OVER the years, Nigeria has been consistent in its search of a patriot who is endowed with sterling qualities to render selfless service to the nation.  It was only during the pre-independence period that we saw men ready to die for this country.

True nationalism and patriotism were at their zenith during the period under review. Although, tribal sentiments and sectional feelings dominated the goals of these men, but they remained absolutely committed to achieving one thing: self-government for Nigeria.

This, they achieved in grand style after years of struggle, thanks to their tenacity of purpose.Some years after independence, the situation changed as patriotism gave way to corruption, selfishness, looting of the state treasury, aggrandizement, etc. Government became the greatest source of wealth. Even those known to be impecunious or what they call wretched of the earth, became instant billionaires.

The problem was accentuated by the discovery of crude oil in commercial quantity in Nigeria. The phrase “National Cake” found its way into Nigerian Lexicon. It degenerated into a sort of rush or a race against time. The situation continued unabated till today. As a result, integrity and honesty developed wings and departed Nigeria. This ugly development became Nigeria’s Achilles heel.

In 2005, it seemed that there would be a light at the end of the tunnel in the midst of hopeless situation when Dr Kenechukwu Nnamani was elected to lead the upper legislative house of our National Assembly. What happened between that time and 2007 when he left the senate spoke volumes about him.

It was a manifestation of patriotism and leadership par excellence when Ken Nnamani assumed the leadership of the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. His innate tendencies were brought onto the front burner. He became the Senate President when Nigeria was passing through a critical period in her history; critical in the sense that the future of the nation was hanging in the balance.

His emergence came in the nick of time, when the 1999  Constitution foisted on Nigerians by the erstwhile military dictator, and which was highly vilified was about to be amended. In the process of amendment, a clause designed to elongate the tenure of the President and Governors was inserted into the bill seeking to amend certain sections of the Constitution.

Nigerians cried out, the atmosphere got charged and the polity was over-heated. The Nigeria Labour Congress, civil society groups, legal experts and opinion leaders planned a mother of all protests to register their opposition to this move.

Ken Nnamani was placed in a sort of dilemma whether to satisfy Mr. President who was angling to entrench himself in power and metamorphosing into a full blown dictatorship or whether to accede to the request of the masses who wanted the status quo ante to be maintained in respect of the tenure of office.

Again, Ken was burdened how to face a man who came into politics with military background, which, to all intents and purposes, was completely an aberration to all indices of democracy. His sweeping power knew no bound as he was wont to go for the jugular of other arms of the government. Other arms of the government were at his beck and call.

The fear of Obasanjo was the beginning of wisdom. Anybody in doubt should ask the late Dr. Chuba Okadigbo who in spite of his flam buoyancy and gift of oratory was shown the way out of the Senate on allegation of anticipatory approvals. Again,  we cannot also forget one or two executive lawlessness executed with high degree of precision in Odi and Zaki Biam – Balyesa and Benue states, respectively.

Ordinarily, there was nothing that prevented Senator Nnamani from succumbing to the dictates of Mr. President by accepting to compromise his position, and say to hell with Nigeria, more  so when corruption had been entrenched and institutionalised in our polity. But Nnamani decided even to pay the supreme sacrifice instead of accepting the prescription of President Obasanjo. He elected to be on the side of the people and remained undaunted in the face of mounting pressure and threat emanating from the executive. It was like a bolt from the blues when the National Assembly said no to tenure elongation and dictatorship; Nigerians heaved a sigh of relief.

It is interesting to note that victory did not come easy as there was a manifest war of attrition with the executive almost having upper hand. The reason was not far-fetched as all the resources and political machineries were at the disposal of the presidency.

Of course, there was unsubstantiated allegations of money changing hands within the hallowed chambers of the National Assembly. But unruffled leadership led by Ken Nnamani, coupled with spontaneous reaction from the entire citizenry, changed all that. The man was praised to high heaven when he refused to be silent in the face of tyranny.

In other climes, Ken would have remained a reference point and a mirror upon which performance evaluation of public office holders should be measured. But here ethnic chauvinism and ethnocentric trait have beclouded our sense of judgement.

The development indices of this country have been affected by no other factor than ethnicity, usually fueled by ethnic jingoists. Consequently, we have witnessed over the years, where mediocres have found themselves in the leadership position of this country at the expense of meritocracy  epitomized by Ken.

This country can only move forward if the latter is religiously applied without laying much emphasis on section 14 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999.

Mr.  BELONWU NWANI,  an undergraduate, wrote from Enugu State.

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