MAVERICK politician and a multi-billion naira investment mogul, Chief Arthur Nzeribe is dead. Although details of how he died had remained sketchy at the time of report, the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that Nzeribe would have been 84 years by November 2.
A NAN correspondent, who visited his palatial country home known as ‘Haven of Peace’, located at Egbuoma community in Oguta Local Government Area of Imo, reports that only a security guard was seen at the vicinity.
However, at his father’s compound in Umudei village in the same council area, a man, Mr Justinian Nzeribe, who identified himself as the only surviving child of eight Nzeribe siblings, confirmed the death of the icon, saying he received the news at about 6:00 a.m. on Sunday.
“When I heard it, I summoned courage and took it as a rumour until around 12 noon when the traditional ruler of Oguta summoned me to break the news. He has been sick of stroke for years. He was a simple man. Despite being great, he would always ask you to stay out of trouble. He was a champion of peace and an icon of my time, who left a lot of legacies behind, both political and personal,” Justinian said.
The governor commiserated with the family members of Nzeribe, the people of Oguta, where he hails from, his political and business associates, friends and well wishers on his passing, urging them to pray for the deceased’s soul.
Arthur Nzeribe was a former presidential aspirant under the platform of the defunct Social Democratic Party SDP under the two-party system of the Babangida military regime.
He was among the 23 aspirants that were banned and disqualified from contesting elections by the regime following alleged gross infractions in the Option A-4 party primaries to produce zonal presidential standard-bearers.
Before then, Nzeribe had championed a campaign for self succession by Babangida and elongation of the military rule with many pro-democracy and rights groups taking him up on the issue.
In the course of the political transition programme of the Babangida regime, the maverick politician formed the infamous Association for Better Nigeria (ABN), with the primary agenda of perpetuating military rule in the country.
The group supported the military for the annulment of June 12, despite widespread popular agitations for annulment the military. ABN freely operated to the chagrin of most Nigerians who had consistently clamoured for a return to civil rule with the imbroglio turning Nigeria to a pariah state in the comity of nations.
Indeed, on June 10, 1993, Nzeribe tried to stop the election via ra court order which his ABN obtained from a midnight ruling from late Justice Bassey Ikpeme of Abuja High Court. ABN was known to be pro-Babangida. annulment of the June 12, 1993 presidential election described as the freest, fair and credible in the annals of the country.
In an interview in 1993,, Nzeribe had said: “If Babangida goes, the country will break into pieces. There will be another Bosnia.”
He claimed the ABN had garnered petitions from more than 25 million Nigerians who supported the crusade of the organisation. While the collation of the votes was in progress, ABN obtained another court order to halt the counting and verification.
The National Electoral Commission (NEC) accepted the injunction and announced on June 16, that it was suspending its announcement of the results.