Politics

Chuba Okadigbo and the Jolt of September 25

Chido Nwangwu, Publisher USAfricaonline recalls the life and times of Dr. Chuba Okadigbo, Nigeria’s seventh Senate President and one of country’s most flamboyant politicians

Philosopher, scholar, strategist, wordsmith, publisher, activist, orator, traditionalist (Oyi of Oyi) and former President of the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria passed away on September 25, 2003, at a relatively young age, at 61.

He was a big tree on the political and intellectual landscape of Nigeria; and indeed Africa.

Dr. Chuba Okadigbo was a philosopher, master of political intrigues scholar, publisher, activist and orator. . He was vice presidential aspirant of the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) with retired Gen. Muhammadu Buhari, as leader of the ticket. Chuba, a hardnosed political operator,was a bridge between the transited old brigade of the Azikiwe and Awolowos and the new, unsophisticated, impatient new breed of politicians in Nigeria. He was colorful, flamboyant
and sometimes controversial in his activist life.

But one of his misadventures was the oft-cited statements where he allegedly said that Dr. Azikiwe’s opposition to the National Party Nigeria (NPN) “victory” of 1982 could be “likened to the rantings of an ant.”
On many issues, he showed rigor and lucidity in ntellectual discourses. Chuba was in Kano for an ANPP where federal
police sprayed tear-gas to disperse their opposition oo the Obasanjo presidency and “reelection.”

Okadigbo, who had a doctorate in Philosophy, had a health record of respiratory issues. Meanwhile, a key member of Okadigbo’s ANPP in Kano State Hajiya Naja’tu Mohammed had told the Voice of America (VOA) Hausa Service that the former Senate President may have died from the impact of of an “offensive liquid” which the Nigerian Police poured on ANPP leaders at the same rally in Kano. “Immediately Okadigbo inhaled the offensive liquid, he was not himself again and party men started administering first aid on him to revive him. It was something else, I and Okadigbo were soaked, even Buhari was soaked by the offensive

liquid. The Police will not say they don’t know Buhari. That was the beginning of Okadigbo’s travails, because he started behaving like an asthmatic patient.”
On his part, durable journalist and nationalist Chief MCK Ajuluchukwu pointedly said that Chuba’s death was a “national calamity which was sure to embarrass President Olusegun Obasanjo and the Inspector General of Police (Tafa Balogun).He said, ” It is a national
calamity. It must be an embarrassment to the President and IGP that the police in Kano had to throw teargas at a rally being addressed by the Governor of Kano State and the Presidential candidate of the ANPP (Buhari) and his running mate (Okadigbo). There should be a revisit to the constitutional provision for freedom of Assembly without police molestation.

This death is a kind of incident that can bring the North and the East together because they share a common sense of grief. Things like that should not be allowed to
happen. The death of Bola Ige is shocking enough, Okadigbo’s death is even more bizarre. There should be an investigation regarding the real cause of death, which is now being attributed to police teargas in Kano. I don’t believe he died a natural death. It seems like a respiratory collapse arising out of poisonous gas.”

Also, the Kaduna State chairman of ANPP Alhaji Kabir Umar said his party “vehemently objects to the way and manner Okadigbo was tear gas(ed) during the Kano rally…the death of Okadigbo was unfortunate, this is because we believe that his sudden death is not unconnected
with the use of tear gas fired by the police. If they know that a man like Okadigbo was asthmatic and the security men still went ahead to fire tear gas in that environment, what did they expect?”

USAfricaonline.com contacts indicate that Dr. Okadigbo was taken to his Jerome Udoji Close residence in Asokoro, Abuja, the city where he had a home, to get additional medical attention and some rest. He was also planning for the next day to see if could make another court appearance in the ANPP’s electoral-legal challenge to President Olusegun Obasanjo’s controversial reelection of May 2003. The petitioners, the alliance of Nigeria’s political parties, the European Union, Human Rights Watch, and many international observers have since

described the “reelection” in various terms as “rigged, unfair, and not credible” – citing certain cases of vote inflation and violence.
Chuba’s police orderlies were withdrawn and he was getting threatening calls. A
number of his supporters were outraged by his sudden death.

Chuba told me in an interview during the 2002 World Igbo Congress in Houston that
“Nigeria’s President Obasanjo was sorely lacking in the mannerisms of running a democratic government. We fell out because I insisted and worked constitutionally on the principle of separation of powers. He believes he owns the government. He’s a soldier and acts like one. But this is a democracy.” He fell out with Obasanjo and the party, PDP, and said the following, “Now, the Nigerian polity is sick of second term syndrome, a threatening political cancer. Sadly, I must say that the PDP, which had been a big party of the people, is fast becoming a problem party for Obasanjo and his associates, which is run by his
sycophantic cronies.

They now lie prostrate in the trauma wing of a political hospital. Some good persons have been trying to nurse the PDP back to good health. But Obasanjo and his cronies are unwilling to let go, due to their ‘second term’ mania. So, what next? We all
know that nothing succeeds like failure….”
Before then, Dr. Okadigbo informed USAfricaonline and NigeriaCentral.com in another brief interview after his election in 1999 as Nigeria’s 7th Senate President that “we’ll continue to place the overriding interests of all Nigerians at the top of our legislative agenda. We’ll return quickly
to the task of rebuilding the country and its democratic institutions.”

Chuba was key negotiator for Nigeria’s government led at the time (1979-1983) by Alhaji Shehu Shagari in securing the return of Biafra’s leader, Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu. He was Shagari’s Political Adviser. On the same issue of Biafrans and rehabilitation into Nigeria, he argued in 2001 that calling “ex-Biafran soldiers traitors is nonsensical, as it is inflammatory and unpatriotic….it is an attempt to boost up this anti-Igbo sentiment.”

On June 24, 2002, as he was planning to be President of Nigeria, he said, “I do not wish to be a South-East nor an Igbo President. Nor do I wish to be a Southern President. I wish to be a Nigerian President, because I am thoroughly Nigerian, very Nigerian. I want my fellow
Nigerians to accept me, to endorse me, to vote for me, because I will run a programmatic government which will get things done for Nigerians and for Nigeria and thereby, move Nigeria forward- positively.”

On the issue of the Presidency of Nigeria, and a subtle dig at retired Gen Obasanjo, Chuba said elsewhere the same month that, “As a country, we have been endowed by God Almighty with so much resources and potentials to be great. However, we have to free our Nation from direction-less, authoritarian rulers who are suffocating our democracy and have arrested our growth. What we need to do is simple- with our votes; we can free our nation and free ourselves.
Nigerians, free yourselves and fly!
Nigerians, free yourselves and fly!”
Regarding the ruling PDP which he co-founded with former Nigerian Vice President Atiku Abubakar, and others, later joined by Obasanjo, Chuba said, pointedly, “Sadly, the PDP has been unable to manage victory. The party has burst at the seams and has been in persistent trouble, no thanks to self-inflicted wounds. The problem began in June 1999, when President Olusegun Obasanjo of the PDP induced Senators in the opposition parties, namely, the All Peoples Party (APP) and the Alliance for Democracy (AD) to defeat the PDP candidate for the post of Senate President in the person of Dr. Chuba Okadigbo. Thereafter, discord between the executive and legislative arms of government began.

“Next, Obasanjo engineered the ouster of the PDP National Chairman, Chief Solomon Lar, whom he replaced with Chief Barnabas Gemade, whom he again replaced with Chief Audu Ogbe. Then. Gen. Olusegun Obasanjo made it known that he wanted a second term as President. So did all PDP governors and local government chairmen. The APP and AD Chief Executives have followed suit. Now, the Nigerian polity is sick of second term syndrome, a threatening political cancer. Sadly, I must say that the PDP, which had been a big party of the people, is fast becoming a problem party for Obasanjo and his associates, which is run by his sycophantic cronies.. What may happen next can be anybody’s guess. Bearing in mind the fact that success has many friends whereas failure is an orphan.”

In an address to Nigerians in London on July 14, 2002, he directed his sharp mind to the issue of incumbency as factor in Nigeria’s politics, and what Nigerians should learn from the U.S. He noted that “Incumbency is a two-edged sword. It can be quite raw. It can cut an opponent and it

can also cut the holder of the sword. If the holder is a good performer, he can use the relevant performance as a sword of incumbency. But if he is a bad performer, that same sword can cut him, even to pieces. In the contemporary Nigerian setting, it all seems that incumbency will hurt many of its holders, due to dubious performances.

Remember that George Bush, Snr, was an
incumbent President of the United States when Bill Clinton defeated him. Bush led the US to fight and defeat Saddam Hussein and Iraq in 1990 but the American thought he did not perform at home. They turned out to be right in that Bill Clinton gave America eight straight years of unprecedented prosperity and peace.”

He continued: “Similarly (at the time) incumbent President Kenneth Kaunda, incumbent President Kerekou and incumbent President Gerald Ford were defeated at one time or the other, when the incumbency sword cut its holders in favour of opponents. When voters are appalled by bad performance and when they are vigilant, watch out for change. Moreover, change is the only thing that does not change. Every thing else is subject to change. No one, no class, no nation can stop the mind of change from blowing when it must and none can halt change itself when it is in real motion.”

With an erudite mind and powerful political connections, Okadigbo achieved most of his ambitions. But he could have even been more with just a little more discipline. Fact is: like or hate him, you cannot ignore Chuba Okadigbo and his imprints on the sands of Nigeria’s politics.

QUOTE

Dr. Chuba Okadigbo was a philosopher, master of political intrigues scholar, publisher, activist and orator. . He was vice presidential aspirant of the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) with retired Gen. Muhammadu Buhari, as leader of the ticket. Chuba, a hardnosed political operator,was a bridge between the transited old brigade of the Azikiwe and Awolowos and the new, unsophisticated, impatient new breed of politicians in Nigeria. He was colorful, flamboyant
and sometimes controversial in his activist life

Source: thisdaylive.com