By Charles Adeyinka
It is said that legends are born once every generation. It is also common knowledge that during a typical rainstorm, every bird seeks shelter from the storm, by settling on a safe branch on a tree for the storm to pass; except for one bird, the Eagle!
In a typical rainstorm, the Eagle uses its powerful wings to begin to soar above the storm, until it ascends above the storm and above other birds of lesser pedigree. The Eagle also sees further, while maintaining a far higher altitude than other birds.
The above scenario is about to play itself out in Nigeria today; among a cacophony of multiple new candidates, some of whom are just plain rabble-rousers, in Nigeria’s upcoming 2019 presidential elections.
For watchers of Nigeria’s political space, the new phenomenon is the now Abuja-based Washington-trained politician, Okey Sam Mbonu.
Mbonu, who hails from Anambra, has always being a man of first among equals. He declared his intention to seek the presidency on May 11, 2018 in Abuja. In his declaration speech, he listed four (4) critical areas he would focus on in his first 4 years. They include: (1) Internal Security & Strife; (2) Electric Energy & Related Economic Infrastructure; (3) Youth, Women Empowerment, and reforming the Education System; (4) Agriculture, Water Resources & Healthcare. He says his experiences creating policies toward “Community Development” as a former “Commissioner” in the US, provides him with a foundational framework to develop Nigeria beyond where it is now.
The below facts bear this out: Mbonu moved to the US at a young age, and attended American University Washington, and the University of District of Columbia, School of Law, where he earned his Doctor of Jurisprudence (JD) Law degree.
Many Nigerians have earned JD’s from American institutions, however; it is what Mbonu did during his professional training, and post-qualification that set him apart from other Nigerian-born professionals.
Leveraging human relations and interpersonal skills while in Washington, Mbonu became the first non-US born, to be elected a Senator at the US law school.
Colleagues of Mbonu from the Washington-based law school who were interviewed for this story, say he had a mix of charm, political, and social dexterity; which easily enabled him to out-campaign other native-born law students, to win the coveted seat at the law school Senate.
Upon graduation from law school, Mbonu quickly navigated his way around Washington, working as Senior Advisor to a Washington firm during the liquidation of government assets by a US agency. At the same time, Mbonu had started to hone relationships with various stakeholders from institutional Washington; including US Congressmen and Congresswomen and other elected and appointed officials.
While colleagues of Mbonu were building legal careers in Washington, some of them with reasonable material success; Mbonu in his typical element gravitated toward Public Policy and Public Service; he was soon appointed a Commissioner, for Housing & Community Development in Prince George’s, state of Maryland. Prince George’s Maryland, was founded in the year 1696, it is one of the oldest and most affluent jurisdictions in the Washington metropolis (established during English colonial era).
Again, history was made when Mbonu became the first foreign-born to be appointed a commissioner in the history of Maryland.
Mbonu left public service at the end of his 5 year term, to leverage his public service expertise toward a private career in the Housing & Urban Development industry. Shortly after that, he co-founded the Nigerian-American Council, a think-tank in Washington that provided policy guidance toward Africa for US institutions and private corporations.
As a Strategic Advisor and Consultant in Washington, Mbonu has provided expertise to Washington institutions, ranking members of the US Congress, Diplomats, and the media on Sub-Saharan Africa matters.
Over the past few years, Mbonu has also appeared regularly on various US and international media, from MSNBC, to CNBC, CNN, Al Jazeera, VOA, etc. He has been called “A Powerful Voice” in US-Nigerian matters, by US media Giant MSNBC.
Also, on February 18, 2018, he was honored at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, Simi Valley, California, as one of the most accomplished Nigerians in the US.
If Mbonu wins the coming 2019 presidential election, it will not be the first time a Diaspora Nigerian has shaken up the status quo in Nigeria; because The Rt. Hon. Nnamdi Azikiwe returned from the United States in the 1940’s, after a 9 year sojourn, and spearheaded Nigeria’s own independence movement.
However, Mbonu says that comparing him to the Rt. Hon Nnamdi Azikiwe is flattering. He maintains that his professional training and serving in a United States jurisdiction, as Commissioner– a policy-making role, in an agency that included “community development,” and overseeing budgets in the $700-$1 Billion range; sets him miles apart from every new candidate for the office of president in Nigeria today.
He says Azikiwe would marvel at the heights the Nigerian Diaspora such as himself has attained in the United States today. We tend to agree, Eagles soar above the storm, Eagles see further than others, and Eagles do not flock, they fly alone.
The factual historical narrative above means that Nigeria and Mbonu could be on their way to another first, the first Nigerian with Diaspora roots to be elected President of modern Nigeria.
Even in the early stages of his campaign, Mbonu has already recorded a first, being the first Presidential candidate to visit the IDP Camps in Northeast Nigeria, at a great personal risk to his life, because of the dangers inherent in traveling in Northeast Nigeria at this time.
Mbonu is a phenomenon, and a new beginning for Nigeria.