By Eddie Onuzuruike
There is an old saying that uneasy lies the head that wears the crown. Another commentator Edgar AIlan Poe affirms that ‘to vilify a great man is the readiest way in which a little man can himself attain greatness.’ Negative as this may appear, I saw it live during and before the 2019 elections nationwide. The experience in Abia Central Senatorial District shocked the senses out of many sane people revealing a spate of structural vulnerability. From the blues, people of different hues, big and small, high and low in society suddenly acquire the liberty to voice their warped opinions about a candidate. You may be lucky to have your adherents who are more likely to defend you. If you don’t as it may be an enemy camp, you may need more time and money to undo the damage.
From the foregoing mark of greatness cannot always be gratifying and rosy. There are negative attributes though not the fault of the great man.
Many of such take prominence when the person is late and cannot exonerate himself. A certain political upstart while trying to boost his ego as was his style, claimed in a public daily to have helped Awo fix his broken down Rolls Royce in a Lagos street.
One Awoist saw this as odd and consulted Odia Ofeimun instantly. Odia, a known insider of the Awo dynasty swore that Awo never owned a Rolls but constantly used Mercedes which was maintained by Leventis Motors and traded in with the slightest indication of frailty and so his cars never broke down. Trust Pa Awo’s legendary frugality.
Hitler had a good dose of these as so many stories took the air before and during the Second World War. Idi Amin Dada of Uganda was branded a cannibal as portrayed in the film, ‘The Rise and Fall of Idi Amin.’
Nnamdi Azikiwe during the fifties and sixties had so many including the power of disappearance during his confrontation of the colonial fathers in the independence struggle. We were even told that he had to trap the mermaid of the River Niger in a bottle to allow the construction of The Niger Bridge. These were pleasant hypes unlike today’s that are more lethargic, characterised by sheer blackmail and character assassination.
The 2019 elections witnessed more daredevil and horrendous stories directed more on the elected and those who sought re-election. The highest victims are people who were already enjoying incumbency so those who waited to counter the advantage of incumbency not being able to grab convincing points engaged in blackmail. As one author said, people engage in blackmail when they have nothing good to say about themselves.
This was made more factual when an upstart, Chidi Ajaegbu who contested on the stable of APGA surprised many of his admirers and kinsmen with his rudeness and brazenness on a revered candidate. As it happened, people who wouldn’t have challenged you anywhere use the election as a good subterfuge. In a gathering, he addressed Senator T. A. Orji as outgoing Senator. Can you imagine that? Senator Nkechi Nwaogu of APC who had spent 12 years in the National Assembly resorted to name calling and continued allegations of non-performance to which many watchers asked her to publish her score card for those years in Abuja. We are still waiting.
Then the huge rumour mills. It may not be the first time anyway. In 2011, re-election bid of Gov T A Orji, many of such were rampant. It was constantly repeated of a soldier who battered Engr Chinedum Orji in a beer parlour. The one who relayed the story claimed to be an eye witness. Engr Orji to the best of my knowledge has never been sited in such a place, if he ever did, it wouldn’t have been a habit. We are yet to know where all these emanated from. Could it be from the opposing parties, their candidates or both?
Despite the ubiquity, rumours don’t just start, it is like the gun, somebody pulls the trigger. Some of these sources you may not doubt as they have been previously credible. A close friend approached me with visible sympathy for me and sincerity, warning me to be careful. He told me to watch out for security men of all hues ranging from FSARS, Presidential Task Force and SSS men. He claimed to have privileged information where 30 names who worked with Ochendo were on the watch list. I didn’t need anybody to tell me that my name should be there. The day came like any other day and being human, I moved with great trepidation, reducing my night outings to 9pm.
A new lesson was learnt. I was shocked by the antics of the opposition party where many you thought were your friends turned out to be arch enemies who can turn against you with the smallest mess of pottage. A high number were PDP decampees who made fortunes in the party.
My ward, Ndume Ward made up of over 20 voting units got into turmoil on February 23, the election day for Presidential and National Assembly elections. There was a mix-up where one of the documents was misplaced and our opponents refused to be part of the elections. Even when a replacement was made, they still refused and claimed to be waiting for the original. The so-called original was returned by 2pm and our brothers refused that the election will commence, calling the shots as if they were Jega and Mahmood put together.
The REC’s intervention for the election to take place didn’t help matters and it was generally agreed for the next day, Sunday, February 24, of all odds, my birthday.
When we arrived in the morning to aid the collection of the materials, the same people who were part of the agreement the previous night initiated another argument for a shift to Tuesday the 26th of Feb, 2019.
Why would a candidate who had waited for months for the elections argue vehemently for a shift outside the electoral time table if they were actually ready? This was a grand ploy knowing that Ndume ward is Senator T. A. Orji’s solid stronghold.
Somehow, the police were involved and they assisted in loading the officers and materials to different areas of the ward where elections commenced but not without thuggery and other forms of distractions.
The governorship poll was easier and smoother but not without the scare of security men targeted at some people. Instead of the real security men, rumour had its way again. Some news hounds started calling me immediately after I had voted that security men sealed the Senator Orji’s residence, alleging that he was on house arrest after sensitive materials were discovered in his house. It wasn’t a laughing matter as these calls multiplied from many groups including Abuja based observers. I had to screech to his residence where I was interviewed by so many including NTA. To my relief all these were to no avail as the Senator voted and was in his residence, fit as a fiddle.
Two days after the governorship polls, I got a funny phone call where somebody I am sure, wanted to amuse himself. As I tried to know who was on the other end, the bold caller slammed that it didn’t matter, that all I should do was to listen. To amuse him and save me the tension, I said speak for thy servant heareth. ‘You can tell your Oga if you like but know it that Chief Orji Uzor Kalu is now in the Senate to discipline his deputy and Chief of Staff who deserted him. I replied that the Senate is not a secondary school where you hand out orders to juniors or moreover that the situation in the National Assembly is that of equality where all had their say. And moreover, Sen Abaribe is a ranking Senator having been in the senate for three terms. How can OUK, a rookie discipline his predecessors in the senate? So much of the hypes!
Senator Orji soundly got re-elected with superior votes in all the LGAs of the Abia Central, even winning challengers in their polling units. In his words when he was interviewed he promised, ‘to expand my scholarship scheme to include Masters and Doctoral students. To expand my eye hospital to cater for patients with hypertension and HIV aids. Concentrate on the youths of my constituency on capacity building and empowerment. To construct two police barracks in my constituency to improve security in security-weak areas. To sponsor bills and motions that will enhance the overall growth of Nigeria.’
That is Senator T A Orji marching on from strength to strength. We witnessed these positive changes- Chief of Staff for eight years, governor for eight years and to the glory of God, now re-elected for another term. Best of it all, he had not failed in any election but returned with superior votes winning opponents in their units despite the distraction and wild rumours. To take Robert Nester Marley seriously, ‘the greatness of man is not in how much wealth he acquires, but in his integrity, and ability to affect those around him positively.’
* Onuzuruike writes from Umuahia
My ward, Ndume Ward made up of over 20 voting units got into turmoil on February 23, the election day for Presidential and National Assembly elections. There was a mix-up where one of the documents was misplaced and our opponents refused to be part of the elections. Even when a replacement was made, they still refused and claimed to be waiting for the original