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Wednesday, May 18, 2022

Nzeribe’s departure and reincarnation of ‘ABNs’

By Busuyi Mekusi


Taking a flight could be an interesting experience, with the fear of the unknown plaguing some, hidden behind wry smiles of fake civilisation. While people would parade premonitions after air mishaps, every plane crash is preceded by warm exchanges; conversations of safe trip and goodbye; intentions of reconnections; hurtful feeling desirous of a pound of flesh; secrets of unspeakable violations; smoke-screened affections meant to mitigate marital disaffection; love unshared and postponed, etc. Air travel enhances transitional and transactional dealings and, like the supernatural mythical and transmogrified spatial transgressions of witches, is one way the rich could soar above the poor, and gain access, aided by technological ownership.

Little wonder, as roads and railways are now largely unsafe in Nigeria, the elite class would do anything humanly possible to prevent a suspension of air operations due to high cost of aviation fuel, even when it is seemingly postured that it requires rocket science to emplace critical infrastructures, and get ASUU to stop her avoidable Abiku-like ‘monstrous’ strike actions. Beyond the flights people take to connect physical spaces, one could metaphorically take a flight from the world of the living to that of the dead, just as recently done by the enigmatic and highly controversial maverick irredentist, Arthur Nzeribe (1939-2022). We may want to reluctantly wish him a safe trip, as he reconnects with his Creator!

Without talking ill of the dead, but for the sake of gleaning appropriate lessons from a life smartly but dubiously spent, Nzeribe was an Igbo arms dealer from Oguta, Imo State, Nigeria, who was reputed to have sold arms to both Biafra and Nigeria forces during the Civil War. The Biafra side was said to have lost the war to the insincerity of Nzeribe who, like Nigerian politicians, ate from both the grove and Egúngún courtyard. Needless to argue that the manner Nigeria politicians freely change political parties like dampers to achieve their selfish ambitions is one of the banes of service-driven democratic representation in the country. It is pouring salt on injury that people like Saraki, Atiku, Tambuwa, etc., who gained handsomely in APC are now back to realise their old and new ambitions in the PDP. We await the prevarication of Goodluck Jonathan to end soon, for us to know whether he would hibernate with his former arch political enemies or not. Anyway, someone has posited that the two parties are like twelve and a dozen.

Nzeribe’s treacherous nefarious arms merchandise was also taken to other African countries, particularly Ghana, where combustive volatility reigned between the 50s and 90s, as well as in the United Kingdom. Talking about his roles in wars in the continent of Africa, Nzeribe was quoted to have absolved himself of any wrong doing, claiming that he was a business man, who opened a shop to sell, and that people that had money could buy from him. No one should be left in any doubt that he maximally manifested the entrepreneurial sagacity of Igbos, notwithstanding the flip sides.

An academic colleague of mine had described Nzeribe as a master political strategist some years ago, when we met at Orlu, talking very fondly about how Nzeribe used a helicopter to distribute money across his senatorial district when he was an active politician. The buying of votes before and during elections remains the principal way politicians acquire political powers in Nigeria, because the stake in  political offices are very high, and the soup palatably delicious! There are claims that dollars are already being shared as aspirants criss-cross the country to secure the votes of party-delegates, to ensure their candidacy. The contenders are many; but the stool is just one!

One notable atrocious role of Nzeribe in the Nigeria political space, which is also in some ways manifesting as part of the build-up to the 2023 general elections, was the formation of the Association for Better Nigeria (ABN), which was used to annul the June 12 presidential election that was won by Late MKO Abiola. The group, which was believed to have been funded by the military intelligence, particularly IBB’s loyalist, Haliru Akilu, approached the court for the annulment of the June 12 2023 presidential election on the accusation of rigging and corruption.

The ABN was meant to perpetuate General Babangida rule as military Head of State. While IBB continues to live with the albatross of the annulment, even though he has been elevated to the position of a statesman, and recommender of good leaders, Nzeribe, years after the abortion of the most transparent election in Nigeria, gloated over the cancellation as a wish realised. Unlike the recalcitrant Nzeribe, Abimbola Davies, who was the National Director of Organisation of ABN, was said to have later sought forgiveness from Nigerians on the despicable role played by the group in the annulment of the June 12 1993 election.

Another self-serving debased group, Youth Earnestly Ask for Abacha (YEAA), was birthed in 1997 by a prodigious youth, Daniel Kanu, to urge General Sani Abacha, the then Head of State, to succeed himself by transforming from a military leader to a democratic head. The media was awash with his symbolism as the only key that could open the political door of Nigeria. The stage was set for his transmutation but for his necessity to have an engagement with his ancestors.

Abacha might not be the master key that unlocks Nigeria political doors, as the self-styled Abdulsalami Abubakar’s regime evolve a new constitution, that has been largely denounced by some Nigerians as negatively skewed and imperfectly aggregated, and transited to a civilian regime in 1999, he continues to hold the key to the vault of Nigeria, as monies he stole and hid in foreign banks are still repatriated to the country, many years after his death. Unfortunately, the greedy thieving collaborating foreign banks would not pay interests on such humongous deposits that helped them grow their economies.

Political activities preceding the 2023 elections have seen shadowy groups coming to endorse and purchase forms for aspirants. Of particular note is the macabre dance going on among APC aspirants who have one faceless group or another claiming to have purchased nomination and expression of interest forms for their principal. The embarrassment encased in the political absurdities that define the crowded APC aspirants, whose ‘supermarket’ happens to be the most expensive one around for now, played out in the ignominious developments that followed the purported aspirations of the president of the AfDB, Akinwumi Adesina, the incumbent CBN Governor, Godwin Emefiele, and former President of Nigeria, Goodluck Jonathan.

The good-luck that worked for Jonathan politically in the past might yet work for him, as he becomes the catalyst desired by people that threw him out of power to achieve a quick return of power to the north. Nigerians should stop blaming Jonathan, as Aso Rock is too politically salacious and materially alluring, to be ignored for the sake of ignominy!

While the group that purchased the forms for Adesina, who is yet to show interest in the contest for the seat of president, could not reach him, both Emefiele and Jonathan rejected the forms purchased for them, claiming that they were in a position to get the forms on their own, if they decide to run for the highest political office in the country. The Fulani group that bought the forms for Jonathan had vowed to force them on him, while Emefiele took a failed legal step to reinforce his constitutional right to so run, with the barrage of criticism following his indiscretion that betrayed the sanctimony of his office. We look forward to more intrigues, shenanigans and samples of theatrical tragic-comedy, as the scenes change, and actors dance naked before a bewildered audience that Nigerians have been turned to, in the APC’s theatre of the absurd.

Robert Clarke, SAN, drawing from the negating provisions of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) has suggested that PMB could elongate his stay in office repeatedly for six months because of insecurity that could make it impossible for elections to hold in 2023. The DSS has also spoken about the possibility of aborted elections due to insecurity. It is noteworthy that President Jonathan got INEC to shift the national elections, within his tenure, in 2015, on the claim of insecurity. As many cards are up the sleeves of power holders in the game of power, the pervasive insecurity in the country is a licence for deferment of elections, only that such a decision would heighten tensions. The US trial of former Honduran President, Juan Orlando, for drug-trafficking and arms smuggling raises issues about the culpability of highly-placed individuals in security breaches.

The many oddities in Nigeria socio-economic and political scapes, and the well-circulated proposed jamboree workshop at Istabul-Turkey for spouses of Vice Chancellors, Women in Academics and Educational Leadership, while staff unions in public universities have locked students out of campuses, with unreasonable response from government, show that Nigeria is bedevilled by many Associations for Bastardising Nigeria (ABNs).

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