“As long as the wrong people hold power, how can the right political climate even arise?”
—William A. Dembski
By Cosmas Omegoh
Dr Nkem Okeke is the Anambra State deputy governor. One hopes he still is, because in Nigeria, things change so rapidly.
Dr Okeke recently dumped his party, the All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA) and defected to the All Progressives Congress (APC). His move has left tongues wagging.
When it comes to Nigerian politics, the rapidity with which things change surprises the uninitiated. Things simply never hold the same even for one brief moment. Thus, predicting a politician’s move on the chess board is herculean. It is akin to seeing tomorrow. Ask the average politician, they will tell you they are unsure of even themselves. To them, no arrangement holds until the zero hour arrives. To them, such is the way things go. Call it the rhythm of the game if you like.
Dr Okeke might just be one out of the many Nigerian politicians. Or maybe little or nothing separates him from the horde. He has his colleague deputy governors strewn across the states of the federation. Some people in the local Nigerian political lingo call them “spare tyres.” That creation winged its way sometime ago into the Nigerian political lexicon and does not appear to be fading away.
Now, ask those who are old enough to know the functioning of cars, they will tell you that spare tyres can only be useful when one of the utility tyres gets burst. Only then will it be called to duty.
What Dr Okeke’s “spare tyre” status meant or still means is that he can only be seen or heard when his master, Chief Willie Obiano (Akpokuedike Aguleri), the governor of Anambra State, so desired.
In the penultimate week, something happened differently in Anambra State. Dr Okeke by his deed, waltzed his way into the media space, grabbing hold headlines. Days before the media went awash with his defection, he was just one out of the many slightly above ordinary Nigerians. He lived in the shadows of his boss, Chief Obiano. He is only known largely in the state, for the reason that he is a deputy governor.
But somewhere down the road, something snapped. The equation of the news wafting from Anambra State had changed. That saw Dr Okeke going top on the log, seemingly shooting past Obiano in reckoning. He assumed the man of the moment. Not because he won Nobel prize in Economics; he is an economist – and a seasoned academic with specialty in Monetary Economics. That aside, he also underlined his prowess in Economics as the Head of Department of Economics, Nnamdi Azikiwe University (NAU) Akwa. None of that. He was not appointed Commander of the Federal Republic (CFR) either.
Dr Okeke became an issue because he jumped ship. He abandoned APGA, the formidable political platform that offered him his quantum leap. And so, without looking back, he ported to APC. That is his party for now in his political odyssey going forward.
Now, let’s not forget. Dr Okeke came to the limelight in Anambra State after his appointment as Commissioner for Economic Planning and later as Commissioner for Works and Transport in former Governor Peter Obi’s administration. He has been deputy governor since March 17, 2014, when ex-Governor Obi birthed the Obiano administration that succeeded his. Perhaps that is an indication that his political capital in Anambra State might be next to gold. But it remains to be seen.
By Okeke’s defection, he became the third high profile politician in the state to cross over – or rather to be conscripted by the APC lately. The member representing Onitsha district in the House of Representatives, Linda Ikpeazu, and the senator representing Anambra State, Stella Oduah, both of the PDP are the cases in point. Their moves which are part of the gale of defections in the state, according to analysts, represents APC’s strategies to decapitate APGA, the ruling party in the state, and snatch power from it.
To demonstrate that it meant business, the APC invited Dr Okeke to Abuja and gave him a red carpet welcome. Then followed a presidential handshake and tea party with President Muhammadu Buhari and the party’s acting chairman, Mai Bunu, who is the governor of Yobe State. These have lately become the party’s latest trademark as it goes on a hunting-spree for members of the opposition, aiming to castrate them ahead of the 2023 general elections.
However, there are some who believe that only time will judge the import of such moves in Nigeria’s political history.
Meanwhile, Dr Okeke’s plunge is being interpreted variously. Each interpretation is a product on the individual’s leaning.
Days ago, a commentator likened the defection in Anambra State as a game of abracadabra, further calling it the Charlie Boy Show, once pioneered by the maverick entertainment master, Charles Oputa in which he hilariously told his audience that “anything can happen.”
The commentator insisted that everything points to an orchestrated attempt to win the November 6 gubernatorial election in Anambra which is already becoming a contest of grit and guts, wit and war.
However, some days before his defection, it came to the open on how Dr Okeke had experienced both the untold and the untoward as the deputy governor. It was revealed that the man’s loyalty to his boss, Obiano had been counted as naught by the governor. It was alleged that Dr Okeke had been so badly treated in the scheme of things over the past four years. And so, his defection to the APC was a protest of sort. It was gathered that Dr Okeke was virtually rendered prostrate in the running of the government he was supposed to be the second in command, to the extent that he was handed no role in the ongoing APGA electioneering of Prof Chukwuma Soludo as the standard bearer. That even his office had suffered so much neglect that his official cars were not regularly maintained, while his entitlements were not being paid; he depended on his official salary for survival. Specifically, as security deteriorated in the Southeast, Dr Okeke who usually represents his boss at the meetings of the Southeast Governors Forum refused to go to Enugu during the last meeting of the governors, insisting that his convoy vehicles be fixed or one of the governor’s bullet proof cars be provided for the trip.
Besides, the Deputy Governor was said to have suffered so much humiliation in the hands of the First Lady, which his boss had supported, leading to his having to apologise to the wife of the governor severally. These and more may have forced Dr Okeke to prove that he is still a man.
Thus rather than be vegetating in office, Dr Okeke decided to take his destiny in his own hands, hoping to join either the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) or the Young Progressives Party (YPP). And while he was making his consultations, news of his frustration got to the APC camp. Pronto, the party jumped at the opportunity, offering him lots of goodies.
As it is, expectations are that Dr Okeke will be part of the team to lead APC onslaught on Anambra State. Perhaps, what he says and does might be the game changer. But again, that remains to be seen.
In which ever direction, the Dr Okeke factor might swing, his defection has once again added to what the people had long known: that members of the Nigerian political class are only there for themselves. Always there to grab power and position for what it’s worth – for themselves and their acolytes – with little or recourse to the lots teeming poor.
Okeke has a doctorate in Economics, an MBA from Howard University and an undergraduate degree in Civil Engineering from University of Wisconsin both in the USA. But all that didn’t stop this Enugwu-Ukwu born academic who also attended the famous Dennis Memorial Grammar School, (DMGS), Onitsha, from joining the growing list of men and women sucked in by Nigerian politics which critics insist is lacking in ideology, content and character.