BY TUNDE RAHMAN
MAITAMA area of the new federal capital territory Abuja reminds one of Victoria Island in Lagos, the old federal capital city. It conjures in one’s mind, the images of affluence and power.
While Victoria Island is bordered by Ikoyi, the old seat of power, Maitama is embraced within the neighborhood of Asokoro which harbours the presidential villa.
It was to this high-brow Maitama area that the reporter headed that morning in pursuit of his journalistic expedition. The scorching sun, even at 8.a.m., was at its zenith, beating down on Abuja with fury. But soon the reporter graciously settled at the back of a taxi on a journey to the abode of the affluent and the highly placed. The driver had waded through central Abuja and was in the thick of Maitama district, negotiated the bend at Aso drive, leading to Udi street.
You were soon engrossed by the serenity of the area, now accentuated by the cold breeze blowing you in the face, the car pulled by, and the reporter emerged, now facing the prestigious Ibrahim Babangida Golf course.
Clutching a notebook and a tape recorder, he made towards the small iron gate which opens into the white one-storey building. Not a single car was parked outside this day. As the reporter began to wonder if his host had kept the date, an aide appeared: “Oga said you should come in”, he said.
Few seconds later the reporter was face to face with his host, Professor Omo Omoruyi, the Director-General of the Centre for Democratic Studies (CDS) He radiated instant scholarship. A bespectacled man almost festooned with a crown of bushy grey hair and smoky beard, the politicial scientist talked with quiet dignity. Spotting Buba and Sokoto, he settled in a chair in his tastefully furnished sitting room watching CNN with settled seriousness.
The US presidential election had just been over. On the tube, the new US President elect, governor Bill Clinton, was savouring his victory and the incumbent Republican President George Bush was conceding defeat, expressing his preparedness to rally round the Arkansas governor in the new dawn.
Outside the tube, Nigeria appeared to be at a crossroad in search of a way forward. Presidential primaries had been cancelled and Nigerians were variously considering all the eight non-conventional methods of selecting credible presidential candidates put forward by the nation’s electoral body, the National Electoral Commission (NEC).
“Prof, what runs through you as a Nigerian as you watch the conduct and outcome of US election?,” the reporter asked. “I think what goes through my mind is to pray that one day the Nigerian voter will understand that his vote means a lot and that he uses it very well. I also think of when our candidates will learn to concede defeat and celebrate victory without gloating.”
Professor Omoruyi is saddled with the task of inculcating democratic virtues in all Nigerians. The grave looking professor who presides over the Centre for Democratic Studies located at Bwarri near Abuja, said all the 23 presidential aspirants indicted of electoral fraud in the cancelled presidential primaries were not products of the CDS. “These aspirants are not our products. They don’t even know where the centre is,” he said.
Reminded that some of the governors who were trained at the centre were also indicted by NEC, Professor Omoruyi said “governors must have their interests in one aspirant or the other but they must do it carefully.”
The director-general however admonished all Nigerians to have faith in our electoral system. “The actors and everybody must have faith in the system and if there is any lapse, they should know that it is part of the learning process.”
The middle-aged professor who is of burly frame wakes up at 4 a.m. even if he goes to bed at 3 a.m. That is his daily rhythm, long maintained by intellectual discipline. Later he tunes the radio, performs his devotions.
He drinks tea a lot, eats fruits, and hardly goes for heavy meals. “I don’t eat cow meat but I am not a vegetarian, I prefer fish and chicken”.
First published Saturday, December 5, 1992.