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Tinubu’s Abuja Greek gift: Dancing Fuji on Achebe’s grave

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By Sunny Igboanugo

“For some time now I have watched events in Nigeria with alarm and dismay. I have watched particularly the chaos in my own state of Anambra where a small clique of renegades, openly boasting its connections in high places, seems determined to turn my homeland into a bankrupt and lawless fiefdom. I am appalled by the brazenness of this clique and the silence, if not connivance, of the Presidency.

“Forty-three years ago, at the first anniversary of Nigeria’s independence I was given the first Nigerian National Trophy for Literature. In 1979, I received two further honours – the Nigerian National Order of Merit and the Order of the Federal Republic – and in 1999 the first National Creativity Award. I accepted all these honours fully aware that Nigeria was not perfect; but I had a strong belief that we would outgrow our shortcomings under leaders committed to uniting our diverse peoples. Nigeria’s condition today under your watch is, however, too dangerous for silence. I must register my disappointment and protest by declining to accept the high honour awarded me in the 2004 Honours List.”

That was Chinua Achebe, Ugebelunenuoji (Eagle on Iroko) of Igboland, globally-acclaimed novelist and story-teller, scuffing at the award of Commander of the Federal Republic (CFR), honours award, given to him by the Federal Government in 2004. He practically three the award in the face of then President, Olusegun Obasanjo, in the derisive manner only he could do.

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May be the former President had taken the low-profile, nondescript, ordinary man, lifestyle of the author of Things Fall Apart, which he had maintained even after achieving the height of such global acclaim, the 1958 epic novel, had been translated into more than 50 languages across the world, for granted. May be he did not see, or was advised to ignore the subtle warnings in Achebe’s Anthill of the Savannahs, or The Trouble With Nigeria, where he directed a sharp dart at the heart of bad leadership.

Like it is wont of government circles, they must have thought to themselves that Achebe was on the shelf like many Nigerians, to be picked up at a price – just throw maize at him like a hungry hen and he will swallow – every Nigerian loves titles – every Nigeria loves belong with government – he will love it – CFR (Commander of the Order of the Federal Republic – the third highest honour in the land? Who is he that he will not fall for it – no – he will crumble on his knees to accept – then we will be home and dry – our impunity will continue! This must have been their thinking.

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But, they misfired! Achebe was no easy prey. Perhaps they did not read him enough to understand his mindset to things of the world. May be nobody showed them that BBC documentary, where, in spite of his global reckoning, he was still sharing kola nut and palmwine with the common folks in his Ogidi, Anambra State, country home, using the same cup the “wrinkled, dirty, old man” sitting beside him just drank with. They soon discovered – the hard way perhaps.

They must have been so shocked that a Nigerian could actually throw away such a prized gift – like a woman looking at a glittering diamond ring and turning her head in derision that for the remaining three years the government was in power and conducted the same ceremony, they never looked his way again.

Recall that the hand that would have been used to hang that “medal of honour” on his neck, was the same hand that was used to make the call or received the briefing about the abduction of Chris Ngige on July 10, 2003. Yes, it was believed that the same Federal Government, which wanted to honour Achebe, was behind Ngige’s infamous abduction on that day.

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Recall that not only was Ngige kidnapped, his office at Anambra Government House, Awka, was razed down completely. But the more grievous aspect was that the actors of this mayhem, were not unknown. They were familiar faces, but who could not be restrained because they supposedly got the backing from above. That was why, operatives from the police and other security agencies that were supposed to intervene, either stood by and watched, but in some cases became active participants.

So, when the renowned novelist, talked about “openly boasting its connections in high places,” he not only knew the renegades he was referring to – the Uba political family in Anambra State – who were in in the thick of the disputations with Ngige – but was particularly pointing at the Villa, from whence their supposed authority flowed, and more particularly the President, who would have been the one to decorate him with the award.

Funny enough, in 2011, Jonathan tried again even when the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), had upped their ante and increased their tempo of impunity, not only in its anti-democratic behaviours without any checks, but in the plummeting economic governance, with members practically feasting on the commonwealth like in a bazaar.

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Was it then difficult to understand or agree with the Eagle on the Iroko, that: “The reasons for rejecting the offer when it was first made, have not been addressed, let alone solved. It is inappropriate to offer it again to me. I must therefore regretfully decline the offer again!” So, the plan which, was obviously to seduce him into the Villa with the aim of propping up the sagging image of the government, naturally fell flat on its face, simply because Achebe, knew the game before it started and could be decipher what was earned and what was induce.

Imagine what the same Achebe would have said today, with this Tinubu’s Greek Gift. Would he not have smelled the motive from afar and dismissed it for what it was – another ungodly attempt to drag gold into the gutters? Is the condition under which he rejected the previous awards not worse today? Pray! What credentials do Tinubu and people at the Villa, possess to succeed where Obasanjo and Jonathan failed?

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Economy? At the time of Obasanjo and Jonathan, a bag of rice was between N4,000 and N6,000 respectively. Virtually every family in Nigeria, could afford to eat rice, if not daily, at least on Sundays. Every Nigerian, civil servants inclusive, could drink tea with milk and bread daily. Not only was Nigeria as acclaimed as the investment destination of the world, but the debate in Nigeria, was even which, between it and South Africa, was the biggest economy in Africa?

Today, the same Nigeria is competing with the rest of the world on who is the poorest. Today Nigeria’s insignia to the world is about multi-dimensional poverty. Instead of investment destination, companies – multinational entity, whose history is as old as the country itself are leaving in droves to find business elsewhere, with the government in power not caring a hoot.

Nigeria is the only country in the world with the wacky stories you hear these days, which would have made Achebe’s churn with disgust. Is it not in Nigeria that you hear that a whole shipload of crude is set ablaze with the entire supposedly stolen content, instead of preserving them as evidence to prosecute those responsible in court? Is Nigeria not the only oil-producing country in the world, which only does not meet its quarter, but steals more than it officially produces?

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In which other country of the world outside Nigeria would gunmen, descend on a community and shoot for several hours, killing people and burning houses without let or hinderance? Where else does an ordinary citizen come out to boast of having a military deal with the President of his country and parade able-bodied young men as his foot-soldiers and still be sleeping in his house without question?

In which other part of the globe would a new government, obtain a loan to buy a N5billion yacht, 469 exotic Sports Utility Vehicles (SUVs) at the cost of N160,000 a unit to enable its lawmakers navigate unpaved roads and highways instead of fixing them? Where else would a President dip his hands into the proceeds of a foreign loan, to purchase N1.5billion vehicles for his wife in the midst of children going to bed on empty stomach?

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Yet, these examples, all which Nigerians have watched unfold before their eyes under the nose of Tinubu are not exhaustive. In fact, they are just like scratching the surface of the massive of the parlous situation in the country, which have birthed the massive discontent in the land.

Indeed, Achebe would have practically puked at the audacity of Tinubu offering to honour him with the name of a road with the quality of the 2023 presidential election that brought him to power. Such temerity! How does Tinubu think that he Achebe would have seen his government being encircled with such outlandish show of naked nepotism and still accept such insult of naming an Abuja road after him?

Besides, was it not even an afterthought coming days after the first gesture was offered to Wole Soyinka, the Nobel Laureate, who has suddenly become the darling of Tinubu and his APC government? Who told Tinubu that Achebe would mind not receiving the same gesture as his friend in the literary world?

The question, again, what was Tinubu thinking, toying with Achebe’s memory? Must he take such an inglorious and utterly dishonourable step to injure the soul of a man resting in peace, knowing that he had fought the good fight and deserves his rest? What insult!

My name is Sunny Igboanugo, I’m The Tiny Voice

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David Nweze Umahi: You can please Tinubu, you can’t scare Ndigbo!

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By Sunny Igboanugo

David Nweze Umahi, has since clearly established himself in the minds of not only Ndigbo, but at the national level and even beyond as a typical Nigerian politician. He has not left anyone in doubt as to where he stands on many issues concerning politics.

It may be too heavy to call him a sycophant or a hypocrite, because they are heavy words. But how else do you describe a man who uses such superlative words and heaven-like imageries to describe every President in power, who are no less fellow human beings like him at every turn?

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For instance, emerging from the bowels of the Presidential Villa, in Aso Rock, Abuja, on September 6, 2021, he had shocked a whole global audience, particularly his countrymen in Nigeria, when he prayed God to grant the nation a replica of President Muhammadu Buhari, as he then was.

Now, as at the time he was making this solemn prayer, a report from SBM Intelligence, recorded that at least 9,187 Nigerians had died in just one year – January 2020 and September 21 from insecurity alone. This was just one aspect of the series of failures, the Buhari era – one of the most disastrous in the post-colonial history of Nigeria offered.

I have heard many people say that Buhari, by his understanding, conduct and record, should not have risen beyond the Emir of Daura, let alone rule a country like Nigeria. But this was the selfsame person, Umahi, was praying God for Nigerians to have his kind as replacement – probably for the next eight years – because he had a “good heart.”

These were his exact words in case you have forgotten: “But I continue to say that power rest in the hands of God. And God, will also give us the next president who has good heart like President Buhari for the good of this country. We need God’s own anointing for our own anointed President for the interest and unity of this country.”

That was Umahi! Date, September 6, 2021. The world, you and me know how Buhari finished eventually. To say Nigerians were scandalised would be an understatement. Nyesom Wike, Governor of Rivers State, even went as far as recommending brain evaluation. Hear him: “I said what has gone wrong with him? You mean there shouldn’t be (a) psychiatric check on the governor? Sycophancy. And you know that President knows that you are telling lies to him. He (Buhari) knows. It is unfortunate. May God help us.”

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Now, has anyone heard anything from Umahi again in recent times, about Buhari or why he is next to God to the Igbo people or Nigerians? I have not. And that speaks volumes. Instead, the next mantra Nigerians are being regaled with is on how God will give President Bola Tinubu eight years in office, even when the last one year has been more than hell on earth for Nigerians, with prices of commodities hitting the rooftops and millions of more citizens added to those who probably ate one meal during Buhari’s era, now going to bed on virtually empty stomach.

Oh! You have not heard? This was selfsame Umahi, on March 31, 24, three years after praying for Nigeria to have a replica of Buhari: “Well, you called me a pastor. But I am also a prophet, and you must know that the coming onboard of Mr. President is divine. When God starts a thing, He completes it.

“So, I strongly believe that I am persuaded to let you know that God told me that this administration will last eight years because it is born of God. You can see the miracle that Mr President is doing through the inspiration of God Almighty who brought him to right all the wrongs and that is simply what Mr President has come to do. We are just there to support him.”

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I still find it heavy to use such words as sycophancy or hypocrisy against Umahi. Perhaps, that is his own understanding of political sagacity and being smart. But whatever it is, it is obvious that his efforts, are at best an individual project – sure to end the way others previously embarked by his likes did – temporary gains.

It is surprising that this first class engineer, who has broken all the barriers to climb to the top, despite all the opportunities political offices have given him, has failed to learn the real raison d’etre behind real term politics – no matter whatever you gain as an individual, without being one in accord with your people, you remain at a loss like the rest.

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So, when he mounted his chair during a press conference in Lagos, on Wednesday, to pronounce Peter Obi, the presidential candidate of the Labour Party (LP) in the February 25, 2023 presidential a risk to Ndigbo, what did he think he was doing? Did he think anyone would really take him seriously? Was it not obvious to him that his audience, both at that forum and beyond would naturally dismiss his ranting as mere gambit to get a pat on the back from Tinubu, who by the way is travelling the same route of monumental failure like Buhari?

Hear him: “It brings to some of the comments made by my brother, his Excellency Mr Peter Obi; I am not supposed to comment about it because some people have already done the work. And I know what Arise Television brought courtesy of Channels Television; they were bringing similar scenarios when His Excellency Peter Obi was the governor. He made a statement saying, ‘Any infrastructure that stands in the way of the road must go. And there would be no compensation paid.’ That’s what he said.

“But look at me, by the human face of the Renewed Hope agenda administration, we are even paying for people who are illegally staying on the coastal line and don’t have valid infrastructure and valid documents. That is mercy, that’s mercy… You know, some people darken counsel without knowledge. You know there’s the devil in the details.

“When you condemn people, you bring judgment upon yourself. And that is what he (Obi) has done. And I think he’s inciting some of the people in the southeast who are not well informed. He is inciting them. And gets them into trouble. And he doesn’t go to fight for them. Wisdom is a defence. And I want our people to have wisdom because I am involved.”

David Umahi

Obi in a quick riposte had responded: “Regarding allegations of incitement against the government, I firmly reject these unfounded accusations aimed at tarnishing my character. My focus is on fostering constructive dialogue and inclusivity, rather than engaging in divisive politics. Claims of incitement are baseless distractions. I have always advocated for unity and advancement, refusing to partake in reactionary divisive politics.”

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Now, the issue of how Ndigbo were co-opted into a matter that has since assumed national dimension, if not international status, is where Umahi’s penchant for cutting his nose to spite his face becomes quite obvious. Every Nigerian not on the imbecilic fringes, knows that Tinubu, is clearly on the Igbo matter at the moment and looks eager to end it where Buhari left off – in other words, he has handed the Igbo the shortest end of the stick more than his predecessor and more than ever in Nigeria. Obviously. Umahi, simply wants to key in, either to goad him on or to make him happy or both.

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If not, what concerns Ndigbo with the comments of a frontrunner of a national party, which makes him an opposition leader makes on a national issue? All Obi did was to contribute to the debate by pointing out the nebulous aspect of the Lagos-Calabar Coastal City Road, which has been on the front burner in Nigeria for weeks now.

In fact, Obi, actually took the issue from where Atiku Abubakar, his Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) counterpart left off. Yes! Not only did he question the opaqueness of the project, he also rated it on the priority list of the national development and held that it fell below par. How did this become an Igbo issue? Why was the North not dragged into the matter, given Atiku’s role in the entire saga?

Now, Umahi is talking about risks! What is the risk he is warning about that Obi is creating for Ndigbo over the matter? That more of their properties would be demolished in Lagos and other parts of Nigeria by government agencies on flimsy excuses or that more would be set on fire by hoodlums? Or that they will not get juicy political appointments? Or that they will not be promoted to the leadership of the police and army? Or that under Tinubu, no Igbo man will be the Inspector General of Police (IG), Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), Chief of Army Staff (COAS), Director of the State Services (DSS), Controller General of Customs?

What really is this risk? Pray! What is it that the Igbo man has not seen in Nigeria? Yet, they remain the most progressive set of people not only in Nigeria, but the black race. A people that rose from the ashes of the civil war to the zenith of a national economy in so short a time?

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The truth Umahi and those he works for seem unable to grasp is presence of divine hand in the life of the Igbo. The more you plot against them, the more the rise like freshly cooked ponmo in the stew. If you demolish their properties in Lagos, the more they acquire in all the countries across the West Coast. Will you also go there to demolish them?

Of course, it is not in my place for me to remind him, how he “wept profusely” after losing out woefully in the APC primaries, in June 2022. I’m sure it would be fresh in his mind, having confessed so himself. Unfortunately, the same Buhari, whom he did everything to please, including taunting and mocking Ndigbo, apparently in the hope of being dashed the presidency on a platter.

This was the same Umahi, bewailing his fate on Saturday, June 11, 2022, while reliving his experience in the hands of his Igbo compatriots in APC: “I had a series of meetings with the party’s chairmen in the five states of the zone in the company of its national vice-chairman. I implored the delegates that the issue was not about me, but the mood of the Igbo in the nation.
“I told them that they should vote for any candidate of South East, so that when our votes are counted behind all the contestants of southeast, we should not have anything less than the number of our delegates. By so doing, we would have made a statement; but it became a shame that our leaders and the delegates sold all our votes.
“It is a very big shame. I continue to let them know that he that sells his brother or sister, even the buyers will not trust him. We would have made a strong statement in the process that the Igbo are eminently qualified with due capacity to lead the country.”
Perhaps, he must have thought he was the only sharp man around, who knows how to betray his people. What he probably failed to understand was that the people he claimed to have betrayed him, probably saw, as many are seeing today, that there is no road in APC for the Igbo man. The party, was never structured to accommodate Ndigbo.
Was it not the same APC that despite the donation of a whole All Nigerian Peoples Party (ANPP), by its Chairman, the late Ogbonnaya Onu and the All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA), by Rochas Okorocha, at its inception, gave the South East, the third leg of the Nigerian tripod, a misery position of Organising Secretary, while other zones took the chunk of the kill?
Is it now that the party is fully entrenched and Nigeria is firmly in its vice grip that the Igbo will come into its reckoning? Why? How? Certainly not in Tinubu’s government. With the Lagos Boys, out with their red eyes ready to devour anyone outside their circle?
I would have suggested that the Minister of Works reached out to Joe Igbokwe, my dear brother and bosom friend – the real expert in the area of Igbo-bashing – to whom he (Umahi) is still a kindergarten learner – for a little tip on his experience. But what is the use? Ndigbo say it is better to allow an irascible child to have a feel of the ember to have experience of the real fire.
I would have also have suggested to our brother, now that he is also a seer to recall the encounter between the late Ajie, Ukpabi Asika and his Onitsha kinsman the late Nnamdi Azikiwe, the Owelle of Onitsha. Remember the late Eastern Nigeria Administrator had derisively to the Zik of Africa – onye ube ruolu ya rachaa – loosely translated – feel free to enjoy your pears whenever they soften – to which the Owelle replied, in that infamous counsel – no condition is permanent, so says the rickety truck laboriously climbing the Udi Hills.
Why am I even doing this? Why open old wounds? Well, may be it is necessary to remind our brother once again that Ndigbo have seen 99 and therefore will never be scared of 100. And if it will make him sad or happy, let me add, Umahi by any standard, is no match for Peter Obi either by wealth, popularity or achievement in office. Obi remains the most influential and achieving politician out of the South East or the former Eastern Nigeria, since the late Zik. The effect of fighting him is like the lizard scratching the trunk of an iroko.
Having said so, my message to Umahi: Climb the Eiffel Towers to shout out. Let Uncle Ben Chime his name a thousand times an hour. Get all the willing pastors in the world to hold crusades to secure God’s assurance of his second term, let the bulldozers roll on many more Landmark Beaches, let many more Igbo investments crumble to rubbles, nobody will stop you. But, please, do not threaten Ndigbo. It won’t take you anywhere! Tinubu, like others will only try!

My name is Sunny Igoanugo *I am the Tiny Voice!  

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Ogbonnaya Onu: Where is the justice? How APC broke his heart!

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By Sunny Igboanugo

“What is very, very important, exceptionally important, is that we must ensure that justice is upheld. Naturally, it should be somebody from the South East that will replace (President Muhammadu Buhari), and that will give the opposite South versus North and Christian versus Muslim a balance, and it will bring stability to the nation. It will strengthen Nigeria.”

These were his exact words on June 8, 2022, when it was his turn to address the crowd at Eagle Square in Abuja. Ogbonnaya Onu, PhD, first civilian governor of Abia State, had come to the convention of the All Progressives Congress (APC), to appeal to the conscience of his party men, and from there to Nigerians, flaunting not only his personal credentials, but those values to which all men – all good men – must be beholding – justice, equity and fair-play.

So, he went on: “The South West had eight years as president, eight years as vice president; the South South had eight years as president and vice president; where is the justice? Where is the justice?

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“I held the presidential ticket for one of the three parties then, but I had to let it go in order to solve a problem with the South West, to make sure that two Olus contested for the presidency, that head or tail, one will become the president and that brought down tension within the country. This is what would have happened if we allowed the South East at this time.”

It was a speech dripping with emotions, akin to Marc Antony’s address to the crowd in the Roman street that roused the people to action against the conspirators that planned the killing of Julius Caesar. The only difference here is that Onu, spoke to the conspirators themselves – the culprits – men and women, whose conscience had since gone the abyss.

Onu’s appeal to the APC bigwigs could be like Antony directing his speech Brutus and Cassius, the ringleaders, who led other Roman Senators to perfidious plot at the Capitol, where the Roman General and statesman, was viciously murdered, rather than the people who avenged Caesar’s murder.

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So, naturally, they discountenanced him. Justice? What justice. Is there justice in politics? Had the people not been told severally that power is not served a la carte? Did he not hear that you must snatch it, grab it and run with it? So, while Onu’s pleas, reverberated across the nation and became the main topic on the media – social and traditional, where it went viral, those he spoke to kept mute.

Not only that he must have left that arena more heartbroken than he came, the subsequent months must have shattered him completely. It is not yet known whether it was the APC that ignored him or that he decided from that moment to go into his own cocoon and live the life of a recluse.

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What is known is that he was never near any of the party gatherings subsequently. Was he not invited? Was he conveniently excluded or did he return home like the big masquerade whose powers were subdued in the market place and suffered the indignity of being decorated with sands from little children and catcalls from women? The jury is out. All that is known is that it did not end well for him.

This was the same Ogbonnaya Onu that in the 1999 presidential election was approached by then Alliance for Democracy (AD), to give up his presidential ambition, having emerged as the presidential candidate of the All Peoples Party (APP). In a country where people register political parties of no more than 20 members to contest presidential election, just for the appellation – Presidential Candidate or its better elevation – His Excellency, he practically buried that ambition.

Not only that he sacrificed that ambition – a high sacrifice to say the least, he collapsed his structure with Olu Falae of the AD, meaning that whatever votes the party got from the South East in that election, must have had his imprimatur. Of course, the joint ticket did not win, no thanks to the abracadabra of the Nigerian electoral system. So, he had to bear the consequences of the loss like other people in his camp.

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But he held on, regardless. By the time the clock turned its hand, he was now the National Chairman of the party, now rechristened – All Nigerian Peoples Party (ANPP), after the initial leaders abandoned it and ran to then ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), in the lecherous manner of Nigerian politicians. Onu was not a lecher. So, he held on.

In 2014, at the formation of the APC, it was Onu as the ANPP leader that collapsed the party into the new arrangement in the same way Bola Ahmed Tinubu, who had since left office as Governor of Lagos State Government, led the AD, which had then metamorphosed to Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), the same Muhammadu Buhari led his Congress of Progressive Change (CPC), the same way Rotimi Amaechi, then Governor of Rivers State and Bukola Saraki, former Governor of Kwara State, led the New PDP or N-PDP members into the party before Rochas Okorocha, as Imo State Governor, completed the formation with a faction of his then All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA).

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But that might be where the heartache that must have culminated into the heartbreak must have started. For no sooner did the APC emerge as a political party than Onu and his Igbo brothers, must have been shocked at what they were handed – the very short and blunt end of the stick.

In all the positions that were shared, the highest position the entire South East got was Organising Secretary – the man saddled with the responsibility of hiring venues, canopies, sound systems and other items used during party functions. Gratuitous insult?! You could say that again!

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Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu

Yet, Onu stayed! Was it patience, resilience of naivety? Have your pick. Then the party won power. You would have thought that he would have his reward. But whosai! Nada! Everyone was sure that the position of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) was there for his picking. Again, whosai? What did he get in the end – Minister of Science and Technology. Figure out what that Ministry in the scheme of things and order of importance.

In the end, even after boasting that with him in the saddle, Nigeria would now be able to produce pencils – one of his hugest task – laughable as it appeared, was not met. Who knows why? Perhaps, he was not even given the necessary assistance to achieve the feat, for reasons including those that appeared quite obvious.

But the hardest hit was to come. Who knows what he must have been promised? Everything he said in that convention of June 8, was spot on and fitted into the argument. Pray! Who could have presented a better logic? The North was just about to finish its tenure through Buhari. The South West had first taken through Olusegun Obasanjo – 1999-2007. Even the South South, had also taken through Goodluck Jonathan.

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So, when he cried out – where is the justice – those eternal words clearly captured the pains, as he saw the humiliation of not only himself, but his Igbo people – the unarguable third leg of the Nigerian Tripod. It was like the stab of Brutus at Caesar’s heart that made him cry out – et tu Brutus – you too Brutus. Just like that blow from Brutus epitomised the betrayal of his trusted friends and led Caesar’s eventual death, the APC final dagger-blow would have been too much for him to bear.

And he died! Good night, Ikeoha Uburu!

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Garlands, as Umeoji, ‘Ijele’ of Nigerian banking steps out

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By Sunny Igboanugo

Ijele is the greatest masquerade in Igboland in every material particular. It is the largest, most beautiful, most feared, most adorned and most adored. So, naturally, it is rarely seen. Its appearance, is only to mark the biggest events. At such events, it is the last to perform. Why? It does not share space with others. After its performance the event closes and everyone is supposed to disperse, for there is nothing more to expect and nothing more to see. What other spectacle or performance would near or equal that of the Ijele?

That is exactly the message Zenith Bank seems to be passing when it announced the appointment of Dame Adaora Umeoji, as the Managing Director, Chief Executive Officer (MD-CEO), on Tuesday, March 20, 2024. It was a momentous break from its 34-year-old history, as she became the first female to occupy that position.

Though the late Maria Sokenu, the first Managing Director of the now defunct Peoples Bank of Nigeria (PBN), is the first in history to emerge as a CEO of a bank in the country, that piece of history pales into insignificance in the context of the emerging scenario, as it was not only part of the military adventure in Nigeria, due to its peculiarity. The PBN, was a government institution established to provide special needs and cater for a segmented interest.

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What comes more closely to women playing key leadership roles in the banking sector began when First Bank of Nigeria (FBN), in 2015, appointed Ibikunle Awosika as Chairman, the first in history. This was followed by Access Bank which went for Mosunmola Belo-Olusoga and Guarantee Trust Bank (GTB) going for Osaretin Demuren, all in the same year and in the same capacity.

In the last decades or so, the sector has however upped the ante with the emerging trends, particularly Deposit Monetary Banks (DMBs). The appointments of female MD-CEOs, a fad, consistent with global thinking of equality where women share the space in virtually all human activities, particularly those hitherto depicted as exclusive preserves of the men, has now taken a pride of place.

That was how Miriam Olusanya, a pharmacist, financial and accounting guru, became the first female Managing Director of Guarantee Trust Bank (GTBank), in July 2021, and still holds the position to this day, the same year Yemisi Edun emerged in the same position for the First City Monument Bank (FCMB), armed with a chemistry degree from the University of Ife and a master’s in international accounting and finance from the University of Liverpool, England.

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Before them was Halima Buba, who was appointed MD-CEO of SunTrust Bank, in January 2021, spirted from her desk as Deputy General Manager of Ecobank. With Bachelor of Science in Business Management and MBA from the University of Maiduguri, and Ireti Samuel-Ogbu, who became the MD-CEO of Citibank Nigeria, with Bachelor of Arts in Accounting and Finance from Middlesex University and an MBA from the University of Bradford, in September 2020.

Three months after, in December 2020, Fidelity Bank (FB) announced Nneka Onyeali-Ikpe, a lawyer, as the MD-CEO, the first in the history of the bank, which was established in 1988, who fully assumed her role in January 2021., six years after Tomi Somefun became the MD-CEO of Unity Bank, in August 2015. A graduate from the prestigious Harvard Business School and Columbia University, Somefun, who took a degree in English Language from Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), has been playing that role since then.

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There is also Kafilat Araoye, who was appointed MD-CEO of Lotus Bank in May, 2021. The pioneer boss of the bank, one of the latest entrants in the Nigerian financial sector, with a degree in History and an M.Sc. in Industrial Relations and Personnel Management, is said to have come into the bank with over 30 years of banking experience.

Then there is Bukola Smith, who was a month earlier, appointed as the MD-CEO of FSDH Merchant Bank. Armed with B.Sc. in Economics and an MBA from Alliance Manchester Business School, in the UK, has remained in that position since April 2021.

The emerging trend also saw the appointment of Yetunde Bolanle Oni as the MD-CEO of Union Bank, a significant part of the history of one of Nigeria’s oldest banks. She is said to hold degrees in Economics and Business Administration, including executive training at Oxford University.

The entrance of Umeoji, seems to be the icing on the cake. It is akin to the popular saying of saving the best for last. That the entire Nigerian media space has been awash with the news of the appointment, since it was posted on the bank’s website on Tuesday morning, is indicative of the significance of the development.

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The statement read: “Zenith Bank Plc has announced the appointment of Dame (Dr.) Adaora Umeoji, OON, as Group Managing Director/Chief Executive with effect from June 1, 2024, subject to approval by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).

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“She takes over from Dr. Ebenezer Onyeagwu, whose five-year term expires on May 31, 2024, after a very successful tenure. Dame (Dr.) Adaora Umeoji is the first female GMD/CEO since the inception of the bank, and her appointment is consistent with the bank’s executive transition tradition, succession plan, and strategy of grooming leaders from within.

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“Prior to this appointment, Dr. Umeoji has been the Deputy Managing Director of the bank since October 28, 2016 and has close to thirty (30) years cognate banking experience of which twenty-six (26) years has been with Zenith Bank.

“She is an alumnus of the prestigious Harvard Business School where she attended the Advanced Management Program (AMP) and an alumnus of Columbia Business School with a Certificate in the Global Banking Program. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Sociology from the University of Jos, a Bachelor’s Degree in Accounting and a First-Class honors in Law from Baze University, Abuja.

“She holds a Master of Laws from the University of Salford, United Kingdom, a Master in Business Administration (MBA) from the University of Calabar, and also has a doctorate in business administration from Apollos University, USA. She holds a Certificate in Economics for Business from the prestigious MIT Sloan School of Management, USA, and has attended various management programmes in renowned Universities around the world including the strategic thinking and Management programme at Wharton Business School, USA. She also attended the executive program in Strategic Management, and has a Certificate in Leading Global Business all from Harvard Business School, USA.

“She is a fellow of notable professional bodies including the Chartered Banker Institute, UK, Chartered Institute of Bankers of Nigeria, Nigerian Institute of Management, Institute of Credit Administration, Institute of Certified Public Accountants of Nigeria, Institute of Chartered Mediators and Conciliators, and the Institute of Chartered Secretaries and Administrators of Nigeria among others.

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“In 2022, the Federal Government of Nigeria honored Dr. Umeoji with Officer of the Order of the Niger, as a recognition of her contributions to nation building. She is a Peace Advocate of the United Nations (UN-POLAC).

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“She has impacted many lives through her philanthropic and humanitarian activities through her NGOs; Pink Breathe Cancer Foundation and the Adorable Foundation that educates, caters for Cancer patients and indigent children education especially the Girl-Child. Her contribution to humanity was recognized by the Sun Newspaper which recently bestowed on her the Humanitarian Service Icon Award for 2023.

“As a result of her passion for promoting professionalism in the banking industry and improving the well-being of the less privileged, Dr. Adaora Umeoji, OON founded the Catholic Bankers Association of Nigeria (CBAN), a platform she uses to promote ethical banking and service to humanity. She is a Lady of the Order of Knights of St. John International (KSJI), and was awarded a Papal Knight of the Order of St. Sylvester by His Holiness Pope Francis.”

The import of this historic appointment is not farfetched. It is not only captured in the tall credentials Umeoji is putting on the table or in her exquisite personality, but also her track record both in the bank itself, and the Nigerian financial sector in general, where she has played a progressive role in the last three decades.

Just as Zenith Bank, which began operation in July, 1990, two months after it was registered in May of the same year, about 34 years ago, is considered arguably the biggest bank in Nigeria, Umeoji, who is a key contributor to that enviable status, is reputed to be the biggest female player in the Nigerian banking industry today.

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For 26 years of the 30 she has spent in the industry, she is believed to have buried herself in work and more work, which has contributed quite significantly in the great fortunes of the bank and the outcome is the symbiotic relationship, where the bank is posting the hugest profits, while she is reputed to be the highest paid female banker in Nigeria today, both in dividends as a director and personal wages.

As the counting begins for the full takeover of affairs at 83 Ajose Adeogun Street, Victoria Island, home of the Zenith Heights, on June 1, it is salute to the amazon from Ezinifite, Aguata Local Government Area of Anambra State. It is salute to the Ijele of Nigerian banking. Nigeria, nay, the world stands still!

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