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Emeka Anyaoku: A Yesterday Man

In the opening number of his Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson, the Scottish-born Ferguson sings that, “Tomorrow is just a future yesterday.” But Owerri people have a different take on the same phenomenon. They say that, “Yesterday is just tomorrow that has passed.” Echi garaga.

In the opening number of his Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson, the Scottish-born Ferguson sings that, “Tomorrow is just a future yesterday.” But Owerri people have a different take on the same phenomenon. They say that, “Yesterday is just tomorrow that has passed.” Echi garaga.

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The contemporary history of Nigeria is nothing but an unending dance of yesterday men. As the he-goats dance, the young ones emulate. And for the rest of us, observers, we are left confused about the relationship between yesterday, today, and tomorrow.
If I remember correctly, the name Emeka Anyaoku was an answer to a social studies question in my primary school. So you can understand how high up he was on my reverence list. Emeka Anyaoku is from my local government area. During my formative years, from my little corner at Nnobi, Anyaoku was a giant. As I projected myself in the gigantic entity called Nigeria, it was easy to see that I would get wherever I wanted because Emeka Anyaoku, Idemili’s Anyaoku, got to Nigeria’s peak. And he went beyond it to become the Secretary General of the Commonwealth.
Phyllis Johnson wrote a biography of Emeka Anyaoku called, Eye of Fire: A biography of Chief Emeka Anyaoku. I itch to read it to find out, amongst other things, where in the eye of fire he was during Biafra. But at $84 a copy, I have to hold off and depend on the stories I can gather myself.
When I grew up and beheld Nigeria in its glory, ugliness, and idiosyncrasies, I battled to reconcile my reality with my ideas. My expectation of the Emeka Anyaoku quickly fell short of the Emeka Anyaoku I beheld on the Nigerian scene.
As the eye of fire, I expected moral clarity from Mr. Anyaoku. I looked forward to a consistency of purpose. I had hoped that Anyaoku’s experiences would be a guiding light. For sure, he is Anyaoku, the eye of fire and not the butt of fire.
Well, it didn’t pan out that way.
On October 14, 2004, after assessing the state of things in Nigeria, in general, and Anambra state, in particular, Chinua Achebe issued an open letter rejecting an award the Obasanjo administration wanted to bestow on him. In the letter Achebe wrote:
“I write this letter with a very heavy heart. For some time now I have watched events in Nigeria with alarm and dismay. I have watched particularly the chaos in my own state of Anambra where a small clique of renegades, openly boasting its connections in high places, seems determined to turn my homeland into a bankrupt and lawless fiefdom. I am appalled by the brazenness of this clique and the silence, if not connivance, of the Presidency... Nigeria’s condition today under your watch is, however, too dangerous for silence. I must register my disappointment and protest by declining to accept the high honor awarded me in the 2004 Honors List.”
Now, that was moral clarity!
During that mayhem on Anambra, on Wednesday, November 10, 2004, arsonists attacked Awka and Onitsha. They burnt Anambra State government buildings, including parts of the state governor’s office. In all, billions of naira worth of properties were destroyed. It was clear that the perpetrators of the attack were Chris Uba and his gang.
In the aftermath, concerned individuals looked for prominent Anambra people to speak up. Emeka Anyaoku was contacted in London. He was asked to issue a statement condemning what happened in Anambra state, asking the federal government to investigate the matter. Mr. Anyaoku declined. He said that a world renowned personality like him must first investigate the matter before issuing any statement.
Mr. Anyaoku was not asked to name the culprits. He was not asked to name Chris Uba. He was not asked to condemn the government. He was just asked to add his voice to the demand for justice and an end to impunity.  As an adult, he was asked not to sit and watch while the she-goat suffers the pain of childbirth tied to a post.
It has been seven years; Emeka Anyaoku is still investigating.
On May 28, 2011, just two days to the inauguration of President Goodluck Jonathan, Emeka Anyaoku climbed unto the podium of Bells University of Technology in Ota. He delivered the 3rd Eminent Persons’ Lecture that he called “Nigeria in a Globalizing World.”
In his speech, Anyaoku said that if it was left to him, he would amend Nigeria’s constitution to give the president a single term of six years and the governors a single term of five years.
In a society where governors who lost elections steal billions days before they leave office, the simple solution of limiting office holders to a single term has not solved what is fundamentally wrong with our politics.
On the surface and at your own risk, Emeka Anyaoku’s suggestion was an innocent deduction of an astute observer of Nigeria. But coming just days after President Jonathan stated that four years is not enough to transform Nigeria, we can assume that a discrete campaign to extend Jonathan’s term in office is already on.
When it comes to the need for moral leadership in Anambra state, Mr. Anyaoku is taking his time to investigate. But when it comes to whether President Jonathan needs extra time in office to transform Nigeria, Emeka Anyaoku could not wait for the president to be sworn in for a four-year term before he began to lobby for a term extension. The man who had spent one and half years as acting president and president, and just got a new four years, is getting Anyaoku’s endorsement for a six year term.
President Jonathan has 1444 days remaining before he leaves office. How many of those remaining days will Nigerians enjoy 24-hour power supply? How many of those remaining days will Nigerians not line up for kerosene? How many Nigerians will unnecessarily die on Nigerian roads in those remaining days because a broken truck was left in the middle of the road? Those are the important questions that our yesterday men should be answering.
Only yesterday, corrupt bank executives lined up behind Ndi Okereke-Onyiuke to make the case for the extension of Obasanjo’s term in office. Only yesterday, members of a cabal made the case for a dead president to continue to govern Nigeria.
Based on our history and what we know about our yesterday and our yesterday’s men, we have to suspect today as a future yesterday.
Please correct me If I'm right.

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