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June 12 And Fate Of Key Actors– Hard Lesson For Nigerian Politicians

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It is funny how life can take a drastic turn that, often times, never be started all over, once lived, to perhaps, avail one opportunity to change a wrong done in the past.

Time waits for no one. So a life once lived cannot be relived to change the cause of events. We can only strive to make amends/adjustments in the present, to avoid similar mistakes in the future.

This is why, for us, the infamous June 12, now the nation’s Official Democracy Day, should be a time of sober reflection for Nigerian Politicians across all levels, to make necessary adjustments to embrace the common good in overall interest of the Nigerian masses that supposedly hand them mandate as custodians of our collective wealth.

It is necessary to learn from the present conditions of some major actors of the June 12 Presidential annulment by the then Military Junta of 1993. We recall how in 2017, the photograph of ageing and sick Chief Francis Arthur Nzeribe, sitting languidly, with medics around him, went viral. That same picture resurfaced in 2019 as the June 12 remembrance by the present administration of President Muhammadu Buhari.

Nzeribe didn’t recover from the ailment through his passing out earlier in the year. A reflection of the piteous health challenge the ‘maverick’ politician went through makes one wonder if our present generation of Nigerian politicians who see themselves as demi-gods, are aware that one day they too will no longer be relevant or talked about in good light because of their poor and bad legacies left behind in the nation’s political landscape.

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The photograph of a sick Nzeribe, confined to a wheelchair was widely shared on several social media with the commentaries short of sympathy, but replete with lessons on the vanity of life and the enfeebling capacity of old age.

Though already an octogenarian at the time, Nzeribe was so incapacitated by ill health that he vanished from limelight after his defeat in the 2006 primaries of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to elect a Senatorial candidate for his Orlu Imo State Constituency.

Obviously struck down by illness and enfeebled by it, he had never became a factor in the Nigerian politics for about a decade now, his voice silence till he passed on.

This was same Nzeribe who once ran for the Office as President and was elected a Senator in the short-lived Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida (IBB) Military-Civilian rule experiment, and in 1999 and 2003, re-emerged within 24 hours in dispiriting, shocking circumstances.

One comment widely shared with the photograph of sickly Nzeribe at the time read: “Above is Author Nzeribe living like an invalid at his country home in Orlu, Imo State. At the height of his life, he lived in Nicon (Transcorp) Hilton Hotel Abuja Presidential Suite for over 20 years. So also, Federal Palace Hotel, Lagos. In fact, Nzeribe was said to always handle the personal keys to these Presidential Suites, and as such, can check into these hotels at will, without following the normal checking in protocol.

He was allowed to go into these Hotels whenever he pleased. He rode on Rolls Royce cars in London and Lagos. Had Mansions in major cities of the world. Had private jets. Was one time an ‘enfante terrible’ of Nigeria’s Politics. He helped to lead IBB to June 12 imbroglio and Late Abacha’s attempted transmutation to Civilian Leadership in 1998.

This was same Arthur Nzeribe, who was regarded as one of the principal actors that was used by the then Military Head of State and Government of Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida, to actualize the annulment of the June 12 Presidential election, which was still regarded today as one of the Nigeria’s fairest, freest and credible elections in the nation’s political history.

This is same Nzeribe, the Oguta born politician from Orlu in Imo State, who was said to be a former Arms Dealer who earned for himself the epithet of ‘the maverick’ one in the nation’s political landscape.

Today, Nzeribe will hardly be mentioned, or even regarded on the bright pages of the nation’s political landscape. Many didn’t even knew he was salive and in existence for years before his passing out. More commentaries on the said picture read: “Today, he lives a pathetic life at the mercy of aides and Nurses.”

Life is moving on in Nigeria and the world without him. Money, cars, houses, private jets, and jet life are all Vanities upon Vanity. May God Almighty continue to bless us with Good and sound health, peace of mind and CONTENTMENT today and forever, Amen”.

Another commentator at the time chipped this in: “Francis Arthur Nzeribe’s body physique today is the natural consequence of ageing, which all of us, if God blesses us with old age, will have to pass through. It has nothing to do with his infamous role as Association for Better Nigeria (ABN) leader.”

This is also a lesson to all, that in our journey through life, we should remember that there is God almighty and that one day, WE WILL GIVE ACCOUNT OF OUR STEWARDSHIP “. Another Nigerian wrote: Let those who have ears to hear, eyes to see learn from Arthur Nzeribe’s case. Vanities upon vanity all will end one day. Who inherited all of ‘Emperor Haile Selassie of Ethiopia properties?”

Francis Arthur Nzeribe was born on 2 November 1938, in Oguta Imo state. Here is what his Wikipedia biography post says of him: He is the Ogbuagu, Osniji, 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 President Umaru Yar’Adua.

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 Sani Abachi, which was resolutely resisted by the Nigerian people and the will of God. Arthur Nzeribe was elected Senator for the Imo Orlu constituency 1999 and was reelected in 2003.

In November 2002, 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 in April 2006 the Orlu People’s Consultative Assembly, sponsored by the then 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, he was defeated by Osita Izunaso.” Nzeribe vanished from limelight since that defeat. The last time we heard his voice, if we can remember correctly, was in 2012, when he noted that the then National Assembly did not have what it takes to impeach former President Goodluck Jonathan.

In his words: “Nobody respects the average lawmaker anymore in Nigeria. With the kind of corruption in the system, I do not think the impeachment threat is real.” That was the last time we publicly heard anything from Nzeribe again.

Then there is Babaginda himself, who was the main actor of the June 12 Presidential annulment, and also was a key player in most of the military coups in Nigeria (July 1966, February 1976, December 1983, August 1985, December 1985 and April 1990).

It was under Babangida that Nigeria experienced the most devastating economic policies that changed the trajectory path on the development of the nation. Most of his economic policies, like the Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP) that was powered by the International Monetary Fund (IMF), is said to be responsible for the downward progression of the nation’s once thriving economy. Since then, Nigeria is yet to recover from that experience.

Recently, there have been reports that Babangida said that he was forced by Northern leaders and Emirs to annul the said June 12 election. And I reiterated the fact that why wait till now to come out and tell this cock and bull story to Nigerians. Even Babangida’s son, also came out some months back to make similar claims, which we believe is more like medicine after death, or an after thought by Babangida and his fronts to try to justify his actions and exonerate himself from the blame of June 12.

But the fact still remains that Babangida was the then Military Head of State, as such, he should take responsibility for the said annulment of June 12. He was the one who made that choice to annul the said election, not Abacha or any other Northern leader as he claims. And he will live with that guilt throughout the rest of his life.

It is also funny to note how these two persons, Nzeribe and Babagunda are said to be practically glued to the wheelchair to move from one place to another. While it is no fault of theirs that ‘old age’ and ill-health have had a toll of their body, but we believe the life they lived while in places of authority and power, goes a long a way to dictate and determine how they are being treated and regarded today by the Nigerian public. Which we believe should serve a lesson for our younger generation of Politicians.

Like in my State – Delta, where many politicians think they are thin-gods, the untouchables, who, whatever they say is final in the State’s political life cycle. They should take a cue from the lives of these June 12 actors and where they are today. These Delta State Politicians, and others like them across Nigeria, can never be more daring, sophisticated, powerful, intimidating, influential, rascal, talk-about, glamorous, overbearing, and dictatorial than the said military/politician of Minna, and the said maverick politician of Imo State.

I don’t think they can do half of what these past military/politicians have done in the nation’s politicking, to now make themselves seem to be the all-in-all in Delta State and other States. Today, these once powerful men are no longer relevant in Nigerian politics, especially for Nzeribe, who nobody hardly talks or says anything about.

Sometime in April 2018, Babaginda was reported to have said: Nobody will read my biography because of my past”, during a programme on Channels Television titled, ‘Roadmap 2019’, Though, he said a lot of things on the said programme, but that was the headline of most newspapers, blogs and online news stream across the country. What does that tell us?

Even the MKO Abiola of their time, almost had his name forgotten. But it was always resurrected by well-meaning stakeholders that wanted that wrong to be made right, until Buhari recently came to the rescue to immortalize that name and the June 12 Dream and memory. At the end of the day, that is life for you.

A man will ALWAYS reap whatever he sows, no matter how long it will take. The likes of Nelson Mandela, even after they are gone, are still reaping the benefits of their good legacy that was left behind.

Let the Nigerian politicians of today, be they in the PDP or APC or whatever party, remember this, as they carry out their respective statutory roles as custodians of our collective wealth.

Zik Gbemre
June 12, 2022

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