During the contentious 1964/1965 elections, I was a toddler, couldn’t remember what happened. But during the 1979 elections, I was 17 and a FEDECO adhoc staff, I watched the drama, the vibes and the horseplay.
I watched the entrance of the great Zik into the fray, after Onagoruwa, Onitiri ( who died in a car crash on errand to win over Zik ), and Waziri Ibrahim courted Zik. I watched the National Forum transform into the NPN and Club 19 mutate into the NPP.
My kinsman Matthew Nduka Eluwa threatened me that I would die within 7 days if I didn’t wash my hands with soap after shaking hands with Chief Obafemi Awolowo of the UPN, at the Phoenix Hotels off Garden Avenue Enugu.
He said the man crippled Ndigbo during and immediately after the war with horrific anti-human policies. The great Awo shook our hands and told us he will implement free education all over Nigeria, one hour after he was sworn-in as President. I was busy admiring his brown Mercedes limousine.
I watched the excitement in the air and the euphoria palpable in the environment. My neighbour’s driver and younger brother Richard Ezekwe pointed out to me the contestants for the old Anambra NPN ticket during the primaries at the Cinema hall, Hotel Presidential, Enugu. He and I sat in the car watching events.
His brother G C Ezekwe came 6th, Patty Nwakoby 5th, Chuba Okadigbo, 4th, Alex Ekwueme 3rd, Austin Ezenwa 2nd while C C Onoh picked the ticket.
I intensely followed the elections, collapsed at Ngwo Park, Uwani Enugu NPP rally and monitored the results as they trickled in.
43 years later, at over 60 and with stripes on my back, price I had to pay for standing for the truth, thereby offending the power that be and their local agents, I am once more privileged to watch the deafening drama of the 2023 election season.
I notice with satisfaction, the huge awareness in the land, the result of the hard work of some people I know. Within the intervening period, I had to live through the pivotal 1983 elections. I also played a key role during the 1983 elections as a FEDECO adhoc staff yet again.
A decade later.
At the Hope 93 Campaign office at Opebi by Allen, Dr Jonathan Zwingina told us, as I led a coalition of Igbo youths to a meeting, that the SDP Candidate would be sworn-in as Nigeria’s next President.
I was eating at Nnobi Street restaurant, Surulere, when Chief Duro Onabule announced to the world over the radio that the election has been annulled.
December 1998, Dr Pius Okigbo wrote me a note to Prof Ben Obumselu, at the Boyle Street Sonny Odogwu’s Campaign office of ALEPCO preparatory to the PDP Jos Convention, months away.
Ide Oko, was the candidate to beat.
Ekwueme, a thoroughbred, soundly educated across three Continents, brilliant Architect, Kings College old boy, a detribalised pan Nigerian, experienced statesman, former Vice-president who ran elections under the NCNC in the 1960s.
Leader of the G18 and G34, who resisted baits by the military regimes to use his outstanding credibility to launder their image.
Like Chinua Achebe, he quietly turned down all their offer of filthy lucre. When soldiers imposed OBJ, Nigeria lost a golden opportunity to get it right.
His countrymen rejected him because he advanced the argument for power devolution along the six geopolitical zones at the 1994/1995 Abacha constitutional conference.
Till date power devolution and true federalism remain the panacea to our hydraheaded and multifaceted miseries. I watched the build-up to the 2003 elections.
I watched the VP threaten OBJ’s second term, to the end that the Summer of 2002 well advertised “Obasanjo Speaks” ( announcement of his second term bid ) press conference omitted who he’ll pick as running mate, as tension remained high.
I watched the elections with sadness, as Igbo political leaders robbbed Ugochukwu Agballa, Onwuka Kalu and Ezekiel Izuogu of their well-deserved victories, only Peter got vindication through the legal process.
Only Sam Egwu of Ebonyi survived the new consciosness and awareness created by Ralph’s MASSOB, my IYM and Ojukwu’s chrismatic adoption of Chekwas’s APGA. That broad daylight heist created the voter-apathy troubling the region till date.
Masses of the region simply lost faith in the electoral process. I watched Peter Odili’s attempt for 2007. Prof A B C Nwosu came to my GRA Enugu office with Louis Mbanefo in 2006 and pleaded I helped him mobilise Igbo youths for an event at Owerri.
Akachukwu Nwankpo, Vice-presidential candidate to Umar Musa Yardua, Bayelsa Governor Goodluck Jonathan’s aide, also came calling at my GRA Enugu office with a letter the Vice Presidential hopeful wrote to Ndigbo.
I helped him distribute the letter to Igbo leaders, organisations and associations. The 2007 elections raised hopes for a rejuvenated Nigeria. But things quickly took a different direction with President Yardua’s illness and subsequent demise.
Then the real drama and power struggle. As the North insisted it was their turn. The Adamu Ciroma Northern consensus Committee, The ABC Nwosu/ Soludo/Ben Obi led “Ndigbo for Atiku and Atiku for Ndigbo” mantra.
The huge blood letting that occurred during the 2011 elections, especially the slaughter of a dozen youth corpers. There’s no need talking about the 2015 and 2019 elections.
The awareness and political consciousness in the land today is quite encouraging. The hatred of the truth is discouraging.
NIGERIA MUST BE RESTRUCTURED IN ORDER TO MOVE FORWARD. That is the truth.
Reason we are not excited about the polls. Forgive us. Hard-nosed activists like my humble self, will continue to pray for peaceful polls and pleasant positive surprises.
Accordingly we implore BATIFIED, KWANKWASIYA, OBEDIENT AND ARTICULATED Campaign warriors to remember that the real issue holding our country down, inspiring agitations and breeding unrest, criminality and suffering in the land, is the suffocating unitary structure which bred and institutionalised overtime, corruption, nepotism, mediocrity and prebendalism.
These multiple evils gave birth to, unemployment, poverty, sectarianism, religious and ethnic dichotomy, hunger, frustration et al.
No extra terrestrial being from outer space can move Nigeria forward under this choking 1999 military constitution.
The unitary structure bequeathed us by the military must be replaced by a people’s constitution anchored on devolution of powers and true federalism. This is the bone of contention.
The way the song goes, sounds strange to idealistic youngsters, but truth is truth. Nigeria must restructure her polity in order to survive. Nothing will change the truth of the matter.
Evangelist Elliot Ugochukwu-Uko is the founder, Igbo Youth Movement; secretary, Eastern Consultative Assembly and deputy secretary, Igbo Leaders of Thought