he great Martin Luther King, Jr. once told us (and I paraphrase) that the test of a man’s character lies not in his position or actions during the times of tranquility and peace, but in his actions and positions during times of difficulty and confusion. With the so-called North (of Nigeria) near unanimous in the sentiment of power zoning belonging to them in 2011, and with the PDP affirming its zoning scheme, there can be no question that the Nigerian nation currently faces a potential for conflagration more than at any other time since June 12th and since the grand daddy of all conflagrations, the Nigeria/Biafra war.
The Chairman of the World Igbo Congress, Ichie Chibuzo Onwuchekwe, often reminds us that the world belongs to those who show up. In the following short essay, I posit that the Kenechukwu Nnamani who showed up, out of devotion to democratic principles and the rule of law, at the helms of legislative activism that stopped the Third Term gambit in 2007, has shown up again in 2010 to assert and protect the right of any candidate for the office of President in Nigeria to be heard.
First, a disclosure – in the interest of intellectual honesty, I wish to state that this writer is currently serving in a non-salaried, leadership research-oriented position of Senior Fellow at the Abuja-based Ken Nnamani Centre for Leadership and Development (KNLD). To the extent that this represents a bias, whether real or perceived, I think the reader should know it upfront.
Second, a disclaimer – nothing I saw here represents the views, opinions, or positions of any group, including non-profit groups, to which I belong. The views are entirely mine.
In the months leading up to the 2007 general elections in Nigeria, Ken Nnamani was just another of five men of the Igbo heritage who had ascended to the position of Senate President and Chairman of the National Assembly of Nigeria between 1999 and 2005. Before him there had been A. Wagbara, A. P. Anyim, C. Okadigbo, and E. Enwerem. As the foot soldiers of Third Term seized Abuja with loads of cash, with Nuhu Ribadu’s EFCC seeing nothing, the last standing authoritative figure that needed to play ball was the then Senate President, Ken Nnamani. To say that he came under tremendous pressure from both sides of the debate is to make the understatement of the year. And yes, even lives were on the line too.
It may never be determined with absolute certainty that Nnamani was against Third Term. But it will never be debated whether he believed in the exhaustion of and adherence to the process for constitutional amendment, which was what was required for Third Term to be actualized. And it was in sticking to the democratic principles enshrined in following the process that “Nnamani the Senate President” became the now “Nnamani the hero of Democracy,” with all the political capital that has since accrued. See www.talldrums.com for some of Nnamani’s narratives of events that led to that fateful day in the Nigeria Senate when the Senate shut down the constitutional amendments and the Third Term that came in them.
Please note that I said “Nnamani the hero of Democracy,” not “Nnamani the Hero of Anti-Third Term.” Some of Nnamani’s admirers have tended to confuse the two terms, which is partially why some of them have found some angst in recent events in Nigeria. “Nnamani the hero of Democracy” is the prism from which Nnamani’s presence and chairmanship of the occasion on Wednesday, September 15, 2010, at which IBB declared for President of Nigeria, must be seen. In appearing with IBB, Nnamani makes it clear that his commitment is to opening up the political space to all comers and let the electorate decide. In chairing the declaration of IBB, Nnamani essentially says that even former dictators (Buhari, Obasanjo, Babangida, etc) must not be intimidated out of the democratic space, but that they must all be heard as well. In speaking at the Eagle Square, Nnamani tells us that he rejects the notion that the PDP space and the Nigerian political space should be shut down for the incumbent - any incumbent. This is not to say that one is against the incumbent – any incumbent; it’s just to say that the space should not automatically shut down because there is an incumbent.
In other words, rather than the disappointment that Bolaji Aluko and Joe Igbokwe have expressed, Nnamani’s courageous presence at the Eagle Square on September 15, 2010 demonstrates the same exact mettle for which Aluko and so many other Nigerians came to see Nnamani as a hero. I am certain that should brother Aluko plan a declaration to run for office tomorrow and invite his friend, Nnamani, to his declaration ceremony, the former Senate President will be glad to be there to allow Aluko to be heard in the democratic space. The principles in Nnamani’s politics have not changed – only the personalities and sub-theaters have.