By Moses Idika
With the emergence of the All Progressive Congress (APC) as the ruling party in Nigeria in 2015, the country seems to have been put on a reverse gear to revisit the ugly scenario of 1967 through 1970 when the then Eastern Nigeria and the Federal government of Nigeria was locked in a bitter, though lopsided civil war that left millions dead and the Eastern region completely overrun and desolate.
Several happenstances continue to fuel the above belief in the Nigeria public space. The IPOB agitation and its hurried proscription, the endless python dances, the obvious alienation of the Southeast from the Muhammadu Buhari government and the current destructive violence that pervade the region all seem to collage to drive home the poignant point of an ochestrated attempt to alienate and silence the Igbo man in the present day Nigeria.
Evidences keep piling which seem to confirm the widely held notion that the Southeast may be in for more shock from the Nigeria body politic.
Nigeria as a country is popularly believed to be standing on a tripod despite being blessed with about 250 clear linguistic groups or tribes; Hausa, Igbo and Yoruba are regarded as the three major ethnic groups which also encompass the major national languages.
Since the time of independence, the government of Nigeria majorly features representatives of this tripod. However, with the emergence of the APC federal government in 2015 and its subsequent consolidation in 2019, the place of the Igbo people of the Southeast has continually thinned in the scheme of Nigeria public service and governance bureaucratic structure.
For example, for the first time in the history of Nigeria, the Southeast or the Igbo does not feature in the top echelon of the Executive or legislative arm of the government, while the Igbo in the judiciary have continued to have their wings “clipped” as it were. It started with Justice Sylvester Nwali Ngwuta of the Supreme Court who was harassed, intimidated and summarily disgraced out of office. And as if that was not enough, Justice Mary Odili, the second highest ranking Justice of the Supreme Court after the Chief Justice of Nigeria has just started receiving the same treatment meted to Justice Ngwuta. Her official residence was recently raided in a Gestapo style by security operatives whom the federal government has refused to identify nor give reason for the raid. Not even the intervention of the National Assembly, the Nigeria Bar Association could sway the federal government to come clean on its motive for the illegal raid.
It is yet alarming that even when the dust of the illegal raid of Justice Mary Odili’s home has not even settled, another distinguished Easterner in the Nigeria public service is already being rail-roaded to another vindictive ignominious forceful disengagement from attaining the peak of his career.
Michael Nnachi Okpara, a native of Edda in Ebonyi State is currently the highest ranking Igbo man in the third arm of the Nigeria democratic tripod, the National Assembly, Okpara aside from being the highest ranking Igbo man in the National Assembly is also the third in line in the chain of command of the National Assembly bureaucracy with the potential of emerging the first Igbo man to become the Clerk to the National Assembly.
Suddenly, and elaborate scheme is already being set up to “get him out of the way.”
to once again note that another distinguished Southeasterner, the third most senior ranking personnel of the National Assembly Management is already being set up for disgrace, perhaps to ensure that he does not one day emerge as the Clerk of the National Assembly.
Dr. Michael Nnachi Okpara , an alumnus of the University of Lagos, a Chartered Accountant and Fellow of the prestigious Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria (ICAN) who also holds a doctorate degree in Forensic Accounting joined the services of the National Assembly in 2005 as an Assistant Director and through dint of hard work rose to the rank of Director and currently the Secretary (equivalent of Permanent Secretary), Legislative Budget and Planning.
That Dr. Okpara has distinguished himself in service even before he joined the National Assembly Management has never been in doubt, his service records from the firm of Ademola Somorin & Co where he started work as a Trainee Chartered Accountant, through Centre Point Merchant Bank and First Atlantic Bank where he rose to management positions before joining the Services of the National Assembly stand straight and a clear testimony of who the man Okpara is .
Okpara has maintained sparkling records in his previous engagements, just as he has done in the National Assembly which enabled him to sail through the tortures public financial management system to head the finance department as the Director of Finance (DFA) from where he was promoted to the enviable rank of Secretary.
It is therefore, a surprise that some forces at the National Assembly who may be uncomfortable that an Igbo man may one day emerge the Clerk to the National Assembly have engaged the services of fictitious Non Governmental Organisation (NGO), nebulously christened “Crime Free and Peace Initiative” to once again embarrass and tarnish the image of Dr. Michael Nnachi Okpara in order to falsely foreclose his chances as the third in line from emerging as the Clerk to the National Assembly.
The so called NGO who claims to “work closely with the federal government” has hatched an elaborate smear campaign of calumny with the sole aim of tarnishing the good image and records of Dr. M.N Okpara.
Albeit they will not succeed. The current campaign of calumny aimed at stigmatising Okpara to ease him out of service through spurious allegation of age falsification is not only a ruse but a naked display of distrust against an Igbo man.
Those championing this course are agents of geopolitical misbalancing in public service. They must be brought to account to save the National Assembly bureaucracy from further reversal of its earned fortunes from 1999 to 2020.
From all indications, the said NGO is out to do a hatchet’s man job for some vested interests lucking in the National Assembly and assiduously working hard to push off the Igbo from the Nigeria body politic.
However, it is to be seen how a man that has spent his life in honest service to his country will be denied his dues just because he comes from a section of the country.
Nigeria as a democracy, as a nation comprising of diversities can only make progress when it taps into the enormous strength inherent in its massive diversity.
The National Assembly as the peoples’ parliament must show itself as such and ensure that every Nigerian, every section of Nigeria feels welcome and proud to be part-owner of the parliament.
The National Assembly Bureaucracy must be purged of ethnic jingoism, sectionalism and nepotism. As the fulcrum of democracy, the National Assembly cannot afford to yield to the evil forces that seem bent or reversing all the democratic gains so far made in Nigeria in the last 20 years.