Emeka Ozumba’s “Let Us Protect Buhari’s Integrity” (Daily Sun, November 10, 2017) provides food for thought. It is a most thoughtful article on the need to preserve the personal integrity of President Muhammadu Buhari against the onslaught of persons very close to him in the administration who are dragging him to their level under the guise of working for him to succeed well in party politics. It is self-evident that most people around the president do not share his values of integrity and his vision of a Nigeria where things are done properly. They have low moral standards and are self-serving. Therefore, he needs to watch his back.
The immediate context of the write-up by Ozumba, a marketing communications specialist, is unconfirmed reports that our president is being dragged to the campaign rally of Tony Nwoye, the controversial APC candidate in the November 18 gubernatorial election in Anambra State. Ozumba warns that the president’s personal reputation built on integrity over the decades will end up in smoke if he should succumb to the political antics of certain individuals.
An important point made in the article is the need for President Buhari to have good security reports on those who visit him, citing the example of a very controversial businessman, lawyer and socialite based in Lagos, Fred Ajudua, who paid a well-publicised visit to General Sani Abacha when the latter assumed office as Nigeria’s military Head of State on November 17, 1993. The person who arranged the visit, an Army General and Director of Army Public Relations, was arrested, detained and retired for embarrassing not only the new regime but also the whole country. Ozumba wonders if Buhari’s handlers, including security and intelligence aides, were satisfied with the visit to the President by the APC candidate on October 13.
To underscore how controversial Nwoye has been, Ozumba demands that the APC candidate explain why he was rusticated from the University of Nigeria Teaching Hospital in Enugu, which made him move to the new and little known Ebonyi State University. While Nwoye’s pipers unofficially deny that the rustication had to do with cult-related activities, Nwoye has himself curiously refused to comment on the circumstances leading to his exit from the University of Nigeria. Since democracy is about openness, accountability and transparency, Nwoye owes not only Anambra people but also all Nigerians the obligation to explain the situation. He has to come out real clean. Explaining the circumstances of his rustication has grave implications for our democracy.
But of more concern to the Nigerian people is Nwoye’s alleged role in the three-day mayhem in Anambra State, which began on November 4, 2004. Nwoye needs to address widespread allegations that he was deeply involved in the mayhem whose 16th anniversary the people of Anambra State are marking this month. The mayhem saw the burning in broad daylight of the Government House in Awka, the Governor’s Lodge in Onitsha, the House of Assembly complex, the Judicial Service Commission complex, the Anambra State Broadcasting Service and several cars belonging to innocent individuals who were passing by. Anambra people will never forget this tragedy. Our own legendary Professor Chinua Achebe called it a well-orchestrated plan by renegades in the state, working in cahoots with the Presidency in Abuja, to turn “my homeland into a bankrupt and lawless fiefdom.”
As I have stated on another occasion, I was a prime target of the arsonists. They invaded my official residence in the Legislative Quarters in Awka in the morning of November 4 with the intention to assassinate me and my family. But my wife had taken my children to school, and so I was alone. How I managed to escape from the large number of marauders clutching all manner of dangerous paraphernalia of violence and smoking all kinds of stuff remains a mystery to this day. I think God just sent His angels to save me from imminent violent death in their hands. I was spirited out of the Legislative Quarters through divine intervention.
The mayhem was led by a controversial member of the House of Representatives and assisted by the commander of the Police Mobile Force in Anambra State. But they did not act alone. They had foot soldiers. The leader of the foot soldiers is identified in the report of the judicial commission set up by the state government to look into the mayhem. The commission was headed by Justice Keazor from Obosi in Idemmili North Local Government Area, a brilliant lawyer and upright judge. Dr Chris Ngige was in the process of publishing the white paper on the report when he was removed by the Court of Appeal as Anambra State governor in 2006. But the report is still available.
President Buhari needs to go through it. The present Anambra State Government can avail him with a copy. Security agencies like the police force and the Department of State Services (DSS) can also send him their copies.
Our president needs to find out why top Yoruba APC leaders like Bola Tinubu, our party’s National Leader, were very active in campaigning for Dr Ngige when he was an APC senatorial candidate in the 2015 general elections, but have stoutly refused to do the same thing for the APC candidate in the forthcoming Anambra State gubernatorial election. They recognise that the APC has no candidate this time around. APC members should not be telling the electorate things like “We must take your state by force and by fire.”
Someone like Governor Nasir el-Rufai has openly endorsed Nwoye simply because he wants to avenge the indiscretion which ex-Governor Peter Obi committed against him, against Nigeria’s Constitution and against national unity four years ago. Obi ordered the DSS not to allow el-Rufai to come out of his Olde Enghishe Hotel in Awka during the governorship election four years ago on the ground that he is not from Anambra State. El-Rufai came as an observer for his party and Dr Ngige. But ex-Governor Obi has since left the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) and pitched tent with the PDP for personal reasons.
APC leaders acknowledge in private that we should have presented this time a candidate like Dr Ngige, Chief George Muoghalu, Engineer Barth Nwibe, Senator Andy Uba or Dr Obinna Uzor; each of these candidates would have been easy to sell. It is an open secret that most APC leaders in the state will not vote APC in the governorship election because of their love of Anambra State. Dr Ngige is officially the coordinator of the Nwoye campaign, but how many times has the minister been seen with the candidate? Many of our party’s leaders will not declare their stand publicly for fear of charges of anti-party activities. But there are, of course, people like me ready to bite the bullet.
Finally, President Buhari is advised to look before he leaps. Many of the people in his office are doing him no good. They are not interested in his personal reputation or integrity or his place in history. He has to watch his back.
Hon Okechi, former chairman of the Anambra State House of Assembly Committee on Information and Public Petitions, is a founding APC member in the state. He is leading a movement to reform Anambra APC. Hon Okechi is voting Obiano (not APGA) in the Anambra election. [email protected]. 0803 5585188.
•Editor’s note: Funke Egbemode returns next week