It was Rt. Hon. Chuba Wilberforce Okadigbo of blessed memory, sometimes in 2002 who postulated or rather predicted President Muhammadu Buhari’s emergence as president and his arduous task of constructing progressive Nigeria.
When Okadigbo, fondly called Oyi of Oyi was impeached as Senate President he relocated from the Mansion, the official residence of whoever becomes Senate President to his private residence at Jerome Udoji Street, Asokoro Abuja. I understand that the Mansion is no more the official residence of the Senate President because it had been auctioned.
Sorry for the diversion to the auction of the mansion, back to my narrative. Few of us became regular visitors that grace the late night with Oyi’s lecture and debate most of the time, on the contentious issue of the national question.
It was in one of these night sessions that Oyi asserted that a great political event had happened. With eyes popped out we listened to his lecture type of sermon. He first asked us did any of you read today’s newspapers? Yes was the chorus, for most of the time we acted like students in a classroom to the great Oyi. Taking note sometimes.
We failed the question of pointing out the exact major news item of the day he was referring to.
Oyi in his usual candour, graciously cleared his throat and started with his routine old thesis that the then President, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, his Achilles Heel, was constructing a one party state, which he intoned was very dangerous, unconstitutional and might breed dictatorship. He said, ‘left for the Owu Chief he would want to amend the Constitution and extend his rule.’ This was before the 3rd Term imbroglio.
He narrated the major news which was that a decoder or if you like a saviour had emerged. ‘Am surprised that none of you took note of General Muhammadu Buhari’s entry into the murky waters of Nigerian politics’ he said. We claimed we read it but why is his entry a major news, in the musical chair of our brand of politics?
Oyi’s answer was very emphatic, ‘Buhari will define politics in the years ahead. Nigeria is lucky, quote me. We are lucky he didn’t join the PDP. The battle line is drawn. It’s going to be a marathon race’ he quipped. Buhari had joined the defunct All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) when Oyi stated what appeared to be prophetic. He went to celebrate that the stage was set for deconstructing the one party state being weaved by Obasanjo. Some of us who have elementary knowledge of Buhari’s financial war-chest challenged Oyi’s postulation, pointing out to him that Buhari was handicapped greatly in a scenario of money politics.
Oyi didn’t page with us, rather he said we are going to join Buhari in the ANPP. That the man is going to construct a progressive Nigeria and that Oyi’s intellectual acumen is highly needed in this direction. ‘He has the capacity, the discipline and courage to change the old order’ Oyi maintained.
We taunted him, saying that Oyi’s postulation was a figment of sour grape. That he was castigating Obasanjo because he was his traducer, having masterminded Oyi’s impeachment. Far from it he said. ‘Am just a patriot, pointing the way forward for our dear country. Buhari is incorrigible and Spartan, he has the capacity to battle an imperial dictator that OBJ is. It is not sour grape or retribution.’
Oyi went down memory lane and narrated how as Political Adviser to Shehu Shagari he was mandated with few others to covertly probe the so called missing N2.8billion, alleged to have been flown out of Nigeria from oil revenue, when Buhari was Minister of Petroleum. ‘It turned out to be hoax. Shagari was wise to admonish us to make the investigation secret.’
What one can dub the great debate lasted for over two weeks and some of us finally followed him to join Buhari in the ANPP. That’s the reason why when others contestants in the 2003 ANPP’s presidential primary worked out, when Buhari was nominated the presidential candidate without open direct or indirect primary, Oyi didn’t work out with them.
He was later nominated the vice presidential candidate in what became the Buhari/Okadigbo ticket. The outcome of the election is public knowledge.
It can be said that for President Buhari it was rough route to victory as 2007, and 2011 presidential elections ended in controversy.
To God be the Glory that in than 2015 presidential election, President Buhari won and the former president, Dr Goodluck Ebele Jonatlhan graciously conceded defeat and congratulated the winner.
Since assumption of office on 29th May, 2015, President Buhari has in measured steps began the construction of a progressive and prosperous Nigeria. In this exercise some are skeptical for his pace for them is too slow. For this Mr President has said, slow and steady win the race. It is not peculiar to Nigerians, a lot of people assume that democracy must deliver quick results especially in political systems like ours where the people’s hope was dashed and the state atrophied.
This is the foundation for constructing a progressive and prosperous Nigeria, which Dr Chuba Okadigbo of blessed memory predicted over a decade. A transparent foundation, devoid of corruption and greed.
By Osita Okechukwu