Until recently, nobody would have believed or even contemplated that Prince Arthur Eze, one of Nigeria’s notable philanthropists and a successful businessman, could be denied access to Aso Rock Presidential Villa. The Eze n’ ukpo, as he’s fondly called by his admirers and associates, has over the years enjoyed unhindered access to the nation seat of power. He has had very close relationship with virtually all military and civilians leaders since ‘80s.
Arthur Eze began his entry into the corridors of power during the second republic. He used his political connections to secure huge contracts to build FM radio stations for states across the country. This made his company then, Triax Group, very popular with financial breakthrough.
Following the military overthrow of President Shehu Shagari’s administration in 1983, Arthur Eze embraced the junta, made friends with their top hierarchy. His influence and relationship with the military became more visible from the regime of General Ibrahim Babangida from 1985 to 1993 as he effectively used his military connection to secure high-profile contracts and made fortune.
Arthur Eze’s political influence and prosperity grew rapidly during the regime of late General Sani Abacha. He was a staunch supporter and close ally of the late military dictator. For nearly five years of Abacha’s regime, Arthur Eze enjoyed unrestrained access to the Presidential Villa. Indeed, he was regarded as a member of the inner caucus of that regime, and he was proud to tell everybody who cared to know that he was a very close friend of Abacha.
Leveraging on his friendship with Abacha, Arthur Eze strategically positioned himself as one of the power brokers in the country. He was seen as one of the major links and influencers around Abacha military cabal and was widely consulted by those who sought appointments and other favour from Abacha’s government. He was also a major facilitator in the formation of various political groups to mobilise support for Abacha’s regime. That was the period when solidarity visits to the Presidential Villa were regularly organised to lay credence to the popularity of his administration as to give it some level of credibility before the international community.
When Abacha’s self-succession bid gathered momentum and political parties were being coerced into endorsing Abacha as sole presidential candidate, Arthur Eze was one of the arrow heads for the project. His involvement for Abacha’s transition from military to civilian president was outstanding. He believed strongly in Abacha and his capacity to lead the country as civilian president.
Arthur Eze was so sure that Abacha would succeed himself as a civilian president that he publicly threatened to go on exile should he fail. Little did he know that Abacha would not leave to achieve his bizzare ambition; he was devastated when suddenly, Abacha died. For obvious reasons, Abacha’s death was a difficult and trying period for Arthur Eze who suffered a huge setback in business and politics.
Arthur Eze went into temporary political exile. For some time, he was not seen or heard. This prompted speculation that he was passing through a hard time; some people even suggested that he was broke. But as a smart political strategist, he merely withdrew from public glare to enable him reorganise and stage a comeback. He also needed to rebuild his business which was adversely affected by his costly gamble in Abacha’s self-succession bid. At the dawn of democracy in 1999, Arthur Eze bounced back in his familiar political terrain and became one of the power brokers in the emerging civilian dispensation.
With the huge fortune he acquired from his diversified oil and gas interests in Nigeria and some other West African countries, he was able to comfortably support and finance the elections of several political office holders across the country. He said he had sponsored the election of over 10 governors since 1999 and bankrolled the elections of many members of parliament at state and federal levels.
Arthur Eze’s political influence is not limited to Nigeria; it extends to some other West African countries. It is on record that he played active role in installing presidents of three West African countries where he’s accorded the highest diplomatic protocols usually reserved for visiting heads of government. This is in addition to being in control of oil and gas business in those countries.
In Anambra State where he hails from, Arthur Eze is like a demi-god who must be consulted by those seeking government appointments or elections into public offices. Arthur Eze has a lot of influence and network of contacts that make him outstanding. It is difficult to know anybody in Anambra State whose influence, popularity and political tentacles can be compared to Arthur Eze’s. He understands what it means to be in control of power and has invested huge resources over the years to build a formidable political network that has seen him close to any government in power at state and federal levels.
So, by virtue of his personal relationship and very strong connections with the powers that be, he has always enjoyed easy access to the Presidential Villa. It therefore must have come to him as a rude shock when the planned visit he arranged for 12 traditional rulers from his state to President Buhari was aborted shortly on their arrival at the villa gate. Obviously, he did not foresee this humiliation given his high network of contacts and influence at the Presidential Villa.
The issue at stake was disagreement over location of the zonal headquarters of the newly created Zone 13 of the Nigeria Police Force. Arthur Aze wanted it sited at Dunukofia, his LGA while Governor Obiano preferred it in his Aguleri community. Arthur Eze had his way, but Gov Obiano would not accept that, and promptly suspended the traditional ruler of Dunukofia, Igwe Peter Uyanwa, for providing community land for the project. This pitched Arthur Eze and the 12 traditional rulers against Governor Obiano.
Arthur Eze deliberately planned the ill-fated journey to Abuja to demonstrate his political influence and possibly humble Governor Obiano. If the trip had succeeded, it would have been a huge victory for the Ukpo Prince and confirm his might to deal with any opposition. That would have belittled the governor who did everything and stopped it.
That failed mission deflated Arthur Eze’s bloated political ego, indeed demystified him. Thus, Gov Willie Obiano has asserted himself as being in charge of Anambra State by disciplining the rebellious royal fathers who have bagged one year suspension each.
Governor Obiano has proved that Arthur Eze’s power and influence have limit, especially when it comes to deciding what goes on in the state. Today, he is still the chief executive of the state and everybody, irrespective of social status, wealth and political influence, is under his authority. This is the truth which Arthur Eze and indeed, the so called political god fathers in Nigeria have refused to accept. They always want to be in control of power and treat occupants of offices as stooges. This often results in needless conflicts which adversely affect governance.
Though Governor Obiano may have benefitted from Arthur Eze’s generosity, the fact remains that he deserves to be respected. The bitter lesson for Arthur Eze and those rebellious royal fathers is to recognise that there is a limit to power and influence over the governor of the state.
*Ogechukwu Ajuzie is of DOM Communications Ltd
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