ANAMBRA’S creme de la creme headed for Uli, Ihiala LGA last Sunday to celebrate one of Igbo nation’s veteran politicians and quiet kingmakers with enviable credibility, Tony Nnaeto.
It offered many like me, ample opportunity to ponder what makes a genuine political leader in this era of increasing dearth of such breed in contemporary Nigerian society.
Eighty-one-year-old Chief Nnaeto (Akuoma) and his 70-year-old darling wife Christiana danced to the altar at St. Paul Catholic Church, Ndinwanedo (outstation of St. Theresa’s Catholic Church), Uli, to mark the 50th anniversary of their fruitful marriage. Watching them renew their marriage vows under the supervision of the reverend fathers, Mnsgr. Ojimba (Oluoha Uli) and Fr. George Chilaka was a memorable and exhilarating spectacle.
Sir Nnaeto, a noble Knight of Saint John (International) though now all grey on his head, still retains the charm of his personality. The very charismatic Second Republic politician who represented Ihiala Constituency in the old Anambra State’s House of Assembly, in Enugu exuded the warmth that he had over four decades ago. He was still the unassuming but phenomenal community leader whose influence cuts across generations of the young and aging in the area and beyond. Encomia and felicitations at the event buttressed the matter. Though now an octogenarian, he still cuts an interesting visage when in the court of up-and-coming leaders as with his contemporaries, which is one reason why anyone who aspires towards community leadership is drawn to his humble home in Ndinwanedo, Uli where he holds court.
Nnaeto, a charm to behold in his heydays as a younger politician, was the handsome orator and soapbox-like politician of the Nigerian Peoples Party (NPP) fold who dazzled voters and won teeming followership as well as got some real politick achievements in Uli, Ihiala and old Anambra State as a ranking legislator, party mainstreamer and near-populist votes reaper.
An ally of the Second Republic NPP governor of old Anambra State, Jim Nwobodo, Nnaeto was a lead figure in the nearly-realised creation of Mbaisato local government area (LGA) which brought about a long-desired second local administrative council from Ihiala, for
which the people loved him. As the Chairman of the House Committee in the state’s legislature, he was able to negotiate and achieve some visible dividends of democracy for his people.
He equally played active part as a lead act in the intricately layered negotiations that led to the emergence of his kit-and-kin Chinwoke Mbadinuju as the first fourth republic governor of Anambra State.
Similarly, there is a long list of beneficiaries from the tangible proceeds of his political sagacity. All the reapers from his long period of active practice in politics as well as those he helped as a worker in the corporate sector and as a successful entrepreneur are expected around him in the golden jubilee thanksgiving outing on Sunday, even as he has not made it a public event. His over four decade active operation in public service has touched many lives.
An erstwhile member of the House of Representatives, who represented Ihiala Federal Constituency in the National Assembly, Vitalis Okafor, described Nnaeto as “the first notable politician produced from Ihiala under NPP, in the Second Republic.”
Explaining further, the lawyer, mass communicator and politician added: “He (Nnaeto) introduced us to politics and he is still playing the game.
“He has always been at the forefront of
progressive events. He was instrumental to the quest for the creation of Mbasato local government area. Though it eventually never worked.
“You cannot do anything (in Ihiala) without consulting him.”
Chief Okafor, a political leader too, though of younger generation, deems Nnaeto a mentor and a man who paved the way for the emergence of some other politicians in the area.
His words: “Because he was the right hand man to the then Jim Nwobodo, our son, Dr Ralph Obiagazie was made the the then Commissioner for Establishment. In fact, I think he (Obiagazie) had two protfolios then. That was why, the man was called “double commissioner.” Nnaeto influenced his appointment. Then he brought some health centers…
“He is a very good orator. He speaks very well. He knows how to communicate in beautiful words.”
As Nnaeto’s family marks the landmark anniversary on Sunday, Okafor expressed his goodwill thusly:
“First of all, I thank God for his life and I wish him more life and good health. He is a peacemaker. So I think it is good for him to continue to ensure that peace reigns.
In his own felicitations, Emmanuel Okani, a retired Chief Engineer of Anambra Newspapers and Printing ut.
Corporation, Awka, noted that Nnaeto, is one politician who rose to limelight by dint of his personal leadership qualities, integrity and high aptitude in political mobilisation. He further appraised Chief Nnaeto’s political sagacity as fallout from his penchant for speaking the truth in issues that many of his contemporaries would play dribbles or opt to keep out.
Okani added that Akuoma has “his peculiar knack for making and keeping friends.”
Dwelling on the subject farther, Okani whose mother hails from the same quarter as Nnaeto, informed: “He is a very intelligent, diplomatic, upright and truthful man. He joined politics with a humble background from being a teacher to his supervisory role in a textile mill; from there to Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Umuahia. Later, he became a private entrepreneur. From there, he joined politics.”
According to the engineer, what Nnaeto achieved in politics is mainly, empowerment of people.
“He employed many people from his area jobwise when he was the Chairman, House Committee, old Anambra State House of Assembly. He was instrumental to Mbadinuju becoming Governor. He was one of the movers and one of the kingmakers of Mbadinuju, with A.B.C. Orjiako. A.B.C. Orjiako took him as a very good confidant politically and otherwise. He was instrumental to the commissionership of Dr Ralph Obiagazie as the Commissioner for establishment in old Anambra too. He was also instrumental to the appointment of the late Livy Uzo as one-time Registrar of the then Anambra State Polytechnic, Oko (now Federal Polytechnic, Oko). Later, Uzo became the principal secretary to Gov. Mbadinuju.”
On Sunday, as the elder statesman and wife as well as their children and grandchildren encircled their golden jubilee anniversary cake, to cut it, associates and protégés found their way to be with them too in appreciation of what they had achieved not just for themselves and their nuclear family but for others too. That evidence of direct touch on real people’s lives was what made last Sunday memorable in Uli. Hence it was an event that quietly and unconsciously told younger leaders and aspiring leaders, some vital things about what constitutes real power and authority.
I join in congratulating the great Akuoma, Uli, for impactful and remarkable leadership. More so, for a noteworthy family life.
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