By Lateef Ibrahim, Abuja
As the funeral rites of former Minister of Information and Presidential aspirant of the National Republican Convention (NRC) Dr. Joseph Nwodo kicks off, former Minister of External Affairs and National Chairman of NRC, Chief Tom Ikimi has revealed why he (Nwodo) was denied opportunity of becoming the country’s President and pioneer governor of Enugu state, despite his sagacity.
Chief Ikimi spoke in Abuja on Sunday during an evening of tribute organised in honour of Chief Nwodo.
The late academic giant who held several titles before his demise, was described as a quintessential leader and grass root political motivator.
Ikimi, who gave an insight into what transpired at the NRC National Convention in Port Harcourt that led to the emergence of Alhaji Bashir Tofa as the candidate of the party instead of Nwodo in 1993, said that everyone had expected that late Nwodo will be the Presidential candidate of the party during the botched republic.
He said that as soon as Nwodo mounted the podium to unleash his ‘oratory and grammatical eloquence’ on the already waiting crowd, the public address system failed,⅞± making it difficult for him to marshal out his well articulated political manifesto which could have convinced the delegated to give him their votes.
According to Chief Ikimi, “Nnia Nwodo was an epitome of excellence. During his presidential campaign in Port Hacourt, they muddled up the microphone so that people will not hear what he was saying.
“If he had been allowed to marshal his point, he would have won that Presidential election” Ikimi stated.
The Peoples Democratic Party Board of Trustee Member and Chairman of the party’s Disciplinary Committee further disclosed that when Joe Nwodo was also about to be elected as the pioneer governor of Enugu state, the government of General Ibrahim Babangida disqualified him for security reasons.
He said when Nwodo came to his office in tears, he was given the opportunity to appoint another candidate and hence his younger brother Okwesilieze was made governor in his stead
Ikimi who spoke on behalf of the defunct NRC and accompanied by Chief Stephen Lawani, the then Deputy National Secretary of the party said, “Joe was a great orator and had all the pedigree to emerge victorious at that election, his major rival was Hyde Onuaguluchi, but he was disqualified by the military government of Ibrahim Babangida for security reasons.
“After his disqualification, he came to my office, weeping and I asked him to bring any body and I will make him governor. So, he brought his younger brother, Okwesilieze and I made him governor.
“ He had no tax certificate then but I told them to ignore it. So Okwesilieze was the governor but the real governor was Joe Nwodo”, Ikimi said.
Also, the National Chairman of Peoples Democratic Party, Prince Uche Secondus in his speech, recounted how he met Nwodo as state publicity Secretary of NRC.
Secondus pointed out that at the Port Harcourt convention, if Nigerian was an advanced country, Joe would have been declared the Presidential candidate of NRC and the whole Nigeria would have voted for him.
He likened the speech of late Nwodo to that of former American President, Barack Obama.
His words, “Joe’s rhetoric was next to none, he can convince everyone in one minute. He speech was spell bound and all of us were convinced that he was the next president of this country.
“Joe was a manager of people per excellence. He knows the right word to put across at every moment and he will catch your attention. He was a great manager of human beings” said Secondus.
Also in his tribute, Senator Ibrahim Mantu who was the chairman of the occasion described Nwodo as a great man with so many caps, an excellent administrator and a political icon.
Mantu said that his brief encounter with the deceased was a confirmation of his humility despite his great wealth of experience and political sagacity.
Similarly, the Minister of Science and Technology and pioneer governor of Abia State, Dr Ogbonnaya Onu said that there is no honour that can be given to Nwodo that will be enough because he was a unique personality.
His words, “If he had contested that election in 1991, he could have been my colleague, serving in Enugu while I was serving in Umuahia.
“Joe Nwodo was a man of great ambition and his command of English language was excellent, his ideas were unique. He was interested in finding expatriates to reactivate the coal mine in Enugu which at that period was going into extinction” Onu said.
Prof. Georage Obiozor, President General of Ohaneze Ndigbo “His life was charity to all, enemy to none. He was a great academician and a genius, he was a great soul” he said.
“Today the country is in crises, we are even afraid if we can get home but I believe that the spirit of Joe Nwodo will intervene. We missed a talented icon both in leadership and in law”.
Dr. Chris Ngige, minister of Labour and Employment in his tribute said that Joe Nwodo was the best presidential material for Nigeria which we never had.
He accused NRC of refusing to give ticket to Nwodo, adding that if it were in the present dispensation, all hell will be let loose if it were the All Progressives Congress (APC) that had denied him the party ticket.