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NIGERIA: Odili, Story of an embattled man

former Rivers State Governor, Dr. Peter Odili YOU HAVE probably heard that former Rivers State Governor, Dr. Peter Odili has written an autobiography. I’ve not only heard; in fact, I have read through the 511 interesting pages of Conscience and History – My Story.

When, obviously the most influential state governor during the Olusegun Obasanjo years as president of Nigeria (1999 to 2007) writes his own story of the events of these heady years and the years before and since, you want to read it.

As a journalist who also followed public events very closely through those years, you want to know what disclosures he is prepared to make, what he wants to play up, play down or keep out altogether.

Rarely does a politician (or anyone) disclose EVERYTHING in a biography. Nigeria’s High Commissioner to Canada, Chief Ojo Maduekwe, once told me: “There are secrets a man must carry to his grave”.

I guess you are puzzled (just like me) that a man who dominated completely the political space in Rivers State for eight years, where virtually everybody started proudly wearing what was then known as “Odili cap” to demonstrate their belonging to his political camp suddenly became a “pariah” overnight when his former protégé, Hon. Chibuike Ameachi assumed power. So what must have happened?

You must also be itching to know why a presidential front runner not only suddenly got bumped out of the race but was also denied the vice presidential ticket.

In fact, things got so rough for him in a space of ten days that he would have been impeached by the State House of Assembly if they had bowed to the overbearing hectoring of Malam Nuhu Ribadu’s Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).

Remember, that was how Obasanjo got rid of former Bayelsa State Governor, DSP Alamieyeseigha. So, what really took place?

The gang-up

You must also be wondering how Odili has managed to escape arrest and arraignment by the EFCC. You want to know how he got the “perpetual injunction” entered in his favour by the Justice I.N. Buba of the Federal High Court in Port Harcourt?

How and why did the “Obasanjo Boys”, such as Ribadu, Nasir el Rufai, Aliko Dangote, Femi Otedola, Andy Uba, Bukola Saraki, ex-Governors James Ibori and Lucky Igbinedion, block his presidential ambition and stopped him from being made the running mate of Umaru Yar’ Adua?

But for these chaps and their foxy principal (Obasanjo) Odili would probably be Nigeria’s president today! They are all graphically told, with further insights provided by Wikileaks.

However, it is not only about dirty politics. Odili’s story outside the realm of politics is, frankly speaking, very inspirational and good for young people to read and learn.

Being from Ndoni in the former Midwestern Region and today’s Rivers State, Odili belongs to those groups of Nigerians (including yours sincerely) whose lives were totally devastated by the crises and civil war in Nigeria between 1966 and 1970. They lost everything; and a new, unforeseen course of destiny opened.

Peter was one of us! Christ the King College (CKC), Onitsha and the University of Nigeria (UNN) equipped him and directed his life (including his family life) to what it eventually became.
How do I summarise my impressions after going through Odili’s Conscience and History?

Number one, it is an illustration of how the formative years of a young person’s life – especially the schooling experience – prepare them to tackle life’s challenges at adulthood.

Secondly, it chronicles the building blocks of his political life, particularly his eight years as the Governor of Rivers state; including the triumphs, successes, failures and scorching betrayals by self-professed loyalists when a leader vacates office.

He has a useful piece of advice for those who want to understand the nature of “loyalists” in the political circle on page 487.

There are genuine loyalists and fake ones. The fakes are much more in number but it is difficult to tell the real apart from the pretenders.

Thirdly, Odili has been an embattled
man since he left office in May 2007. Not only was he schemed out of his legitimate tussle for the presidency and vice presidency; he has been engaged in running legal battles with the EFCC and later on the Rivers State Government under Governor Rotimi Amaechi.

Strangely, it was Odili who initiated the court actions at the High Court of Rivers State presided over by Justice PNC Agumagu and the two cases at the Federal High Court in Port Harcourt led by Justice Buba. In fact, the second case before Buba was decided on March 5th 2008, nearly one year after Odili left office.

It was in this case that Justice Buba granted him the perpetual injunction against EFCC from circulating unproven allegations of corruption against Odili.
The war on corruption

This outraged many Nigerians who wrongly felt that Odili was granted perpetual immunity from prosecution. A petition against Justice Buba at the National Judicial Council (NJC) cleared the judge of any wrongdoing and upheld his verdict.

It was also when he was already out of power that Odili dragged the Rivers State Government and the Justice Kayode Eso Truth and Reconciliation panel, to court and yet Justice Roland Ahiakwor of the Rivers State High Court invalidated his indictment by the Eso Panel. Much of this book contains detailed records of these judicial battles, all of which were decided in Odili’s favour.

One is left with the conclusion that it is either that Odili is a wrongly accused innocent man or those accusing him do not know how to go about proving it. This is perhaps because of the political motives behind his accusation so far.

Odili has since thrown an open challenge for those who have any case of corruption against him to come forward. With no cast-iron case established against him thus far Odili feels he has been vindicated. That is what the book is chiefly about.

For me, there is no war on corruption in Nigeria. Whatever you see or hear in that coloration is just politics by other means. We have not yet started.

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