34 years ago this year in 1986, something so significant and worth celebrating year after year, happened in this country. Unfortunately, many Nigerians seem not to know about it and those who knew when it happened, don’t really care.
Then Nigeria’s No. 2 man, military vice president and Chief of General Staff resigned from Office.
It was a huge life or death risk, but he took it anyway; for his country and for his honour as a human being and an Officer.
Gen. Babangida had secretly sent the then Minister for Power, Mines and Steel, Rilwan Lukman to represent Nigeria at the Organisation of Islamic Countries (OIC) conference. A decision he made with Gen. Abacha and Gen. Domkat Bali; sidelining his Deputy.
When the No. 2 man received intelligence on the matter, he set to confront the commander in chief.
Thereafter, although he was the Military Vice President, the Dictatorship of Gen. Ibrahim Babangida took further steps to undermine him. A look at the Official Armed Forces Ruling Council photographs at the time will show how Gen. Domkat Bali, the then Joint Chief of Staff was placed ahead of the protocol to the military vice President; and, during the first meeting after his confrontation with the Commander in Chief, other AFRC members like Generals Abacha and Bali, encouraged by the military president, appear to undermine the position of the Military vice president.
Then came October 1, 1986, informed that Gen. Bali had been placed above him in protocol at the parade, the military vice president chose to stay away from the Independence Celebration. Interestingly, Gen. Babangida appeared at the parade dressed in the ceremonial uniform of Rear-Admiral; the military vice president was a Commodore.
The military Vice president knew it was time to go; not to allow anybody humiliate him, he chose honour above office and resigned his position and commission. Ha chiwa onwe ha. Dignity over position!
No one in the Military ruling council (AFRC) thought, dreamt or even imagined that the military vice president would ever consider, not to think of choosing to resign from office and from the Navy. But he did.
That man is Chief Ebitu Ukiwe. The Aka Ji Ọfọr Na Elu Ụwa.
So, When you wonder why Nigerian Politicians find it extremely hard, in fact, impossible to resign from office despite obvious humiliation, it is perhaps because they know that you, as a Nigerian don’t really care; and that Nigerians only respect position and money. Once you leave either, you are quickly forgotten.
But the former military vice president asked himself “how would history remember me”? That is the most important question.
60 years after we moved away from British Colonialism to ‘Nigerian Domestic Colonialism’, let us celebrate honour and integrity in public service. I cannot think of any other thing that any man or woman should be celebrating at 60 years.
Even if you have not built your own house at 60, as long as your honour and integrity are intact, you are a man! But keep trying though.
Finally, in my independent opinion, there is no single individual who dramatised in practical terms what it means to be a man of honour in the life of Nigeria in the last 60 years more than Commodore and indeed ‘Field Marshal’ Ebitu Ukiwe!
We Rise. God bless.
By Mike Ikem Umealo
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