Home Politics The man, his politics and philosophy – The Sun Nigeria

The man, his politics and philosophy – The Sun Nigeria

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By Henry Umahi

Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu’s political credentials are impeccable. God-fearing, visionary and tested, there are only few Nigerian politicians in his class.  

He was an outstanding statesman, distinguished scholar, intellectually sagacious administrator, prolific writer, a man of profound ideas and gentleman Perhaps his cutting edge is his, steadfastness, exceptional principle and exemplary character.

Since joining politics over four decades ago, his performances as a governor, party chairman and minister of the Federal Republic of Nigeria were without  blemish. He was, without doubt, one of the very few Nigerian politicians that could be  described as patriotic, disciplined and selfless.

Born on December 1, 1951 to the family of His Royal Highness, late Eze David Aba Onu, the Eze Adu of Uburu and Her Royal Highness, late Ugoeze Enyidiya Uzor Onu, he was a man of many parts. He was an engineer, author, farmer and politician. Indeed, he was a real class act in every material particular.

He attended Mary Knoll College, Ogoja, Cross River State, from 1964 to 1967, and Izzi County Secondary School, Abakaliki, Ebonyi State, from 1970 to 1971. He obtained Grade One distinction, and was the best graduating student in his school in the West African School Certificate Examination.

At the College of Immaculate Conception, Enugu where he enrolled for the Higher School Certificate (HSC) from 1971 to 1972, Onu had the best result, scoring A,A,B, in Physics, Chemistry and Mathematics respectively. At the lower six examination, he obtained certificates of merit in Mathematics and General Performance.

Onu was offered admission by all the universities in the country at that time but he chose of University of Lagos (Unilag) where obtained a First Class Honours degree in chemical engineering in 1976. After the mandatory one -year National Youth Service (NYSC) programme in 1977, he traveled to the United States. At the prestigious University of California, Berkeley, USA, he obtained a Doctor of Philosophy Degree (Ph.D), in chemical engineering in 1980, without passing through a Master’s Degree programme. There, he again proved himself an outstanding scholar by his breakthrough in his chosen field of research on coal conversion and energy utilization.

Onu was the first head of the Department of Chemical Engineering, University of Port Harcourt. In 1991, he became the first civilian governor of Abia State and was the minister of science, technology and innovation of Nigeria from November 2015 to 2022 when he resigned to participate in the presidential primaries of the All Progressives Alliance (APC).

Onu was an advocate of politics without bitterness. His motto was: Live and let live. He distinguished himself in terms of content and character of his politics. He spoke in low tone and abhorred any form of violence. He always told his supporters not to be involved in any violent act no matter the provocation.

He was also a one-party man. He never jumped ship like the average Nigerian politician. He defended what he believed in.

Onu was a pan-Nigerian and bridge builder. He never believed in politics of ethnicity or religion. He was at home with Nigerians from the fringes of the Sahara to the Atlantic Coastline.

In his book, ‘Building  modern Nigerian’, Onu canvassed for the reinvention of the country to achieve the dreams of the founding fathers.

He x-rayed the political and developmental challenges facing the country, offering solutions on how the country can rebound.

He wrote: “The generation before ours dream, thought, worked and fought for us to be free. They wanted us to be free from foreign rule. They wanted us to be free to rule ourselves. They wanted us to live the full meaning of democracy. They wanted government run by the people of Nigeria. They realized their dreams.

“They also dreamt that Nigeria can and should be a great country. A country whose voice is not only strong in Africa but in the world. The generation before ours has done well. It is now the responsibility of our generation to work for the realisation of this additional noble objective.

“Many feel that Nigeria can never be stable and in peace because nowhere in the world do Christians and Muslims live together in peace. Those people forget that nowhere else do the ratio between Christians and Muslims be close as in Nigeria. Since we worship the same God, have the same universal father and both religions preach and believe in peace and love, I am confident that with the appropriate leadership, Nigeria will move away from those things that divide them to those that unite them.”

An optimist, he believed that Nigeria can take care of itself.  Take this from him: “The problems of Nigeria are not insurmountable. We have for long emphasized the things that divide us without paying attention to those things that unite us. We have to work for the unity of Nigeria. Nigeria is a country that we should be proud of. Just as we work for food, success, and achieved, we must work for peace, unity, and stability of Nigeria. It cannot be achieved otherwise.

No matter the enormity of our problems, we should never be frightened of them. Any nation that does not have problems ceases to grow and will ultimately perish. Every human development effort has its challenges and problems.  We must realize that the strength and will of people are measured by how they confront problems and meet challenges.

We need visionary leadership. We need leaders that will work for the problems of today and think of solutions to those of the future. We need leadership that will not mortgage the future of our children while meeting the exigencies of the present. Every generation should pay its bills and prepare future generations to meet their needs.

We need a visionary leader who can imagine what Nigeria will look like in say fifty years from now. Such a leader will articulate those views in a way that the people will be sufficiently mobilised to achieve the set goal. This way when the baton of leadership changes hands, the people expect their new leader to move them in that chosen path of peace, happiness, and prosperity.”

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