Requiem For the Political Dead

by Uche Nworah

In the flick Dead Man Walking, Hollywood actor Sean Penn beautifully brings alive in his character the emotional pangs of a convict awaiting death by execution. Some of Nigeria’s many agbada wearing politicians may soon start exhibiting similar characteristics of dead men walking in the political arena. Fish can not survive out of water for so long and for some of them, a life outside politics with all its trappings may be considered unliveable.

This season does have the makings of a season of political anomy in Nigeria judging from the number of politicians who have been played by the same system they have played over the years, or could the recent political upheavals which have affected favoured politicians be regarded as a passing phase, an ‘abnormally’ or is it a final confirmation of paradigm shift which calls for a change in dance steps to rhyme with the change in beat?

However, the incongruity of the season appears to suggest that the days of politics as we know it in Nigeria may be gradually nearing its life cycle; breeze don blow and we don see fowl nyash.

Time was when Francis Arthur Nzeribe (Ogbuagu Damanze) was the ultimate political kingmaker in Nigeria, his unpredictable nature, shifting political ideologies and political dexterity endeared him to friends and foe many of whom severally questioned his true motives, and faulted his worldview while at the same time applauding the effectiveness, and the efficiency with which he delivered several of his political masterstrokes. The most notorious being his Association for Better Nigeria (ABN) exploits in 1993 which thwarted Bashorun M.K.O Abiola’s presidential ambitions.

Those days it seems are gone, what goes around comes around and the chickens finally are coming home to roost. Ogbuagu won’t be returning to the senate chambers, a place that has become his second home as Nigeria’s longest serving senator. Unless he conjures up one last move, he may be on the verge of becoming one of Nigeria’s latest political casualties, although his pedigree may point to the fact that he is not the type of man that would gladly accept the tag of a political has – been.

He has traversed Nigeria’s political landscape for over two decades dating back to the early eighties when he forayed into the second republic politics in an enigmatic manner of which only him could. In so short a time, he became the strongman of the Nigerian Peoples Party (NPP). Buoyed by a large war chest, he floated several humanitarian foundations (Francis Arthur Nzeribe Foundations) which he used to capture the hearts and minds of the rural folks in the old Imo state. Ogbuagu had arrived. As a youngster, I remember how I went to Aba township stadium with my friends to partake of Ogbuagu’s loot whose penchant at the time was raining down naira on poor folks from his private helicopter. Those days also are gone.

There used to be a time in the old Imo state and later Abia state when the Ogbuagu factor had to be reckoned with by all aspiring politicians who frequented his Haven of Peace country home in Oguta. During Babangida’s Option A4 political transition programme, rumours started going round that Ogbuagu was administering oaths on all Social Democratic Party (SDP) stalwarts. At the time my father was heavily involved in local politics and had made the trip with his party members. I remember accosting him (my father) after they came back from visiting Ogbuagu at Oguta and he denied any such fetish practices but the rumours did not go away and helped sustain the Arthur Nzeribe myth.

For ensuring that Bashorun Abiola never smelled Aso Rock, at least as a resident, Ogbuagu’s notorious profile soared even more. He commandeered media space like a war general and courted several controversies.

Probably his biggest mistake was in not carefully choosing his battles, especially as the years wore on and the bones got weaker. At some point he was firing on all cylinders and was almost Nigeria’s public enemy number one. Such political manoeuvres dissipate energy and resources. His battles in the third republic have been legion; with the ANPP which led to his defection to PDP, with the Senate (leading to his suspension and plans to impeach him), with President Obasanjo whom he conspired to impeach, with his people leading to the threat to recall him plus that infamous incident in Owerri when the young guns revolted against him and the self styled Ohaneze leadership, and also with Achike Udenwa, the Imo state governor who finally got his wishes and used Hon. Osita Izunaso to extract his pound of flesh at the party primaries held in December 2006.

Ogbuagu acknowledged the Udenwa factor in his protest after the primaries which he lost. According to him “I contested against Udenwa and not Izunaso. I have not and will not accept the result of the primaries as announced on Sunday by the returning officer. The process was marred by irregularities too numerous to mention”. This coming from the maverick politician actually shows that times have changed. Did the player just got played?

Apparently new kids have arrived on the block with deeper pockets and more current political connections by which time Ogbuagu’s once deep treasury and political savvy has started to leak and wane from over use. But in politics, you don’t write off men like Ogbuagu easily, they always find a way to bounce back in some capacity. Nigerian politics may never be the same without the Ogbuagu factor.

Joining the growing list of political casualties is Senator Ugochukwu Uba, one would have thought that his Uba surname and Aso Rock connections would be enough to return him back to the Senate but the star gazers got this one wrong, he polled just a single vote at the PDP primaries thus opening the discussions again on his brother – Andy Uba’s chances in the gubernatorial elections in 2007. Indeed wonders shall never end.

On the other fronts, another anointed political godson Dr Osita Ogbu failed to make it at the Enugu state PDP primaries, another sign that Aso Rock connection alone may not be a guarantee for political success.

Governor Rashidi Ladoja has returned to Oyo state government house, the former occupant and impostor (deputy governor Alao- Akala) has since vamoosed alongside his godfather Alhaji Lamidi Adedibu (the self styled King of Oyo politics and oracle of Ibadan), who himself was whisked off by armed security men to Abuja in the aftermath of the Supreme court decision in the interest of peace in the state.It appears all the mighty are falling this season.

IBB too, a man that has kept tongues wagging since he picked up PDP’s presidential nomination forms. Did he really ‘step aside’ for the shadowy character and former spy chief, General Mohammed Aliyu Gusau and Katsina state governor Umar Yar’Adua solely on moral grounds as he is claiming, or was he afraid of humiliation at the polls?

The leopard never ever completely sheds its spots, perhaps only time will resolve IBB’s situation although Nigerians would readily wish to condemn him to the graveyard of Nigeria’s political has- beens.

This season is indeed strange.

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