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Of godfatherism, Anambra and November 18 election


Recently, The Punch newspaper reported former governor of Anambra State, His Excellency, Peter Obi, as saying that he would fight with his last drop of blood to stop the re-election of the incumbent, His Excellency, Willie Obiano. As expected, the story sliced chunks off newspaper spaces and cut a swathe through the social media. But just before the message could sink in, efforts were made by his aides to disclaim the story as inconsistent with his person. Obi, hardly a flaming radical, is perceived by many as being of considerate behaviour and, therefore, incapable of speaking in a manner as reported by the newspaper. But was that true? 

Long before the report, Obi had denied any beefs with Chief Obiano and had consistently maintained he bears no grudges against his office. His aides have also reaffirmed this position and even went further to add that he had not visited Awka since leaving office, much less make any demands from the governor. How true?

A few days back, Dr. Patrick Ifeanyi Ubah, the CEO of Capital Oil Nigeria Limited and one of the PDP gubernatorial aspirants in the state, was a guest on Focus, a programme of the African Independent Television (AIT). He did not only contradict Obi’s claim of no-grudges against the governor, but also said that his sponsorship of Oseloka Henry Obaze as grudge candidate and PDP’s gubernatorial flag bearer was not to win the governorship election but to box Governor Obiano into a corner to give him N7billion he claimed to have used in making him governor. Asked if he was not out to malign Obi, Ubah said he has no reason to do so. On the contrary, he challenged Obi to debate the matter with him on a national television where he promised to adduce documents to support his position. Obi’s camp is yet to take up this challenge.

Before this time, Chief Joe Martins Uzodike, a known hatchet man of Obi, who has found no worthier engagement than a weekly vilification of Governor Obiano on radio, had made the same revelation. He said Obi cannot forgive Obiano until he repays the N7billion allegedly used in making him governor. The revelation came within days of Obiano’s public apology to Obi during the burial of the late Reverend Father Tagbo, the thorough-paced ex-principal of Christ the King College, Onitsha. Uzodike who, by the way, is Obi’s alter ego (he does most of the shuttle diplomacy with him) said he was privy to how the funds were raised. Claiming knowledge of what transpired in the making of the governor, Uzodike averred that Obi sold his house in Abuja to the NNPC to raise the campaign funds.

Aware of the level of insincerity of most Nigerian politicians, it will be prudent not to accept the disclaimer as given. From the accounts of both Ubah and Uzodike, it is clear that Obi has a grouse against Obiano. What is not clear is the bent Uzodike gave as the source of the fund. Whether it is state’s fund or private? But those who have followed Obi’s politics since his time in Awka will not hesitate to question Uzodike’s story. Obi was and still is a businessman in politics. His business has always been first, and in his eight years as governor he never compromised a nickel of it. Only the gullible see him as different from the politician next door. If he can deny having more than two pairs of shoes and a watch, just to intone a puritanical posture, is it impossible for him to advertise the sale of his property (meanwhile he never accepted he had any, except a house in Onitsha) while, at the same time, help himself from the treasury. After all, his administration claimed to have left enough (N75 billion) in the state coffers.

The only difference between Obi and the other politician is his practiced deception. He does not trip up on public image. More than any governor since the creation of Anambra State, he has equivocated on everything, sometimes swearing with the lives of his children just to be believed. Till date, no good explanation was offered for the N250million of state fund caught with his aide who was obviously laundering the money on behalf of somebody. It is amazing to hear people say that he is bringing Obaze because Obiano failed. How did he fail? Is it for refusing to mortgage Anambra State’s money or for declining daily lessons on governance? 

But who made Obi eternal godfather of Anambra State that he can now appoint and remove at will? When has Anambra become another Kwara State and Obi an Olusola Saraki? We can understand why the late Saraki or Bola Tinubu can be accorded such honour. Didn’t they build political followership? Didn’t they invest in their youth? How many politician did Obi make? How many industries did he build in the state to employ the Internet dogs who bay at every reasonable discourse? If Obiano could not part with N7billion of the state funds, which made Obi to declare war, how much is the new kid on the block, Obaze, will pay? It must be twice the sum because it is four years since the failed deal and there is inflation.

Assuming ndi Anambra will be ready to sacrifice their egalitarian spirit for anybody, must it be Obi and his candidate? If Emeka Offor failed after a try with Dr. Chinwoke Mbadinuju and the Ubah brothers could not do better with Dr. Chris Ngige, what makes Obi think he can be any better? Who made him the godfather of Anambra politics for life? What did he do for ndi Anambra before and since leaving office? He did not locate his business in the state, like some of these patriots: Innocent Chukwumas, Cosmos Madukas, Emeka Okwuosas, Ifeanyi Ubahs, and Nicholas Ukachukwus etc. His Next International could only nestle in Abuja. Even as governor, he made no employment. He could only employ when he was leaving office and claimed he kept the salaries of the workers for Obiano. Fantastic! If their salaries were available, why didn’t he employ them earlier?

Obi had the chance to write his names in gold but rather than do that he chose to go slavery, selfishness and minimalism. What most of his acolytes celebrate as great achievements, vis a vis development elsewhere, were middling efforts. Starting from the roads he constructed to his flagship project- the state secretariat. The workers’ office is seriously threatened by deep cracks and, if unattended, may go the way of some of his failed projects, like the office of the Ministry of Lands. Most of the roads built in his time are no better. Even without shouldering serious traffic, most of them have developed serious gullies. The amount of money spent today in patching them could be put to other use.

Writing about Obi’s roads in a publication of Sahara Reporters of June 15, 2012, Hon Chudi Ofodile, former member of the House of Representatives, said: “As regards the quality of the roads, most indigenes would admit that you can determine which road was done under Ngige and the ones under Peter Obi by the standard. The roads built under Ngige are of a much higher quality. Most of the roads done by Peter Obi will have to be re-awarded, a case of penny wise, pound foolish.”    

Indeed Igbariam road, leading to the Odumegwu Ojukwu University and a few others were done twice to be passable. Ofodile had no kinder words for those who celebrate Obi’s middling achievements in education. Again he wrote: “He has no coherent educational policy. He would donate computers to some schools, give some principals money directly to build toilets in the schools and then supply some with generators as the spirit moves him.”

With political profiteering at the back of Obi’s mind, it is understandable why he must fight with the last drop of his blood to stop Obiano’s re-election. But he must know the folks are wiser and will not honour him with greater riches of the state resources. Except the gods are in cahoots, there is very little he can do because if he succeeds the stake will be higher for everybody.