My attention today is on the book “Conscience and history” written by the former governor of Rivers State, Dr. Peter Odili. I have titled this piece Odili’s redemption song because I know that books, no matter their nature do have a redemptive effect. Even when the story told is of half-truths, it still possesses some power of soothing and cleansing effects, because in it, could be found traces to what may be the eventual truth.
This is moreso, when the storyteller was a major participant in the event being narrated. One thing that has held our progress down is the inability of most distinguished Nigerians of all works of life, to tell the story of their journey. This has denied the nation valuable lessons. It has left a vacuum. One thing this has done is that many up-coming young ones get into the same path, repeating the same mistakes made by those before them.
If you remember that historians have already said, when history repeats itself, it takes the form of tragedy then one can easily understand why things are the way they are in our nation. So it is a welcome development that Peter Odili decided to write a book on his experiences. And for me, it is more glorious that he did so, in a style that is sure to help the growth of this nation. Dr. Odili did not only chronicle events he knew of, he particularly gave account of the very sensitive ones and went the extra mile to mention names of participants and the roles (very dirty) many of them played.
This is what it should be if this nation is to make progress. Our nation’s backwardness, in the midst of so many resources is not God-ordained. It is man-made. If I am to elaborate on this just a little more, it is the handiwork of a few men and of course women whose hearts have been sold to the devil. These men of little minds are smart not for the benefit of the nation but for personal aggrandizement. They don’t care if the entire population goes to bed without food.
As long as their pockets are full and members of their immediate families can afford everything, then all is right. Those who don’t like this status quo can go and die! That is the circle of evil. We have succeeded in entrenching in our nation what is haunting all of us and that is the big point Odili’s book “Conscience and History” tried successfully to unveil to the rest of us, the ordinary Nigerians. Was Odili telling us something unknown to us? Not quite! What he revealed in this particular instance is not new.
It is a phenomenon which we the ordinary Nigerians know about and see everyday and everywhere but the import on our being we could not properly comprehend or interpret. That has been the missing link, and which may be there many years after Odili has published his beautiful and educative treatise on the dirty intrigues that go on in the high places of power. This will happen this way because ours is a nation where citizens take nothing seriously. Ours is a nation where until an issue affects one personally, it is not a matter deserving of serious attention.
This may well explain also why our many problems never get an answer. One of the things Odili revealed is this question of intrigues in the body politic of our nation. Intrigue in itself is not bad; in fact, it is a worldwide phenomenon. It is to plan in secret, possibly to take advantage of the surprise element, which is vital in issues with huge dimensions and implications. What, in my view, may make intrigue turn negative could be the motive and the process attached to realizing the objective.
This is where the Odili ‘sermon’, for me opens the Pandora Box. What I got from it is that in issues concerning power few Nigerians, who may not have good education and who also do not have a good grasp of what the real concerns are just sit in a room, they could be about four persons and decide the fate of the over 150 million other Nigerians. The tragedy, if what Odili portrayed is true, and which I confirm is the trend, is that in taking up this onerous task upon themselves, little or no regard is placed on those qualities that contain capacity to impact greater good on the entire citizenry.
In place of an independent minded person, they go for the unstable character whose only asset on this score is that he would be pliant to all manner of manipulations. The worst is that the cabal, throw merit (they don’t relegate it) and pedigree away. They loathe men of knowledge and of achievement and look desperately for those who could not make any sense of their own lives. Their tool includes lies, half-truths, gossips, rumours and false allegations.
I have been with people in power, who would always boast that if a particular man proves very stubborn, ‘we will make allegations against him and by the time he is out of it, the issue is over. This is a style peculiar to our conservatives, whether in politics or in the business community. When I read Odili restate this in his book I was not surprised. I was only stunned that consequences of such actions could cause Odili to have sleepless nights. After all, Odili is a member of this class whose philosophy is to force down their desires on others. So in a word Odili can be described as a Tiger rider. You can’t be member and not be acquainted with the rules.
In one of his many interviews Odili said: “The man I wanted to succeed me was Rotimi Amaechi but President Obasanjo intervened to disrupt the succession plan.” What I get from this stand point is that, even Odili accepted the situation, where in a democracy, power to choose candidates was taken away from the people and handed over to a few men who constituted themselves as the true face of the Nigerian state.
This is the much I will say on that, I don’t want to mention how dirty intrigues led to the routing of Chief Rufus Ada-George, whom Odili succeeded as Governor, after serving him as deputy. If there is one good thing the Odili experiences has shown, it is that evil is evil, no matter who is perpetuating it. Wherever evil raises its ugly head, it ought to be strongly condemned and efforts made to stop it from taking root. This is a very important point and lesson we all must take home from the many points Odili has made in that good book. The other issue that is very crucial is the matter of corruption and how it is being fought in our nation.
Odili in the book detailed how the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) under Nuhu Ribadu made the fight over corruption a political issue. It is distasteful to note that in that particular instance as it affected Odili, within 48 hours a crime that never existed could be discovered, investigated and certified true. It is also interesting to note that a case that has not been tried and conviction secured could be used as basis for disqualification.
Odili again on this matter was not saying anything new except that with better evidence he established an issue over what many had thought was a mere escapist cry. Ribadu has since said all he knows is that he was doing a national assignment. That is true, but in what manner did he set out to accomplish the task? Anyone who was in the country at the time would think that only governors ran foul of the regulations. Even with this, it was mainly directed at governors who had clear disagreements with the authority at the centre. In Bayelsa, we saw how the entire members of the State House of Assembly were arrested on obvious trumped-up charges and taken into forced captivity until they agreed to the impeachment of their governor.
The Plateau State case was not only pathetic it was the height of impunity and direct affront on democratic principles. In that instance, between three and four legislators, were encouraged to sit under police cover and to execute the impeachment of the state governor. In Abia, where I was a top player, they came not with an offence but in search of offence. In place of telling the offence and asking for defense, they took all the books, searching for a foothold. When an answer was not coming soon, they set their eyes on the House of Assembly to achieve what they could not do legally.
It may interest Nigerians to know that the brinksmanship that went with all of these caused many political office holders at the time to have free ride to second and even third terms into elective offices. How many of us still remember that under Ribadu a list of politicians was published by EFCC deemed as persons not qualified to contest for public office. The question, even now could still be asked if those acts were proper and if disqualification of aspirants to public office was a responsibility of the EFCC. Let me say this, Ribadu desired to help some people foist a dictatorship; we must be thankful to God and then to men like Atiku, Orji Uzor Kalu and many others, that that enterprise did nor see the light of the day.
The same way we must accept that Odili went through hell, just as many others may have also. Whether it was self-inflicted or not is not the issue. Our resolve from henceforth should be to insist that right things be done always. Our thoughts, policies, motives and utterances should be nationalistic. Our goal at all times should be the greatest for the greatest majority. It is a resolution everybody must make and for which each one of us must be ready to pay the supreme price if and when it comes under threat.
By now, it should be clear that the cost of freedom is eternal vigilance. I thank Odili for doing this book. I see it as restitution. If Odili has a second chance I can guarantee that he would be a far humane and foresighted leader than was the case in his first “missionary journey”. As an administrator Odili posted some great achievements. By doing this book with all the attendant risk attached, Odili has proved that if any mistake was made it was of the head and not of the heart.
If he decides to return to politics, he would surely have my support. This nation needs those who can speak truth to themselves and to our situations. Odili has just done that! Let others like him do theirs, and I am sure, our nation would be better for it all.