Onyema Ugochukwu, Jeremiah Abalaka: Where are they now?

Many years after these three individuals made headlines in their various vocations, nothing has been heard about them again. ELEOJO IDACHABA asks where they could be at the moment.

Onyema Ugochukwu

Chief Onyema Ugochukwu is an economist, journalist, politician and the chairman of Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) at its creation in 2000 by former President Olusegun Obasanjo. Ugochukwu had prior to this time served as the senior special adviser on communications to President Obasanjo.

Upon graduation from the prestigious University of Nigeria Nsukka, he worked briefly with the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) but abandoned it for journalism. That was when he joined the Business Times Group as economic analyst at inception. The flagship later blossomed into the most influential financial newspaper in Nigeria before it went into distress. While there, he rose to become its editor. Much later in 1983, he joined the London-based West Africa magazine and became its editor-in-chief. Here, he wrote extensively on development issues and provided 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 was subsequently appointed to its board as the executive director, manpower and development. He later retired from active conventional journalism in 1994 but remained active as a media consultant for a long time.

In the course of his career as a journalist, he met and interacted with numerous statesmen like former British prime minister, Margaret Thatcher; Nelson Mandela, Jamaican prime minister, P. J. Patterson; former French president, Jacques Chirac, and Ibrahim Babangida. It’s on record that he had also presented papers on African economic and political development at various fora including Oxford University. What later gave him a major turning point was that with Nigeria’s return to democracy in 1998, this Abia state-born technocrat became the director of publicity at the ‘Obasanjo for President’ campaign organisation where he was said to have contributed immensely to the election of the former president. Thereafter, he was rewarded with the appointment of senior special assistant on national orientation and public affairs to the president. In this capacity, he spearheaded a national rebirth campaign aimed at instilling patriotic virtues into the citizen’s psyche ravaged by years of political instability, military rule and corruption. It was on this platform that he launched what was referred to as ‘The Nigerian Declaration of Human Responsibilities’ which declared in part that, “This character on human responsibilities seeks to bring freedom and responsibility into a better balance, highlight and increase awareness of the obligation which we owe each other and to our nation.”

Ugochukwu as NDDC chairman helped to articulate the president’s vision of sustainable development in the Niger Delta region as he developed a policy that encouraged partnership among stakeholders in the Niger-delta communities and their tribal chiefs, including youth militia, oil companies and their executives, the government, non-governmental organisations, and international organisations like the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the World Bank. During his tenure, NDDC focused mainly on economic revival and prosperity, environmental rehabilitation and the development of social and physical infrastructure.

When he left office as NDDC chief, he ran for governor in Abia in 2008 on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), but lost to Theodore Orji after an appeal court in Port Harcourt had declared that the Orji of Uzor Kalu-led Peoples Progressive Alliance (PPA) actually won that election. Since then, not much has been heard about him again.

Jeremiah Abalaka

Whatever remains to be known about Dr. Abalaka, as he is fondly called, is the manner Africa and Nigeria treat her local professional inventors especially those in the medical practice as against their foreign counterparts. Abalaka, for instance, came to limelight around 1999 when HIV/AIDS pandemic was dreaded in the country. This Kogi state-born surgeon came up with a discovery that he said could reduce the HIV viral load in the body, but he had a running battle with the powers-that-be when he announced his breakthrough. His case became even worse when the Ministry of Health under Dr. Tim Menakaya as minister which was supposed to give him the needed supports became his worst critic.

Abalaka while speaking with the press said, “The point must be made clear again and again that I do not claim and has never claimed to have discovered a cure or prevention for AIDS. I have only developed safe and effective vaccines for the prevention and treatment of HIV, the causative agents of AIDS.” In the year 2000, however, the Obasanjo administration banned the use of every drug in the country which was being used as cure for HIV/AIDS until, according to them, proper verifications were carried out. Abalaka contested the order and sued the federal government over the ban and the court later ruled in his favour. According to a Federal High Court in Makurdi where the case was instituted, “Since the government is not doing anything to help people with the case, it is only proper for persons so affected to have a right to decide for themselves whether to use Abalaka’s vaccine or not.” Since then, even though Dr. Abalaka, said to have been practising his art with dexterity quietly, not much has been heard about him in public.

A pharmacist, Teidi Omede, told this reporter sometime ago that nothing has changed about Abalaka. “In fact, he now enjoys more patronage than before even though he is no more in the news. His hospital located in Gwagwalada is home to many people living with the condition,” he said. However, since then, nothing has been heard about him again.

Martins Elechi

Martins Elechi was the governor of Ebonyi state on the platform of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) whose administration, according to political watchers, did not perform well as against his campaign promises for infrastructure turn-around in the then new state. However, his lieutenants were quick to point out that political elite within the ranks of the PDP in the state were responsible for his perceived poor outing during his administration. His tenure ended in 2015 having failed to get the ticket of his party for a second tenure on account of the allegations of under-performance. In 2017, it was gathered that he had joined the All Progressives Congress (APC). He defended his action which he blamed on injustice and what he called the lack of internal democracy in PDP.

“The change we all clamour for is finally here with us; we are heralding the dawn of a new Ebonyi politics. The APC has come to salvage the decaying political values caused by the mis-governance of one man who has lost focus on what political leadership entails,” he said.

Since his defection to the APC, nothing has been heard from him any more.

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