IF and when President Mohammadu Buhari decides to appoint somebody from the South East to the office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation as is been speculated in many quarters or to any other key position, the first and best choice is Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu. His academic qualification, pedigree and wealth of experience stand him out. He is among the best the zone can produce and has tremendous capacity to deliver on any assignment.
Onu has beyond these shown character and has creditably acquitted himself since he came to political limelight first as governor of old Abia State in 1992. He is easily the face of any semblance of opposition the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) ever faced in the South East in the past 16 years and a familiar face at the national level. Using lectures, seminars, speeches and talks at different occasions, he sustained the attack on the then ruling party, until the tide changed.
Onu has since 1998 kept faith with the opposition beginning with the All People’s Party, the All Nigeria people’s Party and the recent amalgam – the All Progressive Party (APC) which has been engineered and efficiently marketed to become the ruling party. He has therefore paid his dues and therefore awaits a crown.
To really understand Onu and appreciate the gift of God in him, if he is schemed out of the first slots in the much awaited appointments people may see it as injustice and scream, but the Onu I know is most likely going to take it with equanimity and maintain his peace and stability. He is not likely going to roughen shoulders but will persevere and keep faith with the party and its principals just as he has been doing since 1998.His commitment to lofty ideals and beliefs and implicit trust and confidence in God is absolute. This is a positive character trait and indeed a display of strength, even when scholars of the Machiavellian institute may disagree. How many of the present day jostlers and their godfathers are so endowed?
Scheming or jostling for positions is the game of politicians and this is aggravated by the delay by the administration in making the appointments even when the elections had been won over four months ago. As expected, names are been thrown up from different parts of the zone and many kings and king makers have emerged including name droppers who forget easily that Nigerians know the tendencies and idiosyncrasies of the Katsina State born general who has shown some signs of conversion to a democrat.
There is hardly any position Onu can be appointed to by the present administration which he probably would not have occupied if he had flirted with the PDP since being edged out by the All People’s Party as presidential candidate in the 1999 elections. He chose to remain and build the opposition. And for 16 years, he persevered making sacrifices which he once lamented about. As he put in one forum, it is very challenging in our clime to be in a non-ruling-party at the federal and state levels for a long time. In his words, “I must tell you, I have always believed that we should not have a one party system in the country and that is why I never changed and it is very difficult to be in the opposition particularly if you have risen to a certain level. It is extremely difficult, particularly if you are in the opposition in your state and at the federal level.”
How he survived and visibly so these tortuous years should serve as a case study for political scientists.
Onu has contributed in building the opposition in the past 16 years, yet the times call for more work, zeal and sincerity of purpose, perhaps a good reminder to those who see appointments differently. He has the requisite pedigree and sagacity to deliver at the topmost level of governance anywhere in the world. He holds a Doctor of Philosophy degree in Chemical Engineering from the University of California, Berkeley, California, USA. He taught at the University of Port Harcourt as the pioneer Head of the Department of Chemical Engineering among other positions in the university. He was the first executive governor of Abia State from February 1992 to December 1993 an office he brought tremendous charisma to.
The same words Onu used to respond to my question in 1999 while appealing for votes in his home state are still apt today: “I will appeal to the people of Ebonyi State to do all within their power to look at those who are trying to represent them and judge them on their values, experience and temperament”
Mr. Collins Obibi, a journalist, wrote from Lagos.