By Celestine Okafor
After extensive consultations with relevant stakeholders, Ken Nnamani, a former Senate President, finally joined the race for the presidential nomination of the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC.
He hearkened to the yearning of well-wishers and admirers who have followed his political career and feel he can give Nigeria the type of leadership it needs now.
The APC has confirmed that Nnamani is one of the 25 aspirants who returned the presidential nomination forms. It is a galaxy of political juggernauts from whom APC must choose only one of the aspirants to fly its banner at the 2023 presidential election. Nnamani has a compelling personality and attractive credentials that give him an edge over other aspirants. When his name is mentioned in Nigeria and in diplomatic circles, it resonates with competence and integrity. He became Senate president at a crucial point in the life of Nigeria when democracy was threatened by individual ambition. As Senate president, he presided over a chamber that rejected the alleged third term bid of the president, Olusegun Obasanjo, and navigated democracy to safety.
Nnamani titled his biography ‘Standing Strong’. Had he not stood strong in those tempting times, the course of Nigeria’s democracy could have been truncated. Some selfless Nigerians feel very strongly that the time has come for the former Senate President to deploy those same qualities to the service of the country as president.
His personal philosophy is a soothing balm for a turbulent country. “I see politics as an opportunity to serve the masses and deliver knowledge to the people and I believe in wealth creation and distribution,” he says. Democratic politics is said to be a game of strategic patience. Nnamani has been a very patient man. Since the return to politics in 1999, he has been on the scene doing good and waiting for his time. And fortune, say the sages, favours the prepared mind. Fortune smiled on him in 2003 when he was elected to represent Enugu East Senatorial Zone in the Red Chamber.
Again he was the prepared mind that fortune favoured in the Senate. In 2005, just two years in the hallowed Red Chamber, his fellow distinguished senators elevated him to the hot but enviable seat of senate president. It was the era of ‘banana peel’, but he surmounted it and also ended the banana peel jinx that swept his predecessors from their exalted seat of Senate President.
He was also a member of the National Executive Committee (NEC), and a member of the Board of Trustees (BoT) of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).Then there were banana peels on the seat but he navigated it till the end of their tenure in 2007. Under his leadership, the third term agenda was defeated in 2006 but not without political vendetta against him. He stayed stable and in control to the end of his tenure. He built up a massive political capital which raised him to a statesman and a global ambassador. Had a wrong kobo been found in his account, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) would have hounded him into jail. But he was clean, so much that they honoured him. On December 7, 2007, Senator Nnamani received the Role Model Award in the Fight against Corruption, conferred on him by the EFCC in conjunction with the Code of Conduct Bureau and Independent Corrupt Practices and Related Offences Commission (ICPC), supported by other international agencies like the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.
Senator Nnamani co-led the 42-member Election Monitoring Delegation of the Washington-based National Democratic Institute (NDI) to the August 11, 2007 presidential and parliamentary elections in Sierra Leone and led the NDI, 35-member Election Monitoring Delegation to the September 8, 2007 Presidential run-off elections.
His political stock has continued to appreciate over the years. He founded the Ken Nnamani Centre for Leadership and Development where he promotes the essential values of ethical leadership and good governance, particularly among Nigeria youth leaders. Senator Nnamani finally in February 2016, briefly retired from politics and PDP in a famous statement he titled “PDP, the Burden and My Conscience.” He spoke passionately from the heart why he was leaving.
“I do not believe I should continue to be a member of the PDP as it is defined today. This is certainly not the party I joined years ago to help change my country. I do not also believe that the PDP as it is managed today will provide an opportunity for me to continue to play the politics of principles and values which I set for myself as a young man on leaving graduate school and working for a large multinational in the United States in the 70s and 80s. Therefore, today I resign my membership of the PDP.
“In stepping out of partisan politics for the meantime, I will continue to be politically engaged; I will also continue to support the government and all the elected officers in Nigeria to repositioning the nation. I will also constructively criticise them when by commission or omission they take actions that could damage the prospects of transforming Nigeria into a productive, merit-based and honestly governed country.” However, the world acknowledged his character. It was a big blow to PDP to lose him. He later joined APC, and became the party leader in the South-East. Senator Nnamani brings a complete set to APC: character, competence, credibility, experience and accountability, among others. He is a quality aspirant from the South-East, which should be elected the party’s presidential flag bearer for the 2023 election as the delegates gather at Abuja this week for the presidential primary. In his presidential declaration speech, titled “Time to deliver Hope and Prosperity in midst of despair and poverty”, Nnamani pledged to regenerate Nigeria, restore peace and unity, and return the country on the part of prosperity. He recalled how Nigerians lost faith in the credibility and mission of the National Assembly because of corruption and inefficiency before he became president of the Senate.
“But soon after, we re-invented the National Assembly and re-invested it with character, competence, and commitment to excellence. I believe that the role of the leader is to solve problems. He can only offer excuses where absolutely necessary, and honestly explain situations appropriately to the electorates.
“I believe that the President in 2023 should be someone who will take the job seriously to the point of inspiring Nigerians and lifting them to a higher level of performance. I did exactly that as President of the Senate. The profile you need to be President is not just your CV. It is mostly your performance in the last high office that counts.
“I have declared my intention to contest for the 2023 APC Presidential Primary not from a sense of political career or as a form of national drama. This is a serious business. It is about justifying the trust of Nigerians of diverse ethnic and religious orientations who have called on me to avail the nation, once again, the competences, discipline, and character I displayed in the past.” Senator Nnamani supports that the presidential ticket of APC should go to the South-East, according to the zoning and rotation principle, which has guaranteed Nigeria harmony since 1999.
“I believe that the people of South East owe Nigerians the reciprocal respect of bringing forth the best among them to lead the country. Many South Easterners and other Nigerians, especially my colleagues in the National Assembly, have asked me to avail the Nigerian nation the characteristic honest, competent, and disciplined leadership I offered the Senate”. It is leadership “that will deepen democracy, defeat insecurity, and entrench a new culture and structure of productivity that will grow our economy, arrest social anomie and reinvent nationalism and democratic citizenship, even in the midst of global economic and social crises”.
Mallam Abdullahi Yusuf, national leader of the Pan-Nigerian Coalition, “Nigerians for Ken Nnamani 2023”. said the Coalition drawn from the diverse tribes and groups from the six geo-political zones of Nigeria, had resolved to pitch their tents with Nnamani on the basis of their conviction that he has the requisite cognate qualities and leadership traits that would manage a heterogeneous society as Nigeria with its numerous security, economic, structural and sundry challenges.
•Celestine Okafor, Mnipr, is a Senior Journalist, and the Publisher/Editor-in-Chief of Nigerian NewsLeader, an Online/Print Newspaper based in Maitama, Abuja.