It was a late Saturday afternoon in Accra, a few minutes after 2pm when Dave, my chauffeur, arrived at my location. As we drove through the unusually quiet streets, we listened to an entertainment magazine show on Accra’s leading urban radio station, 3FM, hosted by MzGee. Dave will occasionally ask my opinion on submissions by panellists on the show as he shared his thoughts.
We headed to the residence of one of Nigeria’s greatest gifts to the African continent and a true son of the land. He is affable, gentle, charismatic, kind and a man who means different things to different people. One will not be wrong to describe him as a repository of wisdom and an embodiment of culture and pan Africanism.
Born Ayòbámidélé Àbáyòmí Ojútelégàn Àjàní Momodu on May 16, 1960 in the ancient city of Ile-Ife, in Nigeria, Chief Dele Momodu is a modest man – very humble in spite of his accomplishments. He is very welcoming, aspirational and a man of several talents, an award-winning journalist, esteemed publisher, successful business executive and a motivational speaker.
Chief is the pillar behind Ovation International, publishers of Africa’s number leading lifestyle publication, Ovation Magazine, which has over the years profiled some of the wealthiest and successful Africans around the world. In recent times, the company has introduced multiple multimedia channels for entertainment solutions, events and public relations.
Sometime in 2011, the Group Chief Executive Officer of Multiple Concepts, owners of Charterhouse Productions, Media Edge and GhOne television at the time, Iyiola Ayoade, introduced me to this industry captain and one of Africa’s renowned business owners. Then a Senior Media Officer with Charterhouse Productions, I was tasked to provide communication support for an Ovation event in Accra.
We stayed in touch after the successful execution of the event and often exchanged messages. My mission was to get closer to Chief and learn the rudiments of the trade. We would occasionally meet at the usual December events organized by Charterhouse Productions where we will have brief conversation on matters of common interest.
I joined MultiChoice Ghana (DStv Ghana) in 2012 and I was designated to manage a Channel O Africa Music Video Awards interview with Nigerian music star, D’banj for his brilliance in the year under review. Chief was also to be featured in the mini documentary for his instrumental role in projecting Nigerian talents across the continent. He gave us a great reception at his Airport Residential Area residence and went the extra mile to support with accessories to make the production superb.
We lost contact thereafter until a month ago when Mr. Ayoade once again connected us. After a few telephone conversations within a week, Chief invited me to his residence. After a 30-minute drive with Dave, we arrived at Chief’s residence. He received me with open arms and expressed his joy to have me around. Characteristic of him, he would find out how things are going and offer very important counselling.
I took the opportunity to know more about the man who has built an enviable social network and become a friend to global movers and shakers as well as the high and mighty in society. Chief wines and dines with the crème de la crème in society, from presidents, royals, celebrities, business moguls to globally renowned personalities.
Describing himself, Chief said: “I am a humble son of God who lost his father at the age of 13 and was left with a poor mother who struggled to send me to school. Life got bad to the extent that we had to become squatters. I had no option than to work so hard to support my mother, from being an errand boy, shop attendant among others. God was very kind to us and gave my mum the vision to put us through school in spite of her situation. I can describe myself as easy going, very tenacious and a globetrotter.”
According to the first-degree graduate in Yuroba Studies and Masters in English Literature, becoming a writer was by accident and out of desperation.
“At the time, I wanted to be a teacher but I couldn’t find a job so I turned to writing. I am a rebel and love to do things differently. When you tell me it is impossible, that will compel me to try to make it possible. I started writing as a contributor for newspapers like the Guardian and Sunday Tribune in Ibadan. The Guardian was paying me 25 Naira per article and the Tribune was purely gratis. In no time, I did some explosive and controversial articles that shot me into prominence which I can say launched me into the orbit of writing,” he added.
Chief mentioned that his confidence and zeal for his work are responsible for his fast rise through the ranks. He arrived in Lagos from Ile-Ife in May 1998 as a staff writer at the African Concord Magazine owned by Chief Moshood Abiola and by February the following year, he was transferred to the yet to be launched Weekend Concord which would later become a leading newspaper. He wrote the maiden cover of the paper, which launched him into the league of Nigeria’s extraordinary writers, and he became the News Editor of the paper.
All seemed to be going well for him until Chief Abiola who had publicly adopted him as his son lost the 1993 Nigerian election. Dele Momodu ran into trouble with the military and was detained. After his release, he got word of another planned arrest by the military and had to leave Nigeria for exile. He made his way to Ghana then after a couple of days flew to the United Kingdom. It was in the UK that he conceived the idea of starting a publication to celebrate the best of Africa.
Networking is everything to Chief Dele Momodu who believes a person’s network determines his or her net worth. “I was lucky to have had older friends growing up who taught me a lot of things coupled with the fact that I meet people and they will immediately like me. I worked with a famous chief who always received very important guests and it was from that point I started building my relationships. One of the things I have learnt from all these is that, it is one thing to meet people and another for them to accept you and bring you into their world. Then it comes to your ability to sustain and develop the relationship,” he stated.
According to Chief, one important lesson he learnt earlier in life was that you cannot become a burden on a rich person. “No matter how rich a man is, he also expects you to do something for yourself. Whenever you get the privilege of opening a door, it is important to ensure that this door is not shut in your face. You are not supposed to become that kind of person who turns into a liability on his or her rich friends, they will not want to entertain you anymore at a point,” he emphasized.
About his decision to contest for the Nigerian presidency in the 2011 polls, Dele Momodu mentioned former American President, Barrack Obama and his frustration with the happenings in Nigeria at the time as his primary motivation.
“I was naïve at the time to realize that elections in Nigeria cannot be won at the moment by any other party aside the two biggest, All Progressives Congress and People’s Democratic Party. I was tired of always supporting good candidates who would not win or win and would not perform well. I was qualified and the historic win by Barack Obama in the US encouraged many young people around the world to take leadership roles including myself.”
Chief Dele Momodu has been a strong supporter for former Ghanaian President, John Dramani Mahama leaving many Ghanaians tagging him as a supporter of the National Democratic Congress. Chief had a different opinion when I brought up the matter. Responding to that, he said, “Mahama’s humility, attention to details and his determination to succeed are the things that got me to like him. I have no doubt Mahama is one of Africa’s greatest leaders in recent times. It amazes me when I hear people tag me as NDC. I did a lot of things with the government during President Kuffuor’s era, and I wonder if that made me NPP.
We had a great partnership with Uncle Jacob Obetsebi-Lamptey to promote tourism and the country to the rest of the world as part of a plan to strategically position Ghana. I have a great deal of respect for Nana Addo and I have gone to greet him anywhere I have met him. I pray people will become more tolerant to know that being Mahama’s friend doesn’t make me Nana’s enemy.”
In wrapping up our conversation, I asked Chief his next move after all his achievements over the years. “I am a fatalist and everything I have done and achieved, I never planned it. In whatever I do, I ensure that I set the standards and things will continue that same way. Currently, we are doing television, newspaper and very heavy on public relations. There are other things we are doing within the media space,” he responded.