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Igbo Presidency and the N50m saboteurs

Posted by with Steve Nwosu ( on 2006/06/24 | Views: 398 |

Igbo Presidency and the N50m saboteurs

One month after the death of the third term project, it is now confirmed that the ‘people’ to whom some lawmakers referred as they said ‘my people have directed me to support tenure elongation’ were actually ‘people’ in Aso Rock and not necessarily those in their constituencies.

One month after the death of the third term project, it is now confirmed that the ‘people’ to whom some lawmakers referred as they said ‘my people have directed me to support tenure elongation’ were actually ‘people’ in Aso Rock and not necessarily those in their constituencies.
I was able to glean this from what transpired in Owerri, the Imo State capital, last Friday at the All Ndigbo Summit tagged, Ahamefula. It was there that the real people spoke for the first time since the debate began and ended.
I opened my mouth in mock disbelief as I read various newspaper accounts of how erstwhile political heavyweights were booed and jeered out of the venue of the summit.

I also came away with another addition to my political vocabulary: 50 million (naira) saboteur.
Yes, Ndigbo are finally beginning to separate the wheat from the chaff. They are beginning to identify and isolate all the political rats (that is what the PDP people now call themselves) that simultaneously bite and blow them. People who front as representatives of their people but who sneak out in the dead of the night to undo whatever progress the people made during the day.
And if you thought that like everything Igbo, a few wads of naira notes would make the people change their mind, then you’re in for a surprise.

It all began with the third term project and the campaign to elongate President Obasanjo’s tenancy at Aso Rock beyond 2007. No sooner had that project collapsed than the Igbo politicians who had been in the vanguard for its actualisation made a u-turn to join the call for Igbo Presidency come 2007. Nobody seemed to ask the question, if third term had succeeded, would these same people now be calling for Igbo Presidency?
Incidentally, it was this same group of people who, in 2002, took the initiative to work for Obasanjo’s second term, even as Ndigbo were yet to decide whether or not 2003 was not the year for Igbo Presidency. Well, it worked out then and the campaigners got their usual slap of pottage and nondescript political appointments – at the expense of the development of their zone. But the real people waited for their payback in Owerri.

Like the dog that wants to get lost which refuses to heed its master’s whistle, rather than hide their head in shame or keep a low profile until the people’s angst died down, the third termers stormed the Owerri venue of Ahamefula – probably buoyed by the attention their petition against the Gov. Achike Udenwa government was receiving at the EFCC. But that was a costly mistake. For the whole of Owerri had no hiding place for pro-third term politicians.

If the people, for a moment, forgot what the Nzeribes of this world did at the third term debate, Nnia Nwodo, former Minister of Information and an orator with limited peers, reminded them. By the time he was through – reading Dim Odimegwu Ojukwu’s prepared speech and adding a little spice here and there – the people no longer felt comfortable having the ‘saboteurs’ in their midst. And the latter took the initiative and left the venue. And as they made their way out, they were escorted by boos and jeers of “Saboteur, fifty million! Saboteur, fifty million!!”.

Not being a Federal lawmaker, the name of Prof. Joe Irukwu, embattled Ohanaeze President, was not mentioned among those who allegedly collected N50 million to support third term. But that did not mean that the people were any less displeased with him. Irukwu, they insist, gave his support to the evil plot by other means – a support which culminated in his celebrated presentation in Abakaliki to the Senator Ibrahim Mantu-led National Assembly joint committee on the review of the constitution. A support which has not been diminished by his latter day volte face to resume campaign for Igbo Presidency.
To register their rejection of Irukwu and his antics, the delegates at the Owerri summit refused to listen to whatever the Senior Advocate of Nigeria had to say to them on the way forward for Ndigbo. For them, Irukwu no longer represents the aspirations of the people.

While some would insist that the presentations of Ojukwu, Nwodo and Udenwa were an unfair incitement of the mob against the pro-third term Ndigbos, those with a better understanding of popular emotion in the South East of today would immediately see, in the Owerri incident, the unmistakable popular uprising against agents of the people’s oppressors – real or perceived.
Luckily, no bodily harm was done anybody. Not even Irukwu who, due to security consideration, had to sit out the programme, even after he had been booed and thoroughly humiliated, left the venue with any physical injury.

But the message was conveyed. If not for this season of anomie, what adult Nigerian (who witnessed all that happened in the scheme to ensure that Obasanjo does not leave office next year and also knew the heart’s desires of every true Igbo person vis-a-vis the 2007 Presidency) would want to see an Irukwu or Nzeribe at a summit called to give direction to the Igbo cause? But, I guess, it has to do with this greed of having your cake and eating it. Now that third term is dead, everyone wants to spit on its grave – including those who wept bitterly at its demise and shed even more tears at its graveside a month ago.

Everybody wants to take political leverage from the death. But we will not let them. We will continue to remind the world of their ignoble roles in that desperation to rape the country. The least concession we can make to all pro-third term elements is to allow them to be in political purgatory until the administration that will succeed Obasanjo is firmly in place. That is definitely more considerate than calling that they should all be hounded to the jail where they rightly belong.
Our democracy is wobbling today because we failed to totally rout Abacha politicians from the polity soon after God restored sanity to the polity in the second half of 1998.

For this singular national oversight, we ended up putting back into government, all the people who swore that Nigeria would collapse without an Abacha Presidency. And when the time came for Obasanjo to go, they fell back to their old bag of tricks. Any surprise, therefore, that people began to compare Obasanjo’s administration with Abacha’s?
Much as I believe in freedom of opinion and views, and that those who genuinely derail in the course of their politicking should be forgiven, I know that until we begin to hold people to their utterances, actions and inactions, Igbo politicians will continue to take their people for granted.
In the South-west, for instance, I know that several of its otherwise frontline politicians who served under Abacha – including those who allegedly obtained their people’s clearance to serve – have yet to recover from that misadventure.

Until two years ago, many of them were not even invited to any gathering of mainstream Yoruba leaders, and literally had to gatecrash into the few they managed to attend.
What do I mean? If an Igbo politician says the talk of Igbo Presidency is ‘idiotic’ – at a time when all right-thinking people think otherwise – and the people hold him for that, he automatically nails his political future before Ndigbo. He instantly proclaims himself a persona non grata. And if he is made to pay the full political cost, it would then become unlikely in the future that anybody who claims to represent the Igbos would walk into the Senate chamber and declare that their people sent him to support third term, when he actually sent himself.

But that is not saying that all those who emerged from the Ahamefula summit as champions of the Igbo cause have always been on the side of the people. At best, some of them are opportunists who were either too scared to look Obasanjo in the face and tell him ‘no’ or who, for fear of persecution or love of lucre, held their tongues as the president and his agents over-ran the country, but who have found their voice now that Obasanjo appears to have become powerless.
Until last month, apart from Orji Uzor Kalu of Abia, I can’t remember any governor from the South-East who was brave enough to fault the tenure elongation project. The distant second would probably be Udenwa of Imo - a late starter of some sort, but he did summon up courage at some point. Ngige had too many problems of his own to bother. And after his exit, Obi has yet to settle down. So, not much was expected from him ab initio.

But now, everyone has suddenly found his voice. All manner of governors are meeting and calling for the Presidency to be zoned to their father’s compound in 2007 – including those who committed all their father’s money to ensure that Obasanjo began a president-for-life tenure in 2007.
I was going through the papers last weekend when it dawned on me that among those being touted daily to become president next year, there are two governors who did not hide the fact that they were funding the third term project.

In our rush to call Gov. Abudulkadir Kure to order over his wholesale dismissal of the presidential aspirations of the South-south, we have tended to throw the baby away with the bath water. But I urge people to go back to some of what the Niger State governor said and answer this question: Isn’t anybody shocked that the same people against whom we fought as we battled the third term monster, the same people who constituted Obasanjo’s inexhaustible war chest, are the same people to whom we now want to give the biggest prize of our victory? I think that was Kure’s disgust. A position I also share – with some modifications, though.

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