By Tobenna Obiano
In the last two weeks or more, there has been allegations and pointes towards the immediate past Governor of Anambra State, Mr. Peter Obi. It is alleged that he is now a godfather of modern Anambra State politics. This allegation is somehow coming from all corners, the opposition and virtually from every side. Let’s demystify the person of Peter Obi.
Mr. Peter Obi arrived fully made, he was remarkably successful, infact, in the words of Africa’s wealthiest man, Aliko Dangote, “Peter Obi is one of Nigeria’s finest being and the greatest gift the private sector has given to the public sector, and to the Nigerian political landscape, Anambra State became the lucky gainers”. Therefore, even before his joining politics, he has established himself so well in various fronts.
He contested for Anambra State Gubernatorial where he began, as a trained Philosopher with a rhetorical question, “Is Anambra State cursed or are we the cause?” He went ahead to prove that Anambra wasn’t cursed, but we caused our innumerable problems.
That election in 2003 was marred by irregularities where the PDP rigged it in their favour and Dr. Chris Ngige was sworn in as Governor. Obi didn’t give up, he pushed for three solid years to win back his victory and as Ngige was sacked from office, Obi was sworn in.
It was alleged that Ngige’s sacking actually happened because he fell out with his godfathers who wanted to take home if possible, every monies within their reach. They dared to feed fat from the state’s treasure and taxpayers collective wealth just as it was under Dr. Chinwoke Mbadinuju who remains one of Nigeria’s worst Governors of all time. Under Mbadinuju’s administration, public schools were once under lock and keys for over one year. It was a terrible past. An inglorious past.
Ngige resisted his godfathers, even as it was alleged that before his installment as Governor, he was made to swear an oath with the then popular and monstrous Okija shrine. The diminutive white beard Alor chief, a known no-nonsense man wouldn’t take it. He refused to succumb to their selfish pressure or wicked bidding, he challenged them, fighting them headon, and they made the state as they promised, ungovernable for him.
The powerful godfathers wouldn’t take it either, it was therefore a clash of the titans. Government establishments including the Anambra State Broadcasting Corporation, the State House of Assembly complex, the Deputy Governors office and the Governors lodge at Onitsha were all burnt down by those criminals. Sadly, while the perpetrators of these crime carried out their nefarious activities in broad day light, various security apparatuses, the police particularly looked the other way, infact waving and hailing them.
The worse happened when it got so bad, that Dr. Ngige, a serving Governor was kidnapped and held hostage at the then popular Choice Hotel, located in the heart of Awka, the Anambra State capital. He was even forced to sign his resignation letter, where he outsmarted them, signing and crossing same out. Therefore, it is alleged that the godfathers having been fed-up with him, decided to put him out and away at all cost. Well, before the troubles began, he had gone roadwire, constructing too many roads that even till this day, stands the test of time. Talk about roads in Anambra, we give it up to him.
With Ngige’s sack, Obi was installed Anambra State Governor after three years in Nigerian judiciary process. Obi was only settling down when trouble started, he was impeached. His impeachment led to the history of the first female Governor in Nigeria who was then, his deputy, Dame Virgy Etiaba. She served for only three months and Obi was reinstated as the impeachment process was wrong.
When Obi returned, he set out to work and was pushing as much as he could before from the back doors again, the PDP in an unholy union brought Chief. Andy Ubah as a duly elected Governor of Anambra. Again, Obi returned to the courts maintaining that his tenure hasn’t elapsed. While Obi was in court seeking interpretation, right from the dramatic swearing-in of Chief. Andy Ubah, he dissolved all Ministerial heads, Commissions and Agencies. The worst was that in just two weeks, he sold the only known business property of the State, the Ikenga Hotels, Awka for a paltry sum of N5million to a supposed front of his.
The court maintained that elections were conducted in Anambra State when the tenure of a sitting Governor wasn’t completed yet. Mr. Andy Ubah who had only served for 17days was asked by the court to vacate office with immediate effect. The streets of Awka and Onitsha was in jubilation mood as Ubah was sacked. These records are firsts in Nigeria’s political history of nationhood. Obi pushed ahead and was again reinstated.
Fact is, Obi’s first tenure was marred by many differing stands from wrongdoing in electoral process coupled with inadequacies and endless court follow-ups occasioned by wrongful impeachment, stealing his mandate and other irregularities from enemies of the state and ndi-Igbo. Yet, he was able to perform creditably well that he gained the trust of various communities and majorly many religious groups. He contested for a second term and it was an easy ride. He worked assiduously hard and testimonies to the glory of the man abound everywhere.
He upgraded various general hospitals, expanded and increased infrastructural developments at the state owned university, returned schools to the original owners, the church and financed them while monitoring whatsoever that happens while also donating buses to virtually all schools in Anambra state, both public and private schools. This gesture has helped Anambra become and remained tops in National board exams throughout his second tenure and in the early years of this present administration until lately.
In security, Obi aided the police, military and navy in somany ways. He donated pick-up vans also bought from our own Innoson motors to various towns, markets and parks for security purposes, to saving stipends as payments for volunteer local vigilante personnel. Every Igwe or traditional Ruler in Anambra was gifted an official car to help them as chief security officers of their various communities, the Sport Utility Vehicles were bought also from Innoson motors. The success we record even till this day was the hardwork and futuristic thinking and investment of Obi in the state’s security.
He built an e-library, built two phases of the Chief. Jerome Udoji State Secretariat, built a teaching hospital for the state owned university. Aside Commissioners and Permanent Secretaries, he gifted official cars also to Judges and even Directors in the State civil service, the first of its kind in Nigeria.
It was under Obi that ANIDS mass transit was birthed, he funded and improved the oil well or deposit located in Anambra North, where he funded same plus pushing for Anambra to be noted as amongst oil producing states. Obi even gifted N1million each to exceptionally brilliant graduates who are Anambra indigenes who made first class from any university in the world. He went ahead to pushing for another APGA candidate to take over from him at he end of his tenure, keeping his promise to the late Biafran warlord and former National leader of APGA, Ikemba Nnewi, Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu.
The hallmark of Obi’s time was at his giving of what was termed, “An Account of Stewardship”, where he noted even before various bank chiefs and representatives from the Federal Government that he had saved billions in naira and millions in dollars for his predecessor, even as his colleagues in other states stole as much as they ever could and plumbed their state’s treasure into huge debt.
Obi was the man who saw tomorrow and saved for the rainy days. In the words of Chief. Emeka Morocco Maduka, he aptly captioned the Obi person where he noted that “onye obula ga achi Anambra, ya chikwa ya ka Pita Obi” translated to read: whoever would govern Anambra, should govern the state like Peter Obi. This was featured in a hit track from his egwu ekpiri music.
Now, after a sterling performance in office, Obi gloriously left office with shoulders high where his achievements while in office bore eloquent testimonies for him even till date. Love or hate him, he is the most populous and beloved politician from the Southeast extraction of this day.
At this juncture, for the purpose of clarity, it is pertinent to note that the emergence of Chief. Willie Obiano as Anambra State Governor was made possible chiefly, if not single handedly by Mr. Peter Obi. Fact is, Obiano a returnee Americana wholly flew on the willing wings of Obi. Take away Obi from the calculation, there might have been no Obiano, at least as far as politics and leadership is concerned. The later might have remained a retiree at his Houston Texas home.
Obi and Obiano fell out. Rumor mongers used that opportunity to make funny postulations, some which are unfounded, others driven by selfishness and even more carried by haters or those who stood for the opposition or they who aimed to beat up the polity. It went so bad that Obi, as it was alleged was asked to leave a party which he is a known foundation and force to reckon with. He left APGA and joined the PDP where he was able to fully focus on and work for the bid of his friend, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan to be reelected Nigeria’s President, which failed.
Sadly, things deteriorated even more, going from bad to worse, that the powers-that-be in Awka as it was rumored, went as far as making a nonsense of Mr. Obi, where major media houses ran hateful and abusive advertorials on his person. This cost the state a fortune. The aim was to shame, to ridicule and to humiliate him. This agelong saying, a man’s records and name speaks for him, like the Biblical Peter, Obi was like a rock, okwute, fought from every side, yet remained undefeated. He is another replica of a cat with nine lives.
It is on record that the former Nigerian President, Goodluck Jonathan in one of his visit to Anambra during his reelection campaign bid at the palace of Agbogidi, Obi of Onitsha, the President tried to make peace between both gentlemen where they were even caught in warmth embrace before the camera. At one of the Chrism mass in Awka, there was yet another peace and reconciliation move, again before the camera.
The hallmark was when Obi was apologized to by his successor right before the remains of their former school’s Principal, a Priest of the Catholic Church of Onitsha ArchDiocese at the request of the ArchBishop, Most. Rev. Valerian Okeke. Again, they posed for the camera. Well, it seemed that it was already too late to cry, as things have already fallen apart and the center may never hold.
Today, Obi is still a special guest, being invited at various platforms and gatherings as guest lecturer and keynote speaker, this is within and even outside Nigerian shores. He also has resorted to philanthropy where he is donating to schools throughout Nigeria. Obi has distinctively carried himself with this unparalleled humility, held to high heavens his sanity, remained sound, seasoned, polished, fine and refined. Most of Obi’s greatest critics even respect him for who he is and what he represents, an epitome of humility.
One of Obi’a major selling point is his disciplined style in management of resources. He is not reckless and he does not get carried away easily by wealth, especially that of the people. Infact, politicians refer to him as “aka-gum” meaning: super glue-hand, which entails that he doesn’t ever like wasteful spending. This is a virtue worth being emulated, but our politicians and their cronies will radically resist same and disagree unapologetically. Note also, Obi is no Saint, but the man is good and he is saintly as far as Nigerian political circle is concerned.
It is alleged today that hell let lose when Obi began to demand, just like godfathers of the past, that Obiano repays him the monies he spent for his campaign and election as Anambra State Governor, amount which has been placed to be at or about seven to eight billion naira.
While these are unfounded claims without any means of verification or proof, it’s important to note herein that what bothers every sensible person remains, why Obi who had left behind in monies, assets and investments, nearly N50billion would be demanding for a pitiful N8billion. This doesn’t add up. And while we only hear of this rhetorical claim, those who spread the misleading rumor refuse to remind Anambrarians that even Obi clearly stated that, if Obiano failed in their continuity project promise, he (Obi) would join the Anambra populace to vote him out. Obi may be out to keep his words.
It is really worrisome to read many Anambrarians from a particular divide, especially those from the Obiano camp and fan base insisting that Obi had brought Mr. Oseloka Henry Obaze as his stooge and political godson to take over from Obiano. This is a ridiculous tale of people who swim in ignorance. If Mr. Obaze, a sound and seasoned technocrat with outstanding profile and proven track record in his services at the United Nations, an international institution of high repute for over two decades is referred to as a stooge, then we have lost it all.
Even so, most amongst the APGA chieftains never knew Mr. Willie Obiano until he was returned as the flag bearer of APGA in 2013. Infact, he wasn’t the supposedly favored candidate, neither was he in the calculation ab initio. It was Obi and the then National Chairman, Chief. Victor Umeh who settled for him and that was how Obiano went ahead to win elections.
During debates in America, Obiano who was only an entrant into politics wasn’t performing well in his responses, Obi rose to the task and took the microphone to speak for his candidate. Again, in Awka, during the debates which was moderated by the then Managing Director of The SUN Newspaper, Mr. Femi Adeshina who now is Presidential spokesperson, Obiano was said to have cheated.
Infact, Dr. Ifeanyi Ubah who was a candidate of Labour Party and Chris Ngige who was of APC caught Mr. Obiano of APGA with pieces of papers where responses had been written down for him before hand. Ubah even referred to that as an expo, as he picked it up and passed same to Ngige and other candidates. Pieces of papers with writings weren’t allowed in the process.
Not-minding all those, Obi fully gave in for Obiano, he offered his shoulder for him to lean on and gave up his willing wings for Obiano to fly on. Infact, at various campaign outing back then, it was Obi and Umeh who did the major talking to convincing the electorate. It was Obi’s wonders that made everything possible. Therefore, if we talk about godfatherism, then it should be put to fact that Obiano was once Obi’s political godson. This didn’t stop Obiano from performing. He might have underperformed given to all he had, a tilled ground and a prosperous society where virtually everything was readied.
If Obiano was able to perform to this level of near-average as many would say, even as he was Obi’s godson, then we must collectively ask for the likes of Obi as godfather even in Nigerian politics generally. This is because his type of “godfatherism” begets goodness, progress and prosperity as against rancor, hate, destabilization, burning of government properties and even kidnapping. It has happened in Anambra before.
Obi keeps his words for those are his bounds, if you fail to continue with the continuity project and promise, I will join forces to eject you, simply removing and replacing you. Obi is currently bent on achieving this promise.
It is cheap therefore to refer to Obi as a godfather, but even if he was to be one, the type that keeps his words. The type of godfather instead of stealing plenty, saved somuch for his predecessor yet it is alleged he is asking for so little. If he were to be a godfather yet his godson hasn’t failed entirely, we want his type of godfatherism. We are fine with his style.
Now, the only limiting force that may be holding the PDP back from retaking the Anambra State Government House is the internal crisis brought about by perceived irregularities that marred the process that produced Mr. Oseloka as her flag bearer. Even so, the APC was won by money speaks and highest bidder freak, while APGA though divided had virtually all nominees for the primaries adorning “ashobi” boring the face of a particular candidate. Who does that? It’s even only PPA and maybe also, UPP that had nearly all-things settled amicable in their primary elections.
If the PDP caucus gets able to liaise with Dr. Ifeanyi Ubah and he accepts not to push further to law court and chooses to soft-peddle and maybe, subsequently supporting Obaze as candidate, with Chief. Ifeanyi Ubah’s outreach, capacity, carriage and popularity, it would become a win win for PDP. This is the only setback, if it gets rectified, as the Latin says: “consummatum est”, it is finished!
Lastly, note again that even common sense they say isn’t common, ignorance, pride and rascality has overtaken many. Insult Obi as much as you may ever wish, backlash him to high heavens, at the end, ignore him in today’s Nigerian political space at your own peril.
Peter Obi, alleged to be a godfather of modern Anambra politics, bring it on, we love his type of godfatherism. Atleast, he has a proven and clean track record and he brings those who have humility and a record that can dwarf and shame many others.
It shall come to pass, so says the psalmist, agreed futurist.
Culled from CFR Magazine