Ken Nnamani: Between Aggrandizement And Altruism In Politics

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Otobo Joseph

In a vain effort to justify his inhuman annulment of June 12 1993 Election, General Ibrahim Babangida sarcastically opined that “….I love my friends and my friends know that I love them. But when your love for your friends is in conflict with your love for your fatherland, your love for your fatherland supersedes”.

But while some may argue that in politics it is only interest that is permanent, in the principle of ignoring the messenger and not the message, the import of the shallow defence is that national interest must tower far above personal or any other interests if we must get it right at all times.

Also as valid as the preceding is, there are certain class of Nigerians that are presumed to be immune to the influence of certain poor standards of behaviour irrespective of the attractiveness of the situation. They are viewed through the prism of fulfillment having attained certain lofty heights or enjoyed immense benevolence of the society. They are adjudged to be occupying enviable and adorable places in the history. These are men of impeccable character. Ken Nnamani is certainly among this highly-revered class in the hall of fame.

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Among the criteria that combined to mark him out for this rare status is the priviledge of having at one glorious time presided over the affairs of the Senate of the Federal Republic and by extension, the National Assembly. He is perceived to have seen it all, more so when he was ‘already made’ before venturing into the foray of politics.

Yet, diligent examination of his conducts since leaving office in 2007 offers sufficient grounds to dismiss his projected disposition as mere grandstanding. One had expected to have in him a role model and an embodiment of morality as well as democratic norms and tenets. These seemingly-over-shadowed parallel traits have particularly punctured the general belief regarding his sincere commitment as it were, to challenging the third-term bid of then President Olusegun Obasanjo. One can now safely challenge him to mention the empirical roles he played to indeed prove that he was against that tenure elongation plot. Many, am sure are now of similar view.  In retrospect, this feeling of doubt is reinforced by the observation that beyond mere sitting as the presiding officer he neither spoke nor voted against the controversial proposal. Otherwise, there is still no proof whatsoever that at any time or anywhere then, he campaigned against it in any form.

Clem Aguiyi writing on OBJ’s 3rd Term Agenda and the Masari, Nnamani’s story to the godsrevealed that indeed “there was a 3rd term project of which former President Obasanjo was to be the sole beneficiary.  The project was well funded with Senator Mantu, the then Deputy Senate President as the main arrow head. Nnamani and Masari cooperated with Mantu, likewise Senators Mark and Tunde Ogbeha (including Senator Azu Agboti, Nnamani’s closest ally). Many law makers from both chambers of the National Assembly were heavily induced with some receiving as much as N50M. Because the promoters of the agenda were over confident about their plan, which they thought to be fait accompli, they made the fatal decision to televise the proceedings live on television so as to convince the public, especially the US and the UK that Obasanjo’s third term was a popular wish of the Nigerian people in the event the agenda scales through. Senator Ken Nnamani and then Rt. Hon Masari as presiding officers could not do anything to change the tide of event when fellow lawmakers overwhelmingly rejected the proposal on the floor”. And therefore to that extent, the much-touted toga of “killing the third term agenda” by Ken Nnamani remains a fraudulent claim.

Going forward and despite the reputation challenges, Ibrahim Babangida strangely found a willing ally in the person of a respected democrat, Ken Nnamani, in pursuing his presidential ambition. He campaigned with immeasurable passion. Incidentally, that was Nnamani’s first major outing upon leaving office as senate president. I can however chide his detractors on the ground that it was purely a choice and opinion to-which he was entitled, no doubt. But there appears to be more than meets the eye on that respect.

In an article titled Ken Nnamani, PDP and Politics of Consistent Inconsistency Fred Idoko remarked that “because he (Nnamani) has a way of attaining shallow relevance in most political situations many may still remember his launched attacks on Goodluck Jonathan while rooting aggressively for General Ibrahim Babangida. When IBB candidature could not fly, he switched to Jonathan and openly disparaged his erstwhile comrades. He was very visible in Jonathan’s government and was even appointed the Chairman of Infrastructure  Concession Regulatory Commission as well as becoming a major beneficiary in the sale of PHCN for-which he played active roles in the re-election bid yet he lost his ward and local government to other parties”.

Goodluck Jonathan eventually became elected president in 2011. Ken Nnamani as a member of the People’s Democratic Party, PDP, board of trustees, BOT, was actively involved even to the point of heading the party’s convention that marked the beginning of the end for the PDP. That was the very event that saw to the exit of seven serving governors that eventually gave flesh to what was to become All Progressives Congress, APC. Among the harsh decisions of Ken Nnamani-led committee was the production of just one presidential nomination form for Jonathan’s re-election thereby shutting out other aspirants. Once again, those describing this as an act parallel to moral dispositions of heroes of democracy should realize that it amounts to denying Ken Nnamani his right to personal judgement.

On the strength of perceived Nnamani’s closeness to the then presidency he was a ready mercenary of sorts in political battles of that era. Back in his home state Enugu, Governor Sullivan Chime exploited maximally Nnamani’s political gullibility. He was used to rationalize Chime’s onslaught against Ekweremadu and subsequent impeachment of Sunday Onyebuchi as deputy governor. As a build-up to the infamous chicken impeachment Ken Nnamani it was who represented Chime officially at the 25thFebruary 2014 Southern Leaders Summit in Calabar preparatory to the National Conference, two weeks before the 2nd Niger Bridge Presidential flag-off which was one of the reasons Onyebuchi was faced with impeachment.

Writing on Ken Nnamani and Enugu Chicken Impeachment, Nicholas Ozor lamented that “in one fell swoop, a man who had gained undue respect on false democratic credentials and DNA for donkey years crashed from a false Olympian height, baring an ugly, crass political hypocrisy and irresponsibility by telling the world that Onyebuchi “brought the woe on himself.……..It is a real shame that as far as narrow political interests and patronages of Nnamani are intact, rule of law, common sense, justice, truth, equity and good conscience could go to hell”. Nnamani had in apparent veiled reference to Ekweremadu retorted in a Vanguard newspapers interview of August 22, 2014 that “those who advised him (Onyebuchi) to fight on are the ones he should hold responsible for his impeachment because he had the opportunity of resigning because that was the better option, but some people encouraged him to go on and gave him lawyers.  If he has now been impeached it is unfortunate, that is what he brought on himself…. He was being unreasonably stubborn…. It is a lesson on stubbornness.”

Though the courts have since reversed the charade arguing that as a statesman, Nnamani shouldn’t have taken side on a matter that involved a governor and a deputy senate president of the same state and party would mean being unfair to a man who followed his conscience. After all, he was later rewarded with state delegate ticket to the 2014 National Conference.

Then evidently typical of him, Ken Nnamani did not at any time oppose any policy or action of Jonathan as president. In fact, he almost fought with the last pint of his blood to ensure Jonathan’s continuity. And also anybody that feigned ignorance of the mobilization roles played by Ifeanyi Ubah-led Transformation Ambassadors of Nigeria, TAN, towards re-election of Jonathan is being mischievous. The campaign crisscrossed every part of the country and even beyond, yet Chime and Nnamani hoodwinked each other into floating their own Enugu Movement for re-election of Jonathan, EMJ ostensibly because Ekweremadu was visibly-associated with TAN. They staged a rally in Enugu during-which Nnamani arrogantly declared that whoever was not at that event “could not be said to be supporting Jonathan” in yet another indirect reference to Ekweremadu. In all the campaign rallies in honour of Jonathan, Nnamani spoke glowingly for the re-election project. But shortly after President Muhammadu Buhari was inaugurated he made a u-turn and cried out that “I wasn’t as active as I should have been in the campaign. You can’t recall seeing me at any of our campaign rallies. What happened was that at a point, after the special national convention, where I was the vice chairman of the planning committee, I noticed an attempt to ridicule some of us. When we came back from the Christmas holidays, I saw in the newspaper that they had put up the Presidential Campaign Organisation. But before then, we had been invited to constitute the Presidential Campaign Council. The Presidential Campaign Council was to be the highest campaign organ of the party for the purpose of that election. The Presidential Campaign Organisation was supposed to be reporting to the Presidential Campaign Council. The only meeting we held as a council was on the day we were inaugurated. I wasn’t particularly happy with the mood, the language and the face of the campaign. The only time I participated was when the campaign train came to Enugu, but I didn’t say much, if at all………..that I, Senator Ken Nnamani, was not happy with the mood and language of the campaign. We outsourced our campaign to what I may call NGOs.  We were so lucky that other parties did not take us to the cleaners under section 221 of the Nigerian Constitution which states that it is only registered political parties that are authorised to canvass for votes. But we had all kinds of organisations; non- registered political parties speaking for the PDP and canvassing for votes ……..I am answering this question based on your insistence that it looks like I distanced myself from my party. Yes, I did. Even at the presidential campaign flag-off in Lagos, I was absent. The language wasn’t the type of thing that I expected…… We allowed splinter groups to speak for the party. ….. We should not have spent time talking about certificate or no certificate. It was the responsibility of INEC and perhaps political parties to check the certificates of candidates. We should not have played the role of doctors about anybody being healthy or not. That was not our business. So many things went wrong with our campaign utterances and unguarded adverts”.

If this is not sheer hypocrisy or self-serving why did he not speak up when necessary or even honourably quit? Little wonder his colleagues at the National Conference chose the very day his Constitution and Electoral Reform Committee submitted their report to hold an advocacy campaign for adoption of the 2014 confab report which enjoys wider acceptability.

Currently, Enugu State House of Assembly having been inundated with outcries is engaged with series of public hearing regarding the exploitative and fraudulent activities of Enugu Electricity Distribution Company, EEDC, which has Nnamani as a major beneficiary yet he keeps mum provided he smiles to the bank. And whereas there is no identifiable landmark for his long years of active politics, I resist the temptation of believing the damning allegation that not minding that the highest academic qualification of his wife is West African Examination Certificate, WAEC, she is a member of Enugu State University Governing Council, and also that his vested interest in land grabbing was part of sacked Chief Judge of Enugu State, Innocent Umezulike’s albatross.

In conclusion, if indeed the bane of our national development is sheer severance of morality from politics then with this baggage of self-aggrandizement tendencies weighing on him one wonders what value Ken Nnamani would be adding to the APC more so having been anointed the leader of the party in south-east geo-political zone.

Otobo Joseph writes from Uyo, Akwa Ibom State


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