The African saying that it is more honourable to apologise to a visitor for not offering him a kolanut than to offer it with a tight fist seems appropriate in the Senator Ken Nnamani’s book, STANDING STRONG, Legislative Reforms; particularly in espousing his role in the aborted third term agenda of former President Olusegun Obasanjo in 2006.
Senator Nnamani, the President of the 5th Senate, should ordinarily be accorded the status of a statesman.
However, such status entails that the holder should expectedly be a man of honour and integrity. His words should be sacred and honoured without question.
In his book, Sen Ken Nnamani attempted to give his own synopsis of the failed Third Term agenda. He graciously gave himself the credit as the man who nailed the coffin of the tenure elongation. What is not in the public domain is that such position is far from the truth.
Sen Ken Nnamani was no doubt an accidental President of the Senate, who also benefited from the third term saga. He was a beneficiary of a political circumstance after Senator Adolphus Wabara was forced out of office by political maneuvering of President Obasanjo-led executive.
For sure, Ken Nnamani was not the choice of the Presidency, his party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and even the PDP Governors’ Forum.
In fact, his state Governor then, Dr. Chimaroke Nnamani, sponsored his former Chief of Staff, Sen Ike Ekweremadu, for the position but time and season did not favour that choice.
The Senators Forum largely influenced by Northern Senators’ Forum led by Senator Idris Kuta from Niger State had taken an irreversible position to oppose any person the Obasanjo executive brought to the table. In that circumstance, they found Nnamani, who was then chairman of the Senate Committee on Federal character, useful against Ekweremadu, who they see as the candidate of President Obasanjo and the governors.
So, by a twist of history; from the precedence, Ken Nnamani became the president of the Senate. Perhaps, Ken Nnamani had soft spot for the antagonists of the third term agenda but not overtly, because he was never part of the group nor was he known to have contributed to the battle against third term.
Those in the forefront were Senators Saidu Dansadau( Zamfara), Badamasi Maccido( Sokoto), Sule Yari Gandi ( Sokoto), Ben Obi ( Anambra), Comrade Uche Chukwumerije ( Abia), Tokunbo Afikuyomi ( Lagos), Adeleke Mamora ( Lagos), Jonathan Zwingina (Adamawa), among others.
Apart from the fact that Ken Nnamani was the presiding officer in the Senate, there was no interest shown towards scuttling third term project. Though he was the presiding officer who determined members of the constitution review committee and its sub-committees, late Senator Ibrahim Mantu, from Plateau, was the chairman of the main committee while Senator Abubakar Hambagda, from Borno, was the chairman of the subcommittee on TENURE, which recommended elongation for President Obasanjo.
In fact, it was the media that interpreted the item on tenure to mean third term for Obasanjo, who was already completing his second term of office. But for the search light and interpretation by the Senate Correspondents, the public may not have known of what became known as the third term project.
If not for anything, it is the media that should take the credit for the abortion of third term project. Perhaps, for the first time since the struggle for independence from the colonial masters in 1960, the Nigerian Press were unanimous and indeed stood firm in one accord against the tenure extension.
Except the media, both the pro and anti-third term lawmakers had their pockets lined, depending on which side of the divide they belonged. Both sides were financed by the opposing interested parties. Would Ken Nnamani deny benefitting from the third term largesse? Can he be bold enough to tell the nation how and who shared the loot reportedly apportioned to members from South East nay Enugu state. Who collected Ken Nnamani’s share?
Political watchers remember in the midst of the controversy, when he was asked about his relationship with the proponents of the third term and former Special Assistant to President Obasanjo, Senator Andy Uba, who visited him constantly during the period, Ken Nnamani merely said Andy had been his long time friend back in the days in Enugu that predated politics. The man who shared meat with his teeth knows whether the one he swallowed is bigger or smaller than the one left for his brother.
Yes, the third term bid was a bad market, but it is unfair and indeed uncharitable for Ken Nnamani to claim credit to the victory of a war he never fought. Without fear of contradictions, the Nigerian Press is the unsung hero in the fight against third term.
Senator Ben Obi, a foremost anti-third term Senator, captured it when he clarified that it is absurd and a twist of fact for Ken Nnamani to claim credit for the collapse of the third term project.
Senator Obi, an ally of former Vice President Atiku Abubakar (a major financial of the anti-third term group) said Ken Nnamani was never part of the pressure group or movement against third term. At best he was the presiding officer in the Senate who must as a matter of necessity rule according to the wishes of the majority.
Senator Obi said, “Ken Nnamani was never part of the group against third term . I was the one meeting and briefing all the Governors that supported us as well as the former Vice President Atiku. At a particular meeting, I told members that I would be briefing Ken Nnamani who has become the Senate President at that time since he was the one presiding but I was thoroughly abused by my colleagues for allegedly being a traitor. They felt I was leaking the secrets of the group to Nnamani who was not one of us”.
According to Senator Obi, even Ken Nnamani was confused when he did not get the expected response from the promoters of the third term in the Senate, a development that necessitated his hitting the gavel the second time when the majority nailed the coffin of the third term.
Senator Obi stated, “By the time Ken Nnamani put the question after the debate, he was not aware that two principal promoters of the third term project; Senators Ibrahim Mantu and Dalhatu Tafida, who were guiding him on actions to take, had left his camp and joined the anti third term group.
“If you recall, that was the reason Ken Nnamani looking at Mantu and Tafida said I put the question before you …… and they were looking at him.
“He had to put the question expecting an anticipated answer from those two people and he could not believe what happened. Then he said let me put the question a second time …. The people were just looking at him. Then, he hit the gavel, That was how we carried the day. And third term died.
“So the story of the third term was very clear as regards those who were in it and those who were not in it”.
Third term project was a bad market for the proponents; it was not just against the constitution, it was leading the nation’s democracy to the Gogoltha albeit dictatorship. It was against good conscience .
So for whatever reason, writing the book; Standing Strong , Legislative Reforms, after 14 years he left office, Ken Nnamani had only played clever by half.
Perhaps, Ken Nnamani thinks he can get some political leverage from the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) with the book but that would be a fundamental mistake because people know what transpired during the third term debacle. Nigerians also know how to acknowledge pretenders.
Nigerians are also aware of the story of a man who was in the forefront of erstwhile Dr. Goodluck Jonathan’s presidential bid in 2015. He dispensed the PDP largesse for the election in the South East, but was among the first to jump ship for fear of prosecution when APC came on board. That was after former APC National Chairman, Adams Oshiomhole, had assured that there will be no arrest or prosecution for looters if they join APC.
So, who is talking of honour and integrity?
. Adebayo is a journalist based in Abuja