Chief Mbazulike Amechi, one of the few remaining grand old men of First Republic politics, is now in his 90s. Unknown to many, he was one of the closest men to Nigeria’s leading nationalist, Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe. Amechi even staked his life, a gesture much appreciated by Zik, who, while narrating the incident to those around him, concluded: “The boy is good.” Hence, that alias till today. And, indeed, Amechi was good to Zik. If a young man could take a shot for you with his life at stake, he must be good.
The incident happened when Chief Amechi was less than 30 years old. Arriving at the Governor-General’s house, Marina, Lagos, for one of those series of meetings to discuss proposals for Nigeria’s future, Dr. Azikiwe was the intended target of one of the spectators who surged forward for a violent attack on Zik. Whether it was going to be a shot at or a stab on his leader, Amechi dived between Zik and the assailant. It was a momentous action, which made world headlines. It could also have altered the history of nationalism in Nigeria. Appreciating the courageous and timely role Amechi played in his survival, Zik rightly let it be known to everybody that “The Boy is Good.”
So stuck was the alias on Amechi since that incident in the 1950s.
It could, therefore, only be from an authoritative position when Amechi lately recounted how he strove to get Dr. Azikiwe adopted as the National Party of Nigeria’s presidential candidate for the 1979 elections. According to Amechi, the deal was already sealed with Alhaji Shehu Shagari well in advance of the election, with the then national chairman of NPN, Chief A.M.A. Akinloye, as the middleman. And Zik was expected to fall for that deceit, especially with Akinloye as the go-between? That must be ridiculous. Chief Akinloye? Did Amechi know his Ibadan friend?
By the way, Zik and his friend, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, were victims of lies and deceit of Nigerian politics, a repeat of which the Owelle side-stepped by ignoring the seemingly so sweet and cheap offer to make him NPN’s presidential candidate. Zik’s first experience of Nigeria’s lies and deceit in politics was in 1952, the carpet-crossing episode in Western House of Assembly in Ibadan. Zik’s NCNC and the party’s ally, Mabolaje Grand Alliance, won enough seats to form the government. Strangely, NCNC’s ally, Mabolaje Grand Alliance (led by Akinloye), found it convenient to endorse the idea of “East for easterners, North for northerners and West for westerners.” It was a political ploy to snatch victory from NCNC despite the fact that none of the three different constitutions of the three different regions ever stipulated that only indigenes of each region could contest elections or form the government of any of the regions.
The major requirement was that each candidate must be a resident in his/her constituency. Zik was resident and contested in Lagos (then part of Western Region) and won, along with four other NCNC candidates. Leading the carpet-crossers in Ibadan was Chief Akinloye, who, even then, was fronting for Adegoke Adelabu. There was, therefore, no way Zik could allow himself to be deceived in 1979 by the same Akinloye who betrayed the party and Zik in Ibadan in 1952.
Amechi’s good intentions for Zik in 1979 might be appreciated but Zik knew it was a trap to commandeer Zik’s membership for NPN while the party would thereafter have proceeded to pick a different presedential candidate. When Akinloye’s carpet-crossing took place in Ibadan, 1952, Amechi (born in 1929) was about 22 years old but still 10 years older than my age group.
How about another betrayal by Chief Akinloye? After the 1979 near-inconclusive elections, Akinloye entered an accord with Zik’s Nigerian People’s Party (NPP). Noting his party well-entrenched in government, the same Chief Akinloye, as national chairman of NPN (the senior partner in the coalition) unilaterally terminated the NPN/NPP accord. The entire political career of Akinloye comprised shameless pranks.
Then this guilty conscience. On Zik’s 90th birthday, November 16, 1994, Chief Akinloye placed full-page advertisements in some Nigerian newspapers, apologising for the betrayal of Zik in the carpet-crossing episode at Western House of Assembly in January 1952. His explanation was that the carpet-crossing was not aimed at stopping Zik from forming government but that Zik should, instead, nominate a Youba member of the NCNC/Mabolaje Alliance to form Western Region government. Difference between six and half a dozen. Forty-two years after a political robbery?
In 1962, the internal crisis in the ruling party in Western Region, Action Group, broke the party into two, especially with the trial and imprisonment of the party’s leader, Chief Awolowo. As usual, Akinloye abandoned Awolowo and crossed to Chief Akintola’s faction to enable him continue as minister on the latter’s new party.
Chief Awolowo suffered his own share of the lies and deceit of Nigerian politics. He was serving a prison term in Calabar for alleged treasonable felony when he was released on August 2, 1966. Awolowo was driven straight from airport to Dodan Barracks to the new Head of State, General Yakubu Gowon, who showered praises on him that Nigeria needed his (Awo’s) experience. In what area, if not politics and administration? This raised speculations that Chief Awolowo would be reckoned in selecting a civilian leadership for Nigeria after military rule. To boost Awolowo’s hope along that line, he was also appointed vice-chairman of the Federal Executive Council. Next to Gowon as Head of State, or so it seemed. Unfortunately, the scheme was to frustrate him unduly with prolonged military rule even after the war, which ended in January 1970.
The first shock for Chief Awolowo was Federal Government’s extension of military rule by declaring the date earlier promised for handover to civilian rule no longer realistic. Awolowo had to resign, obviously in anticipation of the postponement of the date of returning to civilian rule. Somehow, General Gowon was overthrown on July 29, 1975. A new date was fixed for October 1, 1979. The row was not whether the new date was too far for Chief Awolowo. There were no visible strong political rivals for him.
Ahmadu Bello, Tafawa Balewa and S.L. Akintola lost their lives in the January 1966 coup. Dr. Azikiwe, Dennis Osadebay And Mike Okpara were virtually immobile in Onitsha, Asaba and Umuahia, respectively. But instead of being all clear for Awolowo as widely expected, his lieutenants, if not subordinates of yesteryear, Tony Enahoro and J.S. Tarka, miraculously developed their own presidential ambition to rival him, after Awolowo had been utilised for the civil war period, even when, on behalf of Federal Government, he incurred the enmity of war victims.
Contrary to the hopes and promises of the early days of his release, Awolowo lost, if not made to lose, two nations.
After guarding the national economy throughout the civil war and directing Yoruba to support the war against Biafra, it was still difficult for him to be crowned with the presidency.
Okongwu, a worthy pioneer
Nigeria has just lost one of its distinguished sons, Chu Okongwu, a world-rated economist. He was one of the bagful of intellectuals who served in the cabinet of former President Ibrahim Babangida. He played his part in the onerous task of deregulating the economy, the benefit of which is widespread all over the country today. In his younger days, he was better known as Sonny Okongwu, one of the Nigerian pioneer newscasters of the then Nigerian Broadcasting Service, Ikoyi, Lagos.
They had the capability to get listeners virtually glued to Redifusion boxes for local and international news as well as good features. Any of them could deliver the goods, Dehinde George, Emmanuel Omatsola, Joe Atuona, Sam Nwaneri, Michael Olumide, Abba Zoru, Sunday Young-Harry and Sonny Okongwu.
It was reported that a couple of weeks before Okongwu’s death, his house was burnt down. By arsonists? We would never know. But more than that was Okongwu’s sense of loss in the destruction of his books. Arsonists have no sense of value for anything intellecual. After burning down the house, what have the arsonists gained? Nothing.
The idea of burning down a library along with the books is difficult to understand. The same thing happened during the civil war when Zik’s library in Nsukka, along with thousands of books, was burnt down by illiterates.
Also reported dead lately was Major Ben Gbulie of the January 1966 coup.His book THE FIVE MAJORS, was too self-depreciating solely because of the language, which beclouded whatever facts the author might think he was feeding the public.
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