By KELVIN GILBERT
He doesn’t seem like the typical Nigerian politician of this era. Calm and unassuming, former Abia State governor and the immediate past minister of Science and Technology, Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu, has however managed to remain one of President Muhammadu Buhari’s long serving cabinet members for the better part of his administration until he resigned to contest for the presidential ticket of the All Progressives Congress (APC).
But how far can he go in a contest that is not just crowded but populated by money bags in a highly monetised political system?
Onu, like 24 other APC chieftains, bought and submitted the party’s N100 million presidential nomination forms ahead of the primaries on May 29/30 in Abuja, even though his joining the presidential race took many by surprise (considering his ascetic nature) as he was, hitherto, not noted as being interested in the top job.
He nonetheless comes into the race with a rich political background which interestingly, includes a close rapport with the president with whom he actualised the emergence of APC in 2013.
Beyond Onu’s strong academic background, including being a first class university graduate in chemical engineering, he has been able to distinguish himself politically.
His political credentials include first governor of Abia State, chairman of Conference of Nigerian Governors, now Nigerian Governors Forum, pioneer Presidential Aspirant of All Peoples Party (APP).
He later became the national chairman of the defunct All Nigerian Peoples Party (ANPP) that led the first successful merger in the history of Africa.
A top Onu supporter and APC governorship aspirant in Plateau State, Hon Chief Geoffrey Yilleng, said “Recall, the train of events before the ascension of Mr. President on throne, you will believe with me that Nigeria is at a verge of collapsing due to many factors that was not properly handled and managed by the previous government, and that is why Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu initiated the coalition of the political parties with great leaders of Nigeria and unanimously formed a merger that gave birth to All Progressives Congress that Mr. President, H.E Muhammadu Buhari due to his track records and unequal leadership was accepted to salvage Nigeria from total collapse.
“Today, to the glory of God and the selfless sacrifice of Mr. President, Nigeria is gradually recuperating to its healthy state as a giant of Africa. One will not dispute the fact that Nigeria has a lot of challenges that was bedevilling her, especially the global pandemic that does not only affect Nigeria but the entire world, Mr was able to neutralise its consequential effect on the citizenry. Thus, setting the path for growth and progress.
“Mr. President has contributed immensely and outstandingly to the best of his ability to keep Nigeria on track and makes it great. However, His Excellency has barely a year for his tenure to elapse, as such, the question, who has the capacity that will compliment the efforts of Mr. President to salvage Nigeria at a time like this? This and many questions has been the concern of many Nigerians who have the country at heart, but upon all the survey and research made, Nigerians have concluded that the right man for the right task at the right time comes 2023 for complementary and sterling performance is none other than H.E Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu,” he said.
Given to keeping a low profile and not desperate for political office, many consider him a top choice because of his disposition to politics and his willingness to sacrifice for the greater good. Recall he displayed in 1999, when he let go of his presidential ticket in order to allow Chief Olu Falae who was Alliance for Democracy presidential aspirant contest against Chief Olusegun Obasanjo of PDP at the time.
Recall that there was a clamour for the presidency to go to the South West zone to compensate the region for the mandate that was denied them after the demise of Chief MKO Abiola.
Still, Onu’s followers are wont to argue that his ambition could serve as a uniting point for most of the divergent interests, considering that he is a former national chairman of one of the legacy parties, a leader of the APC merger, and a South Eastern to address the agitation of the region.
Nevertheless, the race for who succeeds President Buhari from within the APC was always going to be intense and keenly contested.
This was manifest in the array of aspirants that have joined the contest in spite of Buhari’s admittance in a television interview that he has a preferred aspirant.
Many pundits aver that Onu’s closeness to the president alone might not do the trick for him alone as the president is also close to many other aspirants in the race.
They argue that he would have to work on his long standing political relationships especially in the North.
It will be remarkable to see how he navigates this tough terrain especially as some other aspirants are wont to break the bank for this top ticket.
However, in light of the mood of the nation and the challenges it faces, his supporters would argue that Nigeria needs a man who has the right temperament and experience to preside at these trying times.
Having managed a political party, it would be expected that he understands the mentality of politicians and the concept of managing diversity better.
Yilleng said “every Nigerian is believed to be concerned about the recent happenings in our nation. And that is why it is not in order for us to just have anybody as our next President. The times are hard and the nation needs hard men with an updated functioning cerebral system. Which is why I confidently subscribed Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu to come on board and lead this great nation that is pluralistic in nature with multi-ethnic diversities into oneness and unity of purpose.
“I hereby beseech, encourage, and solicit that this time, Nigerians must eschew tribalism, ethnicity, religiosity or sectionalism. Also, desist from being influenced by casual or mundane factors in electing leaders that will result in damnation of our nationhood instead of building it up. Let’s put aside all these things and envision a great Nigeria that will be outstanding and great to the admiration of other nations within and even the western world.
Am positive, this can be achieved if our collective interest will be H.E Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu. The most accepted, most preferred, and most qualified for a better Nigeria,” he said.
•Gilbert is an Abuja based public Affairs analyst