By Emmanuel Aziken
It was an irony that two of the leading men involved in the 2006 derailment of the third term amendment for the president and governors chose last Thursday to unfold their respective stories.
Chief Raymond Dokpesi provided the media focus that mobilized the public and unnerved the architects of the amendment plot. Senator Ken Nnamani as Senate President was in the driving seat despite the claim of Senator Orji Uzor Kalu that he, Nnamani was swimming on both sides.
Ken Nnamani has articulated his story in a book titled, Standing Strong: Legislative Reforms, Third Term and other issues of the 5th Senate.
The book with a number of exposés including the gist of how the former Senate President almost beat up Chimaroke Nnamani inside the Enugu Government House, was launched last Thursday.
Also on Thursday, Dokpesi on the occasion of his 70th birthday launched his book, The Handkerchief, and assembled several of the leading crusaders against Third Term to tell their story.
Among those who were present were Atiku Abubakar and Senator Ben Obi.
Now, the fact that Dokpesi and Nnamani chose the same day to unfold the third term story would show some measure of dissonance in the anti-third term lobby.
Indeed, Senator Nnamani was blunt in his book in asserting that discord as he chided Senate Chief Whip, Senator Orji Uzor Kalu for telling lies about his (Kalu’s) role in the anti-third term campaign.
According to Nnamani, Orji Kalu’s narration of how he lobbied world leaders like Presidents Thabo Mbeki, Nelson Mandela, and George W Bush to stop Obasanjo from a third term is laughable.
However, for many, the most revealing disclosure so far is what Senator Ben Obi said at Dokpesi’s launch.
According to Ben Obi, on that fateful day of May 16, 2006, when Third Term was buried, Senator Mantu had called him out to the lobby and told him that he and the other drivers of the third term campaign were ready to join them in killing the amendment.
Obi disclosed that he was shocked by the revelation, and Mantu to confirm the conspiracy, had to call the Senate Leader, Senator Dalhatu Tafida who confirmed the plot to sell-out.
So shocked was Senator Obi that he quickly called Senator Uche Chukwumerije who heard the same story from Mantu and Tafida.
According to Obi, Chukwumerije, the ever-suspicious Marxist, sensing some dialectical entrapment, urged Obi that they must be on their guard and not rely on the words of Mantu and Tafida.
Now Mantu is late but Tafida is alive and it cannot be assumed that Obi told a lie on a dead man. The story that Mantu betrayed the pro-third term movement is, however, not new.
So when those who collected the N50 million to support third term and N100 million for some notable senators kept their mouths and refused to vote for what they bargained for, it was no shock that a recompense followed.
It is alleged that President Obasanjo ordered for the video recording of the voice vote.
Perhaps it is true that Obasanjo saw Mantu keep mute as the vote was taken. The repercussion was that Mantu was in 2007 given the Ghali Naaba treatment of 2003.
In 2003, Speaker Ghali Naaba easily won his Peoples Democratic Party, PDP re-election ticket in Kano State but was dazed when an unknown member of the opposition was propped up to defeat him in the main election.
The ‘system’ ensured that even after easily winning the PDP 2007 ticket for Plateau Central, that Mantu lost in the main election to the Action Congress, AC candidate, Satty Gogwim, a former army officer.
Mantu who had won universal acclaim as an Obasanjo apologist and hatchet man in turning around to sabotage the third term plot is a story that had long been whispered in the background with no degree of certainty until now.
Why he turned around can only be guessed. Senate correspondents had alleged that he was peeved that the third term money did not come through him.
This correspondent can also guess that Mantu and Tafida fell in line with the Northern establishment’s opposition to third term.
After all, Senator Nnamani in his book on page 298 revealed that the ultimate beneficiary of the death of third term, Umaru Yar‘Adua, was the first governor to mobilise his northern colleagues against the scheme in 2006.
Mantu’s dream was to be Senate President in 2007 and was preparing himself for that mission. It is arguable that his betrayal of the third term was to gain followership from the Northern Senators.
The defeat of Mantu in the 2007 General Election apparently left Senator David Mark as the only major candidate for the office of Senate President.
Another corollary to the third term brouhaha and the 2007 Senate President contest was the allegation that David Mark and Mantu each sponsored adversaries to tackle one another at home.
While Mark and the system allegedly fought Mantu through Satty, Mantu was alleged to have also been the major person instigating Young Alhaji, the man who troubled David Mark to no end in his Benue South senatorial contests.
David Mark prevailed over Young Alhaji again in 2007 and successfully overcame the challenge from George Akume who had been propped up partly by Chief Tony Anenih to deal with Obasanjo’s ‘boy’ David Mark.
Now what has not been established is the link between a pro-Obasanjo South-South governor who had eyes on the presidency and Dokpesi.
That story is waiting to be told.