Dr. Ogbonuya Onu: A Tribute to a True Nationalist

When I read the news of the death of Dr. Ogbonuya Onu I felt so sad indeed. I felt sad for his death and sad that that the best opportunity the APC had in reuniting this country with his presidency is now lost forever. But more specifically , it would have rekindled the political alliance of the North and the South East of 1960, 1965, 1979 and 1983. I don’t know who and when the South East will replace his standing in the political geometry of Nigeria. Whatever other viewpoints there maybe with regard to Igbo presidency in the immediate past and future of our country, Dr. Onu represented the best pragmatic candidate for the country’s politics.

I concede that there are some unthoughtful Igbo politicians, the same as there’re unthoughtful Northern politicians, who often threaten the country as a means of getting the presidency to their respective sides. But there’re also polished Igbo politicians and Northern who respect the diversity of the country, who believe in the unity and indivisibility of the country and who believe in negotiating and aliening with the rest of the country to achieve political power. Foremost among such politicians in the South East was the late Dr. Ogbonuya Onu, a ranking member and leader of the APC and the immediate past Honorable Minister of Science and Technology.

It is my firm belief (and I canvassed it) that if the APC had nominated Dr. Onu as its presidential candidate in the 2023 general elections, then it would have been difficult, if not impossible, for PDP to bring forth any candidate that would defeat Onu in the North. I premise my postulation on the basis of Onu’s long political alliance with the North. He certainly was the best presidential candidate in the south for APC that could have been easily accepted particularly in the North, and in the country. He would have won the presidential election fair and square without any bickering.

Dr. Onu, handsome in looks, gentle in mien and disposition and honest in conduct, had always been a good and loyal party man. He never held any strong and extreme sectional, ethnic or any sectarian ideology. He had never been known to have harboured ideological animosity against any ethnic or religious group in the country. He had never been associated with any extreme and untoward agenda. Rather, he had always been in alliance with the North, without jeopardizing his commitments to his people in the South East and those of the rest of the country.

Even when the Great Zik was alive and leading, Dr. Onu joined and contested for senate under the platform of the northern dominated NPN against the NPP in 1983. In 1991 he contested and won his governorship election under the NRC, a party considered to be northern conservative based as opposed to the SDP. In 1999, he similarly joined APP, seen to be ideologically conservative as the north, against the PDP. He contested and was duly elected APP’s presidential candidate. And when the military authorities unjustly denied him his victory in favour of an alliance with the South West that brought in Chief Olu Falaye to replace him, Dr. Onu took the act in good faith and with equanimity. Accordingly, he simply held a press conference and announced that he had accepted the replacement in the interest of his party and the country. He thence remained in the party to later rise to be its national chairman.

He led the party into the 2013 merger that formed the ruling APC today as a legacy party. As a Ph.D holder in Chemical Engineering, he became minister of Science and Technology in the APC regime. Given this background, there was likely to be no person in the South East to beat him on this record as far as the North is concerned; more so, with the current heightened animosity between the South East and the North. But it’s only people of wisdom and understanding can appreciate this viewpoint. Nonetheless, it’s a viewpoint I hold to be the truth.

Now that Dr. Onu is no more, it’s undoubtedly a huge loss for our dear country. I pray that his gentle soul may rest in perfect peace with his Creator. Let his immediate family members accept my heartfelt sympathy over this painful loss even as I draw solace that Dr. Ogbonuya Onu lived a good, useful, helpful and exemplary life.

Finally, I also pray that the South East, and indeed Nigeria, produces a thousand fold of his replacement in our body politic. Amen 🙏🏼

Umar Ardo, Ph.D

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