Nigeria Masterweb News Report
Nwachukwu: Still a Beautiful Bride?|
By Utibe Uko
In a country with many discredited retired generals, he comes across as one Nigerians most admired. He is seen as a fine officer and a complete gentleman. When Ike Omar Sanda Nwachukwu walked home with the presidential ticket of the National Democratic Party (NDP) on January 11, 2003 just a few days after decamping to the party, not a few people were surprised.
Quite early, he made known his intention to contest the 2003 presidential election on the platform of the ruling People's Democratic Party (PDP). At the time he made that intention public, there were very few presidential aspirants in the party besides the incumbent, President Olusegun Obasanjo.
Later, the rank of presidential aspirants got swollen and Ike Nwachukwu felt that the PDP would not serve his purpose. He made his calculation quickly and swiftly moved to NDP, a platform he felt would offer him a better opportunity to actualise his dream of becoming president of Nigeria in 2003.
Having secured the ticket of the party, Senator Nwachukwu is already moving ah-ead. On Wednesday, February 19, his friends are expected to host him to a stakeholders' dinner at the Lagoon Restaurant, Victoria Island, Lagos, towards the actualisation of his ambition.
On his victory at the NDP presidential primary election, he wrote on the invitation to the dinner: "This, as you know, is a bold step aimed at bringing equity, fairness, and justice to the philosophy of governance of our dear country, Nigeria. You are also clearly not unaware of the poor state of the economy, the poor relationship between the executive and the legislature, the high level of insecurity of lives and property, the high level of unemployment and under-employment all of which have left our country, our youth and our women in despair.
"In the light of this, we all must resolve to build a better, more prosperous and substantially more respected nation-state and decide to cross the bridge with me to a journey where everyone will be a stakeholder in the polity. I am greatly encouraged by the support so far received from the North, West and East and South of Nigeria in the course of my consultations, who all desire constructive change.
"We want to pay the external debts of Nigeria, stabilise the exchange rate of the naira sufficiently to advance the currency to possible status of convertibility, create jobs, improve national policies and style of leadership which will unburden the creativity of our people to build a strong and virile economy, a safe and welcoming community and to engender faith in our youth, women and the under privileged.
"We are willing to sign a covenant with every sector of the Nigerian polity, to further reassure Nigerians who share this vision of commitment; not mere electoral promises."
In the South eastern part of the country from where he comes, there are five other presidential candidates and Ohanaeze Ndigbo, apex socio-cultural organisation of the Igbo, has been trying to prune the number of presidential candidates from the region or endorse one of them as the zone's candidate.
Among the lot, many contend that Ike Nwachukwu stands out. Chief Jim Nwobodo, a senator like Nwachukwu, is the candidate of the United Nigeria People's Party (UNPP). As sports minister in the regime of the late Head of State, General Sani Abacha some years ago, not many Nigerians are in a hurry to forget the "generator" controversy. Also, his kinsmen often refer to what they saw as his betrayal of the Igbo race at the PDP presidential convention in Jos in 1999. When it was his turn to deliver his manifesto, he elected to speak in Hausa and his target then seemed to be his fellow kinsman, Dr Alex Ekwueme, who was also a contestant. Many were stunned. Nwobodo appeared to have allowed his rivalry with the former vice president during the second republic to influence his attitude. Because of that singular act, Nwobodo is unlikely to secure votes outside his Enugu base. If his people do not vote for him, who else will? It is very unlikely that he will replay the Obasanjo phenomenon of 1999 when the entire South west rejected the president but other sections of the country decided that he should be given the mandate.
Eminent economist, Dr Kalu Idika Kalu, is a candidate of the People's Redemption Party (PRP). Before he moved to PRP, the former minister had sought to actualise his dream on the platform of the NDP. At the International Conference Centre, Abuja venue of the NDP that night of January 11, Nwachukwu deflated Kalu when, during his speech, he declared that Kalu, who was contesting the presidential ticket of the party with him, was his commissioner for economic development when he was military governor of the old Imo State. That statement caught Kalu off-guard and might have made a big impression on the audience.
There is no doubt that Kalu is a brilliant economist. He was for several years a consultant to the World Bank and headed many of the bank's teams to Southeast Asian countries.
It was while he was Co-mmissioner for Economic Development under Ike Nwachukwu that he was appointed Minister of Fi-nance by ex-President Ibra-him Babangida. He was later moved to the national planning ministry.
Thereafter under Abacha, he was removed as finance minister not because of in-competence but disagreement with the then maximum ruler.
However, Kalu's decision to run for the highest office in the land caught many Nige-rians by surprise. He is a tested technocrat and not a po-litician. He lacks grassroots support, structure and political following in the country. That may explain why he could not make appreciable impact at the NDP presidential primary election despite that he was among the first aspirants to declare their in-tention to contest for the party's ticket.
He emerged presidential candidate of PRP without contest and PRP is not among the parties being reckoned with in the country in this dispensation.
There is the intellectual and book publisher, Chief Arthur Nwankwo, founder and presidential candidate of the People's Mandate Party (PMP). Nwankwo has no known political structure anywhere. He is also not known to have held any important public appointment to gain the requisite experience to run for the presidency.
The much that is known about his political antecedent is that he contested for the governorship of the old Anambra State in the second republic on the platform of the then People's Redemption Party (PRP), fore-runner of the present PRP. Then, he clashed with Nwobodo, who was the governor of the state then on the platform of the defunct Nigerian People's Party (NPP).
The little known African Revolutionary Party threw up equally little known Alhaji Yahaya Ndu as presidential candidate. The fact that he is not known even to his people means his ambition is dead on arrival.
Chief Emeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu, Ikemba Nnewi, is candidate of the All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA). He is highly respected in Igboland because at the darkest hour of Igbo history, he stood up to be counted. He attempted to break away from Nigeria when he declared the state of Biafra in 1967.
But on account of the civil war which was fought to keep Nigeria one, Ojukwu is very unlikely to secure any votes outside Igboland and Igbo votes alone cannot make him President of Nigeria.
Even in the East, it is debatable if he will cause upset because many members of APGA who were dissatisfied with the leadership style of Chief Chekwas Okorie, the national chairman decamped to other parties. For a party that is yet to test its popularity on the ballot box, that is an ominous sign. It is therefore not probable that Ojukwu will pose any threat to Nwachukwu.
This may be the reason why many analysts are saying that the NDP presidential candidate is not just part of the pack. His supporters often point to his experience and track record to his credit. One of these is that as military governor of old Imo State between 1984 and 1985, he introduced what was then popularly known as the 'Imo Formula', with which he cleared arrears of workers' salaries and subsequently paid salaries as at when due; he developed the Imo State University (now Abia State University) and began work on the first and only airport in Nigeria built by community effort, the Imo Airport.
As Minister of Employment, Labour and Productivity in the 1980s, Nwachukwu established the National Directorate of Emplo-yment (NDE) and the pension schemes to address unemployment and social security.
His most glorious period in public office was when he was Minister of External Affairs. Then he introduced the concept of economic diplomacy in the conduct of Nigeria's foreign policy. He played a major role in the establishment of ECOMOG and the Gulf of Guinea Commission.
He was also the chairman and leader of the defunct Organisation of African Unity (OAU) ministerial delegation to the Conference for the Democratisation of South Africa (CODESA). He had served two terms as chairman of the liberation committee of OAU and three terms as chairman of ECOWAS Council of Ministers.
Also as foreign minister, Nwachukwu chaired plenary sessions of the Non-Aligned Movement and those of the United Nations on several subjects. As senator, he sponsored a number of bills like Establishment of the Educational Deve-lopment Foundation, the National Assembly Budget and Imple-mentation Control Pro-cess, among others.
But one of the major selling points, according to his supporters, is that he is not an ethnic champion. Born of an Igbo father and a Hausa-Fulani princess, married to a Yoruba woman born of a Kalabari woman, he no doubt has a stake in every part of Nigeria. They call him truly pan-Nigerian.
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