I am not the copyright owner of the saying, ‘No condition is permanent.’ Its modern popular usage belongs to the one and only the Great Zik of Africa, the Owelle of Onitsha and first civilian (ceremonial) president of Nigeria, the Rt. (Hon) Dr Benjamin Nnamdi Azikiwe, GCFR. Once upon a time, the great man had altercation with his kinsman who served as Administrator of the Eastern region under the Gen. Yakubu Gowon regime, Dr. Ukpabi Asika.
Zik’s caution to the then young, swashbuckling administrator to be a bit more temperate in his governance was met with tongue-lashing. Zik’s admonition was dismissed as that emanating from the ‘frustrations’ of a man who prided himself as ‘ex-this, ex-that’ and whose ‘bitterness’ was traceable to his cold, lonely life outside power. An ex-pugilist who had fought in the America amateur ranks during his student days at the Howard University, Zik was also famously imbued with lethal verbal and literary fire power.
He fired back at Asika reminding him that ‘no condition is permanent.’ “One may be an administrator today, only to be an ex-administrator tomorrow,” Zik told Asika, while also reminding him that the law of life was also the law of entries and exits, and there was nothing permanent about power, the reason power holders should endeavour to exercise it with some modicum of sobriety True to Zik’s prediction, shortly after his letter to Asika, Gowon’s government was knocked out by Gen. Murtala Mohammed and Ukpabi was shoved aside, to resume life as an ex-administrator.
Truly, no condition is permanent. I couldn’t help recalling the above event as the macabre dance in Abia State over the return of former Governor Orji Uzor Kalu to the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, and the attempt by Chief T.A Orji, the incumbent governor to frustrate the move deploying all kinds of tricks, intrigues and subterfuges. Of course, T.A is in no class of Ukpabi Asika, the intellectual giant and admirable war-time administrator of the Eastern region.
The only relevance is in the analogy of the transience of power. If T.A is today proving intransigent and an obstacle to the triumphant return of his former boss to the party he co-founded with others, it can only mean that the man now believes that with power, he has become all in all in Abia; it can only mean that he believes governorship is for ever; that with power he can make and unmake, and decide who joins or returns to the party. I have never seen this kind of display of primitivism and stone-age tyranny that seeks to conscript the political space all in the name of inexplicable phobia of one man! Pray, what is it with power that deafens men and infuses them with an illusory and delusory sense of their own self-importance?
Why do otherwise lowly men who got transported to high office forget where they are coming from and begin to challenge their own chi to a wrestling contest? There surely must be something wrong with the Black man, the Nigerian that once he gets power he begins to see himself as God Himself, forgetting that no man is God, no man can be God. What am I getting at? For eight years, T.A Orji was the chief of staff to Chief Orji Uzor Kalu. For those eight years, he was a loyal, obedient aide, seeing no evil and speaking no evil. For eight years, he wined and dined with his master.
The master, believing that here was a loyal aide who would serve the state well and do him proud in office, decided to facilitate his election as governor by campaigning for him and pleading with the people to vote in his political son who was then in incarceration at the Kirikiri prison in Lagos over alleged financial irregularities. After a rigorous campaign, Orji became governor from prison, a feat rare in this part of the world. All thanks to the political ingenuity and sagacity of Kalu. But before then, there was a snag. No man could be sworn in inside the prison.
He had to be released to take his oath of office. Kalu mobilised editors from The Sun newspapers to tap at their contacts to secure his aide’s freedom. As the then editor, northern operations of the newspaper house, based in Abuja, I was in the thick of efforts to secure appointment with the big man who had the power to grant Orji freedom. Mike Awoyinfa, Dimgba Igwe, Femi Adesina and I, later met with the man at his Abuja office, where we pleaded for hours for T. A. Orji’s release to enable him physically take his oath of office. Those who know how rigid the man could be, will tell you it was done out of the utmost respect for friendship and integrity of the newspaper men who prevailed on him to see the case for what it was: political persecution, not necessarily corruption.
For several weeks, I visited this man at his office and home ( before the meeting) pleading for a man (Orji) I had never met nor spoken with, all because Kalu beseeched us to. Orji got out and was sworn in. Today, if Orji is governor, he has six people to be grateful to: his former boss, Kalu; our friend; Awoyinfa, Igwe, Adesina and my humble self. Of course, that is not discountenancing the commitment and steadfastness of the good people of Abia state who voted him in absentia. But the fact remains, if he was elected and he was not available to take the oath of office he would never have been governor.
He would never have been in a position to be raining abuses on the man who made him governor or seeking to prevent him from returning to the party he co-founded. The point of this column must be restated: this is about the right of an individual to freely associate with any group he so desires without let or hindrance from anyone, be he T.A. Orji or a tyrant with temporal powers. It has nothing to do with Orji Kalu as a person, but the principle of freedom of association as enshrined in the 1999 constitution. It is not even about the PDP as a party, as some of us are no fans of the much-touted largest party in Africa.
The point is: If Nigerians allow this impunity to stand, no one knows where and when it will end. Today, it is Kalu, tomorrow it could be another person. Who knows, T.A may even order a citizen deported from Abia tomorrow, after all he once ordered Igbos from other states to vacate the state. With this guy, anything can happen! When T.A led a group to Wadata plaza headquarters of the PDP to protest Kalu’s then planned re-entry to the party, I had in the column ‘Between phobia and farce,’ enjoined all men and women of goodwill to call the governor to order because he was introducing something funny to the state and party.
“I watched the group on television and read what was credited to them the next day in the newspapers, and I honestly felt sad for democracy in this clime. I felt truly saddened at the level politics had descended to in our country, if we can call what the Abia group went to do in Abuja that. I had never seen such brazen gang up against one man in the name of politics or whatever they choose to call it. It was a terrible waste of tax payers’ money to assemble a group of people, fly or transport them to Abuja, provide accommodation and other logistics for them, on what mission: to protest the planned return of one man to the party I understand he joined others to found. It still sounded bizarre to the ears.
“All right-thinking Nigerians, I further submitted, “must rise and condemn this gestapo-style politics that is being introduced in Abia. It is indecent, and assaults the freedom of association as enshrined in our constitution.” The Orji versus Kalu tangle, I pointed out, “has come to assume an embarrassing situation in our polity which should truly depress all Abians, and Ndigbo. For a better part of three or more years, the Gov. Orji storm troopers have made ‘operation destroy Kalu’ a major project. The man can hardly drink water in peace; he can hardly speak up without being lampooned and derided; he can hardly do anything right in the eyes of his traducers.
His offence? He allegedly became overbearing after he handed over power to his former chief of staff . If he had been overbearing and T.A Orji has gone ahead to ‘liberate’ Abia as he and his admirers claim, why continue to demonise his erstwhile boss? I thought the reasonable thing to do was to continue to offer the state development as his vision allows him.
If Abians are pleased with him as he and his aides proclaim, why then make the ‘Kalu project’ a cardinal plank of his administration? To be sure, Abia is not the only state where the incumbent governors soon fell apart with their predecessors. From Zamfara to Enugu; Lagos to Kano, you name it. In the case of Lagos, the situation was so tense and all manner of allegations hurled at the doorsteps of Gov. Fashola’s political mentor and predecessor, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu.
At a point Fashola’s second term ticket became uncertain. But at no time did Fashola openly denigrate his former boss. At no point did he sponsor or encourage phantom groups and overzealous aides to take paid pages in the newspapers to abuse him. That is the definition of political sophistication and maturity. In Abia, to show relevance and loyalty to the Orji administration, all kinds of aides are running wild to punch Kalu in the face and rub his head in the mud. What manner of politics is that? Gov. Orji must call his attack dogs to order in the interest of peace and harmony.”
I am told that many of those involved in the failed bid to stop Kalu’s return were even those Kalu brought into the party from opposition parties, notably the APP, later ANPP. When greedy tenants get a room in a landlord’s house, they become vicious and seek to chase away the bonafide landlords. That is the nature of Nigerian politics where dog eats dog. Too bad.