“Nzeribe to become a Muslim!”
That was the headline of the lead story in the Triumph, a Kano-based newspaper sometime in the early 90s, when the maverick politician hoodwinked the people that he had received inspiration from God that Islam is the religion that could lead him to posterity. The paper at that time was edited by the former President of Nigerian Guild of Editors and presently a General Manager with ALSCON, Mallam Garba Shehu. The Muslim community was agog over the big catch, even though few were skeptical on the motives of the new convert. Unfortunately as the Muslims thronged in a large number to the Emir’s Palace on that Friday, they received the rude shock that the radical businessman could not turn up for the spiritual conversion where flimsy excuses were given.
This is just a brief of numerous melodrama scripted and executed by Senator Francis Arthur Nzeribe, a Senator representing Orlu (Imo West) Senatorial District, since he ventured into national limelight few decades ago. The same man whose name reminds one of mercenary by his exploits in some African countries, is being widely publicized in recent time as gunning for the exalted position of senate president of Federal Republic of Nigeria.
One may wonder his credentials and experiences to deserve the topmost position in the legislative arm of the most populous black country in the world. For long, before now, he was associated with the popular FAN Milk, the company had to disclaim the notion. There was also the impression of him being an Engineer by qualification, until when the recent security report, published in a national daily recently (Thisday May 10, 2003) stated that he only possesses WAEC Certificate. Interestingly few days after the disclosure he admitted not possessing any academic qualification apart from the School Cert. The same Security report also indicated that he was found guilty by the Lagos Zone 2 of the Failed Bank Tribunal on charges of fraud and dishonesty on his role in the liquidation of ALFA Merchant Bank Plc.
On the political scene, the Senator from the industrious Ibo tribe, plunged the nation into its worst political experience, when he used his infamous Association for Better Nigeria (ABN) to abort one of the acclaimed freest and fairest election on June 12, 1993. The aftermath effect was the battered image of Nigeria and the loss of lives including the death of prominent Nigerians like Chief MKO Abiola who died in pursuit of his mandate.
The school leaver Senator, who was claimed to have become a millionaire at the age of 29, was also active during the Abacha regime. After scheming himself to be elected a Senator, invited elected legislators to a meeting where they intended to collectively endorsed General Sani Abacha as a consensus President, through a draft resolution.
At the emergence of the present democratic government, the Oshiji of Oguta has continued to exhibit his fluid character, like the chameleon, by the way he exhibits and performs in the legislative house. For example, he was the first lawmaker to nurse the idea of sacking elected officers at National Assembly through a threat of impeachment against the first Senate President, Chief Evan Enwerem who also hails from South-Eastern Nigeria for an allegation of being subservient to the Executive arm. He also played prominent roles in the impeachment of another Ibo Senate President, Dr. Chuba Okadigbo and attempted the impeachment of President Olusegun Obasanjo, before he was strongly cautioned by the Yoruba leaders who were quick to declare him persona non-grata in their domain, before he was finally tamed and subdued from the reckless rampage.
But surprising as if to lend credence to the notion that Nigeria is a country that anything goes, the Federal High Court, Abuja recently quashed the suspension placed on him by the members of the upper house for acts considered anti-democratic and anti-senatorial tendencies after his explosive confession that he bribed some of them with huge amount of money for a cause. To add to the bewilderment, the Code of Conduct Bureau, which had early preferred charges of false asset declaration against the Chief withdrew the charges without bothering to disclose the reason for the change of mind.
Senator Nzeribe for those conversant with his antecedents is a man who enjoys any good thing at any moment but can rock the boat when he is dissatisfied. He had, during the military eras, either called for the continuation of a military regime or campaign for the transformation of military dictatorship to civilian leadership.
Apart from active participation in the public fora, the same “distinguished” senator was recently in the news when he took as a wife a woman whose husband claimed he never divorce her. The marriage which was shown on a network programme was fully reported by a human-angle tabloid, the Glitterati, a weekly insertion in Sunday Thisday Newspaper. The publication narrated the story of a dejected and lonely man, Mr. Harry Mosco who swore that his wife and mother of his children was never divorced but couldn’t know how to get her back. This brought to the fore the saying that when a rich man snatches your wife, you can at best retreat to sanctuary for spiritual contentment since you do not have the means to win her back.
Though the seat of the Senate Presidency may be zoned to the South East, most of the aspirants to the exalted seat are found to be very controversial. For example what can one say of Senator Adolphus Wabara, who was defeated at the PDP Senatorial Primaries by a young lawyer and a federal commissioner in RMAFC, Barrister Emeka Wogu, in the morning only for his name to be presented as Senatorial candidate in the evening. What about the admirable political propagandist, Chief Uche Chukwumerije, who played a leading role in the past military era or Senator Ifeanyi Ararume, who is said to be mentioned in Kuta’s Report on Contract Award and was once suspended for taking the Senate to Court.
Though the Ibo-Speaking Zone has the right to bring anybody it wishes to hold forth as the next Senate President, it should however, be cautious and wary of those that would make the seat embarrassingly the repeat of the ‘turn-by-turn syndrome’ where more Senate President may emerge within a short while. They should also be careful not to nominate a character who may wish to take over the Aso Rock by attempting to remove the President and the Vice President simultaneously to pave way for easy ascension to the First Office.
Though each constituency in Nigeria has a right to nominate and elect any character befitting their demeanor and mannerism to represent it at the National Assembly, but Nigerians from all constituencies have the right to know and make a choice through their representatives, of a credible and principle personality to represent our good image and the whole federating units.
This article by Yushau A. Shuaib was originally published in Nigerian Tribune May21, New Nigeria May22, Daily Independent May22, ThisDay May25, The Monitor May28, 2003