Posted by By Theo Nwaigbo on
It was a sunny morning, the 27th day of November, 1982 and the gathering was at the main campus of the old Imo State University, Etiti, now Abia State University which was later tactfully, deceitfully and without due regard to morality relocated to Uturu, Abia State by the former military Governor of old Imo State, General Ike Nwachukwu (Rtd).
It was a sunny morning, the 27th day of November, 1982 and the gathering was at the main campus of the old Imo State University, Etiti, now Abia State University which was later tactfully, deceitfully and without due regard to morality relocated to Uturu, Abia State by the former military Governor of old Imo State, General Ike Nwachukwu (Rtd). The occasion was the launching of the University’s Education Endowment Fund. Amongst the gathering was my humble self, then a 200 Level Law Student of the University and eventually, the Assistant Director of Information of the Students’ Union Government hence my eligibility to be seriously involved in the preparations for a successful event.
Etiti in the present Imo State is located in the very heart of Igboland. It is sandwiched between Mbano to the West, Umuahia to the East, Mbaise to the South and Okigwe to the North. Which ever direction one takes from Etiti, which has its administrative and commercial nerve centre at lsinweke whether east, west, north or south, the person must make about one hundred and twenty kilometers before getting to any non-Igbo speaking area. The word Etiti when translated literally to English language means centre. Little wonder the then government of the defunct Biafran Republic had almost all its most important logistics and vital infrastructure located within the geographical vicinity of Etiti. In Etiti was located the following; the Biafran Commando Headquarters which was precisely at Madonna High School.
The name Madonna later became not only an acronym but also a military compass to the Biafra Commandos. The Biafran refinery was located in Umuokoro, Umuihi. The Biafran Signal Headquarters was at Holy Rosary, Amakohia; Supply and Transport (S & T) at (Umuihi) and Biafra Strike Forces namely; Ojukwu’s Brigade, Zig-Zag Squad’ which was the elite squad of the Biafran Army was also quartered at Holy Rosary, Amakohia. Also, Abakiliki Strike Force otherwise known as "Madonna Four" was located at St. Paul’s Ikenanzizi; Uyo Strike Force that was otherwise known as "Madonna Five" was based at St. Bridget’s, Okwuohia and Degema Strike Force also tagged "Madonna Fourteen" found itself at St. Andrew’s Amainyi, all located in Etiti.
The World Council of Churches (WCC) , the Red Cross and other bodies were handy in Etiti dishing out relief materials to the malnourished.
Most of the pop groups that came into being immediately after the civil war were bands in the propaganda unit of the Biafran Armed Forces. These pop groups metamorphosed to great rock groups immediately after the civil war. Musical groups like The Wings of Aba, The Apostles of Aba, Semicolons of Umuahia, Hygrades of Enugu, Funkees of Enugu, Strangers of Owerri etc were all in the Biafran enclave boosting the morale of Biafran soldiers. Normally, they used to entertain the lower ranks every last Friday of the month while the big guns from the rank of major were having theirs on the last Saturdays of the month.
This writer, a lad then was staying at the Biafran Commando Headquarters. During such occasions I and my fellow playmates would make do by peeping through any available opening or eye lets of doors when the party must have reached a crescendo. We would be watching with awe, the big boys of the Biafran Armed Forces waltzing with their ladies and Ak 47 rifles dangling menacingly at their backs and their over-grown beard resembling that of Cuba's President, Fidel Castro. It was a sight to behold. Back to the aim of this epistle.
The then Madonna High School, Etiti was incidentally chosen by the government of late Chief Sam Mbakwe, Phd as the main campus of the old Imo State University. That was the venue of the launching. The roads linking Etiti with the outside world were everything but good. They were death traps, short and simple. These were the roads the late Chief Moshood Kashimawo Olawale Abiola swaggered through to honour an invitation extended to him by the authorities of the then Imo State University. He honoured the invitation formally to use it for the enhancement of education.
On this bright beautiful sunny morning, before the commencement of the occasion proper, I cautiously took census of "who is who" at the football pitch of the university where the function was to take place. There were the B.O. Uwajumogus, Arthur Nzeribes, Emeka Echerues, R.B.K. Okafors, Torti O. Tortis and some other Senators of the NPP. The only noticeable non-Igbo dignitary amongst the VIPs was the late Chief M.K.O. Abiola. Another thing that baffled this writer was not only that, Abiola was a Yoruba man who came all the way from Lagos and must have made hundreds of kilometres despite the "death traps. He was also a very prominent member of the National Party of Nigeria (NPN) whilst the host was an appendage of the State Government when the Nigerian People’s Party (NPP) was in power. What a pleasant surprise.
The occasion commenced exactly by 10.20 am with the reading of the welcome address by the Vice Chancellor of the University Professor Mike Echerue. Citations were read, papers presented and refreshments served.
About 11.53 am, the main event kicked off. The Master of Ceremony (MC) whose name I cannot remember now announced that the Chief Launcher was no less a person than the publisher of the Concord Group of Newspapers, a philanthropist extraordinary, a doyen of industry and Pillar of Sports in Africa, Chief M.K.O. Abiola. The ovation got to high heavens.
The Chief himself was highly elated. Walking majestically, he mounted the podium with an immeasurable candour and dignity reminiscent of what obtains at the Buckingham Palace. He introduced himself as the chief marketer of the occasion. After all the convivialities and banters which greeted his wise-cracks, he immediately went into memory lane. He narrated extensively, his unenviable background. He told the gathering how he battled poverty in his childhood.
He said that he ate poverty, drank poverty, until he became poverty personalized. He informed the audience that the genesis of his economic and psychological emancipation were the rudiments of knowledge he gathered through education which was made possible by the Almighty God. He told all present that good education has no substitute hence, his resolve to honour any invitation extended to him pertaining the propagation and enhancement of knowledge. "I have acquired by the special grace of God, the greatest legacy, the wealthiest of all men would desire to give to their children; education. It is the only and quickest means of eradicating ignorance, disease, poverty and all associated vices of this world. So, when I got your invitation, I picked the political map of Nigeria and located Etiti. I never minded the inconveniences.
At a particular placed called Umuihi between 71/2 Junction and the Local Government Headquarters, I and my entourage would have gone back due to the gullies and sub-merged grounds tagged roads (sigh by the audience) but when I remembered that my attending the function would definitely contribute in one small measure in the realm of enhancement of education, I decided to wade through the odds..."
He continued" having said this much, I Chief M.K.O Abiola, on behalf of myself, my entire family and the Abiola Group hereby donate my widow’s mite of the sum of N5M (Five Million Naira)". The entire place went agog. The Executive Governor, Chief Sam Qmunake Mbakwe could not hold back himself. He threw all protocals to the wind and like a lad who sighted his mother returning from the market and convinced of collecting a handful of make-me-well, rushed to the podium and hugged Chief M.K.O and held him with admiration and so tight that Abiola was almost gasping for breath. Chief Abiola motioned to a group of young men behind the V.I.P stand, about seven of them and they emerged carrying Lucozade cartons. Chief Abiola handed the money, I mean raw cash to the governor who iftturn handed same over to the vice chancellor Professor Mike Echerue. The jubilation that greeted this donation lasted for about five minutes. The cartons of money were carted away by the University authority.
The next person called upon was Chief Francis Arthur Nzeribe. Your remember him? The Chief Executive of the infamous Association for Better Nigeria (ABN).
Chief Nzeribe mounted the same podium and the environment became charged with emotion, expectation and excitement. We clapped and clapped in anticipation of a generous donation. Chief Nzeribe relied out a very fine crafted speech. His speech was intermittently interrupted with claps. He rigmaroled and dribbled everybody with his "wits", m aradonaed us, ronaldoed the audience including his fellow co-launchers, ronaldinhoed the chief executive of the State and finally okochaed even the high command of the University. Finally, he pledged the sum of N3M (Three Million Naira). Unfortunately had infact till date, he never redeemed his pledge even by one naira.
This is one of the ‘honourable senators’ of the Federal Republic of Nigeria who had the temerity and shamelessness to tell Nigerians that he personally handed over to his co-senators the sum of three million each so as to frustrate the impeachment process against President Olusegun Obasanjo and nobody gave a hute. And yet, we have the boldness,.that we are fighting corruption.
There was a man, infact a renowned Nigerian from the middle belt geopolitical zone of Nigeria and precisely from the present Benue State and a Tiv by tribe who was once the communications minister.
This man who partook in the fight for independence was accused by one Mr. Godwin Daboh who christioned himself a social crusader and an unrepentant agitator for good governance. Godwin Daboh accused the honourable minister of compromising his office. He alleged that Tarka collected bribe from someone to facilitate the commission of an act that was termed detrimental to the Nigerian nation.
Daboh would not let go as he fought tenaciously to ensure that Tarka vacates office. The agitation became so embarrassing to the Federal Government of General Yakubu Gowon that Tarka was forced to resign. Tarka, shortly after that developed an ailment that saw him in a London hospital where he gave up the ghost. May his soul rest in perfect peace Amen.
This same Godwin Daboh like an over-fed caterpillar on the tree top has fallen down and landed into the hungry jaws of the corrupt Peoples Democratic Party. He is at the moment an executive member of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) that wears corruption as a pygamas.
Morality in Nigeria dwindled from accepting bribe in the 70s to fraud in the 80s and then to embezzlement in the 90s to diversion of billions of naira, pounds, dollars and even Euros from 2000 till date.
The, on-going deliberations at the so-called National Political Reforms Conference to me is inconsequential as it is devoid of any legal backing.
To me, the most panacia to our political malaise is to just carry out a drastic reform of our electoral laws. A situation where the President and Governors are allowed to hand pick members of the various electoral commissions is nothing short of a monumental fraud. This is a very bitter concoction forced down our throats by the military so as to ensure their perpetuity in power by way of manipulating elections that will naturely see their stooges in various elevated offices at any given time. This is unacceptable and must be estopped by every legal means.
Also, Nigerians must ensure that all those that contributed in one way or the other to our present predicaments are not allowed to man political offices in ‘Nigeria for the rest of their lives. This couldbe achieved by legislations or by ensuring transparent elections that are devoid of manipulations by the power that be.
With well defined electoral laws in place, the souliof the departed Chief M.K.O Abiola, Chief Rewane, Marshall Harry, Dikibo, Kudirat Abiola, Omoshola, kalto etc would definitely rest in perfect peace. May God lead us to the Nigeria of our dream.
Barrister Nwaigbo writes from Lagos
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