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OPINION: Emeka Nwajiuba, unusual minister of the Federal Republic of Nigeria

Anthony Iwuoma

For quite a while now, I had nursed the the thought of penning an article on Hon. Chukwuemeka Nwajiuba, HCN. This suave and cerebral politician, with a doctorate in Law, is adorned in a different garb such that his self-effacing disposition has become a unique trademark in our clime.

Not being a praise singer, I didn’t know how my candid thoughts would be conveyed without being misconstrued, as having been paid to do the piece or massaging my townsman. In all my years in the pen profession, that is one thing I had always avoided like a plague, especially in our country where the dogma is ‘nothing goes for nothing’.

However, thanks to Hon. Bimbo Daramola, who has unknowingly come to my rescue. When I came across his article, captioned as above, I could not help embracing it gratefully because it is as if he had broken into my brain although minimally because HCN is not just an unusual minister but also the hope for our dream New Nigeria; his story is still work in progress despite already being packed full with beautiful episodes.

It is, therefore, with pleasure that I serve you what Hon. Bimbo Daramola, a Yoruba, wrote (without anyone accusing me of praisesinging my brother Igbo) hereunder:

It was the irrepressible sage, Alhaji Maitama Sule, former Permanent Representative to United Nations, and former Minister of the Federal Republic of Nigeria who said, “…May God give us leaders who will not be clouded by the allures of power; those who power will not corrupt…”

I have been around the Nigerian Political stratosphere for a while , dating back to 1999, and I have seen not a few Men of Power and Men in Power and the display of power while their terms in office lasted.

At 32, I was a palace courtier too at the highest level if power in thus nation. So, I have seen a few things over these years.

I have seen all sorts of personalities in government that I can write a book, indeed it’s often said that until a man has power, be it financial or political , you would never be able to tell who the real person is.

The Nigerian spectacle is largely that of persons who hitherto were unknown, or also on the hussle lane like any regular person, and no sooner would they get a political appointment, that the real person behind the facade pops open.

I have records of persons who had to travel by Night bus, even the bus fare was paid by someone else to get to Abuja upon announcement for a political position, and no sooner would they be sworn in, their shoulders would get inflated, now walking with chips on their shoulders, they won’t take calls anymore, indeed the first thing they usually do is to change their mobile phone numbers and block everyone on their previous contact list.

This spectacle is common and verily defines our political turf. These later day “special” persons start making new friends, look down on others, have elevated impressions of themselves.

They roll with new buddies because they have become “new kids on the block” because they just appointed or elected into political positions, forgetting that their so-called newly found friends are at best friends of the seat they occupy.

They only realise their folly when they get kicked out, and for a while they would still live in the halos until they are stripped bare of the falsehood of power and they are jolted to reality when their so-called new friends bump them off and put them where they belong since these latest entrants into the “nouveau riche” club can no longer dispense favours.

I know of governors, who practically were buddies with us, that we used to roll together and today to even speak to you is like they are doing you a favour, and their old friends and acquaintances have become bloody irritants.

I know previous colleague parliamentarians, who would snigger at fellow colleagues just because they have the opportunity of becoming presiding officers, inaccessible and haughty because of transient power or those who treat their non returning colleagues like scumbag because they did not make it back to the parliament, forgetting that what goes around comes around.

But one thing is always the case, a lot of them never learn from the palm frond.

It is said that when the palm frond shoots out, it keeps going up and says to the others, I am going to touch the sky, not asking why its forebears never did.

No wonder why it is often said that a friend in government (that is synonymous with power in Nigeria) is a friend lost, nothing can be truer.

And so today I have the greatest pride to say I have found one person, who is remarkably and uniquely different, he has remained in touch with reality, not pig-headed, and puffed up as it is the commonplace occurence in Nigeria with men within the power circuit.

I found a man like Boris Johnson, who still rides his bicycle and carries his files. I found a man in power like Barack Obama that the allures and the accoutrements of power have not changed.

I found a man who is still as normal and whose sanity has not been corrupted by fleeting adulation of office and the transience of power, as he was before he got political position; he has remained till date.

I found a uniquely different man, who would choose to stay real and true, opting to remain himself even when our political system is inherently wired to prime the position holders in Nigeria for a false sence of worth, more often than not, fast tracking them to lose touch with themselves.

The soporific effect of power in Nigeria is one of the reasons political position holders see themselves as super humans and different from us, and see themselves as gifts from God to our lives.

So, this evening I had to return to base after a long week of working to get a few things done in Lagos.

I was dog-tired as hell, so I opted to board the DANA flight last, because I was too tired to hang on the queue.

So, when my friends at DANA came to let me know that the final boarding call had been made, I dragged myself to the tunnel that leads into the plane.

Earlier, I had seen and been chatting with my ebullient brother, Leke Adewolu, former Commissioner for Special Duties to Governor Ibikunle Amosun, and now one of the board members at Nigeria Communications Commision (NCC). We both were the last passengers to go and board.

Just as we approached the gangway, leading on to the plane, after getting frisked by security men, I saw him.

You cannot miss him out in a crowd, not to talk of when he was on the queue, waiting in line, taking one step after another in the snarling human traffic.

I saw his gangling frame, from behind, his trade mark President Mohammadu Buhari styled kaftan rimmed with a white collar, and I told my brother, Leke Adewolu, look at the Minister of State for Education. I tapped him by the neck. He turned like who could this be?

We chatted backslapped and pumped hands, and we began our regular gist about nothing else other than Nigeria.

Chukwuemeka Nwajiuba is a dye in wool patriot.

He is always thinking that we could be better and he would be quick to tell you that’s the desire of the president and on and on. He has some ideas that could take social welfare to a new height, even though we argue on the workability sometimes, but he has deep conviction about his views.

We were lost in the gist and we forgot to move, until we got reminded by the airline staff and I saw him clutching his medium sized bag.

So, I said HM, you won’t change!

Why are you carrying your bag by yourself? This question is coming from the regular style of the Men in Power syndrome! What have we not seen? From police orderlies, lacing shoes of political position holders in the public, or carrying Madam’s bags? Or keeping umbrella over the head of the big man while the innocent detail is drenched in the rain, etc.

I asked whatever happened to the retinue of aides that has become a systemic feature of “men in power”. He replied, I am by myself! without even the least care. He even said he could put the bag on his head, and he did! Waoh…

What a man, unfazed by political position!

So, I said the #UNUSUAL #MINISTER, before now that’s what I call him, the few times I had had reasons to stop by his office.

I dare to be proved wrong, the door to Honourable Minister Chukwuemeka Nwajiuba’s office is always open, not in the figurative sense but literally!

Once you go past the formal policemen at the foyer and the non formal security officers by the entrance, leading to his secretary, the door to his office opens to the secretary’s office, never locked!

I had been there three times and the three times, no red tapism or bureaucracy; you are ushered in straight to see him.

This is a very unusual attitude of today’s men in power.

I recall going to PHCN headquarters on Abuja once. I stood by the foyer with a friend waiting to get into my car, and here came the Honourable Minister of State for Power, (name withheld on purpose) by the conduct of his police orderlies, we were not left in doubt that the Minister of Power just arrived, going by the way they routed us out of the way of the BIG MAN, by that sheer show of POWER within the precinct of his office for that!

This is not the hue of Chukwuemeka Nwajiuba.

In his office, often you will see him leave his seat to attend to everyone, giving them his ears and where he could do anything about requests, he will tell you straight up; where he is not, he won’t string you along.

Honourable Minister Chukwuemeka Nwajiuba, still till this day uses his personal vehicle that I knew him with, not the official one. I don’t know why though. When I first met him at the beginning of this the 9th Assembly legislative session, he got elected to represent a Constituency of Imo State and was one of the Speakership hopefuls.

Chukwuemeka Nwajiuba will pick his calls more often than not; if he misses your call, the chances are such that you can stake a bet that he will call back much later.

He would reply your chats, the times when I had reasons to see him, and I try to ask for a formal appointment, he would say, Bimbo, anytime! An Unusual Minister! And I discovered that he does that for almost everyone.

Chukwuemeka does not move around in long convoys, no retinue of aides, very spartan public office lifestyle and yes, no menacingly terrorising security aides, making innocent Nigerians miserable because they need to show that they are ferrying a big man!

We got on the plane; he quietly took his seat without any airs. I was waiting for the pilot to welcome Honourable Minister on board, as I have heard and witnessed the airlines do several times. Sometimes, it’s the minister who encourages the aide to inform the pilot that he is on board, and they too would say we have the privilege of flying so so minister or governor today… Kai empty big man mentality; I never heard of that beibg done anywhere.

It’s refreshingly different to me that we have a man in power, who still fits the requirement and prayer of Maitama Sule in this day and age. Very Unusual.

And anytime I say the “Unusual Minister”, he would be quick to say what’s Unusual about me, it’s indeed the other way round that is unusual!!! Simplicity on legs!

To think Chukwuemeka Nwajiuba is one of the closest ministers to President Buhari, almost a protégé, having been with him from their CPC days, he was the one that was very daring way back then, who indeed took the then candidate Buhari to the South-east of Nigeria from way back.

Indeed, at some point he was almost the anointed or adopted representative for Speakership or Deputy Speaker of the 9th Assembly House of Representatives.

So, one would expect that a minister with this ring side advantage within today’s power vortex would strut around like peacock and operate full throttle on the highest frequency of pride and octane note of arrogance, No, not Nwajiuba rather opting for simplicity.

Incidentally I have been meaning to write about this UNUSUAL HONOURABLE MINISTER of the Federal Republic of Nigeria for a while, informed by what I had witnessed the few times I had been to his office, but it kept slipping by me, but today made this write up more compelling, because it was affirmation of some sort, and an attestation.

If my observations of the past were coincidences and happenstance, today only just sealed it.

I celebrate this young Nigerian patriot, an emblem of humility and simplicity in power. Who knows, maybe someday with more Chukwuemeka Nwajiubas, we would be spared the obscenity that typifies the naked arrogance of men in power.

We would have men, who would realise that the opportunity to serve makes you a servant and your duties discharged with all sense of responsibility and humility, as against the spiteful spectacle that still largely defines men of and in power today.

Those whose mannerisms and public conduct will be tempered and moderated by sincerity of purpose and not caught up in the hazy hangover from absolutism of power.

May God give us leaders, who will not be fazed by the appurtenances of power, as Maitama Sule once prayed… I guess Honourable Minister Chukwuemeka Nwajiuba is one indication that the prayer of the sage will be answered someday.