Ochereome Nnanna of Vanguard, reviews the ongoing crisis in the politics of Anambra State in Nigeria
Ihonvbere, how you shock us!
By Ochereome Nnanna
Thursday, January 06, 2005
GENERAL Ibrahim Babangida's eight years in power was a
military adventure in the original sense of the expression.
One of the adventures he embarked upon was an open romance
with university professors. Babangida identified closely
with academism and academics because he wanted to distance
himself from the general impression formed of military
officers as educationally half-cooked. Babangida, as a
student of history, must have come across Aristotle’s
position that society is best run by "philosopher kings",
men of exceptional learning and wisdom. That, in modern
terms, coheres closely with those we call professors. In the
university system, a professor is "a faculty member of the
highest academic rank", meaning that in his field of study
he is an expert and authority.
Babangida surrounded himself with professors drawn from all
nooks and crannies of academic and professional landscape.
We had Professors Jibril Aminu, Olikoye Ransome-Kuti,
Humphrey Nwosu, Okon Uya, Tam David-West, Omo Omoruyi,
Babatunde Fafunwa, among a host of others. There were
countless appointees who were PhD holders (Doctors). It
seemed that any civilian who was not a Justice or Professor
or Doctor did not deserve a place in his cabinet and
government scheme of things. The only exceptions, though,
were the bearers of the title of Alhaji.
It is very debatable whether Babangida’s use of professors
produced an outcome that can rightly be described as the
handiwork of "philosopher kings". Most people are willing to
remember that but for a few odd members of Babangida’s
professoriat, most of them came out hurting forever, their
reputations rendered unfit for the dogs and the dignity of
their persons completely taken away from them. Many of them,
till today, cannot show their faces in the public, but a few
smart ones among them tried to recreate their images by
running into exile along with members of the National
Democratic Coalition (NADECO) and resurfacing when the
Abacha era came to an end.
BABANGIDA Succeeded in exposing most members of this class
of highly learned ladies and gentlemen for the ordinary
mortals that they were. Having lived in the famished
academic environments for so many years, many of these
professors, on getting aboard the train of governance,
developed the same ordinary fears of losing their jobs as
any other mortal would entertain. Today, it would appear
that the some of them have simply stopped trying to pretend
about being in a class of their own. During the launching of
the UNICEF/NAFDAC initiative on iodisation of food in
Nigeria in November 2004 in Abuja, most people were
nauseated by the way the Minister of Health, Professor
Eyitayo Lambo, grovelled before Mrs. Stella Obasanjo. He
kept calling her "our mother" and "Mama Nigeria".
For two consecutive weeks, an otherwise renowned Professor
of Political Science, Julius Ihonvbere, a Special Assistant
to President Olusegun Obasanjo, made very prominent media
outings. On Monday, December 27th, 2004, Vanguard had him as
the major news headline, heaping the blame for the Anambra
crisis at the doorstep of "Igbo leaders". Then, again on
Sunday, January 2, 2005, Ihonvbere made the major news on
the Sunday Vanguard, explaining why Chris Ubah, the
self-confessed stealer of the Anambra democratic mandate,
could not be arrested by the authorities and brought to
book. The opinions credited to him on both occasions brought
mouths agape across the land. People wondered if anything
was the matter with the learned professor. Can anyone be
that dippy? Is Ihonvbere resident in Nigeria? Does he read
the newspapers? Did he read the celebrated exchange of
letters between the embattled National Chairman of the
People’s Democratic Party (PDP), Chief Audu Ogbeh, and
President Obasanjo on the Anambra crisis? If the answers to
all these questions are yes, then, what is this professor
really up to?
In the first outing, Ihonvbere declared that Obasanjo has
done everything possible to resolve the problem between
Governor Ngige and Ubah, his estranged political godfather.
According to him, the crisis has continued because "Igbo
leaders" have been unable to call the two warring parties to
order. As a keen watcher of the Anambra crisis from its
pre-genesis to this moment, and as a monitor of the
political pulse of this nation for 10 years now, I find
Ihonvbere’s appraisal or analysis of the Anambra situation
sorely disappointing; in fact, shocking. He is assuming that
the crisis came as a result of disagreements between Ngige
This is misleading. The crisis emanated, first and foremost,
from the denial by Ubah, the PDP and the Presidency of
Anambra people’s right to choose their own leaders through
the democratic process. That was the root cause. The
governorship primaries in the PDP were not allowed to be
transparently democratic. It gave Ubah the opportunity to
use the state institutions loaned him by the Presidency to
impose a perceived manipulable crony, Ngige. The elections
proper in April 2003 were not allowed to be transparently
democratic. That was how Ubah was allowed to use state
institutions to rig his cronies into office. These are the
fundamental triggers of the Anambra crisis.
THE disagreement between Ngige and Ubah, which
plunged the state into two years of political impasse, only
became a problem for the nation at large and for so long
simply because of the support Ubah and his campers have
enjoyed from the Presidency, mainly through the Nigerian
Police. The Police helped him stage the abortive abduction
of Ngige on July 10, 2003. The Police would have implemented
the Justice Stanley Nnaji judgment of January 2, 2004, had
the Nigerian public not set up an uproar at such brazen
abuse of the processes. The Police withdrew from Ngige’s
security. The Police provided security for the thugs
sponsored by the Ubah camp to burn, bomb and loot Anambra
government property as from November 10, 2004 as a
calculated prelude to a declaration of a state of emergency
by the President.
President Obasanjo is the number one culprit in the Anambra
crisis, because he gave Ubah an open franchise to use the
Police Force of this nation as he wished to fight his
personal political battles. Obasanjo is the number one
culprit because he was the one who swayed the PDP away from
expelling Ubah after the aborted abduction.
He was the one who made the Party to treat it as a "family
affair", a term he employs whenever he decides to rig due
processes in order to secure his personal political ends.
Remember, he used the same term during the Owu chieftaincy
crisis, when he disrupted an electoral process because his
chosen candidate was going to lose. The Independent National
Electoral Commission (INEC) is a known tool at the service
of the ruling Party and the President. That was why it was
possible for all of Ubah’s men and women who did not even
contest elections to be given certificates of return. In
fact, Ubah still boasts that Ngige’s certificate of return
is still with him! Who gave it to him? Was it Igbo leaders?
Was it not the INEC?
When Ihonvbere made his wild allegations that "Igbo leaders"
should be blamed for the Anambra crisis, he was unable to
buttress his allegation in a way that would earn him credits
as a professor of political science. He did not even make
common sense. His statement lacked the authority and
credibility that befits an expert in the theory and practice
of politics. But perhaps, there is an underlying political
reason Ihonvbere chose to speak thusly. We will portray it
on Monday when we continue to explore this subject. We have
explained how the President and the ruling Party are the
causes of the problem. We will next prove how "Igbo leaders"
are not the cause. We will also show the hollowness of the
assertion that Ubah cannot be brought to book.