Vanguard (Lagos)

20 November 2002

Nigeria: Anyim Vs Nzeribe, Another Rumble in the Jungle

The inpending open confrontation, battle of words, legal gymnastics, accusations and counter accusations between the Senate President, Senator anyim Pius Anyim and the Maverick Arthur Nzeribe, another Senator may not now have a predictable end as it will surely represent one of the fierce battles to be fought in the Fourth Republic judging from the calibre and antecedents of the combatants. While Anyim Pius Anyim with the physique of a bulldozer, younger and less experienced has successfully stamped his authority on the senate by suppressing the Okadigbo phenomenon, Nzeribe represents a more complex enigma, a non-conformist who will not run from a fight. But one interesting fact about the on-going conflict is its being devoid of religious, tribal and ethnic sentiments. It is a battle between two Igbo leaders, which if not nipped in the bud might attain the rank of " the rumble in the jungle" with apologies to Mohammed Ali and Joe Frazier, the two greatest heavyweight pugilists in history.

Arthur Nzeribe needs no further introduction as he remains one of the most controversial politicians on the political scene, one who deliberately curts trouble as a hobby, hence his reaction might be fiercer now that he has been provoked. The Senate President embarked on a pre-emptive strike to outwit Nzeribe who was planning an impeachment motion against him by slamming on Nzeribe an indefinite suspension on a mere allegation of N22 million fraud. There is no doubt that the Senate President was rash and indiscreet in handling this punitive action. One would have expected the allegations to be thoroughly investigated by a Senate committee on whose recommendations the whole Senate would have acted. Infact, if this line of actions had been embarked upon, Arthur Nzeribe would have been afforded the opportunity to defend himself. But as things are, it is strange that the Upper House could allow itself to be rail-roaded into this blind alley where Nzeribe's rights have been abridged. Unfortunately, this accounted for Nzeribe's bitterness and he can now be likened to a wounded lion or sleeping viper whose tail had been stepped upon. From these antecedents, he is a man who strives better in controversies, a dogged fighter, a rough physical defender and vicious political attacker. It is hoped his adversaries would not regret their adventure. Perhaps, he would have been better ignored.

The entire Senate or the National Assembly must not be nonchalant about the brewing confrontation between the Senate President and Senator Nzeribe as the 'roforofo' fight might spill over to every member of the Senate especially as Nzeribe is capable of opening a can of worms; according to him since every Senate Chairman has unrestricted access to drawing from an imprest fund of about N28 million each whereas he has only drawn just N22 million and yet the Senate President is complaining. With such revelation by Nzeribe, the senators must cause its books to be openly examined so that the nation is not exposed to another ridicule. It is hoped that the National Assembly members in planning to pass a bill to give themselves immunity from arrest and prosecution are not doing so to cover such financial scandals. Considering the antecedents of Arthur Nzeribe 'a.k.a. Atkins' there is no doubt that he was the face behind the mask of the Association for Better Nigeria (ABN) who worked assiduously to annul the 1993 presidential elections won by Chief M.K.O Abiola, an event that nearly ruined this nation. He was equally a double-faced Janus, while he planned with Babangida and Abacha to sustain the annulment and to impose diarchy on Nigeria. He was simultaneously fratenizing with M.K.O. Abiola to de-annul the elections. The tag of the 'evil genius' would also stick appropriately on Nzeribe since a leopard cannot change its spots. He has not disappointed himself and other political observers since he got to the Senate. He has lived up to his billing. Nzeribe was involved in the impeachment of two of his kinsmen, namely Enwerem and Okadigbo who were presidents of the senate at a time. He was the first to attempt the impeachment of President Olusegun Obasanjo about two years ago, an effort which was condemned by his colleagues in the Senate. In this encounter with Anyim Pius Anyim, Nzeribe is merely acting to character. One can say that the bug of impeachment has equally bitten the entire Senate members who on a few occasions collaborated with Nzeribe and had on their own tried to impeach President Obasanjo, but unfortunately Nzeribe was opposed to that impeachment move. Nzeribe's own agenda, which transcends any ethnic or tribal motive, is to remove Anyim Pius Anyim as the President of the Senate.

When the Senate President Anyim got wind of Nzeribe's attempt to sponsor a motion to impeach him, and realizing the limitless capacity and capability of the man for mischief making, the Senate President had to carry out a pre-emptive move by clamping an indefinite suspension on Nzeribe. The president of the Senate must have underrated the extent Nzeribe would be prepared to go, both combatants quickly withdrew to their trenches to acquire more sophisticated weapons. One fact is clear, that the battle would be prolonged and fiercely fought outside the premises of the Senate building. While Anyim wanted the police to take Nzeribe to the magistrate court for an alleged fraud of N22 million, hoping for a quick and cheap victory, the police easily excused itself from such actions since no fact of fraud were brought before them. But Nzeribe has actually widened the scope of the battle, circulating documents about alleged multi-billion Naira properties owned by the Senate President in Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), a palatial building in his home and numerous properties in the U.S.A. and in Germany all acquired within the last couple of years when he became president. Nzeribe did not stop at that, he carried his battle to the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission, (ICPC), praying that Anyim be investigated for alleged corrupt practices. On his own part, Anyim has slammed a N1 billion legal suit against Nzeribe for damage suffered through various libellous publications by Nzeribe. I believe that every member of the National Assembly should take note of known facts and allegations of corruption afflicting the polity from the federal, state to the local government levels. The Kuta and Oyofo reports on the activities of the senate represent the greatest indictments of the century. Although the senate in a moment of euphoria of impeachment attempted to sweep these things under the carpet, but it must be known no matter what they do, this malfeasance cannot be hidden. One is worried about the ease with which combatants in the National Assembly banter incidences of corruption against one another like a legitimate trade in popular commodities in the market. But the numerous inciden-ces of corruptions have become so overwhelming that many Anti-corruption Tribunals as against the existing one are incapable of hand-ling the numerous cases of corruption in the country especially when the movers and shakers of the society are involved. The tragic drama of corruption playing itself out all over the country is indicative of the extensive mismanagement of resources, which would remain the bane of progress and development. It therefore looks as if the highest law making body in the land is oblivious of the implications of the allegations of the corruption which are exposed regularly in the National Assembly. They detract greatly from the image of the country at home and abroad.

The Anti-graft panel must therefore buckle-up to respond to all petitions by aggrieved Nigerians irrespective of those involved. There should be no sacred cows.

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