By C. Don Adinuba
“Failed state” is a term popularized by Bill Clinton following the coinage in 1993 in an essay in Foreign Policy by two American political scientists to describe countries whose governments do not enjoy legitimacy or control over all their territories, and do not provide the people with security, and do not fulfill primary obligations to the people and the international community; in fact, foreign governments and institutions distance themselves from such regimes as much as possible. Somalia, Taliban’s Afghanistan and Laurent Gbabo’s Cote d’Ivoire are excellent examples. As already adumbrated, the term is used mostly in international relations to refer to countries, rather than their component parts. But in his broadcast on August 27, 2006, to mark the 14th anniversary of Anambra State, Governor Peter Obi curiously called Anambra “a failed state”.
Neighboring Delta State was, when this broadcast was made, engulfed by debilitating security problems, including the Ijaw-Itsekiri fratricide. But James Ibori did not describe his state in lurid terms. Bayelsa and Rivers states were almost being overrun by militants, separatists, oil thieves armed with fearsome paraphernalia, etc. But the governors did everything within their means not to give the world the impression that their states were massive jungles. So, why did the Anambra governor gravely de-market his state by likening it to Somalia? Governor Obi wanted to legitimize his government by delegitimizing all his predecessors, a notorious political malaise in Africa.
Anambra still pays a heavy price for this mindset. I took a group of Indian businessmen to the state five years ago to build a factory, and introduced them to the governor at a party which he organized for Dora Akunyili when the NAFDAC chief executive received an honorable mention in Time magazine for her war against drug fakers. The governor displayed a great interest, which was quite encouraging. But when he made the broadcast and they picked it up from the Internet, the businessmen began to look elsewhere. Their factory has since gone into production at Agbara, Ogun State.
How has Anambra fared on Obi’s watch? As you are reading this article, no state government-owned health facility has opened in the last eight months because doctors, pharmacists, nurses, laboratory scientists and other health workers have been on strike over pay. My own people in Ihiala Local Government Area are a bit lucky; they go daily to health centres and hospitals in neighbouring Imo State for immunization and general medicare. For four months until the second week of July, 2011, no courts in Anambra State sat. Why? The workers were on strike over pay. Anambra enjoys the distinction of being the only state in the whole federation where the people, including those in Government House, have not enjoyed pipe-borne water for at least five years. Employees of the state water corporation have not received salaries in at least as many years. My own uncle, Pius Nwabugwu, a 1973 geology graduate of the University of Ibadan who voluntarily left the services of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation to work for his home state, died last year without salary, gratuity or pension.
The situation in my home state tries men’s souls, to paraphrase the Great Zik of Africa. The situation challenges the conscience of the media, civil society and all those who can say no to sacrilege. A couple of weeks ago when I wrote a well circulated article calling attention to the abysmal state of roads in Ihiala, the fourth largest town in the state, and complained of the unjustifiable relocation of the state’s university from a place which represents Africa’s technological ingenuity as demonstrated the Nigerian civil war of 1967-70, the state government went into a frenzy of puerile denial, name calling and braggadocio, leading critics to conclude that it may be afflicted by schizophrenic paranoia. It is instructive that the most important qualification for recruitment into the Government House media team is an enthusiasm to play a rabies-infested Rottweiler, Chinua Achebe’s “rabid beast of fanaticism” and “dangerous lunatic”.
In reaction to my brief essay in question, countless articles, frenetically written, were sent to the print media and the Internet under all manner of names. The state radio and television were mobilized to attack my person. As though to add a comic touch, Aloy Egwuatu, an otherwise fantastic gentleman who was two years ago given the sinecure position of Commissioner for Science and Technology after the people of Ihiala, the largest Local Government Area in the state, complained bitterly that not even a personal assistant or part time director of a government agency came from their place, went on air to announce that my townspeople had dissociated themselves from the publication. Interestingly, the commissioner cannot, in this rainy season, move in his official Peugeot 406 car from his house to mine, a distance of five kilometers, because of the embarrassing roads. Nor can he drive to the residence of the Ihiala Progress Union president or the palace of our traditional ruler on account of the state of the roads.
A little comparison here may be telling enough. I wrote two articles in 2007 in the national media calling attention of the Bola Tinubu government in Lagos State to the absence of basic infrastructure in most parts of the Lekki Peninsula. On the day landlords in the area were meeting Tinubu over the state of roads in the Ajah part of the peninsula, Reuben Abati, then the chairman of The Guardian editorial board, coincidentally published a third article of mine on this lack of infrastructure entitled “Ajah—Badore Road: Open Sore of A State”. Tinubu had gifted propaganda storm troopers led by Information Commissioner Dele Alake, but he did not ask them to turn the heat on me or to remind me that I am not a Lagos indigene. He rather asked PW, the competent Irish construction firm, to reconstruct and expand the road for a whopping 2.8billion naira. As Babatunde Fashola was preparing to take over from Tinubu as governor, I ran into him at Murtala Mohammed International Airport, Ikeja, and complained about the poor state of the road leading to my estate. Fashola dispatched a team of engineers and surveyors to my house within days. I now have a first class road, complete with excellent drains. Hence, Unity Estate residents did not feel the devastation of the July 7, 2011, rainfall like the rest of the peninsula.
Can anyone imagine how the Obi government would react to a Yoruba resident in Anambra State audacious enough to criticize the government for not extending considerable infrastructure to his place? Obi made all his fortune in Yorubaland, yet he does not tire of asking Anambra people to reject Ngige and his supporters in the Action Congress of Nigeria because, as he claims, the ACN is a Yoruba party, contrasting it with his All Nigeria Progressives Grand Alliance which he unabashedly calls the Igbo party. The ACN may well be a Yoruba party, but you can never hear that from the lips of Tinubu or Fashola. Why does the Obi group mouth APGA’s Igboness from the rooftops? Does the tiger need to proclaim its tigritude, as Wole Soyinka once said about negritude philosophy? Can APGA grow in leaps and bounds by alienating non-Igbo Nigerians from it? No wonder, ACN has been waxing stronger across the nation, but not APGA.
There is a determined effort at what Okey Ndibe, the famous writer and columnist, calls systematic North Koreanisation of Anambra State. The government wants to turn the people into robots, that is, elements grossly incapable of independent thought and action, as they rely thoughtlessly and wholly on government relentless and energetic propaganda, the type well bereft of verisimilitude. Take the state’s electronic media coverage of the senatorial contest between erstwhile governor Chris Ngige and former Information Minister Dora Akunyili. To this day, neither the Anambra radio nor television has announced the election result, which was conducted on Tuesday, April 26, 2011. When I asked some editors why they did not consider the result newsworthy, despite their sustained scurrilous attacks against Ngige and the canonization of Akunyili prior to the vote, they replied, ”Do you want us to lose our jobs?” Need I say anything about the plight of Anambra Broadcasting Service employees who have retired in the last few years?
How did the home state of Nnamdi Azikiwe, Chinua Achebe, Chike Obi, Louis Odumegwu Ojukwu, Pius Okigbo, K.O.Dike, Ukpabi Asika, Olaudah Equiano, Mokwugo Okoye, Nwafor Orizu, etc, come to the present state? Governor Obi himself would ask rhetorically, “Is the fault with us? Or is it in our star?”
Adinuba is head of Discovery Public Affairs Consulting