BY IKE ABONYI
In 2010 Dr Emmanuel Okwesilieze Nwodo was 60 years old. He was then the National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP.
He had tapped me soon after he became National Chairman to be his media adviser, a position I tried to resist because I didn’t want to leave the newsroom but he insisted. When I told him then how detested politics particularly, how I never wrote anything positive about PDP because of their arrogance and disregard to rules of democracy, he said ‘that’s why I need to go in there with him to correct things’
Eventually he had his way because as a Journalist i had always admired the Nwodos not just for their brilliance and exceptional eloquence but more to their attitude to real values of life, their inclination to character than wealth.
Few days to his birthday anniversary I had asked him then as the National Chairman of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) how he intended to mark his 60th birthday coming up in few days time “nothing, you know I don’t celebrate birthdays like that”, but this is round figure and you are now the national Chairman of the ruling party in the country I tried to stress “it does not change anything you know there is a lot of work to do let’s do the work first and celebration can follow later” He was not allowed to do the work but that is a story for the memoir.
The above position explained why even as the head of a ruling party Okwey did not celebrate his 60th birthday the drums were not rolled out in Wadata House and various other social and political joints to mark and celebrate the land mark anniversary. So many of his political associates did not like it as they positioned themselves to celebrate the man they easily always described then as a good man.
My approach to him was prompted by various calls from newspaper houses seeking to know his associates so that they could be approached to congratulate him.
As National Chairman of the ruling party he had so many political “sons and daughters and even friends” who would have been very willingly made all the noise but for Nwodo the day was for reflections about life which James Barrie wrote is “a long lesson in humility”
Okwesilieze is 70 years today Tuesday July 28, 2020, and he is still in reflection mood. Why not you may say, his creator had played game with him. He was trained by his parents to be a medical doctor and he was doing just that as a surgeon opening up human body and removing their ailments not thinking of the rough terrain of politics but unknown to him God has a different plan for him. Even his parents that named him Okwesilieze (whom the King fits) did not think of him as a politician but the natural ruler. His humility and calmness was found suitable for a King. The disqualification of his senior brother constitutional lawyer Dr Joe Nwodo who was cruising to Enugu Government House as a gubernatorial candidate of the defunct National Republican Convention (NRC) in 1992 changed all that.
A reluctant surgeon was dragged out of medical theatre to the theatre of politics to continue and ensure that the dreams and desires of the Nwodos are not allowed to go down the drain. The rest is now history except to say that it became the beginning of sweet political journey that has helped greatly to keep the relevance of the Nwodos in the political space of the country. It is therefore not accidental that his traditional title is Eze Anyanwa (the King of the stars). Today at the age of 70 years Dr Okwesilieze Nwodo has the rare privilege of navigating two professions, medicine and politics and can beat his chest with accomplishments in either of the two.
Born on 28th July 1950 to the family of late Igwe Dr. J. U. Nwodo and Chief Mrs. Josephine Nwodo, Igwe Okwulora, the 2nd of Ukehe in Igbo-Etiti Local Government Area of Enugu State.
He attended St. Patrick’s Primary School, Iva Valley between 1956 and 1961 and Holy Ghost Primary School, Ogui in 1962 before proceeding to Government College, Umuahia in 1963 from standard five. His Secondary Education was interrupted between 1966 and 1970 because of the civiI war but in 1970 he passed the West African School Certificate Examinations.
Dr. Nwodo was admitted into the University of Nigeria, Nsukka in 1971 and graduated with M.B.B.S. in 1977. Between 1977 and June 1978, Dr.Nwodo worked as a House Officer at the University of Nigeria Teaching hospital (UNTI-I) Enugu and during his National Youth Service Corps, June 1978 to June 1979, he worked at the Military Hospital, Jos and did part-time lecturing in the Faculty of Medicine, Departments of Anatomy and Pharmacology, University of Jos. He became a Senior House Officer in Pediatric Surgery at U.NTH, Enugu from July 1979 to February 1980.Between February and April 1980, he attended a course in Basic Medical Science at the Royal College of Surgeons, London. He then proceeded to the University of Belgarde, Yugoslavia from June 1980 to February 1984 where he specialized in paediatric Surgery -and passed with distinction. While training in the Children’s Hospital Belgrade from June 1980 to February 1984 he spent one year (January 1983 to December 1983) as a Surgical Registrar at the Children’s Hospital, Birmingham, England. He returned to Nigeria in 1984 to become the Medical Director of Zik Avenue Clinic, Uwani, Enugu and Ukehe Medical Center and Maternity Ukehe – a post held until his election as the first Executive Governor of Enugu State.
As the Governor of the old Enugu state he set an agenda for Agricultural revolution only secondary to that by late Dr. M. I. Okpara as the Premier of Eastern Nigeria. His industrial blue print was poised to place Enugu State in the industrial map of the next millennium. With loan from the African Development Bank (ADB) he was able to give borehole water supply to 50 communities in Nsukka and Enugu Senatorial Zones and also pipe borne water from Ezilo water scheme to 70 communities in Abakaliki Senatorial Zone. After completing the first phase of Rural Electrification in his state he signed another facility with ADB for 70 more communities to be electrified in the State. He had imported all the components for the project by the time he left office. A road network linking al1 the Local government Areas of Enugu State to the State capital was planned for the State and a loan was already secured from World Bank for this project.
In the health sector Dr. Nwodo’s administration secured a World Bank facility to refurbish existing hospitals in Enugu State. The administration also started a Mobile Health Clinic for the rural populace and construction of a School of Nursing at Ogbede in 1gbo-Etiti L.G.A. It is also pertinent to note here that under his administration an office complex was donated to the Medical Women association of Enugu.
His policies of triangular equilibrium and “meriquotocarcy” brought social justice, equity and a sense of belonging to all and sundry in the State.
Following the over throw of the 3rd Republic by the Abacha regime he returned to his practice in Zik Avenue Clinic Ltd. Enugu,
With the emergence of the 4th Republic he was National Secretary of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). In this capacity he engineered the formation of the biggest political party in Africa. His party has with his diligent efforts recorded monumental successes in various ejections. It is a historical record in Nigeria today that PDP is the first political party to win more than half the local governments in Nigeria, 28 of the 36 state Governors at a time with majority in the 21 Houses of Assembly, absolute majority in both the upper and lower chambers of the National Assembly, and a Presidential Victory in the General Election not equaled by any candidate in any previous election. The selection of the Presidential Candidate of the P.D.P at the Jos convention organized by Dr. Nwodo remains one of the most credible and transparent in the history of all emerging democracies in the world.
Dr Nwodo was re-elected as the National Secretary of his party in Abuja, where he scored the highest vote of all the candidates that vied for the 62 offices available in the P.D.P National Executive Committee, this is a mark of National acceptance of his credibility, efficiency and doggedness in the administration of his party.
It is therefore not by happenstance that on June 17 , 2010 an embattled ruling political party in search of a redeemer fished out Dr Nwodo and entrusted in him the enormous task of saving a drowning giant. He tried in his words to break the barrier and return the party to its owners, the Nigerian people but that tenure got short lived due to the dangerous intrigues associated with politics.
In his political life, he lives out the injunction of Albert Einstein that “only a life lived for others is worthwhile”
Dr Nwodo has remained an active and principled player in Nigerian Politics. He is a member of several Clubs and Professional Organizations such as the International Pediatric Surgery History Club, British Association of Paediatric Surgeons and the Association of Paediatric Surgeons of Serbia, Yugoslavia. A Catholic by faith and a knight of St John’s International. He is married and has four children and enjoys swimming, golf, squash, reading and discussing current affairs.
It’s the humility of Okwesilieze Nwodo that I came to agree with a famous British author, John Ruskin that “the first test of a truly great man is his humility. By humility I don’t mean doubt of his powers or hesitation in speaking his opinion, but merely an understanding of the relationship of what he can say and what he can do. Congratulations Eze Anyanwu.