At the risk of being accused of sycophancy and praise-singing by opponents of the characters mentioned above, this write-up is not about the firebrand radicalism, extremism, ardor or the ice-cold apathy, indifference, unresponsiveness, or even the moderate view subtlety, discretion, tact employed at the various chambers of the National Assembly where they operated or still operating. It is about the very many times our dear Imo as a state has been positioned in national discuss whether positively or negatively. It is about how many times the state has been recognized or identified with characters that through their actions and or inactions positioned the state in national reckonings. They are countless in their various careers but this piece focuses on the National Assembly being the writer’s area of coverage.
Senator Arthur Nzeribe
Imo state Senator Arthur Nzeribe was born in Oguta, Imo State on 2 November 1938 to a prominent Oguta family. He is the Ogbuagu, Osiji, Damanze Oyimba of Oguta. His second wife is the sister of Hajia Asabe Yar’Adua, wife of the late General Shehu Musa Yar’Adua, who was brother of late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua.
He attended Holy Ghost College, Owerri, and then got a scholarship from the Nigerian Ports Authority in 1958 to study Marine Engineering in England. By 1960 he was selling life insurance to black immigrants in Britain. He met Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana that year and started to work for Nkrumah in public relations. He bought his first Rolls Royce a year later. After the fall of Nkrumah in 1966 he lost influence in Ghana.
In 1969 Nzeribe started up the Fanz Organization based in London, dealing in heavy construction, arms, oil brokerage, publishing and property investment, with much business in the Middle East and Gulf states. By 1979 Fanz had an annual trading turnover of £70 million. In Nigeria, Nzeribe built up Sentinel Assurance and other companies. In 1983 he spent N12m to win a Senatorial seat in Orlu. In 1993, he was a prominent supporter of the Association for a Better Nigeria, which backed General Ibrahim Babangida. Using the Ibrahim Babangida-supported ABN platform he campaigned for, and dubiously succeeded in the annulment of the fairest and freest presidential election in the history of Nigeria. He continued further his mission to legitimize the dictatorship of maximum ruler, General Sanni Abachi, which was resolutely resisted by the Nigerian people and the will of God
At the return of democracy in Nigeria in 1999 Arthur Nzeribe was elected the Senator for the Imo Orlu constituency and was reelected in 2003. In November 2002, the senate under the Senate President Anyim Pius Anyim indefinitely suspended Senator Nzeribe due to an allegation of a N22 million fraud. Nzeribe was said to be planning an impeachment motion against Anyim.
Sen. Jonathan Zwingina while moving the motion for the suspension of Nzeribe which was carried unanimously by all the 68 senators in the chamber that day said that when the Senate was inaugurated in 1999, they had all hoped that the dignity of the Senate, the National Assembly and the nation were of prime concern to all. Nzeribe’s activities, he said, had now made it difficult for the Senate to maintain its dignity.
Tracing the activities of Nzeribe right from inception, Zwingina said in the motion which was seconded by Senator Victor Oyofo, that it had become manifest that “the essential character of Senator Nzeribe has been a deeply, persistent discomfort with democracy… and such discomfort has been exhibited by a consistent history of plotting, uprooting and destroying democratic institutions and elected public officials as follows:
– Our dear Senator has been seriously associated with the infamous and well-known overthrow of a National Government in the Republic of Ghana in the early 1970s.
– Our Distinguished Senator created the Association for Better Nigeria to manipulate the judiciary in disrupting and destroying the well known electoral victory of the late Chief M. K. O. Abiola in the June 12 presidential election of which I was the national campaign coordinator in 1993.
– On October 18, 1999, dear Distinguished Senator helped to organise and indeed championed the impeachment of the first Senate President of the 4th Republic… arguing through a memo to all Senators that “It is for us to elect a Senate President that will work for us and not to be given a Senate President that will work with us for the Executive Arm.
– It is also on record that, the said Senator…. equally worked very tirelessly for the impeachment of the second Senate President… Dr. Chuba Okadigbo.
– It is equally on record that on 15 April 2000, our Distinguished Arthur Nzeribe brought a motion under section 143 of 1999 Constitution seeking the removal of Chief Olusegun Obasanjo from office as President by impeachment. In the said motion… Nzeribe proposed 15 impeachable offences against President Obasanjo and stipulated a time-table for his eventual removal.”
Zwingina said “whereas, it can be seen that as chronic champion of impeaching democratic institutions and persons, Senator Nzeribe had already proposed the removal of President Obasanjo exactly one year after his election only the Senate in its wisdom stopped such destructive programme being unleashed on the nation;
“Whereas, it is glaringly evident that Senator Nzeribe is allergic to good reputation, he has proceeded in the same manner to circulate his usual memoranda to all Senators detailing what he calls “iniquities of Senate President Anyim Pius Anyim”, which details a series of half-truth, mis-truth and non-truth against the person and character of Senator Anyim Pius Anyim with intent to cause the impeachment of the incumbent Senate President;
“Whereupon, it is equally safe to conclude, that by his consistent utilization of the impeachment weapon, Senator Nzeribe has elevated the concept of impeachment to a lucrative business strategy at the expense of the survival of democracy in Nigeria;
In April 2006 the Orlu People’s Consultative Assembly, sponsored by the governor of Imo state Achike Udenwa, staged what it called “One million March” to drum support for Nzeribe’s recall from the Senate. In the December 2006 PDP primaries for the 2007 Senatorial candidates, Nzeribe was roundly defeated by Osita Izunaso.
Nzeribe’s controversial outlook and political sagacity had been described by political pundits as equals to none both in Imo state and in the country in recent days. Nzeribe is currently retired from active politics but he is still a member of the PDP Board of Trustees.
Senator Hope Uzodinma
Imo state senator Hope Uzodinma was elected Senator for the Imo West senatorial district of Imo State, Nigeria, in the April 2011 federal elections. He ran on the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) platform. His election was challenged on the grounds that he was not the valid PDP candidate, but on 5 May 2011 the Supreme Court declared that his election was valid
Wikipedia reports a claim in 2001 which said that Chief Uzodinma had a business empire spread across the country. He had the ceremonial title of Onwa Na Etiri Oha of Omuma in Oru-EastLocal Government of Imo State. Although a friend of the then Imo Governor Achike Udenwa until late 2002, Uzodinma decided to run for Governor himself in the April 2003 elections, and decamped to the Alliance for Democracy (AD), becoming their candidate for the Imo State governorship. He was unsuccessful, and in February 2004 was readmitted to the PDP. Uzodinma was a competitor in the PDP primaries for Imo State Governor in December 2006, coming a close second to Senator Ifeanyi Araraume. He was appointed a member of the PDP Board of Trustees. He was among those who endorsed the bid by Ikedi Ohakim to run again for Imo Governor in 2011 after Ohakim had returned to the PDP.
In testimony to the Justice Chukwudifu Oputa Commission of inquiry in July 2001 it was alleged that Uzodinma had been involved in attempts to transfer money from the National Maritime Authority to the former military ruler Abdulsalami Abubakar. In 2005 it was alleged that Dere Awosika, a close associate of the first lady Stella Obasanjo, had been involved in award of fraudulent contracts to herself and to Hope Uzodinma, a friend of President Olusegun Obasanjo. Awosika and Uzodinma’s companies were said to each have received mobilization fees of two hundred and fifty million naira. Uzodinma was said to have refunded part of the mobilization fee due to mounting pressure from the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission EFCC.
On 10 February 2009 the EFCC arrested and detained Uzodinma. A public petition to the PDP on 10 December 2010 on behalf of a group claiming to be indigenes of Orlu gave reasons why Uzodinma should not be selected as Senatorial candidate. It said that in 2005 Springbank Plc lodged a complaint with against him with the EFCC for fraudulent diversion and obtaining money under false pretences. The EFCC had filed charges, which had not yet been cleared. It also asserted that his company Transurb Technical Consult Ltd was effectively bankrupt.
Uzodinma won the PDP primary for the Imo West Senatorial race on 9 January 2011, gaining 2,147 votes, while the incumbent Senator Osita Izunaso came second with 891 votes. However, on 5 February 2011 a Federal High court declared that Izunaso was the candidate of the party for the senatorial seat since Uzodinma had not been cleared by the PDP’s electoral panel headed by Orji Nwafor-Orizu. It seems that Nwafor-Orizu had been influenced by the December 2010 petition. The judge ordered the PDP to submit Izunaso’s name to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) as the candidate who had received the most votes among those qualified to run. A Court of Appeal issued a stay of execution on 17 March 2011 while the case was being decided, leaving Uzodinma free to campaign. On 5 April 2011 the Court of Appeal upheld the 5 February high court judgment and declared that Uzodinma was not qualified to run and should not represent himself as a candidate. Uzodinma appealed this decision with the Supreme Court.
In the 9 April 2011 elections, Uzodinma received 85,042 votes, ahead of former Imo Governor Achike Adenwa of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) with 64,228 votes and Rajis-Okpara Benedicta of the All Progressives Grand Alliance with 57,110 votes. On 5 May 2011 the Supreme Court overturned the earlier decisions and declared that Uzodinma was the valid candidate and therefore had been elected. The decision was influenced by the minutes of a 5 January 2011 meeting of the PDP’s National Working Committee that was attached to the April appeal to the Supreme Court. The meeting had overruled Nwafor-Orizu’s decision to disqualify Uzodinma and rejected the December 2010 petition, saying “there was no evidence that Chief Hope Uzodinma has been convicted for murder, armed-robbery, obtaining money by false pretense and or for bankruptcy”.
Chairing one of the juicy committees in the Red Chamber, Committee on Aviation, Uzodinma over-sighted and spearheaded the transformation and success story being witnessed today in the Nigeria Aviation sector. Constantly putting the then Minister of Aviation who today is a senator of the Federal Republic on her toes, Uzodinma ensured that so many airports in the country were remodeled while the airport in Enugu was elevated to an International Airport status. Uzodinma has remained a vocal voice in the senate of the National Assembly, a kitchen-cabinet member of the former Senate President driving and championing development projects not only for his constituency and state but for the entire South-East. He is currently the undisputable leader of the PDP in Imo state having won his re-election bid as senator in the 2015 federal elections.
It is believed in some quarters that the former Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives and the PDP Governorship Candidate in the 2015 governorship election in Imo state, Rt. Hon. Emeka Ihedioha would have won his governorship bid if he had from beginning been in the good books of the munificent Uzodinma.
Deacon Chike Okafor
Rep Chike Okafor was born in 1972 into the royal family of Eze Ifeanyi John Okafor and Lolo, Ugoeze Victoria Okafor in Umuokeh, Obowo Local Government Area of Imo state. He has been variously described by admirers, associates, fans, constituents and colleagues at different work and religious places. He is a Crown Prince and an uncommon banker in whom nature bestowed the sterling attributes of a great leader.
Chike had his Primary Education at a very young age and thereafter proceeded to the prestigious Holy Ghost College Owerri for his Secondary school. He later gained admission to study Economics into the Imo state University, Owerri and graduated with a Second Class Honours degree in 1998. Chike had his mandatory National Youth Service at Osogbo in Osun state and immediately got employment with the now defunct All States Trust Bank PLC.
With the relentless zeal of making change, challenging frontiers and exploring higher levels, the Christ Embassy ordained Deacon moved to joining the Oceanic Bank where he worked between 2003 and 2005. He later left Oceanic for the Zenith Bank PLC in 2005 where he rose to a senior management cadre and worked till his compulsory retirement in 2011 when he had to pick up appointment as Commissioner in Imo state under the Owelle Rochas Okorocha’s first term administration.
Okafor’s appointment and entry into politics since 2011 has rapidly transformed Obowo, his Local Government Area and extended to two other LGAs – Ihitte-Uboma and Ehime Mbano – becoming the long-awaited watershed for the constituency bringing roads, electricity, water, schools, police stations, empowering youths and women and offering employments and scholarships.
But his opponents believe he was instrumental to the financial mess Imo state today finds itself where it can no longer pay workers’ salaries just because he used his position as a staff of the Zenith Bank to ensure that the state borrowed more than it can pay back without mortgaging the state. Others believe he corruptly enriched himself and showed too much flamboyancy and generosity with state’s fund. He has been variously accused by the opposition PDP in the state for misappropriating some N13.7 billion bond money saved by Governor Ikedi Ohakim and another N10 billion left by previous government among other financial recklessness. Chike has never been convicted in any of the allegations.
Less than two months that he was inaugurated a member in the House of Representatives, Okafor has positioned self at the floor of the Green Chamber as another pride from Imo to reckon with playing prominent roles in the formation of the Speaker’s kitchen cabinet of the newly constituted House leadership.
Coming at the heat of the leadership crisis on inauguration day of the House of Representatives Tuesday, June 9th, 2015, the lots fail on him to second the nomination of Hon. Dogara as the Speaker even when he could be said to be a first timer in the House. Chike did not only second the nomination, he was also the agent for the Speaker during the counting of votes.
He was prominently spotted and heard in all the scheming and counter scheming that played out before the emergence of the Speaker and during the formation of the new House leadership. His prominence in the activities of the House of Representatives in less than Four weeks even made it possible for his nomination at a certain stage as Deputy Chief Whip of the House. This nomination was however sacrificed for peace in the House and for national unity following the intervention of the President and the national leadership of his party, the APC.
It is of note and worthy of recognition that the radiance and joie de vivre glowing around the former Imo Finance Commissioner at the floor of the Green Chamber even as a first timer in that House is an indication that another brand has just been born and added into the club of Imo state political connoisseurs and wizards.
As serious legislative activities take shape in the National Assembly in the coming days, the need for Senator Hope Uzodinma of the PDP Imo West Senatorial zone and Honourable Chike Okafor of the APC House of Reps both from Imo state to keep aside their party differences and work assiduously together for the development of the state would be of utmost benefits to the state as two good heads, they say, are always better than one.
No doubt the likes of Sen. Chris Anyanwu and Hon. Emeka Ihedioha in their various ways made positive contributions for national recognitions in the National Assembly from Imo state, but none certainly among the duo made sterling recognitions as first timers in their days other than Sen. Anyanwu as a woman. Imo has personalities!
Greg Nwadike writes from firstname.lastname@example.org, Abuja.
247 total views, no views today