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The Recurring Decimal of Selective King-making in Nigeria (Part 1)

Though individual views may differ on how to solve the problems of Nigeria, this column has taken a stand and summed up its thoughts on the work titled, “The Last Straw” which featured in three parts. I have held the view of restructuring Nigeria through a Sovereign National Conference (SNC) for thirty years, and nothing has happened to make me change my view.

Till such a time this is done, I shall dwell on other issues, which, by the way, are fallouts of the major problem of foundation. This week, we shall look at the recurring decimal of nepotism and selective King-making as factors for the enthronement of mediocrity and the consequent socio-political and economic under-development of Nigeria despite the fact that the country is immensely endowed with expert human and diverse natural resources. We shall, also, within the available space, look at how this socio-political and economic underdevelopment has brought about depravity, poverty, penury, sundry woes and frustration to Nigerians.

A forensic historical analysis of the machineries that brought past Nigerian leaderships into existence has become imperative because there seem to be a consistent pattern of selective king-making founded on anachronistic values in favor of some aspirants, not because those aspirants were better than the rest, but because they would push a preconceived ethnic and religious agenda.

This development is worrisome because Nigeria has consistently lost opportunities to be governed by patriots who are distinguished and eminently qualified to steer the ship of the country to safer shores.

Why is it that some Nigerians who were qualified to become Presidents of the Federal Republic of Nigeria failed to realize their ambitions in spite of the fact that they were obviously better than those aspirants who eventually clinched the post at the time all of them contested?

I have observed that first amongst the reasons for the exclusion of some Nigerians from attaining the exalted office of the Presidency is the ‘Aruna’ factor. The word ‘Aruna’ in Hausa/ Muslim interpretation, means, ‘Unbeliever’.

The ‘Aruna’ factor in Nigeria is so strong that much as Christians find it difficult to ascend the exalted office, liberal Muslims, like Chief M.K.O. Abiola, who was regarded as ‘Aruna’ by the Islamic traditionalists and Muslim fundamentalists, suffered the same fate.

Chief M.K.O. Abiola was known to have criss-crossed all parts of Nigeria fraternizing with both Christians and Muslims. Before his death, he was a recipient of 251 chieftaincy titles across the same number of Nigerian communities.

Those communities were the ones he was able to honour their invitations as a result of his tight itinerary as a businessman and politician.

Abiola was a Chief in my ancestral town somewhere deep in Anambra State. He operated, as Nigerians knew, a liberal type of marriage in the likes of his calibre, the great and generous men such as King Solomon and this could mean that, like many wives of King Solomon still adhered to their religions after marriage with the King, not every member of Chief Abiola’s family could be a Muslim.

To the Islamic traditionalist and the nepotic selective Kingmakers in Nigeria, this could signal a future betrayer and hence unacceptable.

In a work titled “Bridge Across Our Troubled Waters” published by The Authority Newspapers in April 2019, I had addressed the ‘Aruna’ factor and arrived at the conclusion that Nigeria needs an ‘Aruna’ President to smoothen the tribal and religious sentiments which is prevalent amongst the people. That work was written in defense of the Presidential candidate of PDP (Peoples’ Democratic Party), Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, who, not having attained the Nigerian Presidency, after many attempts in spite of being exceptionally qualified for the offices, I suspected, was held down by the same ‘Aruna’ factor which frustrated the effort of Chief M.K.O. Abiola.

As a matter of fact, they told Alhaji Atiku Abubakar to his face in one of his campaigns in Northern Nigeria that he is an ‘Aruna’.

To nip the ‘Aruna’ factor in the bud, Nigerians need to take a forensic approach on why Chief Abiola was denied the Presidency despite the fact that he was massively voted for that office.

A Nigerian South African equivalent of the Truth and Justice Commission was constituted by former President Olusegun Obasanjo during his tenure and late Honorable Justice Chukwudifu Oputa was put in charge of it.

The Justice Oputa Panel of Inquiring into the activities of some Nigerians while they were in government service did not go deep like its South African equivalent established by the Madiba, Nelson Mandela, in revealing details of events in Nigeria.

Though the invited personalities, who were obviously suspicious and mindful of their safety were assured that the inquiry was rhetoric, without any incriminatory power of the law backing it to prosecute possible offenders, the ‘sacred cow’ syndrome, another menace of Nigerian political system, did not allow the panel of inquiry to make any significant headway. The inquiries ended like a jamboree entertaining Nigerians in much the same way as the many Latin American soap operas in vogue in the networks of television stations in Nigeria during the time.

The inquiries were stunted because many ‘sacred cows’ refused to honor the panel’s invitations. The ‘sacred cows’ displayed the usual, unchallenged impunity by the political class, which Nigerians are already used to, in refusing to honor the invitations, and the panel being harm strong to arraign them because it lacked the legal power to issue subpoenas later disbanded, without result.

I was particularly interested to hear the views of the former military President, General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida (IBB), as to the forces that influenced him into annulling an election won by Chief Moshood Kashimawo Abiola, M.K.O., as this would give Nigerians an eye-witness account from the horse’s mouth, if the ‘Aruna’ factor was part or all of the reasons for annulling the election. I was disappointed because, IBB, evidently one of the most powerful living ‘sacred cows’ in Nigeria today, disregarded the panel’s invitation to him.

In any case, but for the fact that IBB attained the office of the Head of State through the barrel of the gun by a military putsch, he would, most probably have been a victim of the ‘Aruna’ factor because he married and fraternized with ‘Arunas’ from all parts of Nigeria like his friend M.K.O.

It is not therefore unlikely that IBB may have been confronted head-on with the ‘Aruna’ factor which he had hitherto escaped from, having silenced the opinion of the ‘Aruna’ proponents with the coup plotter’s gun, when he wanted to crown another ‘Aruna’ his friend, M.K.O., as his successor.

Now that the elder Statesman is approaching the twilight like everybody else including myself, he owes Nigeria the narrative of the behind-the-scene circumstances that led to the annulment of June 12, 1993 Presidential election, to douse all speculations on that incident, including my speculation here, of an ‘Amina’ factor in the annulment of the election victory of Chief M.K.O Abiola.

My late father, Alachedo Obiora, a home-bred philosopher who was nickname ‘Chukwunta’ (little god) by his friends and colleagues because of his down-to-earth approach to life, native intelligence and sharp sense of prophecy, named one of his daughters, my sister, ‘Amaokendu’, which, translated literally to English language, means, ‘who knows the end of life’.

As we go far beyond our middle ages, nobody can tell when nature calls, coming with that inevitable end of human life on earth called death.

What I mean to say here is that the information on June 12 is not IBB’s to keep or die with, like many courageous men as he evidently is, would want to do. Neither is it cowardly for him to reveal the information to Nigerians, because the information actually belongs to Nigerians on whose authority (legally or illegally obtained), he served. We always hear about the oath of office routinely administered on public officers before they assume duties, but nothing is heard about the Official Secret Act when the oath is supposed to expire. The Official Secret Act lifts the ban of revealing information obtained as a public officer from that officer after 25 years  out of government employment. Among other things, the Official Secrets Act should be aimed at recording and sustaining progress in the overall administration of the country.

Nigeria needs the complete information on June 12, 1993 Presidential election annulment to update her history on that incident and possibly to know who the enemies of the people are/were. The elder Statesman may begin to prepare a document for posthumous publication, if he has not done so, to assert his defence and prove his innocence, as he hinted Nigerians in what I regard as a flawed and incomplete ‘political engineering’ speech during a joint session of the National Assembly on 17th August, 1993, if he fears that the publication of such material in his lifetime may be injurious to his loyal and long-time friends, colleagues and allies in the government. This is how sincerity and honesty can be promoted for posterity in Nigeria as past leaders begin to give comprehensive accounts of their stewardship.

The ‘Aruna’ factor and the selective process of king-making in Nigeria preceded the June 12, 1993 election annulment.

In a condolence message to the Awolowo family on the death of their patriarch who was a foremost Nigerian politician and a forward-looking visionary whose sense of charity-begins-at- home is yet to be out-staged in Nigeria, the deceased, Chief Obafemi Awolowo was described by Ezeigbo Gburugburu, Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu, the Ikemba of Nnewi as ‘The best President Nigeria never had’.

I suspect, like Chief M.K.O. Abiola, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, a Christian, was also not trusted enough by the kingmakers in spite of the fact that he had helped them win the war as the Federal Finance Commissioner through the following three proposals initiated by him, aimed at suffocation and economic strangulation of the Igbos. These measures  are:

Seizure and diversion by the Nigerian government to Nigeria of relief materials sent by the Red Cross, CARITAS, World Council of Churches (WCC) and a host of other international donor agencies to stem the tide of Kwashiorkor and curb the increasing rate of death of Biafran children.

The punitive and meagre value of a paltry sum of Twenty pounds for all monetary holdings of any Biafran national deposited in the Bank.

The enactment of the Company’s Indigenization Decree which followed shortly after the civil war to ensure economic and financial exclusion of the Igbos before they recovered from the destruction of their financial and economic backbones by the genocidal war of attrition.

Ostensibly not to allow the installation of an ‘Aruna’ President in Nigeria, a mathematical permutation of Twelve-two-third majority of persons, courtesy of the legal luminary, Richard Akinjide (SAN) was introduced and has ever since then remained a method of interpretation for the declaration of a winner of an election in Nigeria, having been adopted by the NEC (National Electoral Commission).

That interpretation was used to usher in a well-prepared son of the king makers, Alhaji Shehu Shagari, to the Nigerian Presidency.

Recall that the young and brilliant lad, Shehu Aliyu Shagari, an Arabic language teacher and school supervisor was ‘discovered’ in a school in Northern Nigeria by the Premier of Northern Nigeria, Sir Ahmadu Bello, the Sardauna of Sokoto, who gave the young lad a note to the Prime Minister Alhaji Tafawa Balewa in Lagos. Young Aliyu dropped his Raleigh bicycle in Sokoto, and travelled to Lagos to keep the appointment. After meeting the Prime Minister, he was made a Junior Minister of a Federal Ministry with a fat salary, a limousine car, and other emoluments attached to the office.

The political life of the past President of Nigeria, Alhaji Shehu Aliyu Shagari, exemplifies the fix-it power of the political Kingmakers in Nigeria. I have similar facts about all the prominent northern politicians that Nigeria has seen in public office.

The attitude of the Nigerian tribal Kingmakers to use and dump is legendary. A peep to the first Republic era is instructive in this regard. There was no love-lust between the NPC (Northern People Congress), a political party headquartered in Kaduna and controlled by Sir Ahmadu Bello, and the Action Group (AG), another political party headquartered in Ibadan and controlled by Chief Obafemi Awolowo. Being a shrewd and very rugged politician, historical reports show that Awolowo advised Right Honorable (Dr.) Nnamdi Azikiwe, the ceremonial President of Nigeria at the time, to allow the North to secede when her citizens clamored for ‘Araba’.

It is my opinion that Chief Awolowo had the answer to solving the foundation problem of Nigeria at his fingertips long before any Nigerian thought about the problem. History also recorded that  Sir Ahmadu Bello, who was a foresighted and political strategist, advised Northerners to secede to their peril.

It is quite regrettable that Zik played the role of a nationalist in a country where nationalism, up till now, benefits nobody. As a matter of fact, the NCNC (National Council for Nigeria and  the Cameroons), a political party controlled by Herbert Macaulay, Nnamdi Azikiwe and other Nigerian nationalists, which was headquartered in Lagos, was the only true national party in Nigeria that won elections simultaneously in the East, West, North and Southern Nigeria. I read with dismay, the story of ‘operation wetie’ which I reckon as Nigeria’s first-ever recorded story of betrayal (carpet-crossing) in Nigerian politics – a betrayal which torpedoed an NCNC election victory in Western Nigeria with Majekodunmi playing a key role.

Within this ambiance of the recurring decimal of nepotism and selective king making in Nigeria can one also explain the reason why the exalted office of the executive presidency of the federal Republic of Nigeria has continued to elude nationals of the Igbo ethnic group in spite of the fact that many Igbos are eminently qualified for the headship of Nigeria.

In spite of the fact that many other ethnic nationalities in Nigeria taunt an open-secret disunity of the Igbos as a hindering condition for one of theirs to attain the prized position, it is generally believed across Nigeria that an Igbo man will do very well in Nigeria as a President because the Igbos are recognized the world-over to be good managers of men and resources.

The only Igbo man that went nearest to being a President of Nigeria, apart from former President (Dr.) Goodluck Ebele Jonathan who attained the Presidency by sheer luck, was Chief (Dr.) Alex Ekwueme. A technocrat with an excellent sense of administration who single-handedly empowered a generation of Igbo businessmen and Intelligentsia, Chief (Dr) Alex Ekwueme stood tallest as the Igbo man who would have taught Nigeria the best in political and economic administration.

He was eminently qualified, yet the best he could get from the kingmakers was being shoved aside when he almost clinched the presidency under his PDP (People Democratic Party) political party, which he was one of the founding fathers. With that humiliation and shoving aside, he respected himself and retired from active politics.

Recall that the same Chief (Dr) Alex Ekwueme, obviously for the same ‘Aruna’ factor, had most unjustly been clamped in prison custody as an ousted Vice President when his Master, the President, Alhaji Shehu Shagari, was quietly escorted to his Sokoto country-home to cool off.

The Afrobeat king and music legend, Fela Anikulakpo Kuti, had likened this weird misfortune of Dr. Alex Ekwueme to a situation where a vehicle was involved in an accident and instead of arresting/detaining the driver who drove the vehicle, the ‘Conductor’ (Motor boy or Vehicle Assistant) was arrested and Jailed. Such is the overriding and humongous power of nepotism, and tribal political kingmakers in Nigeria.



ABUCHI OBIORA can be reached through

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