Emma Ezeazu: True Nigerian across borders (2)
Continued from yesterday
THE second issue was that the NANS Secretariat could not make it to the Ilorin Convention as Emma and other student leaders of UNN were arrested on the eve of the Ilorin Convention. In the circumstance, Labaran Maku was the only member of Emma Ezeazu’s NANS leadership that was present at the Convention. Part of the reason responsible for this was also that most of the Comrades have graduated and have moved on. Shortly before the Convention Bamidele Aturu (also of blessed memory), who was NANS Vice President, National Affairs, has graduated, served in Niger and was recognized as one of the best NYSC members but rejected his award. He graduated with 2/1 from Adeyemi College of Education, Ife. Having rejected the award, the government claimed that it was his NYSC discharge certificate that he rejected. Bamidele responded by going to University of Ife to enrol in a law degree programme. Until his death about a year ago, Bamidele was one of the successful lawyers produced from the ranks of student activists.
The address of Labaran Maku to the June 1988 Ilorin Convention scared the government candidates. Once Labaran announced that Emma could not attend the Convention because he was arrested and that everyone aspiring to be part of NANS leadership should be ready to go to jail, my only challenger from Ekpoma, when called upon to respond to his nomination voluntarily stepped down. Eventually, all positions were contested unopposed. In the end, out of about 18-member team, only about four of us ran the activities of NANS. I lost my Secretary, Yiluk Isa Almasihu, immediately after the election as his father who was a Deputy Commissioner of Police forced him to resign.
As student activists, our vision has always been political. Between the late 1980s and 1990s, human rights and trade union organisations became our destination. Emma Ezeazu went to Civil Liberties Organisation (CLO) as National Secretary and he opened the space for people like Chima Ubani, Lanre Ehonwa, Ogaga Ifowodu, Abdul Mahmud, Emma Edigheji and many others. Those that went to the trade unions include Yahaya Hashim, Salisu N. Muhammed, John Odah, Chom Bagu, Issa Aremu, Chris Uyot and Didi Adodo.
Our relationship with these organisations opened the space for us to contribute to the struggle against military dictatorship in the 1990s. Having left the CLO in 1992, Emma moved to Abuja and took up the responsibility of establishing CAPP. CAPP was certainly not as successful comparative to CLO and ACE. For Emma, however, one can say without any fear, he was very unhappy that we have failed politically. Between 2011 and the time of his death, we have had a lot of reflection and we are in agreement that we made big time blunder in 1998 when we decided not to participate in the Abdulsalami transition programme. We both came to the conclusion that we must retrace our steps and engage politically.
In 2011, we held series of consultations and agreed that our mission in politics should be long term and must not be reduced to aspiration for a particular position. But one area we debated but had to accept to disagree was the ambition of Emma to contest for Senate in Abuja and not Onitsha. I felt Emma would have made more successful impact in Onitsha. Emma disagreed on the grounds that he is only known in Abuja and he is not ready to go back to Onitsha and start negotiating to appropriate the profiles of his parents. With such strong positions, Emma engaged the process of APC formation in Abuja, aspired for House of Representatives but lost the primaries very marginally.
Unlike many of us, Emma engaged politics on his own terms. He refused to allow the dominant perception of playing politics based on how much you accumulate and therefore eventually simply buy the ticket. More than anything, for many of us Emma represents the future Nigerian politician. In the coming days, months and perhaps, the next four years, our APC leaders, standard bearers will face the challenge of producing new generation of politicians. Otherwise, electoral storm similar to the one that produced the defeat of PDP will confront us again.
It will be incomplete to talk of the politics of Emma without bringing out the fact his nationalism being unpretentious and without any border. At a time when everyone is returning to his ethnic group, Emma chose to integrate himself with the Gwaris. He worked hard and selflessly for the Gwaris. There is no contest; the Gwaris as their own. One can say confidently, Emma was born an Igbo man and died both an Igbo man and a Gwari. In our generation, Emma is about the only Marxist that practically lived based on Lenin’s dictum of recognizing your own nationality but never campaigning for the hegemony of your own nationality over others.
The legacy of Emma is Alliance for Credible Election (ACE). It is one of the success stories of organisations established by generation of activists. While I am confident that members of the Board of ACE must have been working round the clock to address the challenges facing the organization with the unfortunate demise of Emma, it is also important that other patriotic Nigerians demonstrate commitment to strengthening ACE. Not just because Emma is associated with ACE but because the future of our country and nation depends on credible elections. Emma’s life and politics provides the nexus for both intellectual and organisational actions for credible elections.
• Lukman wrote this tribute via email@example.com
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