The magazine has featured the homes of corrupt men and women in Africa like former military dictator General Sani Abacha amongst others.
In his contribution, Kayode Ogundamisi, a renowned citizen reporter, speaking to SaharaTV's Rudolf Okonkwo on the same Saturday morning news program accused Mr. Momodu of glorifying corruption.
"People like Dele Momodu, with due respect, have contributed to glorifying corruption in Nigeria,” Ogundamisi said. “So I fundamentally disagree with him that Ovation magazine is just going about taking good pictures."
In contrast to Momodu, Ogundamisi risked his life to take the first set of pictures that exposed Ibori's luxurious London homes and cars. The works of citizen reporters like Ogundamisi helped bring down corrupt politicians like Ibori.
“I plan to visit Ibori,” Ogundamisi said, “and ask him what made him think he could get away with everything he did.” An unidentified Skype caller from London told SaharaTV, "Right now, nemesis is about to catch up with Dele Momodu who came on Sahara today to talk about corruption... I think he should also be persecuted because he used his magazine to make all those corrupt people in Nigeria more popular."
This remark came about after SaharaTV posted a picture taken at a social event of Momodu standing next to Ibori, who was enjoying champagne.
Apparently the picture was taken at a time Ibori was wanted for stealing more than $250 million US dollars.
Momodu said, “I have met James Ibori, but I've never been to his office or home, so I won't be able to say much about him."
Facebook user Ibrahim Egwa called for Momodu’s prosecution for aiding and abetting criminals, “Finally, Nigerians are waking up! Dele Momodu and his [like] should be made to face the court of public opinion if not court of law. He is as culpable as Ibori.’
Another Facebook user, Deji, commended Egwa saying, “God bless you for this comment. Dele Momodu used his useless publication (Ovation) to sing praises of all the thieves in Nigeria.” Meanwhile, during the interview, Momodu revealed his continuing aspirations to become the president of Nigeria.
"If I feel that the country is ready for my kind of leadership, I'll contest again,” Momodu said.”
Ifeanyi Labricas Irondi quickly posted on Facebook his disapproving sentiments, “Dele has nothing to offer to Nigerians. He should concentrate on developing his village before wanting to develop Nigeria. Anyone who wants to contest in Nigeria, must show what or how he's contributed to human capital development. Dele Momodu, I do not like your face, and I don't know how I'd feel to look at you as my president.”
One SaharaTV viewer, Eniola, retorted, “We do not need corrupt people like you."
The sentiment was mutually expressed by Facebook user, Timothy, who said, “Dele, our 'leaders' are not ready for a change. They feel leadership in this country is a family business. I believe in one Nigeria, we need people like you in leadership position; though you need to start somewhere.”
However, despite the barrage of attacks, some Nigerians supported Momodu with one user posting, “Ovation magazine is still big because our people love the fun, publicity and flamboyance of life. Nothing really bad with the magazine, it serves the relevant segment of our society.”
Another way express their support this way: “Ovation is still in business because there is a market for it. Nigerians are still buying it. We have piles of Ovation magazines in our living rooms.”
In the true meaning of his name Ayobamidele – “my joy has followed me home” Dele, as he is affectionately known, was at peace with himself and was confident that he was doing the right thing for him and the rest of Nigeria thorough-out the interview. "If you think talking to a leader who is corrupt makes a journalist corrupt, so be it," Momodu concluded.
It was however a caller from London who captured the sensibility of most viewers. “Corruption is now a citizen,” he said. “It is the number one citizen of Nigeria. Corruption tells the President what to do… everyone is involved now. It is just bad. It is becoming a culture.”
Watch the full interview here.