Frank Nweke vs. Chimaroke Nnamani: Between non-existent gratitude and blind desperation

Posted by Osmond Nnamchi | 11 November 2014 | 6,062 times

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The political vibrancy of Enugu can easily be measured by the quality of debates that go on in innocuous corners of the capital city. At every nook and cranny of the state, it is often a common feature to observe those keenly engaged in the sophisticated hobby of hypothesising political issues in the state and beyond. It is such an engaging pastime that one needs to be in Enugu to fully understand the ramifications, foolery, or wickedness of varied political and social issues unfolding in the country, including the activities of the dreaded Boko Haram terrorist organisation. Some weeks back, yours sincerely was in the Coal City state, and I visited the popular Edinburgh Round About. For decades, this spot had remained the rendezvous of journalists and other enlightened minds. It is the spot from which various newspapers are distributed to vendors for the day’s business. It is therefore a haven for the ubiquitous Free Readers Association and it is not distant to say it is also this place that popular political opinions in the state are moulded!

On that fateful day, the topic of debate was the relationship between Mr. Frank Nweke Jnr., a former Minister for Information under President Olusegun Obasanjo, on the one hand, and Dr. Chimaroke Nnamani, a former governor of Enugu State, and former Senator representing Enugu East senatorial district, on the other. The progenitor of the debate was of the view that Nweke’s ambition to contest the forthcoming senatorial election for the Enugu East slot against his former boss was in bad taste. He said it is a measure of ingratitude akin to politicians from the South-East that a man who was literally sprung from the backwaters would so easily turn his mentor and benefactor a victim of his newfound wealth and visibility. He recalled that Nweke had never done any job in his life until 2001 when Nnamani railroaded him to the exalted office of Chief of Staff to the Governorof Enugu State. As if that was not enough, Nnamani went beyond prudence when out of the surfeit of qualified hands that abound in the state, he nominated and ensured that Nweke became a Minister of the Federal Republic of Nigeria! He maintained that Nnamani has, in recent times, been traumatised by the perfidy and sundry activities of former political allies and opponents, including being hounded by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and therefore needs the compassion of associates such as Nweke; and it smacks of crass insensitivity – nay, wickedness – that those who should protect have all turned plunderers. He listed all the present political actors in the state, including the Governor, Sullivan Chime, the Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, Senators Ayogu Eze, Gil Nnaji and almost all serving members of the National Assembly, including the new rave in town, Hon. Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, as products of former Governor Nnamani’s political wisdom.

The next respondent countered that it was a curious abridgement of history to ascribe to Nnamani the ascendancy of the current political actors as listed. He maintained that the credit should indeed go to Chief Jim Nwobodo, the authentic political godfather of the state who made Nnamani the Governor in 1999 “out of nothing”! He reasoned that Nnamani’s current fate is a function of political nemesis as, according to him, the evil that men do these days live with them. He posited that the wickedness which Nnamani allegedly visited on Chief Nwobodo was unprecedented, including masterminding the revocation of the operating licence of Savannah Bank, a bank known to be owned by Chief Nwobodo, under Obasanjo’s regime for no known reason.

Yet, even this had a counter. The third contributor alleged that even Chief Nwobodo was equally unfair to the great Owelle of Onitsha, Nnamdi Azikiwe, who equally made him Governor of the old Anambra State in 1979 such that Chief Nwobodo was alleged not to have as much as attended Azikiwe’s burial activities in 1996 when the great nationalist departed this worldly plain. The only difference, according to him, was that the great Zik was more intellectually sophisticated than the current political actors and thus bore his own‘disappointments’ with Nwobodo with deep introspection and equanimity. The circle goes on!

There can indeed be no end to all these accusations and counter-accusations. But if I were to be in Nweke’s shoes, I would pause and do some critical reflections. Does he have a right to aspire to represent his senatorial zone? Yes, he does! The Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended) eloquently guarantees that. Is he qualified to so do? Yes, he does; eminently so. In this age when the best is without conviction and the worst is filled with passionate intensity, Nweke has indeed proven his mettle. As Minister for Information under President Obasanjo, he was able to prove that the age of Methuselah had nothing to do with the Wisdom of Solomon. As Director General of the Nigerian Economic Summit Group (NESG) Nweke was able to prove that economic issues were and should not be the exclusive preserve of the so-called economic experts. The hosting, last year, of the World Economic Summit in Abuja would go down in history as a sample of functional interface that is possible between the government and the private sector under some focused leadership. The question therefore would be: Is this the right time for Nweke to pursue this ambition? My answer would be NO!

It is not everything we have the right or power to do that we must do. As Chinua Achebe would say, those whose palm kernel had been cracked for them by the benevolent spirit should not forget to be humble. If we do everything we are capable of doing, then our society would not be any better than the community of animals. We should be able to draw a line always between opportunity and opportunism. Opportunism is the inordinate feasting on other people’s fate and challenges without regard to morals. For a man who made you all you are today, it is shameless opportunism to dance on his sick bed; whatever sickness he suffers – be it political, social or physiological. Our society should not be divorced of its essential humanity such that even pity would be a form of arrogance!

There cannot be any doubt that Chimaroke was overwhelmed by power such that he stepped dangerously on many toes while in office as Governor. Yet, there are many who still hold grudges against him because he over-promoted some people without regards to reason. Nweke somehow falls into this category when it is recalled that he only came down to Enugu to seek assistance to be employed by the former Standard Trust Bank as a clerk, without any known resume. There are therefore those who cannot, in good conscience, echo such sadistic and painful refrain that Nnamani’s current condition serves him right. And Nweke belongs to this clan. This is because, whereas it might be an overstatement to hold the view that Nnamani ‘made’ all the current political actors in the state, there are indeed those that such can rightly be claimed.

For instance, whereas Ekweremadu had been a Local Government Chairman long before Nnamani emerged as Governor, and ditto Senator Nnaji, such cannot be said of Nweke. It took the audacity of Nnamani to discover that although he was without a resume, he possessed some ability, and therefore activated same. So where has Nnamani offended everybody that he has so easily been forsaken by all those who should care? Can there really be a developed political culture where the enduring culture of loyalty is completely shorn of our politics?

Yes, it could be argued that it smacks of inordinacy on the part of Nnamani to still be angling to go to the Senate after his eight-year tenure as Governor and further four-year tenure as a Senator. But it takes some people to call him to order and there are no such people other than Nwekes of this clime. It is not known whether they have done their best in this regard without success.

Last year when Nnamani threw caution to the wind and danced an ugly rigadoon by trying to rejoin PDP forcefully, one had expected his political acolytes like Nweke to rally round him nonetheless. It is painful to note that apart from Ekweremadu, who offered a shortlived solidarity, others like Nweke looked placidly and cynically bye as the master was roundly humbled. All we know is that Nweke has coveted this position since mid-2007 when Nnamani, fearing the draconian tactics of the erstwhile Chairman of the EFCC, Nuhu Ribadu, abandoned his senatorial mandate and ran to America without as much as waiting to be sworn-in. But whereas others like Ekweremadu were working out ‘political solutions’ to bring Nnamani back, Nweke, employing his closeness to Obasanjo, was alleged to be assiduously planning to claim the seat. The rest, as they say is history, as Nnamani later came back and was sworn-in several months after the Sixth Senate had been inaugurated. The fact however remains that Nweke has for long coveted this seat.

Nweke is still in his early forties and I cannot imagine anything is yet beyond him. For him, it is still morning on creation day. Great opportunities yet abound for him to fully showcase his potentials.

In Igboland, duty calls on those behind a big masquerade to call it to order when it begins to take faltering dance steps. They are never justified to abandon the masquerade because as the Swazi of Southern Africa would say, the shame of an‘Impi’ is usually borne by his own. Nweke and others like him who Nnamani still bear the opprobrium of obstinately sticking out his neck for their sake must do this before any other political step. Anything other than this would amount to unprovoked denial the stigma of which could be borne for a life time.

Nnamuchi, an Attorney-at-law, lives in Lagos. Photo shows Nweke and Nnamani.

Source: News Express

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