Anambra State is on the radar again. This time round it is for the soul of the state. The campaign for the 2010 election is in top gear. Right now there are many candidates that are vying to be the governor and to take over from the incumbent, Governor Peter Obi. By the last count, there are 57 candidates that have either declared their interests or have signaled that they are interested in being governor of the state. The list keeps growing by the day. The incumbent governor on his own side insisted that there is still no vacancy in the Governorâ€™s Mansion. Politics is good. God, I love politics! It is democracy in action. I do not see the many candidates coming out to be governor as a bad thing.
Anambra is a state with lots of potentials in all field of human endeavor. Name any trade or profession, and I can tell you many Anambra indigenes that are among the cream of the crop in that field. Is it in literature, engineering, medicine, arts, law, religion, architecture, business, computer, sports, academics, music or politics? Name it and we have it in a sizeable quantity.
As I said, it is not a bad thing for people to aspire to be governor of our state. Let the eagle perch and let the kite perch, let the hawk also perch, the one that says no to the other, let its wing break. But what I found distasteful and in fact, off-putting, is the way and manner they go about it. There is nothing wrong in aspiring to sub-plant a sitting governor as long as you do it in a civilized and decent manner. The kind of politics that we want is the one based on issues. The kind of politics where a candidate would tell us his views, his dreams and aspirations for our dear state and market it in such a way as to appeal to the generality of our people is the kind of politics missing. Many people in their desperation to be elected turned their campaign into that of name-calling and personal attacks. They turn it into the politics of slash and burn. They convert politics into what President Barrack Obama referred to as â€œvulgarization of politicsâ€
Politics as some would say is a dirty game. But my take is that it is the people that practice politics that play it dirty. It is not the kind of politics that would build roads, hospitals, school, and provide the basic needs of ordinary people like water, security of life and property.
This politics of â€˜weâ€™ and â€˜theyâ€™, divide and rule; and demonizing your opponent in other to look good is what I am coming against. The politics of â€œif you miss the ball, donâ€™t miss the legâ€ has been rejected by our people for it does not help our cause. This is the kind of politics that the former Anambra state governor, Dr. Chris Nwabueze Ngige, is shamelessly engaging in. Where I come from, we have respect for our elders and our leaders. But we also have a saying that when we pay deference to an evil king and he refuses to change his ways, one day we would cover our faces with baskets and challenge him. Ngige has taken too much for the owner not to notice. This kind of petty politics does not say well of him as a past executive of the state even if that was fraudulently achieved. The fact that Ngige occupied that seat of power is what matters. Whether he occupied it legally or illegally is immaterial. Ngige should watch his utterances and his conducts. What comes out of his mouth these days is beginning to irritate the sensibilities of well-meaning citizens of Anambra state including me.
This new kind of attacks by Ngige against Governor Peter Obi is in bad taste. Granted, constructive criticism is part of democracy and state building. However, when criticism is based on half-truth, blatant lies, deceits and mischief, then the criticisms are no longer in good taste but out of malice. What we hear these days are ad hominem attacks.
Before now, the Ngige strategy was to say that Gov Obi is not doing anything. It was always that Gov Obi is not performing. That strategy failed. We have a saying that you can tell a blind man that there is no oil in the soup, but you cannot tell him that there is no salt. Having failed to convince us that Gov. Obi is not performing and we did not buy that; he tried another method which is to take credits for every achievement of Obiâ€™s government. Anything Gov Obi accomplishes, Ngigeâ€™s mouthpiece would go to town and say that it was in fact done by Ngige or that the contract was started by Ngige or that it was Ngigeâ€™s idea or that Ngige was thinking about it before Obi did it. When that strategy failed woefully, since Anambra people are not stupid, Ngigeâ€™s propagandists changed tunes again and said that Gov Obi had more federal allocation and more Internally Generated Revenue that Ngige when the latter was governor than when Ngige was governor.
So having tried many tactics and found out that Anambra people are more sophisticated than he believed, he changed tunes again. The new strategy now is name-calling and personal attacks. Everyday it is: â€œObi said that he is a catholic and he has chaplets inside all his pocketsâ€ â€œhe told traders to buy stocks and shares and now they lose their investmentsâ€ or â€œObi runs the state as his private businessâ€. The other time, he said that his aim is to deny Gov obi a second term. Some other politicians trying to govern the state have also join the name-calling chorus. â€œObi is tight-fistedâ€ â€œhe speaks like a girlâ€ â€œhe abandoned his APGA party menâ€ and so on and so forth.
It is the same kind of politics that the Republican Party is currently engaging in against President Barack Obama. Before his election, the republicans were saying that he would be overwhelmed by the office and that Americans doesnâ€™t need on-the-job-training (OJT) for a â€˜political neophyteâ€™ like Obama. When President Obama was sworn it and he surpassed expectations of cynics, they now say that he is â€œtrying to do too muchâ€ and that he should â€œslow downâ€. This strategy is not new to Americans. It was like when former President Bill Clinton presided over eight years of economic prosperity, the republicans tried to claim that it was actually because of policy initiated by Clintonâ€™s predecessor, George H. W. Bush. Even when President George Bush Jr. took over from Clinton and America was attacked under his watch on September 11, 2001, Bush blamed former President Clinton saying that it was because Clintonâ€™s administration did not update American Intelligence Agencies. They are fast to take credit for another presidentâ€™s achievement and also fast to ascribe blame to another president for their own mess.
But Americans knew better and chastised the republicans in two election cycles. Anambra people also know better and know how to separate the birds from the butterflies. We know the difference between a sheep and a goat or yam and cocoyam. You can deceive all the people some time, you can also deceive some people some times, but you cannot deceive all the people all the time. It is not going to happen.
Ngige has not said whether he would contest another election to be governor. He is not sure whether to return to PDP or to remain in AC, moreover, some other mushroom parties are trying to see if he would be an asset to them. However, it is still on record that Ngige has not won any election in Anambra state before, even though he had administered Anambra state before. His stock in trade now is to go around slandering the person of the governor. In the first place, Dr Ngige and his PDP henchmen stole Governor Obiâ€™s mandate in April 2003. Having stolen the election, Ngige fell out with his partners-in-crime. It is only in Nigeria that an election rigger would come out in straight face and prance around the state. It is only in Nigeria that a catholic Knight would go to a notorious â€˜Okijaâ€™ Shrine to swear to an oath of allegiance to his political god-father and still go around professing his catholic faith. After all, didnâ€™t he go there with his bible and chaplet is his pocket? Only in Nigeria would the same person turn around and chastise a sitting governor of impeccable achievement. It is like a thief stealing someoneâ€™s yam, and when he was caught and the yam retrieved from him, he now goes to town accusing the yam owner of wickedness.
After the Court of Appeal booted him out of the Anambra Government House, Ngige went around and boasted that Governor Obi would not last in office for 6 months. True to his boasts, Obi was unconstitutionally impeached by Ngigeâ€™s apologists in the Anambra State House of Assembly. But lies, deceits and injustices last for a time but do not abide forever. Only truth is constant and unchangeable.
If Ngige wants to rule Anambra again, this time without rigging, let him declare his interest. Let him put his cards on the table. Tell us what he has done while in office for 3 years apart from building roads and let us decide whether we would give him a fresh mandate or maybe reward or award him with the title of â€œHis Excellencyâ€. But it is up to us to decide whether Gov Obi or Dr Ngige or someone else should be governor come March 17th 2010. Let him bring out his achievement in 3 years and let Gov Obi bring out his own 3 years of service to the state and let us decide. Not on the pages of the newspaper but in the ballot box. Let the election be free and fair and let us see whom the people want to be their governor. I want Ngige to come out and face the electorates and if he is chosen over everyone else, then good luck to him.
This politics of personal attack does not do any good to anybody. It did not work in the 2nd Republic. During that period, it was this kind of politics that kept the old Anambra state at daggers-drawn against each other. Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe was taunted by the Dr. Alex Ekwuemeâ€™s cohorts in the NTA (Nigerian Television Authority) a federally owned news media that in other climes should cater for the well-being of generality of its citizens irrespective of political affiliations. Governor Jim Nwobodo was also taunted as â€œOchomma I of Igbo landâ€-number one fashion governor of Igbo land. Not to be outdone, Chief Nwobodo created the Anambra State Broadcasting Service (ABS) and used it to fire back at his opponents. Chief Christian Onoh was called â€œono okpaâ€ and Chief Emeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu was called â€œedi afu onuâ€, due to his beard. The politics of 2nd Republic in the old Anambra state was very nasty and full of all kinds of vulgarity. Physical and verbal attacks were the other of the day. Nwobodoâ€™s â€œJim Vanguardâ€ and Ojukwuâ€™s â€œIkemba Frontâ€ confronted each other at Nkpor Junction and lives were lost and many people were injured. Nwobodoâ€™s status as a divorcee was made a campaign issue. His adversaries were saying that â€œif he cannot rule his family, how can he rule a stateâ€ even when Nwobodo has demonstrated in the first term that he could effectively rule the state.
At that time, Anambra state had many people in federal government that could attract development for the people of the state, but they were busy antagonizing each other to do anything positive. The Vice President, Chief Alex Ifeanyichukwu Ekwueme; the Political Adviser to President Shehu Shagari, Chief Chuba Wilberforce Okadigbo; and the Speaker of the Federal House of Representatives, Chief Edwin Ume-Ezeoke, were all from Anambra state. What did the state benefit from their being close to the corridors of power? The state benefited nothing. Nwobodo and his group would not succumb to the federal might and Ekwueme and his own group would not suffer their perceived abuse lightly. It was bickering, back-stabbing and jealousy. When Nwobodo was undertaking his massive Rural Electrification Project, the NPN gladiators were involved in politics of shameful misinformation and falsehood. The NPN crowd claimed that it was in fact the Federal Government under Shagari/Ekwuemeâ€™s NPN that was undertaking the project. When that claim failed woefully, they then started attacking the project as â€œonya nwududoâ€-spider web. They went around telling people â€œonya nwududo o nyere unu, anaghikwa enwu okuâ€-the spider web he provided for you people does not work. They even circumvented all effort Gov Nwobodo put in to see that NEPA brought light to the people. And who suffered from that stupidity of our leaders? It was the poor masses.
It is the above kind of politics that is being recycled by Ngige and politicians of his ilk. Governor Peter Obi has performed wonderfully well despite the volatile political environment he had found himself in and despite the fact that his tenure was interrupted by the impeachment and the 17 day rule of another impostor, Andy Uba. Gov Obi has performed better than all Anambra state governors put together. For starters, Gov Obi out-performed Chris Ngige in the latterâ€™s â€˜bread and butterâ€™ issue which is road construction. While Ngige constructed 198 kilometers of roads while Gov Obi has constructed more than 300 kilometers of roads. Massive federal and state roads were constructed. Not only that, Obi has shown giant strides in other sectors. Obi has shown some 21st Century changes in education, health, judiciary, sports, water, agriculture and provision of basic infrastructures. There is no town in the 177 towns in the state that has not received one kind of government developmental activity or another. Many â€˜forgottenâ€™ towns in Anambra have felt the presence of government which is what it should be. All these milestones are real and verifiable, and you do not need to take my words for it.
By any means, Obi is not a saint. He is subject to human frailty and imperfections. However, we did not vote for a saint. I refuse to believe that Peter Obi is the best governor that Anambra is capable of producing. However, for right now, I cannot see any of the candidates that have what it takes to out-perform Gov Obi. That better candidate may still come out between now and the election time, but at the time of writing this; I have not seen that candidate.
Still like I said, Gov Obi is far from being perfect. But my considered view is that Obiâ€™s so-called faults are related to his political naivety than malice or incompetence. His adversaries are quick to point out that he is stingy and that he runs the state like his private company. Haba! Donâ€™t we rather have a governor that would run our commonwealth with shrewdness and prudence as his own than a governor that would open the treasury to politicians to plunder. What really is wrong with the masses for once getting a better deal than the politicians prowling around the state, looking for Obiâ€™s downfall so that they would swoop on our wealth to feather their own nest? But Obi has shown tremendous courage under fire. He took on lots of politically unpopular stand for the betterment of the state and succeeded.
But no matter how good you are, human beings are insatiable. There is nothing one can do to silence mischief makers and detractors. No one is perfect except God. Even Jesus did not silent his detractors despite all his good deeds. He cured the sick, paralytics walked again; he cured the leprous, brought the dead to life, fed the hungry, and freed people in bondage and many other good works while on earth. But did the Pharisees and Scribes leave him alone? No. They came with one accusation after the other. They accused him of eating and working on the Sabbath day, they said that he was â€˜palling aroundâ€™ (apologies to Gov. Sarah Palin, Republicn Vice-Presidential candidate) with tax collectors and sinners, they also accused him of saying that he would destroy the temple and re-build it in 3 days. They even accused him of blaspheming God by proclaiming that he was the son of God and for not fasting. They went ahead and plot for his death. If Jesus the Christ, and the Son of God, and whom we see as a model of perfection, had to go through all these despite the good things he did and saved mankind, then what would happen to a mortal? So there is nothing one can do to please everyone. All we have to do is to please God and leave the rest. Governor Obi should not be discouraged by caustic and even destructive criticisms from infantile politicians. He should expect that with time, they would also accuse him of President John F. Kennedyâ€™s assassination.
In my place we say that â€œanaghi akali ndi nnadi, mana o bu aru ka a na-akatalu haâ€-you cannot defeat your detractors, but you can get stronger for them. I see all these as a mixture of desperation and jealousy. King Saul was jealous of David after the latter killed Goliath and the women came out of the cities of Israel and sang â€œSaul killed his thousands and David killed his ten thousandsâ€. That brought jealousy and Saul eyed David since that day and sought to destroy David. We have a saying that if a man fetches more fire woods than his mates, detractors would say that he fetch the fire woods from the evil forest.
There are still people that want to return Anambra to its dark days. We have to know what Anambra state was like before Obi took over as governor. Some of Ngigeâ€™s legacies include total chaos and insecurity. Ngige made history as the 1st governor of Anambra state to be kidnapped at gun-point by his god-fathers and allegedly put in a toilet severally slapped and abused with an AK-47 assault rifle pointed at his head. It was Ngige that was ran out of the road by Chief Chris Ubaâ€™s motorcade including Mobile Policemen. It was also on Ngigeâ€™s watch that the Government House and other government offices were burnt down in broad daylight from November 20th to November 23rd, 2004. It was hard to know who was in charge of the state between Ngige and Chris Uba. There was total breakdown of law and order. Whether Ngige played out that drama himself to receive peopleâ€™s sympathy or the chaos during that period in fact happened, are both unacceptable in our democracy. During his reign, Anambra state was always in the news for the wrong reasons. There has always been that drama between Ngige and his estranged god-fathers to the detriment of the state. There was also the issue NARTO collecting the park rates unchallenged. With all these chants that Ngige is tough, he didnâ€™t have the ball to stop them from channeling the stateâ€™s resources to their own selfish needs. All these drama stopped when Peter Obi became governor.
One should not be surprised to hear some more accusations and propaganda against Gov Obi. But we know the antics of sore losers when we see it. It is the politicians that feel sore about Obiâ€™s achievements and they also feel bitter that he closed their avenue of get-rich-quick at the expense of the masses. But the masses are not deceived by the politiciansâ€™ antics. Anambra people are smarter than book-makers and analysts give us credit for.
Everything happening in Anambra including kidnap and sudden surge in armed robbery few months to the respective party primaries and eight months to the election is a political creation. Let truth be told. The owl cried yesterday and the child died today, and you tell me that we cannot figure out what was responsible for the childâ€™s death. Give me a break. We may not all be mathematicians like the Great Professor Chike Obi, but in Anambra state we can put two and two together. To be nice in telling the truth is hypocrisy as Malcolm X would say.
All these people running around yelling on top of their voices how Anambra is in wrong hand with Gov Obi reminded me of what the Israelites did while in the wilderness. They murmured against God and Moses and actually tried to pick up a leader to return to the land of bondage, Egypt. They rather return to bondage than head to the Promised Land. They rather eat crumbs out of the Egyptians table than be free and be their own masters.
But Anambra people will always say â€˜tufiaâ€™ to that kind of thinking. Not in the land of the Great Zik, not in the land of the Chinua Achebe, not in the land of Chief Emeka Ojukwu and of course, not in my own Anambra. The effort of some self-seeking people to put our dear state on â€˜reverseâ€™ instead of â€˜driveâ€™ would be resisted by all Anambrarians that believe in good governance, selfless service, rule of law, probity and integrity. The era of politics of settlement is over for good. It is our job as Anambra people to sustain and nurture it. As the Israelites would say â€œit is ill with a people when vicious men are advanced and men of worth are kept under hatchesâ€. This will not happen in Anambra. We rather die on our feet than spend the rest of our life on our knees.
That is my stand!
Chukwudi Nwokoye writes from Maryland USA.