Onyema Ugochukwu

Onyema Ugochukwu

Onyema Ugochukwu (born November 9, 1944; CON—Commander of the Order of the Niger) is a seasoned Nigerian economist, journalist, and politician. Ugochukwu served as the senior Special Adviser on Communication to Nigerian President, Olusegun Obasanjo and the first Executive Chairman of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC). On February 25, 2008, Ugochukwu was declared the lawful winner of the 2007 gubernatorial election and Governor-elect of Abia State

Early life

Onyema Ugochukwu was born on November 9, 1944 in Umuahia, Abia State, Nigeria. He graduated from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka with a BSc in Economics. He is married with four children.

Biafran War

The political turmoil which followed the first military coup in 1966 escalated into a civil war when the south-east region of Nigeria seceded as the Republic of Biafra a year later. Ugochukwu enlisted in the Biafran Army and rose to the rank of captain before the war ended in 1970

Career

Economics

Upon graduation from college, Ugochukwu was hired as an Economic Research Assistant by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN). He remained with CBN for two years before he abandoned a promising career in economics to pursue his true passion, journalism.

Journalism

Ugochukwu joined the Business Times group as an Economic Analyst and a pioneer staff of what would later become the most influential financial newspaper in Nigeria. Ugochukwu rose in the ranks to become the Editor of the Business Times newspaper (1977 to 1982). In 1983, Ugochukwu became the Editor in Chief of the London-based West Africa Magazine, where he wrote extensively on development issues, to provide a better understanding of the African debt crisis. He eventually returned to Nigeria to become the Editor in Chief of the Daily Times of Nigeria and he was subsequently appointed to its board as the Executive Director of Manpower and Development. He retired from newspaper journalism in 1994 as the Executive Director of Publications. Ugochukwu remained active as a media consultant for the Dow Jones Financial News Service. Throughout his distinguished career as a journalist, Ugochukwu has met and interviewed numerous Heads of States — including then British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher , South African President Nelson Mandela, Jamaican Prime Minister P. J. Patterson, French President Jacques Chirac, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, Cuban President, Fidel Castro, Nigerian Presidents Ibrahim Babangida, Muhammadu Buhari, Sani Abacha, and Abdusalami Abubakar — and presented papers on African economic and political development at various forums including Oxford University, England, and Uppsala University.

Politics

With Nigeria's return to democracy in 1998, Ugochukwu became the Director of Publicity at the Obasanjo for President Campaign Organisation, and contributed immensely to the election of Olusegun Obasanjo as the President of Nigeria. Ugochukwu was appointed as the Senior Special Assistant to the President on National Orientation and Public Affairs. He spearheaded a "National Rebirth" campaign aimed at instilling patriotic virtues into a national psyche ravaged by years of political instability and corruption. It was on this platform that Ugochukwu launched the “The Nigerian Declaration of Human Responsibilities”, which declares in part: “This Character on Human Responsibilities… Seeks to bring freedom and responsibility into a better balance, to highlight and increase awareness of the obligation which we owe each other and to our nation”

Niger Delta crisis

To sooth the political unrest in the oil-rich Niger Delta region of southern Nigeria, President Olusegun Obasanjo signed the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) act of 2000 into law. Ugochukwu was appointed as the pioneer chairman of the newly created commission, charged with developing the nine oil producing states of the country, with excess oil revenues. Ugochukwu helped to articulate the president's vision of sustainable development in the Niger Delta region, and developed a policy which encouraged partnership amongst its stakeholders—Niger-delta communities and their tribal chiefs, youth militia, oil companies and their executives, the Nigerian government, and Non-Government Organizations, and international organizations like the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the World Bank. During Ugochukwu's tenure, the NDDC focused mainly on economic revival and prosperity, environmental rehabilitation, and the development of social and physical infrastructure

Campaign for Abia Rebirth (CARE)

At the end of his four-year tenure at NDDC, Ugochukwu returned to Abuja and continued to serve as the President's Special Adviser on Communications. He took an interest in state politics, and resigned from office to join the Abia State gubernatorial race. In 2006, the Campaign for Abia Rebirth (CARE) was launched, with a promise to rebuild the state. On December 13th 2006, Ugochukwu emerged as the People's Democratic Party's candidate for the 2007 Abia State gubernatorial elections. The hotly contested race was marred by allegations of electoral malpractice, and violence, all of which culminated in the election of Ugochukwu's rival, Theodore Orji of the Progressive Peoples Alliance (PPA).

Assassination attempt

There was an attempt on Ugochukwu's life during the Abia State Gubernatorial elections on April 14, 2007. The assailants fired shots at his motorcade, fatally wounding one of his State Security Service (SSS) bodyguards, who suffered gunshot wounds through his head and hands. Ugochukwu, the People's Democratic Party (PDP) candidate and frontrunner in the election, blamed the attack on his political opponents in the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) and Progressive Peoples Alliance (PPA).

Election Petition Tribunal

Ugochukwu sought redress at the Abia State Election Petition Tribunal. Governor Theodore Orji's election was annulled on February 25, 2008, on the grounds that he was ineligible to contest for the office. Orji and his deputy had failed to resign their respective positions in the Abia State government, 30 days prior to the election as stipulated in the 1999 Constitution. The Tribunal also cited Governor Orji's failure to prove beyond a reasonable doubt, his affiliation with a secret cult Ugochukwu was thus declared the lawful winner of the April 2007 gubernatorial election, and Governor-elect of Abia State -- pending the outcome at the Port Harcourt Appeals Court

Works

Further reading

Trivia

  • Ugochukwu's native chieftaincy title is: “Aha Eji Agamba”, Igbo for "he who gives the community cause to boast"
  • Ugochukwu was mentioned as part of a Saturday Night Live (SNL) skit mocking the 2000 United States presidential debate between Al Gore and George W Bush. Bush (played by Will Ferrell), attempts to prove his competence in foreign affairs as he discusses the Nigerian government: "Jim, I got some more Nigerian names for ya. Chief Onyema Ugochukwu, Special Assistant to the President on National Orientation and Public Affairs"
  • The Onyema Ugochukwu Auditorium in the University of Uyo is named for Ugochukwu

References

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