Francis Arthur Uzoma Nzeribe is a controversial and maverick politician and businessman who was a presidential candidate in the Social Democratic Party primaries during the canceled 1992 presidential primaries. In the Nigerian Fourth Republic, he served as a senator from Imo State.
Nzeribe's is from Oguta, Imo State. His grandfather, Akpati Nzeribe was an Oguta chief and his parents were Julie and Frank Nzeribe. His mother died when he was ten years old. He was educated at Bishop Shanahan College and Holy Ghost College, Owerri where he was an average student in academics but was good in sports. After completing secondary studies, he began developing a goal of striking it rich and becoming a millionaire while exhibiting an independent personality streak. Though, his guardians during his education years were priests, the impact of religious morality did not deter him from seeking material wealth.
Nzeribe left Holy Ghost, Owerri for Lagos after his secondary education and got a job as a trainee with the Nigerian Ports Authority, he was also given a scholarship to study in London. While in London, he jettisoned the prescribed course and went on to take engineering classes at the Portsmouth College of Technology and the Chesterfield College of Technology.
Nzeribe started his career in business while studying as a student in England, while there, he took on a policy of being indifferent to the racial problems and befriended different people of various ethnicities and races. His first major gig, was working as an insurance salesman, selling life insurance from Stamford Insurance Company to black customers.
While gaining income from the insurance marketing venture, a chance encounter brought him an audience with the nationalist, Kwame Nkrumah. Following discussions with Nkrumah, he established a public relations outfit and traveled to various countries in Africa espousing Nkwumah's ideals. Using contacts gained from his visits, he established a consultancy firm and a group of companies under Fanz Organization which later branched into construction, arms dealing, publishing, computers, medical and scientific sales and oil brokerage by the end of 1979. Nzeribe later earned significant wealth from his dealings in arms and oil and by 1970 he had opened a bank in Guernsey, Channel Island called Travellers Bank which later transacted close to a hundred million dollars of funds for Nzeribe.
After a coup brought to end the government of Nkrumah, Nzeribe was asked to serve the new regime under Ankrah. However, in 1969 following a bribery and corruption scandal involving Ankrah and Nzeribe grounded on the collection of gifts from expatriate and corporate firms, Ankrah was asked to resign and the new leader Colonel Afrifa asked Nzeribe to leave Ghana.
Nzeribe later returned to Nigeria and continued doing his business under the veil of secrecy from London. In England, he launched a private fund to help black youths in Brixton and he also invested in the Charlton football club.
During the beginning of the second republic, Nzeribe contributed financially to all the five major parties in the 1979 election. He later represented Orlu senatorial district in 1983 with the support of governor Sam Mbakwe and R.B.K. Okafor. However, his electoral methods has sometimes been criticized for his attempt to define electoral success in the country as money for money, rice for rice, stock fish for stock fish and rigging for rigging. (1) (2)
Controversies in Nigeria
Nzeribe entered the Nigerian business community after the end of the civil war and it was in 1970 when the Nigerian public first learned about Nzeribe and his sometimes controversial methods. After the civil war, he brought about five suitcases filled with money to deposit at Savannah Bank and was subsequently detained on suspicion of theft, the move was his first major step after a brief detention during the civil war that gave earned him some controversy. As a businessman and politician, Nzeribe has been a lightning rod for controversy mostly emerging from the press but some based on rumours of alleged underworld dealings. In 1973, three years after the Nigerian Civil War ended, he was arrested by a team of police officers led by Sunday Adewusi on allegations of stock piling weapons. After 10 days in a police cell, he was released and no charges were brought against him.
In 1993, Nzeribe was a prominent supporter of the Association for a Better Nigeria (ABN), a movement that supported the elongation of president Babangida's regime. Two days before the June 12 election, the association won an injunction against the conduct of the election but the injunction was later overruled. However, following the conduct of the election, ABN was able to win another injunction against the release of the election's result. ABN"s activity raised discussions about the sincerity of the Babangida administration's transition programme with allegations that the association had the support of the president.
- (1)Bamidele A Ojo. Nigeria's Third Republic: The Problems and Prospects of Political Transition to civil rule. p 34
- (2)The News article