On 15th November 2010, I was in a bus returning to Abakaliki Ebonyi State where I worked from Enugu my home state when I decided to run for the sate assembly. It was a decision borne out of anger and frustrations. There had been so much happening in the Nigerian cyber space about bad governance and wanton looting in the country. I was also being owed 2 months salary by the Ebonyi State government, I was a junior resident doctor in the state teaching hospital where I also finished medical school from. I had no home, no money ,no hope. I was in the process of taking a new wife.
A typical stranded Nigerian youth with big education.
It had taken almost a year to get a slot for housemanship a few years earlier. Now after passing that needless huddle ,I was a fully registered medical doctor ,underemployed and owed months in wages. I was angry with the system. I was distraught.
In the news were cases of mind bogling embezzlement by politicians. One convicted of looting billions in police pension funds was just asked by the courts to pay 700,000 naira and go home which he did within seconds in the court.
At the same time ,pensioners were being owed in almost all the states.
It was this mood and bitterness that prompted my decision to delve into politics. To right all the wrongs. To change the system. Bet me I had no experience whatsoever. That journey opened my eyes to the drama,the intrigue, the backstabbing, the betrayals, the con and all the evils of Nigeria politics. By early 2011 when I abandoned my ambition ,I was already well informed why it was impossible for some well intended fellows to pursue a certain principle they had set out with when they eventually, if they eventually get into the aspired positions.
I pragmatically tagged my campaign ” Change We Deserve “. I appointed young people into my team,with Ikenna The Gun Man ,as the chairman of Change Campaign Organization. I was only 30,I was naive,maybe even foolish.
Looking back, that dream was utopian in the circumstances.
My first shocker came from my Dad. Family.
I was not really surprised that my Dad did not initially support me,as a matter of fact I didn’t seek his opinion or blessings first because I already knew where we stood, politically.
My Dad had been a politician since I knew him. He was a career politician. In fact in my early school days ,people mocked me for being the child of a politician. They claimed politicians stole government money. Myself and my siblings were stigmatized. My Dad was the only politician from my hamlet ,and one of the few from the whole town. He was very popular and always had pecks of the job. Many different vehicles with fancy slogans on their body, groundnut oil stacks ,soaps ,assorted house hold items.
Our house was usually a Mecca of some sorts during political seasons. My father was always in the opposition.
In the early 90s, he became the chairman of Iwuanyanwu for president campaign organization and was a senior special adviser to the governor ,a big position then.
He was also a youth leader in the NPN and a national officer of the NRC. He rose high at the defunct UNCP and would have hit it big if Abacha didn’t die and Gbazuagu had become governor. I had lived with him in the presidential hotel as a government official and attended a few government functions with him.
But my childhood experience of stigmatization on his account as a politician scarred my perception of the vocation. So when I grew up,I always opposed his political positions. I was extreme in my criticism of the government, and my father felt disappointed with me.
In 1999 ,he joined the APP which won most positions in my zone but lost both governorship in my state,Enugu and most other states ,and also the presidency. My father was sad.
I was recruited severally to campaign for Hyde ,and later Gbazuagu as a child in his Volkswagen, in a bid to enlist me early,that didn’t help much apparently.
So when some youth met my father and broke the news to him that they heard I intended to run,It was not a surprise to me that my Dad outrightly voiced his opposition. He ran me down , telling them it was the delinquency I enjoyed in the university,( to my Dad my opposition to any government in power was delinquency), that was playing out,that they shouldn’t take me seriously.
So the young people were heart broken that my own dad didn’t support me ,they came back to me devastated. I however laughed it off knowingly, I told them not to worry ,that my Dad was in the league of those we intended to “change”. We pushed on.
Eventually I decided to run under the PDP, that assured my father somewhat, being a staunch PDP sympathizer at this time having cross carpeted earlier, even now as a sitting traditional ruler, he then called me,and we ironed out our differences ,and he then gave me his blessings and pledged his support.
It was however this ironing out our differences that opened a deep wound in my political heart . My Dad was blunt , He asked me point blank , “son are you against Ekweremadu?” I said no,I was not running for senate and I didn’t have any one running. He said now we can talk,cause according to him “if your interest ever goes against or clashes with that of Ike,I will dump you without notice whatever it is.” Those were my fathers exact words. It did not matter what interest it was, he was just gonna dump my ass if it concerned Ike. One would naturally wanna know why right? I asked him . He told me that Ike was the only politician that really paid him back after working for him. Ike landed him federal board chairmanship, a position he occupied for 2 tenors with all the pecks , Ike always protected him whenever he was threatened or harassed by the political class,having left the mainstream as a traditional ruler. Ike was his man.
I was sad. My Dad, almost 70 years and still very selfish about his interest. I was not hurt though, just sad. In as much as he supported me afterwards, I found in him everything I was against in Nigerian old brigade politicians. The are inherently selfish,no intension to let the youth in. I recall a one time PDP national youth leader was in his 60s.
As we debated on who was gonna land the PDP ticket,I quickly learnt that popularity or manifesto or visions or ideologies play no roles whatsoever on who gets leadership consideration. I became familiar with semantics like ” stakeholders “, ” caucus”, “loyalist”, ” been around”, ” one of us” ,”carry along “etc. These imply from nepotism, cronyism, corruption and the likes. It became apparent to me that leadership was now used to empower ,or reward ,or merchandise ,or just control. What we had to say ,our campaign promises meant nothing. What mattered was how we faired with the so called stakeholders.
There was an event that we were all invited to by the Enugu West PDP, they had hurriedly set up a launching to make quick bucks from the aspirants . I must have failed election there. It was my most popular and unpopular outing. Popular to the youths, unpopular to the stakeholders,and the old brigade. Nobody had tutored me not to say my mind,I suspect though that I would have still done so anyways, but I didn’t know any better.
So many aspirants into different positions came, from governorship to senate ,to reps and my own position ,state house of assembly.
The political eloquence and obvious lies and bogus promises capped with pledging of mind boggling sums irked me not a little. Before it got to my turn to say my own lies like everyone else,I was already boiling over inside.
The MC was in the habit of ignoring me in functions, and in this particular function he did a good job of it. He hailed everyone but me. At some point I had to approach him and asked: “bros why do you ignore me so”? He spat at me that I was not in the race as far as he was concerned. That serious aspirants ,knowing he anchored all party functions had brought envelopes to him. That was my second shocker . I didn’t see that coming, such blatant demand for inducement. Jew man like me.
So it came to my turn to make unrealistic promises to the accolade of the gullible Nigerian electorates, I shocked those present.
I started by saying that I, on behalf of Nigerian youths ,feel very disappointed and in fact insulted that all those elders would gather people together and recycle obvious lies. I told them they came together to waste their times and those of everyone,
to lie,knowing fully well they’d not fulfill anything they said. I now started calling them by names and pointing out those who had occupied various positions in the past,I asked them why they were repeating promises they made years earlier with which they got positions, if they had built the roads and tap borne water as they had promised years ago ,would we not be talking about new projects like railways and airports and ICT institutions by now ? People laughed their heads off. The youths nudged me on. It was not funny at all. I ended my diatribe by opining that there was no need to expect me to dole out cash,that I didn’t have anyways, after all I never held any positions, which is apparently where people banked on to settle bogus financial promises, if they ever fulfilled them anyways, I then pledged a paltry 10,000 naira. The party officials proscribed me after that “show of shame”,they would never let me touch their Mic in any function.
By the time I finished , I had received 54 missed calls from my Dad. His affected friends called to him to complain and wanted to “guide” me.
However some youths carried me shoulder high afterwards and I got a huge boost in followers.
The surge in my popularity presented instant problems for me.
My next shocker came from friends,childhood friends. Folks I grew up with and shared good and bad times with during undergraduate days. I could say I looked out for my friends back then because I enjoyed some extra funding from family and relations as a medical student, and I shared. However, my status rose quicker than theirs because being a medical graduate, I got a fair job early and opted to marry sooner for reasons that I do not have to talk about in this essay. Marriage made us start growing apart.
I began to hear that my friends were upset that I had decided to contest. They felt I was over reaching and always in a haste. This shocked me cause I frankly thought that every young person would automatically key into my adventure which I viewed as renaissance. I didn’t know whether to be sad or angry. Eventually I decided to have a talk with them ,we mended fences ,and they joined me.
My next shocker would however come from a friend, someone who became friends with me because of fraternity, we became friends during the university and ,driven by shared ethos,we became quite close.
However ,this dude called me out one night that he urgently wanted to talk. I obliged him and came out,even though I was worn out and had already gone to bed to grab some rest against the “waka” of the next day.
My guy entered the passenger side of my jalopy, (I was using my dad’s old 505 Peugeot), he didn’t waste time. He said he had gone out with me a couple of times and that he felt I was not bringing enough fuel money and booze,that people who followed other aspirants were enjoying and he was starving following me around like a fool and he wanted not just assurances but a written agreement on the exact position I was gonna reserve for him. Haba! .
I initially thought he was joking until he began to raise his voice that I didn’t take him seriously, that he was gonna beat me up and I’d pay him for the days he worked for me. At this point I lost it. People gathered to separate us. I went home really sad,very sad.
The next baptism of fire came with the surge in my popularity as I pointed out earlier.
Many youths who heard about my outburst were impressed that I could square up to the mystical “stakeholders”, they joined us in droves. My convoy increased. It became apparent that many wanted the change. I am gifted with eloquence somewhat, and I didn’t disappoint. I dazzled my pears with words and ideas. We were making progress,
or so it seemed .
Firstly most of my friends didn’t have job,had no money and in fact depended on me for basic needs at the time.
However ,that was nothing to compare with over a hundred youths expecting me to provide lunch,dinner ,booze ,and at times lodging and women, yes women !
These were what others enjoyed following my co contestants, my new friends wanted the change now now ,too. This posed a problem to me. First I was so broke ,penniless. Ebonyi state government that worked was still paying every other month, and paying peanuts. Folks believed that I must have a money bag financing me,I needed to bring out the money .
They called me individually to advice me on the right thing to do,which was to not try to horde the cash made for this project as people would abandon and scandalize me. Friends spoke from genuine love and concern. But to start with this would be against what we preached right? We can’t be doing exactly what we campaigned against the old brigade about. But the youths obviously didn’t quite understand the change. They thought my fancy speeches were all politics, that we were all in it for quick bucks or opportunity to get some of what the old fellas were enjoying alone.
I was so sad. I really considered quitting at this point. I mean what’s the point ? The people we thought we were fighting for have same orientation as their oppressors ,nothing different. I felt so so devastated. That was the eye opener for me. I now understood why many seemingly good men change and join the crowd when and if they get there. The pressure to do what others are doing. People expect you to give cash, to help secure unmerited jobs,to award crooked contracts, to assist get positions ,to offer fake admissions, to influence the police and the judges.
They expect that you would come out of the position multiply richer. You would be forced into the usual, and the absurd.
That reminds me of one incident. I had attended a stakeholders meeting of the party and most people were speaking against Dr Hyde Onuaguluchi, The Odenigbo. There were 2 factions of the party then and Hyde belonged to the faction opposed to the governor, and our town’s men who were many in the government didn’t like it,they did everything to demystify him. They used violence, they used blackmail, they used lies and half truths.
So when I listened to a handful of them speak against Odenigbo, I was confused. This was the most popular politician from my town ,while I was growing up.
In fact my father and the entire community supported him without questions, his direction was our direction, his interest was our interest. Hyde was a colossus. He had a short stint at the Senate. He was nearly a governor. It was rumoured that he influenced Oji River to be awkwardly carved into Enugu State instead of Anambra.
So it sounded like blasphemy to me when these people began to take turns to openly called out my hero,Odenigbo.
At some point I had to ask what exactly he did wrong.
One very eloquent political warrior opted to answer me,he had more facts than others on the many sins of Hyde. He set out to inform me.
First ,he said Hyde was appointed the chairman of the state polytechnic board, IMT Enugu and they had approached him with names of many of our people for him to offer them admissions, he would be asking for their O’level. That all others before him gave everyone who was from their places admission, but instead of Hyde to do the right thing ,he was insisting on some stupid merit. I was shocked. I mean how on earth was that a sin? That Hyde didn’t ensure the emergence of illiterate graduates from his own town ?
If that was absurd, the second point was out of this world, I simply shut my ears .
My informer went ahead to talk about how they had gone for a function in Abuja, Hyde was the chairman of a River Basin board, all others were lodged in big hotels like Hilton and Sheraton, but he opted for cheaper ones at Utako.
Who was he saving government money for ? The “wicked man” said it was wasteful to lodge in big hotels when one could be comfortable in a cheaper one!!!
He hence denied his people the opportunity to enjoy what others were enjoying.
Hyde was a business man that made his own money,so one may see reasons why he may not be wasteful.
But that’s was not all,my informer told me the one that made him ,according to him, so bitter that he vowed to fight the man to the finish ,the River Basin board headed by our oga had a budget in billions and they took time to develop proposals to help Hyde retire the stash of too much cash, only for Him to chicken out, saying he didn’t want to steal money that’d land him in trouble with EFCC and dent his hard earned image. Insanity of the highest other ! “How could you trust such a coward ? Have you not seen how poor he had become ? No wonder he spent more in politics than he made,unlike most of his contemporaries!”
At this point I was no longer interested ,I would never understand the logic,I was the irrational one here.
Talking about political popularity, there were a few people from my town who really garnered so much popularity politically that I have met and envied. Hyde was the first as I was too young during BC Okwu era. I have told Hyde’s story earlier.
Around 2002, I was an undergraduate then when the government of Enugu state decided to hold local council elections. A certain cute well dressed gentleman returned from overseas or so and declared interest. He joined the opposition ANPP.
Something remarkable happened. For some reasons ,he swept the loyalty of a lot of the youths. It was a mass movement. Within a short period of time, Tony Manfred Nzekwe became a household name in Oji River. Of course am certain he won that election but, like most state elections, he was rigged out.
He left the country, only to be wooed by the ruling PDP and he joined them. Manfred has not contested for any elections since then. A huge political potential was wasted. Now they offer him one SA or the other ,he has become equals and even junior to people who couldn’t land a single vote, people who never appeared on a ballot paper. I tell him till date,he broke my heart,he threw away a God given charisma for a dream killing political establishment that has offered him nothing he can’t afford by himself. Sad.
By 2011, as a co aspirant, Don Uzoagbado popularly known as Jaskolo had become very popular, probably more popular than the rest of us put together .
I recall that youths who followed me often abandon my posters to run after kolo whenever they sighted him chanting his name in praise.
I recall the evening in the local government council headquarters, the day I stepped down for this man, virtually everyone present, I mean the crowd, they were all chanting after his name and practically mobbed him. He was loved so much, I was green with envy,when would I ever achieve this ?
Kolo won the election and went ahead to become the deputy speaker . The sad thing to me was that this man was already too popular and would have won any of us in that election, he still however needed the blessings of the almighty stakeholders, hence giving the glory of God to man. But that’s because the system is skewed. He may have lost anyways even though he was the most popular, cause alas this people are gods. They will mockingly tell you that “all powers belong to God “, when in truth they meant it belonged to them.
I was not in the country when he ran and won his second tenor so I can’t say how popular he still is. Another star to me was tainted. Sad.
Chinedu Onyeagaba aka Omex Global was born and bred in the ghetto of Oji River urban. We all grew up together. His father owned more than half of the slums that formed the ” urban”,making most residents their tenants. I recall the demolition that cleared the shanties,my dad handled the contract. One Sunday morning while people were in Church, the government bulldozers entered the hood and within a short period of time,Omex and his family had lost their entire life. His father was very rich. The incident frayed the relationship between his and my family for a long time ,even till his father died. Omex wu onye Oji urban in every way.
He joined the race for state house same time I did. I didn’t know he had become so wealthy, but he swept his way into the consciousness of all politicians.
His prints were beautifully made in China, cash was easy. But he belonged to the opposing camp from mine,the camp opposed to the governor, he won their ticket but lost out when the governor eventually got the upper hand,Kolo emerged the authentic candidate of the PDP and went ahead to win the general election.
However he didn’t quit,Omex reinvented himself. He has invested hundreds of millions in philanthropy and empowerment. He invested heavily in all the elections that the PDP embarked on.
Currently Omex is the most popular aspirant into the local council. Omex has a large followerhip that would easily win the PDP any elections. At the risk of sounding immodest, Omex could defeat anybody in any election in Oji if held today. But of course the PDP does not consider this kind of thing. Remember, “all power belongs to God”,indeed.
But like the blunted stars before Omex, he too is helplessly loyal to his party. This same party would find enough reasons to discard a winner and choose mediocrity. There is enough ridiculous profanity in the Nigerian political lexicon to exclude a star aspirant, I have a feeling that that would happen to Omex, and his star would dim,and they will offer him ridiculous appointments at best,and another colossus would be lost, and never do wells would be promoted. The sad reality of skewed of leadership recruitment process in our country.
But Omex isn’t me,cause I would have ran in the election even if it was under the defunct NCNC,or NRC.
If I had half his money,and 1/10th of his popularity, I would run,if I loose I loose.
Having lost the control of the Nigerian central government, the PDP has not shown remorse or even repentance. The very sins that made them loose out to APC is still prevalent in the PDP controlled states.
APC conversely have shown a greater propensity for mischief and bad governance at all levels, the dilemma our nation faces.
When will well meaning Nigerian youths and intellectuals come forth to save the land ?
Mcginger Ibeneme MBBS
Social Justice Advocate