Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Mike Ozekhome

By Mike Ozekhome

Power could be sweet. It is an aphrodisiac and intoxicating liquor. It turns boys into men. When misused, it can also turn men into boys. But before becoming the man, the power seeker can crawl on his belly, genuflect and prostrate, to seize this intoxicating brew. Such is the case of President Muhammed Buhari.

Upon being sworn in as Nigerian president in 2015, President Buhari brazenly marginalized the South East. He told a shocked international community that he could not be expected to treat people who gave him 97% on the same keel as those who gave him only 5%. The maths didn’t even add up. I thought it should have been 97% to 3%? Not to worry. The president had been asked a question in the US with regard to amnesty, bunkering and inclusive development in the Niger Delta. The question was posed by one Dr Pauline Baker (President Emeritus, Fund for Peace) during Buhari’s address at the United States of Peace Institute (USIP). This was on July 22, 2015, during his thank you visit to US. His government is suddenly now saying there should be no interference in “our domestic matters”. What did he go there to thank America for in 2015? Remember US Secretary of State’s clandestine visits to the then APC opposition? Remember the role of Obama’s Mr Axlerod? Selective amnesia indeed! PMB had seemed to struggle with the question asked and had to be assisted by Mr Jonnie Carson, the former Under Secretary of State for African Affairs.

Puzzled, PMB asked incredulously, “inclusive?”. Yes “inclusive government ……. including women, youth”, Carson lectured. PMB shocked the international community and everyone present when he responded to Baker and Carson, “I see … I hope you have a copy of the election results. The constituents, who for example, gave me 97% (of the votes) cannot in all honesty be treated on some issues with constituencies that gave me 5%”. Euphoric Nigerians clapped. Anything and everything uttered by PMB at that time was applauded, no matter its disconnect with the people and realities. It was enough that President Jonathan had been sacrificed and booted out of office by APC and its international collaborators led by the USA, UK and EU. These are the same countries the very government is now tagging meddlesome interlopers in our internal affairs!

Thus, began PMB’s nepotic and clannish reign of cronyism, prebendalism and neopatrimonialism, which has seen a total marginalization of the Ndigbo more than at any other time before in Nigeria’s history. This is more reflected in the security apparachik architecture of Nigeria, where PMB’s North alone takes at least 98%. This is not the first time. At the African Hall of the OAU African leaders meeting in 1985, Buhari as Nigeria’s military Dictator had mobilized other Heads of State against his countryman, Dr Peter Onu, for the position of Secretary General of OAU. He shocked Dr Julius Nyerere of Tanzania and other African leaders who begged him to support Onu, by throwing his weight behind Idi Omaro, a Moslem from Niger Republic, Onu was the most qualified. A brilliant and internationally acclaimed Diplomat and philanthropist, Onu was already the Acting Secretary-General, having replaced Dr Edem Kodjo of Togo, who had stepped down prematurely in 1983. Buhari preferred a Nigerien to a Nigerian. Reason? Onu committed the “original sin” of being Igbo.

WHY IS SOUTH EAST A NO GO AREA FOR BUHARI?

Buhari is therefore a leopard whose spots cannot be changed. Series of events, mirthful and mournful, have since occurred in the South East that would have seen a president scampering to the geo-political zone. But, no, not Buhari, a president whose national binoculars are heavily blurred by the swirling dust of nepotism and election results fever.

Let us see some of these events that were willfully boycotted by PMB. The war hero and Ikemba Ndigbo Gburugburu, Chief Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu had died at 78 on 26th November, 2011 and was buried on 2nd March, 2012. During his entire funeral obsequies, the world literally poured into Nnewi, Ojukwu’s country home, to honour the harbinger of Ogbunigwe, refined petroleum products (even if crude) and the avatar to whom the Igbos looked up before, during and after the civil war. They had unanimously cried, “Ojukwu, nye me gbe” (Ojukwu, give us guns). This was the justifiable war refrain by a traumatized race whose horrific massacre in the pogrom generated in the northern parts of Nigeria before the 1967-1970 Nigeria-Biafra war, still stands out as one of the cruelest, most barbaric and most brutish wars ever fought in history. It is ranked, in horrendousness, atrocious genocidal tendencies, mass suffering, torture, agony, misery and huge casualties, as one of history’s worst wars. It is ranked with other wars like the first and second world wars (1914-1918; 1939-1945); the Manchu conquest of China for over 60 years in the 17th century; the Napolonic wars provoked by the French Revolution of 1789; the second Congo war, (1998-2003); the 30 years war between Catholic and Protestant States in Central Europe (1618-1648); such bloody and gruesome wars also include the Chinese civil war of 1927; the Russian civil war (1917-1922), and the Taping Rebellion in China (1850-1864).

Our president, Buhari, was conspicuously missing in Nnewi, Anambra State, where Ojukwu was interred. Similarly, Chinua Achebe, unparalleled African’s foremost Essayist and author of epics such as “Things Fall Apart”, “No Longer At Ease”, “Arrows of God”, “A Man of the People”, “The trouble with Nigeria”, etc, had joined his ancestors. PMB did not attend. The entire world was represented.

NOW THIS

Dr Alex Ifeanyichukwu Ekwueme, former democratic Vice President of Nigeria died. This nationalist had been slammed into the gulag in Ikoyi and Kirikiri maximum prisons for years, during his so called “War Against Indiscipline (WAI)”. This was during his first despotic outing between December 31, 1983 and, August 27, 1985. It is significant that ironically, Ekwueme’s boss, President Aliyu Shehu Shagari (may his great soul rest in alijanah firdausi, amin), was put under cosy house arrest. Other Nigerians like former Governors Bisi Onabanjo (Ogun State), Ambrose Ali (then Bendel State), never recovered from the fascist treatment they received from PMB. Some like Ambrose Ali and Ayo  Ejiwunmi came out blind. Others died prematurely. Forget about Lawal Ojuolape (30), Bernard Ogedengbe (29) and Bartholomew Owoh that were extra-judicially murdered through Buhari’s enactment of a Decree with the death penalty, but whose operation was made retroactive. Rewind. Nigerians from all walks of life had poured into Oko, Anambra State to honour Ekwueme’s remains. PMB was absent. Not even the service of songs held for Ekwueme in Abuja, an event attended by Ojukwu’s main rival during the bloody civil war, General Yakubu Gowon, attracted Buhari’s attention. No. Never.

Onitsha tragic fuel tanker explosion came, killing scores of people. Not for PMB to attend. Then came the great floods that ravaged Anambra State. PMB did not attend to offer a word of comfort to the families of the dead, drowned and the suffering.

AND THIS

The only time PMB is known to have visited Anambra people after his 2015 election is during political campaigns, the first being 2017, during the governorship election in Anambra State. He has been scrupulously enforcing the 97% and 5% template.

Only few days ago, Buhari suddenly discovered the “bushy” route to Anambra State again (like Portuguese Explorer, Vasco da Gama discovered the sea route to India). He was in Onitsha to commission his only project and “federal presence” since 2015, the repainted grave tomb of Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe (Zik of Africa), the man whose burial obsequies he had also shunned in 1991. Good God!

Let me end this piece by recommending to the Ndigbo, the legendary Hubert Ogunde’s immortal words, in his most famous 1964 play, “Yoruba Ronu” (“Yorubas, think”). This was a stinging satire that got his theatre company (Ogunde Theatre Party) banned. The ban was later lifted on 4th February, 1966, by the then new Governor, Lt. Col F.A. Adekunle Fajuyi. My humble advice to the Ndigbo now is, “Ndigbo, cheenu echiche” (“Igbos, think”). Do not be deceived. Remember the most recent “operation python dance”.

THOUGHT FOR THE WEEK

“Power intoxicates men. It is never voluntarily surrendered. It must be taken from them”. (James F. Byrnes).

LAST LINE

Nigerians, as you begin a new week, let us pray for peaceful elections. Keep faith with our weekly national conversation on the Sunday Sermon on the Mount of the Nigerian Project by Chief Mike A.A. Ozekhome, SAN, OFR, FCIArb, Ph.D, LL.D.

 

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