By Joseph Okemmadu
CONTROVERSIAL as Prince Arthur Eze has become in his desperate bid to become the godfather of Anambra State which has earned him the moniker of “Money Miss Road”, he may not be a fool, after all. Aware that his mission of taking a handful of obscure traditional rulers from Anambra State on Wednesday, August 5, to the Presidential Villa with the sole purpose of criticizing Governor Willie Obiano before President Muhammadu Buhari on Friday, August 7, was dangerous, he carefully made sure that his half-brother, Dr. Robert Eze who is the monarch of Ukpo in Dunukofia Local Government Area, did not make the trip. Dr. Eze received the 12 traditional rulers in his palace while they were on the way to the airport, but did not follow them to Abuja.
Humiliated by President Muhammadu Buhari in Abuja and now suspended by the Anambra State government, the traditional rulers are feeling swindled. Arthur Eze’s brother, a medical doctor, did not suffer any humiliation because he committed no offence. Why didn’t he join? He probably felt that they are not in the same class. The 12 traditional rulers are pipsqueaks; they are individuals whom most Anambra people have never heard of. In a state which boasts of such monarchs as Professor Laz Ekwueme, winner of Nigeria’s highest honour for intellectual and artistic excellence, just like Professor Vincent Chukwuemeka Ike, and Agbogidi Nnaemeka Alfred Achebe, an alumnus of Stanford and Columbia universities who used to be a director of Shell International in London, it is unimaginable that a handful of villagers would arrogate to themselves the prerogative to represent the Anambra State Traditional Rulers Council on the national scene.
Despite President Buhari’s decision not to grant audience to these fellows because they are insignificant and were on a less than noble mission, they chose to remain in Abuja for another week to see if any state House official would see them even for a minute. Taking a cue from his boss who had directed Arthur Eze to make peace with Governor “who is doing a very good job”, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo turned down the request from Arthur Eze and his putative monarchs to see him. Interestingly, the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Mr. Boss Mustapha, who had arranged the botched meeting between the president and these traditional rulers led by Arthur Eze on Friday, August 7, declined meeting the chiefs whom Professor Olatunji Dare once famously described as sociological artifacts.
The President’s Chief of Staff, Professor Ibrahim Agboola Gambari, decided, out of pity, to see them on Thursday, August 13, for a few minutes. Professor, 75, is a diplomat of international repute who not only represented Nigeria at the United Nations but also served the UN in different capacities. He adopted the policy well known to diplomats as “Let us keep the fool happy”, and so met Arthur Eze, together with those now referred to in Anambra State as “ndigwe Arthur”, that is, Arthur Eze’s monarchs. Even so, it was on certain conditions, including that not even one line in their speech would be critical of Governor Obiano in recognition of his impressive record. In fact, the speech was vetted very well in advance.
This vetting led the monarchs to claim that they were in Abuja not to abuse Governor Obiano because they know his good record but to praise President Buhari for his work in Anambra State like the reconstruction of failed federal roads in Anambra State, the building of the Second Niger Bridge and the completion of the Zik Mausoleum. It is also worthy of note that only two out of the five traditional rulers were allowed into Professor Gambari’s office, as the other seven had left Abuja the previous week out of frustration. Indeed, one fellow who has been pretending to be the Awka monarch but has never been recognized, Chief Austine Ndigwe, has even denied going to Abuja with the monarchs in spite of various trending videos showing him conspicuously everywhere! To add insult to injury, the monarchs were last Thursday kept at the outer Banquet Hall at State House for long. And yet they all endured! What for!
It is a pity Arthur Eze has brought the royal institution to its lowest ebb in Nigeria’s history. Last Friday, for instance, the suspended traditional ruler of Alor in Idemili South Local Government Area, Igwe Mac-Anthony Okonkwo, was on the Anambra State Broadcasting Service apologizing profusely to the Anambra people and the state Traditional Rulers Council for his gross misconduct. The video, as expected, went viral.
Still, this degrading video is not as bad as a series of videos showing the monarchs collecting raw cash from Arthur Eze in both Anambra State and Abuja to do his bidding! There is hardly any person from Anambra State, whether at home or abroad, who has not watched the videos. Thanks to the ubiquity of modern technology, the videos have been watched far more than the popular Sani Abacha video of the late 1990s showing top generals in government and elsewhere crying like babies when their coup plot against Abacha was discovered and they were matched to the military ruler, Sani, who pretended to be moved by their cries and so offered someone like General Oladipo Diya, his second in command, a handkerchief to clean his face and runny nostrils.
Why has Arthur Eze brought the revered traditional institution to these depths? Just in a desperate bid to become the godfather of Anambra State! Why would anyone aspire to be called Anambra State godfather after the notoriety which the term has acquired in the state, thanks to such inelegant fellows as Chris Uba? After the state’s liberation by Dr. Chris Ngige on July 10, 2003, from the stranglehold of godfathers, it will be a tragic mistake for anyone to seek to be considered a godfather. Since the liberation, Anambra State has been witnessing fantastic growth and development up to this day. Therefore, our people can never, never tolerate a situation that will remind them of the dark days of godfatherism, let alone take them back to the days which the locusts consumed.
Finally, people who know Arthur Eze should counsel him to desist from acting in a way that confirms the worst notions about him. Whether in State House in Abuja or in his village of Ukpo, people refer to him as a money bag in a way they do not refer to wealthier Nigerians like Femi Otedola, Mike Adenuga, Tony Elumelu, and Aliko Dangote because they consider these younger people thoughtful. In fact, they call Arthur Eze in his back a “Money Miss Road”. Quite painfully, he seems to be acting in ways that validate this unflattering reputation. Probably with his blessing, his agents posted on the social media last Thursday the story that he has donated a Lexus SUV to each of the 12 traditional rulers who traveled to Abuja with him on Wednesday, August 5. Of course, no one has seen any of the monarchs with the fabled vehicles. But must Arthur Eze behave in a way which suggests that his world begins and ends with money, money, and money?
At 71, Arthur Eze has lost it completely.
**Joseph Okemmadu is a medical doctor and writer based in Lagos.
– Aug. 18, 2020 @ 12:10 GMT |