M. O. Ené

Minister Maduekwe: Hear here!
New Jersey, USA

I know there is no way anyone can impress everyone. I know that to move things forward many toes must be stepped on. I know that tough decisions must be made at times. The fact is that Nigerians abroad and at home are not happy with the goings-on in Nigeria.


was tempted to do a piece on Minister of Transport Ojo Maduekwe. And what stopped me: a loquacious cybercritic, who has become a cyberfan this May. Long after the presidency-idiocy scandal, he wrote: "Oga MOE, I have waited in vain for a piece on Chief Ojo Maduekwe's latest salvo," he wrote. "After Ejoor, ejo o!" and "Yusuf: You sef," one would expect you to shoot straight from the hip. Let's hear here!" I laughed out loud. Hear here? Hmm, hear hear! I thought about it: Rustle up something, give him "Ojoro Ojo" and forget about it. Nah, it would be pushing the matter; it was already dying out. Those who know the Lagosian Igboman better either were not surprised or simply chuckled as others exhaled like our soldiers in Sierra Leone. Had he not heard of prudent zealotry? [What is that?] Whose interest was he really serving at Abuja anyway? Dr. Paul Ezeji said the man had "a distorted view of the current mood" of the Igbo. Uchenna Odogwu went for the throat, but offered very relevant fraternal advice. [ ] Rudolf Okonkwo picked on "Maduekwe's malady": the non-recognition of an Igbo republic within the present federal arrangement [See ] Today, I am breaking my traditional May focus on culture to serve one on Minister Maduekwe from closer quarters. Here. Please hear… read me out. Thank you.

First, why didn't I strike while the iron was hot? Did I suddenly go on selective sabbatical when the papers screamed "Minister dubs Igbo clamor for presidency idiotic..." or "Nnamani takes on Maduekwe over Orji Kalu" or "Maduekwe has no political base -- Kalu's adviser"? Answer: You cannot be a participant in the demise of a corpse at which burial you would be a party, or so my ancestors said. I had met Chief Maduekwe here in New Jersey, before the present party began, circa 1997. Before the "idiotic" brouhaha, I was once tempted to shoot when the minister characterized as "politics of rascality" the call for confederacy by southeastern governors. This was soon after the Kaduna Killings. I had my hands full with official releases and many meetings. To oil the matter, I have had some access to the special assistant to the minister Dr. Okey Ikechukwu since his Guardian, Comet, and The Examiner days. So on February 24, 2001 (how time flies!) Ikechukwu emailed me the official response: "IGBO PRESIDENCY: MATTERS ARISING (Text of a Press Release by the Office of the Transport Minister.) " [See ]. In it, "[b]ecause the Honorable Minister believes there are still fair-minded Nigerians among his fellow angry Igbo kinsmen," he went on to affirm among many other things, that "he did not say the aspiration of any Igbo to be President is idiotic."


Everyone was taken aback by Minister Maduekwe's salvos. Abia State Governor Orji Uzor Kalu, whom the minister picked on in the ThisDay interview, took it to another level. He hammered away from all angles. The minister struggled to get a breath of fresh air from suffocating Kalu acolytes. My contacts at Ohanaeze secretariat were equally astonished. Here was a man with whom Honorable Justice Eze Ozobu, the Chairman of Ohanaeze, had visited at Ohafia the weekend before. Here was a minister who had attended the Igbo Summit on Friday, January 19, 2001. And now this? Thanks the persistent pushing and pulling of Dr. Ikechukwu, it did not take long for reason to prevail. Who knows how many favors he called in, how many favors he chucked up, or how many sleepless nights he spent working the phones and emails and facsimile machines. We know Maduekwe did not mean to "idiotize" his own, but that's the nature of the political beast. First, he was openly on the corner of his people's perceived persecutor. Secondly, he picked on Kalu at the worst possible political moment: just when God's own State governor was emerging as the messiah the masses were expecting! So the whirlwind went wild.

Governor Kalu let his attack dogs stay loose. What had been Ndiigbo-Maduekwe fight soon whittled down to what it really was: Kalu-Maduekwe crash. You see, Governor Kalu had locked horns with President Olusegun Obasanjo, Maduekwe's boss, for non-performance in Igboland. Apparently the minister took it upon himself to flex some ministerial muscles. Ohanaeze saw through it, and the fence mending began. Maduekwe had nothing against Kalu; and who said Kalu had anything against anyone? Well, as long as you were not eyeing Umuahia Government House or now Aso Rock, the "Ikemba Igbere" (that's my title for the young governor), everything will be just fine. Then again, Kalu had to contend with his headaches: MASSOB, travels, the Bakassi Boyz brouhaha, Enugu Rangers teaching Enyimba (Aba) boys a thing or two about respect in soccer, the IBB connection, etc. And what about the call to run against Baba Sege, certificates and age apart, and the proposed 10-million-man march? [See ] The list is long. And the young man has to govern too? Now, if you were in his shoes, wouldn't you just let your own brother be? I agreed, and so did a cousin of the governor, whom I call on whenever I need to gauge Abia politics. Besides, there is something we call the Igbo Code of Conduct, which stipulates in Section B, subsection 2: "There shall be no derogatory remarks about the Igbo people and the Igbo nation; all constructive criticisms shall be channeled through the appropriate Igbo organizations." As one of the prime movers of the process, I borrowed a leaf and took a background backseat. Somehow, it died. Kalu knew he had extracted enough political power. Life goes on, dragging politics along.


We did not actually meet on Tuesday, May 15, 2001. However, in these days of email and v-mail and s-mail, you could say that we had a "v-meeting" or is it "telemeeting." I knew he was headed to our shores. East coast was in the itinerary. So he came to New York City, en route to Chinua Achebe's Bard College for a lecture. It was a short stopover, so I took a rain check he offered. I had so much to ask him, so many things to talk about. It was a free-flowing dialogue, and I saw why the minister is a jaundiced journalist's dream: He shoots straight, and he takes you to areas you think no politician would want to go. Minister Maduekwe knows about this political imperfection that would appeal in an ideal society, but he fears no tackles. He told me that was probably why he had not been made minister until President Obasanjo came along. The significance of this near-confession is that the President is not your everyday politician, that he is serious about transparency. Don't reach for that pinch of salt; the Minister narrated some events that sustain his confidence.

Of course, you don't expect me to reveal all that we discussed, but you can take one thing to the bank: Maduekwe would stand by everything he says. His only concern is that the level of debate is being watered down to knee-jerk sentimentalism. (That's my choice of lexical items, not his.) He wondered how an ordinary person with an opposing view would fare in the land if a federal minister could be castigated so cruelly for holding a divergent view. In case you have not heard, Kalu's adviser on media, Prince Emeka ("When fire meets fire, pity will pity!") Obasi said of Maduekwe: "His anti-Igbo posture has prompted serious questions in Umuahia over his true identity, especially as he is the only Igboman in the world called 'Ojo'." That was an original "njakiri" -- methinks, prompting the minister unnecessarily to respond and point out one or two other Igbo Ojos! Governor Chimaroke Nnamani, who was not known to share Orji's opposition of Obasanjo, took up the refrain and suggested "checking future similar utterances from people who were supposed to be representing the Igbo, … the South-East zone would soon meet to press for a recall of the minister." Could Obasanjo bite? Don't hold your breath: The president has his own yardsticks. Or we would not be reading about the superpowers of Chief Sir Billionaire Emeka Offor of Anambra State. But that's by the bush.


Thisday wrote on May 13, 2001: "Ozobia, Eneh, Others to Face Anti-Graft Commission." [See ] You will recall that Engineer Nnamdi Ozobia (ex-MD, Nigerdocks) Dr George Eneh (ex-MD, National Maritime Authority), and their almost always, nameless counterparts in the Nigerian Ports Authority and other directors and senior officials were fired late last year. At the Igbo Summit, ex-Senate President Chuba Okadigbo highlighted the irony Ozobia's removal in his paper "Quo Vadis" [See ] I had read somewhere that Maduekwe defended the removal of Ozobia. On the Igbo front, he also wondered how many people Ozobia had promoted through the system to deserve such higher-up "don't cry, scream" from Okadigbo. The ex-Transport men are headed to the courts and possibly to jail. Maduekwe believes the justice system works well in a democracy; that it will vindicate the just. Eventually, the roots of the matters shall emerge and, no matter how we look at it, it won't be pretty.

My interest however was why the matter came up while the Minister received "the United States Ambassador to Nigeria, Mr. Howard Jetta in his office recently." Is the anti-corruption crusade now centered in his ministry? He says others should feel free to join the war whenever they are ready. Couldn't he use the opportunity to push for the reopening of American consulate in Enugu, to complement the new international airport? Maduekwe thinks Nigerians in Diaspora should do much more to help move the democratization process forward, especially with the level of expertise and available resources. Why? It is not yet Uhuru; we are still not out of the woods. The Pakistani example came up. I agreed. Ask Dr. Bala Usman. It is up to all Nigerians to safeguard what they have, the minister insisted. It is up to the Igbo to continue on their well-ploughed republicanism and support the democratic process, no matter the present difficulties. It is not to Igbo interest to copy the approach of any other ethnic group. Was that what he meant by the "Afeniferization" of Igbo politics, I wondered. "Oh, you read that too?" Oops!


I know there is no way anyone can impress everyone. I know that to move things forward many toes must be stepped on. I know that tough decisions must be made at times. The fact is that Nigerians abroad and at home are not happy with the goings-on in Nigeria. The minister is not living in another planet; he knows or should know. No one is impressed by selective straightforwardness, especially when almost every sector of socioeconomic life is falling apart. One good thing though, Maduekwe did not go godly on me, as some ministers easily wallowed in when we spoke. He believes that the dividends of democracy are gradually emerging, that there are loads of recorded successes. He harped on education. The level of discourse during the "idiotic" scandal had proven to him that education must be taken to another level. Since he is not the minister of education, I did not go into details on how to get an undisrupted semester out of Nigerian universities. I had gone through the whole shebang with Dr. Ihechukwu Madubuike, former minister of education in the second republic, who was honored Distinguished Alumnus by the University of Buffalo last month. To the man who laid the foundation for universities of technology, the level to which education had degenerated was troubling. But that's another story.

Politics apart and sentiments notwithstanding, I gleaned that Minister Maduekwe is worried about the poverty of education in Nigeria, to borrow from recent threads on It is therefore not surprising that he elected to serve in the Ohanaeze Committee on Education and Information Technology, chaired by the man who defeated him in the senate race for Abia North, Senator Ike Omar Sanda Nwachukwu. [Don't ask how many Igbo men are called "Omar Sanda"; it won't fly here, okay?] Also serving in the committee are Professors Frank Ndili (ex-VC, UNN), Barth Nnaji (world-renowned robotics engineer), Lawrence Ocho, Peter Ejiofor (VC, UniZik), Linus Aneke (ESUT), Julius Onah and Chiweite Ejike (ex-VCs, ESUT), Ginigeme Mbanefo, Vincent Ike, O.C. Nwanna, B. O. Ukeje, Maduenesi (Mrs.), James Adichie, and Matthew Nnoruka. Others include Dr. (Mrs.) Helen Chukwuma, Rev. (Dr.) Stan Ani, Dr. Obi Taiwan Ozochiawaeze of the United Nations, Chief Bob Ogbuagu, Chief H.B.C. Ogboko, Chief M.C.K. Ajuluchukwu, Chief Austin Ezenwa, Dr. Philip Emeagwali, Mr. Pini Jason, etc. If he makes it up to Ndiigbo thus and play with the team henceforth, I guess the world could continue to spin on its axis.


Come 2003, I am personally hopeful that fire will not meet fire, and "pity will (not) pity." The present crop of criminal citizens in state houses and in Abuja will be swept away like overnight breadcrumbs. The good people of Eastern Nigeria are gradually rebuilding the bonds that hold them together as a people of common destiny. It is good that the sea breeze of sleaze has revealed the chicken's derrière. We only noticed Maduekwe because he spoke up. Where are the others in all this? From such occasional occurrences, we should learn and enrich our experiences. It should never be about ministers or governors, and it should not be about billionaire errand boys and hero worshippers and maverick schemers; it should be about the welfare of our people. If ALL politicians and policy makers and enforcers do not reverse the present idiocy of fiddling while the people perish, the land could heave. To restore the dignity of man in our neck of the world woods and build sustainable legacies, we must educate our people properly to be whatever they can be in the emerging global theater. That's the main message here.

Everything else is embellishment.