By Austine Uche-Ejeke
The nation was rattled with shock and grief early a few days ago on receipt of the news of the sudden and untimely death of one of its erudite scholars in the person of Professor Abubakar Momoh. Before his death Professor Momoh was Director-General of the Electoral Institute of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
That professor Momoh contributed immensely to progressive activism in the country is to say the least and in actual fact incontrovertible.
Starting from his student days as a vibrant student union activist to his years as lecturer/activist at various universities particularly Lagos State University Ojo, Lagos, where most of the time he was accused of teaching what he was not paid to teach!
The most painful aspect of his death is the memorable encounter with Professor Momoh that is so profound and worthy of sharing. Back then in 1998 as a postgraduate student in Public Administration at LASU, Dr. Abubakar Momoh as he was then known took over as the coordinator of Masters in Public Administration (MPA) of the institution with the exit of the former coordinator who went abroad in search of the proverbial Golden Fleece.
Momoh was that kind of lecturer that comes to class without any lecture notes or any sort of book. He will stand aloof in front of his students and reel out the stuff garnished with the most profound political terminologies that bamboozled most of our classmates particularly those that came from disciplines outside political science or even social sciences.
Of course, Abubakar Momoh made the course of study very easy that most of us that combined the programme with our daily hectic nine to five work schedule in a chaotic city like Lagos did not encounter any major obstacle until the programme was finished.
Nothing was heard much from the astute scholar from my side after the successful completion of the course but sometime around 2008, fate made it possible for us to meet once again. This time the place was Obasanjo Farms, Otta, Ogun State, where the company I was working then went for an executive conference. We rekindled our days as teacher-student comrades at LASU and exchanged telephone numbers. I called him on several occasions until we lost touch again.
But I was pleasantly surprised and elated on receiving the news of his appointment as a Director-General at INEC Electoral Institute by the Jonathan administration in 2013. Surprised in the sense that I never knew that an arch critic of government in the person of Professor Momoh would accept to serve the same government he lambasted all the time.
But the fact must be stated that right from that time, the Abubakar Momoh we used to know had diminished in health. He was no longer his vibrant and active self, particularly on occasions when he appeared on television or any public outing. For those close to him reports had it that the erudite professor had been down with a protracted terminal disease.
I was particularly saddened when I saw him on Channels TV about two months ago as a guest analyst of one topical national issue. He was the shadow of himself even the way words were coming out of his mouth. It was with much stress and strain that he was responding to the questions. It was then that I concluded that all may not be well with our own very dear professor Abubakar Momoh. But even at that. the erudition was still there as he reeled out high sounding political terms to buttress his point!
Although death will come when it will come, with the death of Professor Momoh it is once more advised that Nigerians take their health very seriously. Whenever we observe that things are not going the way they used to be health wise, we should slow it down. People should take medical check-ups seriously and engage in healthy eating and living that will enhance our health and elongate our lives. This is essentially hammered around those that are hyperactive; they should slow down in their activities as it is only the living that can carry on the onerous task of making the country great even in the face of abnormalities going on now.
While the entire Momoh dynasty of Auchi, the active progressive family, the academic community and indeed Nigerians continue to bear the irreparable loss of this great Nigerian, it will be of great importance if we don’t allow all the values that Professor Momoh articulated for a better society to be forgotten. It may not be out of place to advice that all the views Professor Momoh propounded be compiled into a handy book format to serve as a compendium of guide to good governance to not only Nigeria but to Africa and the entire world.
Also, the immediate family should not be allowed to suffer, taking into cognizance that he died in active service for the country at an age that cannot be classified as old age. An annual lecture, foundation in memory of Professor Momoh may not be out of place or too much if the country and indeed his fellow compatriots and comrades are to really value his contribution to the advancement of democracy and good governance. If they do this, all the struggles of the erudite Professor Abubakar Momoh will not be washed away in hurry and it will serve humanity and indeed posterity.
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