|Ndigbo's First Eleven|
| By Jossy Nkwocha - Newswatch Magazine - Posted to the web: 3/11/2001 5:07:03 PM
Who's Who in the politics of Igboland to watch out for if the next presidential
slot is zoned to the south-east
* ALEX EKWUEME
When Obasanjo defeated him at the Jos convention of PDP, he took it in good
faith and asked his supporters to vote for Obasanjo. In fact, he was said to
have lost the election because he was branded a hater of the military and the
powers- that-be didn't want him to succeed the then head of state, General Abdulsalami
Abubakar. But he is well accepted in the North where he has many political associates.
He was chairman of the G.34 group which insisted that the late Gen. Sani Abacha
must not succeed himself as a civilian president in 1998. He is chairman of
the board of trustees of the ruling PDP. Most of the persons who spoke to Newswatch
said Ekwueme is the "natural" Igbo candidate for the presidency.
The only minus for Ekwueme is his age. He will be 71 years old in 2003. Besides,
there is a new consciousness spearheaded by the under-50 governors' summit for
a younger politician to become president.
Governor Orji Uzor Kalu of Abia State is emerging as the arrowhead of the
campaign for an Igboman to become president of Nigeria. The fearless, 40-yearold
governor started the campaign late last year by pointing out at the continued
marginalisation of the Igbo by Obasanjo. He insisted that Obasanjo should not
dream of 2003 re-election, arguing that it is the turn of the Igbo to produce
the president. His thesis caught on. Ohaneze Ndigbo promptly convened a summit
and endorsed the idea. The eastern governors conference also issued a communiquÃ©
supporting the idea.
Now, despite the fact that Kalu has said he is running for re-election in
Abia State, majority of Igbo especially students, traders, younger politicians,
civil servants, etc, believe he is the best man for the job. Besides, he is
also in the good books of General Ibrahim Babangida who played a key role in
Obasanjo's election in 1999. Kalu is also very close to Shagari, Umaru Dikko,
Vice-President Atiku Abubakar, Jubril Aminu and other northern power-brokers.
In fact, he usually boasts of "my people in the north."
Kalu is a billionaire and can afford to fund a presidential campaign. Eventhough
he is young, he operates in high political and business circles. He is very
outspoken, articulate and ambitious.
Iwuanyanwu who is now 59 years old is a consummate politician. During the
Babangida transition period, he took part in the staggered presidential primaries
in the National Republican Convention, NRC. Babangida cancelled the exercise.
He remained a presidential hopeful under the Abacha era until the late dictator
commenced his self-succession bid and checkmated all opposition to his ambition.
After the death of Abacha, he became a presidential aspirant under the All Peoples'
Party. APP. He lost nomination at the party's convention in Kaduna.
Today, Iwuanyanwu is in the league of such political heavyweights as Umaru
Shinkafi, Adamu Ciroma, Bamanga Tukur, Olusola Saraki, Lateef Jakande, Olu Falae,
Iwuanyanwu maintains some self pride and dignity. He has always turned down
ministerial appointments, preferring to nominate his associates. At the last
cabinet reshuffle, he declined to join the Obasanjo administration as a minister.
Apart from Ekwueme, Iwuanyanwu is perhaps the next highly favoured south-east
presidential candidate in the ranking of politicians, professionals, businessmen
and the youths.
Iwuanyanwu's problems may come from the home-front. He seems to have some
problems in his home state, Imo. He does not have a good relationship with Evan
Enwerem, former senate president who may plot against his ambition. Some people
also doubt his political weight. He was an APP stalwart when the party lost
the gubernatorial seat in Imo State. He later moved over to the PDP. His critics
also say he is in politics for business and not for power. His construction
company, Hardel & Enic is said to be among the companies accused of not
effectively executing road projects in the East.
Despite all these, Iwuanyanwu who holds the title of Aha-eji-agamba- (the
name which can take you to places) of Igboland is a man of immense political
goodwill in the country.
The Enugu-State born politician is very popular among youths. Nwobodo also
has some heavyweight political associates in the North such as Abubakar Rimi,
former governor of Kano State, Solomon Lar, former PDP chairman, etc.
But Nwobodo is always in one controversy or the other. At the sports ministry,
he was always at loggerheads with footballers, athletes, coaches, ministry officials,
etc. Early last year, he engaged in a fierce battle with Chimaroke Nnamani,
the Enugu State governor who accused him of incessant interference in his (Nnamani's)
Analysts believe that Nwobodo's main problem would come from the role he played
at the Jos convention where he was accused of playing a spoiler's game against
Ekwueme. Many Igbo and indeed many of Ekwueme supporters across the country
are not in a hurry to forgive him for that "dirty job." At the last
Igbo summit organised by Ohaneze Ndigbo, Nwobodo received no cheers from the
crowd. But he is not one that succumbs to pressure. He thrives in controversy
and political battle. He is 61 years old.
But some of his critics say he is too much of a gentleman and cannot safely
swim in the murky waters of Nigerian politics. Besides, he spent about 38 years
in diplomatic service outside Nigeria and may not have known Nigeria well.
For now, Anyaoku does not command much political following. But he has been
trying to build one since he returned to the country last year. The launching
of his autobiography last year in Lagos was made a political event. On February
20, 2001 his committee of friends also pulled together some big shots in politics,
business, government and the diplomatic community to raise funds for the "Emeka
Anyaoku professorial chair in Commonwealth studies" at the University of
London. The event which was held at the Nigerian Institute of International
Affairs was chaired by S. L. Edu, a prominent Yoruba politician and father of
Yomi Edu, Obasanjo's special duties minister. He is being packaged by people
But many Igbo would rather not support Anyaoku. To them, he does not know
the Igbo agenda. He does not believe much in the marginalisation of Igbo in
the scheme of things. Besides, he will be 70 years old in 2003 for the presidency.
* EMEKA ODUMEGWU-OJUKWU
He is a politician, a stalwart of the APP. He works closely with such political
juggernauts as Olusola Saraki, the kingpin of Kwara politics. Many Igbo, especially
the youths see him as the only man who would use the presidency to redress the
perceived marginalisation of the south-east. At the 1995 constitutional conference,
he worked closely with Ekwueme to articulate and sell an Igbo position to other
delegates from other parts of the country.
Analysts however contend that Ojukwu's main problem is the fact that he led
the secessionist Biafra which culminated in a 30-month civil war. Today, he
is feared by many politicians who believe that he may re-enact his dream of
Biafra if he gets into power. Even in Igboland, he is seen by many elders as
arrogant, domineering and vainglorious. He boycotted the last Igbo summit in
Enugu and described the Igbo leaders who attended it as job-seekers. His critics
say he plays to the gallery.
In an exclusive interview with Newswatch published February 12, Ojukwu stated
that he would no longer go for an elective office in Nigeria. But Newswatch
learnt last week, the Ikemba-Nnewi may change his mind as a result of the clamour
for Igbo presidency in 2003. But like Anyaoku, he will be 70 years old then.
* ARTHUR NZERIBE
Nzeribe is more well-known for his activities in the Association for Better
Nigeria, ABN, which many analysts insist was used to scuttle June 12, 1993 presidential
election won by MKO Abiola. ABN campaigned vigorously for Babangida to stay
longer in office. Nzeribe also predicted there would be anarchy if Abacha was
not allowed to become civilian president. Many Yoruba have not forgiven Nzeribe
for the role he played in the June 12 saga. Nzeribe does not have much political
support in the North either.
Those who know him closely say Nzeribe would always spring surprises because
many people underrate him. They say he knows how to build political organisations
and how to sustain political loyalty. During the Babangida transition programme,
he was a presidential aspirant and participated in the cancelled SDP primaries.
During that period, he built a formidable political machinery in all the eastern
states including the then Rivers, Akwa Ibom, Imo, Abia, Anambra and Cross River,
called CARIA States.
Born on November 2, 1938, Nzeribe will be 65 in 2003.
* EBITU UKIWE
* JONH NNIA NWODO, JNR
* OLISA AGBAKOBA
Onu has somehow gone underground since then. But Newswatch learnt he is busy
going round the country and building bridges of understanding and goodwill for
the 2003 race.
Many Igbo have come to hate him as a result of the 1999 APP saga. But many
close observers told Newswatch last week that whenever the presidency is declared
open for the south-east, Onu may give his critics the shock of their lives.
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