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Wednesday, November 29, 2023

Anambra Governorship And The Godfather Question – By Ifeanyi Afuba



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In spite of his anger, real or feigned, my friend Mr Valentine Obienyem knows that he can neither privatise nor ban the history of Anambra State from public discourse. His rejoinder of Friday, September 8, 2017 [Daily Sun] to the essay ‘Anambra: Godfather’s futile dance’[Daily Sun, September 1, 2017] was an attempt at scaring people away from an objective discussion of the state’s recent experiences.

The opinion in question was credited to Chinedu Nzeribe, a retired banker. But even with the verifiable details of bank identification, the writer’s status and accompanying passport photograph, we are told by Obienyem’s oracle that this is a ‘non – existent name!’ If Obienyem could deny the evidence before our very eyes, could he be trusted to be truthful on the issues raised?

History is both the account of events and part of dominant actors in the various dispensations. It is in this light that the role of Mr Peter Obi in Anambra’s journey comes up for interrogation. Mr Peter Obi came into the public space in 2001 when he joined issues on the state’s condition with his poser: Is Anambra State cursed or are we the cause? Obi’s activism continued through the intervening years to his inauguration as Governor of Anambra State on March 17, 2006. After eight years of governorship, Obi is still in the public space as a chieftain of the Peoples Democratic Party. These 16 years of active involvement in Anambra’s government and politics means that up to a point he is part of the contemporary issues.

It is therefore not for lack of something to do that commentators dwell on the former governor’s activities. It is not necessarily about liking or not liking his face. The truth of the matter is that any dispassionate reading of the state’s political history cannot omit the godfather syndrome. In a tribute to Mr Peter Obi on his 43rd birthday anniversary published in Vanguard, July 19, 2004, I observed: ‘If there was one lesson to be learnt from the first four years of the fourth republic, it was that sooner or later, instability would rock a government installed by a political godfather. Ask Chimaroke Nnamani. Ask Chinwoke Mbadinuju. Ask Kwara’s Mohammed Lawal.’ Mr Peter Obi’s struggle for restoration of his stolen mandate was a crusade against the godfather tendency, a patriotic pursuit for which many of us lined up behind him.

The stability and multi sectoral achievements of the Willie Obiano administration partly results from the independence of the regime. The present Anambra State government was enthroned by the people of Anambra State and to whom it is accountable. It is an ego trip for anyone laying claim to the singular capacity of delivering the regime in 2013/2014. Admittedly, there were individuals such as Peter Obi and Victor Umeh who played crucial roles. It is also true that Mr Peter Obi’s preferred candidates for the APGA ticket in that election were Oseloka Obaze, Chike Obidigbo and Chinedu Idigo. Their candidatures were found unsuitable by the party largely represented by Victor Umeh. In the ensuing stalemate, Obiano easily emerged as the candidate acceptable to the varying interests in the party. And somewhat like David disregarded by his father as the young herd boy undeserving of consideration for the kingship but who rose to become the greatest ruler of ancient Israel, Obiano the unlikely candidate has proved to be the pace setter in Anambra’s development journey.

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With the hurricane destruction trailing the godfathers’ years still haunting our memory, it is only natural that the alarm bells will begin to ring at the prospect of a return to this frightening scenario. Ndi Anambra have a legitimate interest in assessing the three prominent candidates in the November 18, 2017 poll. While it is clear that Obiano is not leaning on anyone – to the benefit of Anambra State – the props pulling up the other two candidates are subjects of intense debate.

Mr Oseloka Obaze has not denied that his aspiration to be Governor is backed by Peter Obi’s sponsorship. Nor has Obi himself denied that he is back to the same project he unsuccessfully tried to execute four years ago. We do not necessarily need the eulogies being sung of Obaze by Obienyem to determine that this is a mission to be pursued relentlessly. The question that arises is why Obaze’s candidature has caused so much bad blood among PDP members. At least four among the seven contenders for the party’s ticket, namely Akaolisa Ufodike, John Emeka, Lynda Ikpeazu and Ifeanyi Ubah objected to the emergence of Obaze, with Ifeanyi Ubah said to have already instituted legal action. With Obaze having such a divisive effect on the PDP, why should anyone think that he will not fare worse with Ndi Anambra who have learnt to jealously guard their freedom and commonwealth?

The dummy has been sold to the public that the duo of Willie Obiano and Victor Umeh drove Peter Obi out of APGA. How do you send away a man already at the exit door by himself? Shortly after the inauguration of Governor Willie Obiano in March 2014, Peter Obi was considered for the position of Secretary to the Government of the Federation by then President Goodluck Jonathan. Anyim Pius Anyim who was holding the office at the time would have none of that and quickly rallied PDP pressure groups to his side to retain the position. With the office of the SGF foreclosed, Jonathan subsequently designated Obi for ministerial appointment. The nomination was greeted with protests. Even after the Ken Emeakayi leadership of the state chapter of the PDP passed a resolution endorsing the selection, the protests continued and the nomination eventually had to be withdrawn. Even a fresh student of Nigerian politics realises that a criterion for such appointments is membership of the political party in power. Jonathan was seen to be rewarding Obi for his loyalty. Would the state PDP executive declare support for a nominee who was a stranger to the party? Months later, Obi formally resigned from APGA in October 2014.

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It is precisely on account of scenarios such as the N7b 2013 election fund controversy that no progressive society will travel the godfather’s route. According to the current propaganda tune sang by Val Obienyem, there is no demand on Governor Willie Obiano and there was never a demand to reimburse the N7b incurred on his election. This is very interesting. In a classical display of the ostrich posture, this propaganda stunt feigns ignorance of the singsong Joe Martins Uzodike has made of the N7b claim since he was relieved of his appointment in Obiano’s administration in 2015. Listeners to Uzodike’s weekly radio interviews on privately owned stations in the State had taken him to task on this matter. On May 14, 2016, News Express, an online medium, ran a lengthy interview wherein it credited Uzodike with these words: ‘The problem is simple…When he[Obiano] became the governor, it became obvious that he was not willing to pay the expended money.’ Who do we believe between Obienyem and Uzodike? In the wake of revelations that the Obiano regime inherited N9b cash and investments worth N35b, Mr Peter Obi on Tuesday, December 1, 2015, placed a two page advertorial in The Nation titled DETAILS OF CASH/INVESTMENTS LEFT BY FORMER GOV PETER OBI. It was signed by Joe Martin Uzodike.

With the November poll around the corner, there has been a late realisation that it is self defeating talking about N7b. If there is now admission that it is unhealthy playing the godfather, the next logical step should be to let Obiano continue the good work.

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