The death of Prof. Abubakar Momoh, widely shortened to just Abu by many, came as a great shock to me as it must have been to many other colleagues and friends of the deceased. I came to know Prof. Momoh from my study of the political economy of the IMF/World Bank SAP. I read his works on the subject matter, mostly his joint articles and books with Dr. Said Adejumobi. Before then I knew little about his scholarship other than his critical analysis of military rule, SAP and pro-democracy movement.
It was not until 1996/97 when Prof. Attahiru Jega and others at the Center for Research & Documentation (CRD), Kano, organised a conference on the Transformation of Popular Identities Under SAP at Bayero University, Kano that I met then very young Dr. Abubakar Momoh for the first time.
That day, his paper was highly commended for his blending of theory and empirical data. The day also offered me the opportunity of interacting with the young scholar from Lagos. Indeed, Momoh was an excellent source of inspiration to me because he mastered his environment during paper presentation. His analytical skills and his articulate public speaking talent were cherished by the participants. He always stood by his views and he was never in a haste as not to listen to the viewpoints of others before making a conclusion. Professor Momoh’s fearless and articulate mind was one of the major reasons why he was chased by the authoritarian regime of Abacha and later the semi fascist civilian regime under the stewardship of the PDP. The 2014 Ekiti episode is a testimony to his ideological standpoint and principled disposition against oppression as well as his objective resistance against the rape of democracy after the end of military rule in 1999.
I was to meet Prof. Momoh again in Boston Massachusetts in 2003 where the African Studies Association (ASA) was holding a conference. There, Prof. Ali Mazrui, Prof Momoh and I interacted. It was during the Ramadan period. So we had to break the fast together after the conference’s sessions that day. It was really a memorable day. In fact, even last year when Prof. Momoh spoke about our ASA meeting in Boston, he pointed out how big an event it was, bringing him into contact with his friends in Diaspora. It was there my friendship with Momoh became very strong.
Then came the launching of my book Civil Society and Democratization in Nigeria: The Politics of the Struggles for Human Rights. Given the subject matter covered by the book, I was able to convince the management of Mambayya House to invite Prof. Momoh to review it. Prof. Momoh honoured the invitation, giving a good account of himself as political theorist at the launching of the book. For he not only did justice to the review but also his articulate speech that day received a standing ovation. We really lost a friend and a scholar per excellence.
At the Electoral Institute, the very moment he assumed duty as the pioneer director, Prof. Momoh called to request that one need not distance himself from him but always give him advice on the way forward “as we have a lot to achieve together at the institute”. I guaranteed him my support, which he appreciated by listing my name among the team of experts for the institute. In fact, in 2016, at the high tide of inconclusive elections in Nigeria, Prof. Momoh extended an invitation to me as a resource person at a roundtable on Inconclusive Elections in Nigeria. On his invitation, I presented my paper on the topic.
My last sight of Abu was last year when Prof. Habu Galadima of NIPPS invited us to Abuja for a roundtable. That day, Prof. Momoh was sitting very close to me, chatting and eating bitter kola. It was at that meeting he told me that Prof Tijjani Bande (then of Usman Dan Fodio University but now, the Permanent Representative of Nigeria to the United Nations) was the External examiner for his PhD. That meeting was the last we met though I chatted with him on Whatsapp early this year.
Thus I had to call an editor at Intervention online which broke the story of Prof Momoh’s death early morning of May 29th, 2017, querying: Please be serious to confirm that Momoh is dead. The voice at the other end confirmed and added that his corpse was on the way to Auchi, his place of origin, for burial. I retorted, Inna lillahi Wa’innah Ilaihir Rajiun. I then called Mrs Elemson to confirm the news. She was socked as she too saw late Momoh on Friday last week. She called a co-staff at the institute who confirmed to her that Prof. Momoh had died. May his gentle soul rest in peace! Ameen.
We lost a friend, a scholar and activist. I consider Momoh as one of the generation of young intellectuals whose contribution to knowledge and political mobilization in Nigeria cannot be overemphasized. Like Claude Ake, Eskor Toyo, Edwin Madunagu, Yusuf Bala Usman, Festus Iyayi and many others, Prof Momoh will continue to be remembered as a radical scholar with high intelligence and wide knowledge of political economy and political theory. May his gentle soul rest in peace!
Mr Mohammed, a professor of Political Science, teaches at the Department of Political Science, Bayero University, Kano