• Sunday, July 14, 2024
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BusinessDay

Nwobodo’s politics of convenience

Jim Nwobodo
At a time when there is a groundswell allegation that the war against graft being prosecuted by the Muhammadu Buhari administration is lopsided and targeted against the opposition; and a time when the only member of the ruling party and close ally of the President recently arrested by the Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC) was set free in circumstances that have left critics tongue-tied, many politicians on the Commission’s watch are doing everything within their powers to jump on the bandwagon of broom-wavers.
This, analyst say, may have informed the recent defection to the APC ofJames Ifeanyichukwu Nwobodo (popularly known as Jim Nwobodo), a former governor of Anambra State during the Nigerian Second Republic and senator for Enugu East in Enugu State.
However, depending on who is analysing his political voyage in Nigeria, Nwobodo could be described as a saint or a sinner.
He is not an alien to the nation’s politics as he has played active roles on the turf for many years.
Nwobodo was recently named by Sambo Dasuki, a former national security adviser to President Goodluck Jonathan, to have received N500million, and in what critics regarded as a ploy to shield himself from EFCC onslaught and Buhari’s whip at this back, he dashed to APC.
He was a founding member of the PDP. He had also held portfolios as information, and sports minister at different times.
Some analysts have described Nwobodo’s move to APC as a way to continue to oil his wealth which is currently drying up following the PDP ouster at the general election last year.
The Enugu-born politician has no second address after politics and is said to have benefited tremendously in cash and contracts over the years as he remained loyal to successive PDP governments.
Not ready to go into political oblivion, following the fall of PDP, he decided to move on with his life.
It would be recalled that shortly after he lost his presidential bid in 2003 to the then sitting President Olusegun Obasanjo, he was offered an ambassadorial appointment to one of the choice countries, but he turned it down on the excuse that he was not yet ready to go into political oblivion. He believed that as an active politician, the grass was still greener here in the country than in any other he may be sent as an ambassador.
He also reasoned that accepting the offer would mean losing touch with his retinue of followers, who would naturally grow weary with time, in the principle of “out of sight is out of mind”.
Although Nwobodo, a man known for his fine dress sense, has left the scene for many years, he has continued to be “watered” by the PDP and some office holders on the platform.
In the last couple of years, he has been recycled as chairman of one committee or the other in the party’s endless search for reconciliation.
Nwobodo must have found himself in a mess after he was roped into the Dasuki’s Armsgate. Perhaps, not having any clue as to how to pay back the money touted to be within the neighbourhood of N500million, he decided to offer himself as a willing sacrifice, ready to serve table in Buhari’s government.
While some groups are calling on the former governor to confess how the largesse was shared, some critics say it may be difficult for Nwobodo to produce one tenth of the huge amount given the lifestyle of a typical Nigerian politician.
“We know many of them as being prodigal with public funds. They spend heavily on irrelevant things and live as if there’s no tomorrow. When for instance, they were spending the money doled out to them by Dasuki, they thought it would continue to flow as they never imagined that Jonathan would lose the election, said Azuka Iloh, a Lagos-based public affairs analyst.
“You and I know what N500million could do for a community in this country, but for them, it is all about women, wild parties; love for automobiles and good life. So, it is likely that Nwobodo may not account for how the money was spent and may not reimburse anything,” Iloh further said.
His defection did not go down well with some members of the APC in his home state who felt he had come to reap where he has not sowed anything, describing him as “food is ready Plc.”
Reacting to the agitation, the former presidential aspirant said there was nothing to worry about; assuring that he was not in the party to take anybody’s place.
Urging all members of the party in Enugu to join hands to reposition the APC in the state, he said: “There is no need for anybody or group already in the party to feel unsafe or threatened by his entry, as everybody’s preoccupation should be repositioning of the party in the state for greater goals and/or results.”
Nwobodo is known to make headlines, including the wrong ones. When he was minister of sports, he had moved a generator belonging to the Sports Commission at the National Stadium in Surulere, Lagos, to his village.
Many South East politicians of Nwobodo’s mould have always attracted ridicules to themselves and to the region. While they use the name of South East to get positions at the federal level, the entire region has remained a waste land and in the worlds of Olisa Agbakoba, SAN, “war-torn”, over the years.
However, an analyst, who craved anonymity, spoke in defence of Nwobodo’s dalliance with APC, saying: “Most politicians are businessmen. They do not care for anybody but themselves. So, when I hear people condemn Nwobodo’s recent defection to APC, I just laugh. Here is a man who has known no other business for many years and has been living off government patronage; the loss of PDP at the general election was also shocking to him.
“Now, not only that he may be trying to avoid prosecution by the EFCC over his alleged complicity in the Armsgate, his major reason may be to sustain his lifestyle and be able to mingle with the powers that be. Don’t forget that he still has friends and contemporaries who moved from PDP to APC, they may have urged him to come over.
“Above all, do you know what a state burial means to many of them? May be, Chief Nwobodo may be looking beyond today. He may be thinking about what the next five, six or nine years from now may bring to his life- dead or alive.”
His Profile
Born on May 9, 1940 in Agyaragu, Lafia, Nassarawa State, Nwobodo completed his secondary school education in 1956 at Government School, Awka, in what is now Anambra State. He then attended St. Peter’s College, Zaria (1956–1959). He went on to on the Nigerian College of Arts, Science and Technology, first at Enugu and then at Ibadan, and then attended the University College Ibadan (1961–1964), earning a BA in English.
Upon graduation, he was employed as a tutor in the Kings College, Lagos (1964–1966). He then took a job in the Personnel department with the Shell Company of Nigeria (1966–1970). After the Nigerian Civil War ended in 1970 he founded Link Group International, which grew to open branches in Lagos, Kano, Benin City, Aba, Calabar and Enugu. He is also Chairman of Jimson International Al Cargo Agencies, Satellite Press Limited, and other companies.
He joined the Nigerian People’s Party (NPP) and in October 1978 was elected NPP chairman for the old Anambra State. He contested the 1979 elections and on October 1, 1979 was sworn into office as the first executive governor of Anambra State.
He ran for re-election in October 1983, but was defeated by Christian Onoh of the National Party of Nigeria (NPN). The election was marred by widespread intimidation, violence and vote-rigging.
Jim is married to Patricia (Pat), and they have two children.
Zebulon Agomuo