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The day Victor Oye ambushed Zik ~ by Omife I. Omife

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It was a Thursday if I remember right. Days before, news was agog the entire state (The NTA Enugu had a nationwide outreach) that Zik, the then presidential candidate of the defunct Nigerian Peoples Party, NPP, would feature in the then very popular NTA weekly Press Conference programme, Meet-the-Press, moderated by Eddy Brown Ayogu, who doubled as the station’s General Manager during this period.

This was far back in the early 80’s, in the months before the 1983 general elections.

The NTA Enugu weekly media programme was popularly perceived as one of the best TV programmes in the east of the Niger during the First Republic, and many people did not want to miss it.

The NTA and ATV Channel Five-0 were what was in vogue in then Anambra State. Imo State TV was also popular then but not as the other two. Cable TV, such as CNN and other channels were not there then.

The NTA interview programme use to be an assemblage of who-was-who in Enugu pen profession perceived as some of the best crack journalists in their respective media organs then, who constituted the regular panel of interviewers.

Some of the regular media panelists included Chike Abbey of Herald newspaper, Hollands Okoye of Sketch newspaper, “Contraversial” C.K.C. Ubby of the old Anambra Broadcasting Service, (ABS), Sam Candor Okolo of FRCN and others.

The programme showed the best of Eddy Brown Ayogu’s journalistic acumen as he stylishly led the guest on each occasion from his office upstairs in a dramatic entry through an external stairs down to the studio where the panelists are already seated, waiting to fire their canons of questions after the press conference by the guest.

By the usual 12 noon this particular Thursday, the panelists were already seated, while Eddy Brown waited upstairs for Zik of Africa to arrive for studio recording of the press conference. The production staff was ready to let off the famous NTA weekly press conference signature tune – Swinging Safari – to usher in Eddy Brown and his guest.

One hour of waiting, Zik had not arrived. Suspense. Apprehension. Two hours. Three hours. No Zik in sight, or any of his political acolytes, as both the moderator and panelists hanged outside, glancing and peering at every big car that drove into NTA premises. Apparently, Zik’s phone lines and those of his secretariat staff were not going.

While the moderator and panelists waited on end, Victor Ike Oye had organized a few crack journalists and travelled to Zik’s Onuiyi haven residence early that morning, arriving just at the time Zik was about to step out of his house to enter his car to go to Enugu, for the scheduled NTA press conference.

After a brief tete-a-tete with Zik, Zik sat back in the chair while Mr Okoro, Zik’s veteran secretary, quickly arranged the reception hall for a press conference. 30 minutes later, the reception hall was full of journalists from various media houses in then Anambra State who had been put on notice by Victor Oye within the previous 24 hours.

The next morning, over 50% of Nigerian dailies carried headline news of Zik’s press conference, the same conference that had been scheduled at the NTA.

So what happened?

At this time, politics in Igbo land was rightly or wrongly characterized by a popular perception of the NPN as representing the Hausa-Fulani political interest while the NPP, led by Zik represented Igbo political cause.

As an NPN Federal government controlled organ, the NTA weekly programme served as a media point of the ruling NPN political campaign where the party’s heavy weights led by Alhaji Ibrahim Tahir, who was the head of NPN campaign in Anambra State, took turns to cajole the Ndigbo and insult NPP and its leaders, as a campaign stunt for the imminent 1983 general elections in which the NPN vowed to take over Anambra State from NPP.

On this particular NTA meet-the-press programme where Zik was scheduled to be the guest, the NPN propaganda team had arranged to plant two surrogate journalists in the panel of interviews with the instruction to confront Zik with tendentious preambles to questions, aimed at embarrassing and ridiculing him.

Fortunately, or unfortunately, as a crack journalist and news hound he was, Victor Oye got wind of the covert plan less than 10 hours before the scheduled press conference.

That would never happen to Zik and the NPP, the symbol of Igbo cause, Victor vowed as he instantly alerted other “loyal” journalists and media stations, informing them of a counter arrangement to hold the press conference at Onuiyi haven, before rushing to Onuiyi Haven to put Zik’s journey to Enugu on hold.

It was an ambush so to say. All because of loyalty – loyalty to Zik, to the NPP and to Igbo cause. Victor Oye was to demonstrate this loyalty to the NPP and Igbo cause several times over in the course of Igbo politics in Nigeria.

When Jim Nwobodo, erstwhile NPP governor of then Anambra State, was imprisoned via Awote panel, his Satellite newspaper, which was one of the most popular print media then, gradually ran aground reaching a point where staff salaries could no longer be paid, forcing most of the staff to give in to mouth-watering job offers from other newspapers.

At a point, Victor Oye was the only management staff that remained with a handful of journalists to continue his media war against the political injustice meted to Jim Nwobodo and other NPP leaders, by extension, Igbos by the military authorities. We are talking of loyalty to Igbo cause.

It was with the same dedication and passion for Igbo cause that Victor Ike Oye later on joined politics and embraced APGA which was again perceived as a political reincarnation of NPP and a rallying point of Igbo political identity under Ojukwu.

This was at a time most Igbo political heavyweights were falling over themselves to join other big-time parties.

But Victor Oye chose to swim and sink with APGA as a political pedestal for Igbo political and economic emancipation in Nigeria, eventually becoming the national chairman of APGA, a result of his hard work and dedication to actualize Zik’s and Ojukwu’s vision for the survival of Igbo political identity in Nigeria, which successive Nigerian governments from Gowon to Buhari had relentlessly tried to break.

As National chairman of APGA, Victor Oye was able to groom the party from a two-States regional party to a national party that APGA extended to Benue, Nassarawa, Plateau and even Taraba States, in a mission to expand Igbo political influence to all nooks and corners of the country after the dream of Zik and Ojukwu. We are talking of loyalty to Igbo cause.

Besides Ojukwu, as APGA national chairman, Victor Oye transferred the same unflinching loyalty to successive APGA governors of Anambra State, namely, Obiano and incumbent Soludo, both of whom owe their governorship elections largely to Victor Oye’s unique political stratagem.

Today, even after bowing out as APAGA national chairman, having completed his maximum tenure, Victor Oye has remained as loyal and faithful as ever to APGA and Governor Soludo as symbols of Igbo identity.

In this regard, Victor Oye stands out as a shining model of Igbo political philosophy and a beckoning inspiration to other politicians of Igbo extraction.

By Mazi Omife I. Omife
Mbuze Mbaukwu (omifelord@gmail.com)

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