Anambra State and The One-Term Governor Syndrome (Part II)

Anambra State and The One-Term Governor Syndrome (Part II)

In my previous article titled: “Anambra State and the One-Term Governor Syndrome” published in on March 8, 2007.

I traced the history of governors in democratic dispensation in Anambra state and how they were all restricted to one-term irrespective of how good they were. Starting from the time of Chief Jim Nwobodo and Chief Christian Onoh of the old Anambra state through Chief Chukwuemeka Ezeife, Dr. Odera Mbadinuju, and Dr. Chris Ngige of the new Anambra state, the state has never produced a governor that had the privilege of two terms.

Governor Peter Obi is now front and center with history. History is not on his side. That jinx has never been broken. Of course Gov. Obi knows about this jinx and wants to give it a fight to see whether he would break it. With Obi’s doggedness and tenacity, he can as well break another record. So it is only time will tell whether he would break this barrier that others before him could not. But Obi’s is putting tremendous efforts to consolidate his hold to power by his sterling performance. Time has changed; Anambra is more politically savvy than was given credit by the bookmakers. Anambra State is a unique state, despite what detractors and so-called analyst say, history has shown that they cannot properly analyze our state. Anambra is on its own program. It is the first and only state with the highest turnover of governors. If that is not democracy in action, what is? Between 2003 and now, Anambra produced four different governors and five different administrations as I pointed out in the Part I. The time I wrote the first part of this article, Prof. Maurice Iwu, the Independent National Election Commission was in the process of disqualifying Gov Obi of APGA, Chris Ngige of AC and Nicholas Ukachukwu of ANPP from participating in the April 2007 election and thereby making way for the ‘chosen one’, Andy Uba.

True to people’s fears, Prof Iwu disqualified Chris Ngige, Peter Obi and Nicholas Ukachukwu based on spurious charge that Ngige did not come back to Nigeria to swear to an affidavit in front of a High Court Judge, even though Ngige’s form of intent to contest an election was sworn to by Ngige before a Judge in Maryland, USA and thereby satisfying that provision of the electoral law. Gov. Peter Obi was also disqualified by INEC from contesting the election, basing its action on the fact that APGA had two factions. But Iwu recognized the faction of the expelled former chairman of APGA, Chekwas Okorie, even though a court of competent jurisdiction has recognized the Chief Vincent Umeh faction as the genuine faction of APGA. It was later alleged that Iwu’s INEC forged an Abuja Federal High Court judgment recognizing the Okorie’s faction. Prof Iwu usurped the power of the court by suspending candidates from election, a power reserved to the courts as the Supreme Court had ruled in the case between Alhaji Atiku Abubakar and INEC had shown.

Also at the time I wrote the first part of this article, Peter Obi was at the Supreme Court for it to interpret section 180 of the 1999 constitution with regard to his tenure. Obi had argued that since his tenure was usurped by Ngige and that since his (Obi’s) oath of office and oath of allegiance was taken on the 17th day of March, 2006; that his tenure has not expired, judging from the the provisions of section 180 (2) of the constitution. When he was going to court for the interpretation of the constitution, many people did not believe he would make it. Many thought that Obi has lost his mind and that his belief was an utopia “taken too far”. But he did not listen to nay-sayers.

But as the matter was going on in the Supreme Court, INEC conducted the ‘sham’ called election and (s) elected Andy Uba. Uba was sworn in on the 29th day of May, 2007 but the Supreme Court ealier warned him that if Obi’s case succeeded at the court, that Andy Uba would be sacked. Andy ruled Anambra state for barely 2 weeks (from May 29 to June 14 2007) before the Supreme Court sacked him ruling that Peter Obi’s tenure was still subsisting until March 17th, 2010, and that Andy Uba was sworn in to the post of governor that was not vacant. In other words, the kernel of the Supreme Court ruling was basically that it is biologically impossible for a woman to conceive a second time while she is still pregnant. The court also chastised INEC for wasting the tax-payers’ money to conduct an election to the post of a governor that was in contention even when INEC was a party to the suit. INEC also went ahead to conduct an election thinking that it would circumvent the judgment of the apex court.

By the Supreme Court’s ruling, Peter Obi resumed his office as governor. By the ruling of the court also, Andy Uba cannot be said to be a governor since the post he was contesting was not open for contest. But for the purpose of this analysis, Andy Uba has added his name to the list of the ‘one-termers’ in Anambra state.

That leads us to the issue of the day: can Obi defy the gods and win a second term? The answer lies sometime between January and February 2010 in line with section 178 (2) of the constitution which states that:

“An election to the office of Governor of a State shall be held on a date not earlier than sixty days and not later than thirty days before the expiration of the term of office of the last holder of that office.”

So our answer would come at that time. However, hate Gov Obi or love him, he has changed the political landscape of Anambra. With no god-father and being in the minority party, he enjoys the goodwill of the masses. Prior to his becoming governor, Abuja or Lagos politicians had dictated who gets what in Anambra state. Before Obi, no one has won a landslide victory against a ruling party only to be rigged out in a landslide.

Also before Obi, no candidate has ever dethroned a sitting governor! When he was going to court to recover his mandate stolen by Ngige and his cohorts, no one gave Obi a chance to win in the court. He was called a ‘day-dreamer’, ‘idealist’ and even ‘utopian’ but he kept faith with his ideals. He was offered political settlement and cash to off-set his campaign expenses and he refused. He lost close political associates when he was involved in the struggles to recover what rightly belonged to him. The Chairman of his party at the time, Chief Chekwas Okorie, threw him overboard and went to Ngige to surrender APGA and Obi’s mandate. However, when he finally won in the Court of Appeal, his ‘friends’ came back. Just like everything in life, everyone loves a winner, but everyone would not go to the trenches with you to fight.

It becomes the norm now for rightful winners of election to go to court and stand firm to get what belongs to them. Governor Adams Oshiomhole of Edo state and Governor Olusegun Mimiko of Ondo state had followed suit and helped in solidifying our democracy. Also other states have not completed election challenges in the tribunals. States like Delta, Osun, Imo, Ogun, Oyo etc are still battling in the tribunals to recover what they believe are theirs. Ekiti state had its election nullified by the Court of Appeal and a new election scheduled by INEC on the 25th of April 2009. There are many other states that had witnessed intense challenges at the tribunals both in the gubernatorial and state and federal legislative houses. This is unprecedented in our history, but thanks to the precedent Obi created, every candidate now believes that following due process and trusting the judiciary would lead to recovery of political power brazenly stolen by professional riggers, the PDP. Obi’s name is therefore associated with due process and rule of law. He has expanded the interpretation of the constitution and has by his fight to recover his mandate made for the broadening of our status as a country that practices federalism.

Also Peter Obi has changed the election calendar in Nigeria. Before now, elections were held uniformly in the whole federation. Governorship and Houses of Assembly elections were held in every state in Nigeria on the same day. But with Obi’s history at the Supreme Court, election would now be held after the term of a governor expires counting from the day he took his oath of office and oath of allegiance. Anambra state now has its own gubernatorial election time-table, and also Edo state, Ondo State and Rivers State.

Gov Obi also made another milestone when he became one of the few governors to have their purported impeachment nullified by court. His party, APGA had only one member out of thirty in the House of Assembly but the majority party, PDP, could not muster a 2/3 majority to impeach him but violated section 188 of the constitution that deals with impeachment of a governor of a state. Obi was able to get 13 members to oppose his impeachment.

Also prior to his becoming governor, NARTO (National Association of Road Transport Owners) was a parallel government in the state. They collect park dues and rates without accounting to the state government. In other words, any dues or levies they collect go not to the government but to them and they feed fat on the government funds and accounted to no one but to themselves. Obi stood up to them and put a stop to that even when it was seen as political suicide to challenge the almighty NARTO. Now I do not know whether anyone knows why the Internally Generated Revenue of the state is now in billions of naira.

Many towns and villages now have a feel of government presence. Before now, funds allocated for all kinds of projects were embezzled by state officials and their collaborators, state officials were at the payroll of contractors. Contractors collude with government officials and the so-called town union representatives to embezzle money allocated to their towns for government projects. All these are in the past since transparent government and accountability is the signpost of Obi’s administration. Before now, who knew that Anambra could actually rank among the best states in the federation in terms of development.

Also prior to Obi’s government, private security or vigilante is the order of the day. Mbadinuju’s government used the services of Bakassi Boys to provide security of life and property even when there a law enforcement entity called the Nigerian Police. But he came on board and disbanded the dreaded Bakassi Boys. Also MASSOB (Movement for the Actualization of Biafra) was infiltrated by some sponsored hoodlums to cause problems in the state, but Gov Obi showed some political courage and banned them from the state. He received severe criticisms from politicians that wanted to play to the gallery, but he stood firm believing that it was the right thing to do.

Just like when a barrier is to be broken, not many people would come on board. When Barack Obama wanted to be president of the United States, many people, including this writer, did not believe that a skinny black man with funny looking ear and a funny sounding name would prove cynics wrong to become the president of the most powerful country in the world. Also when former Governor Orji Uzor Kalu said that Enyimba Football Clubs of Aba would win the African Cup of Champions for the first time for Nigeria, many people called him “big-mouth”. When they won and Orji Kalu said that they would win the cup back to back, some people did not believe him, but it came to pass and the jinx that stopped other Nigerians elite teams were broken. Gov Obi has been doubted before and many doubt that he would scale through the one-term jinx, not with the political forces against him. But Obi is not a superstar as our typical politicians are. As Henry Kessinger would say:

“The modern politician is less interested in being a hero than a superstar. Heroes walk alone; star derive their status from approbation. Heroes are defined by inner values, stars by consensus”

So for now the one-term jinx remains. With Obi’s breaking many barriers, let us wait and see whether he would meet his waterloo in this election or whether he would break yet another record. As this one-term jinx stares him in the face, we will know as Obi had said whether we are cursed or whether we are the cause.

*Chukwudi Nwokoye writes from Maryland, USA

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