By Jude Atupulazi
Last Tuesday, March 17, Anambra State Governor, Chief Willie Obiano, marked his six years in office. The highlight of this was the commissioning of some roads in parts of the state; a good development, no doubt, as it was a sharp departure from the way he once marked it with aplomb by way of lavish celebrations some years ago.
The occasion of his six years proved once more how quickly time flies. Was it not the other day that we all gathered at Ekwueme Square, Awka, to watch his predecessor, Peter Obi, hand over the reins of government to him? But between that day and now, six whole years have gone by, with Obiano barely left with only two to complete his tenure.
The speed with which the time has flown really shows how ephemeral, fleeting and transient power is. It shows once more that nothing lasts forever; good or bad. This means that wherever one finds oneself, one should make the most positive use of it in a way that posterity will treat the person kindly.
While I cannot describe Obiano’s six years in superlatives, I can say with certainty that he has not failed as he has managed to keep the ship of state afloat and on course. He has been paying salaries pretty regularly when some states have been unable to do that. He has been doing some road projects some of which he commissioned last week. His street lighting project ranks among the best in the country. This has made many businesses to boom at night.
I have been benefitting from this too as most nights when I close very late from work, or when I finish watching football after work, I will stop at any of the ”mama put” joints to enjoy a hot plate of rice. Such joints are usually found where there are big lights such as Aroma Junction, Nibo/Government Lodge Junction, Abakaliki Street, Unizik Temporary Site Junction, among others in the capital city. The operators usually stay up till 12 midnight or beyond, depending on the place.
At Unizik Temporary Site road, a night market has developed there; just as we have same at First and Second Markets in the Ifite area. This is all down to the street lights in those places. Thus it is possible for many people who were busy in the day time to do some shopping at night.
The street lights have also helped in minimizing crime. This leads the discussion to security which the government of the day has taken a lot of pride in achieving. While crime has not entirely been liquidated, the government’s efforts in this direction is worthy of praise as it would have been much worse.
But for sure, just like with any other regime, there are areas he could have done better. Good enough, though, he still has the luxury of two years to do that.
However, one area that continues to stick out like a sore thumb is Obiano’s sore; even tempestuous, relationship with his predecessor, Peter Obi. This problem has defied attempts by such stakeholders as the elders of the state, the Church and friends, to solve. It even appeared as if the more efforts are made to solve it, the worse it becomes, and that, I tell you, is most unfortunate, as well as a crying shame.
At this point, let’s go down the road to yesterday. In the heat of the 2014 governorship election, the major contenders in APGA for its sole ticket were Senator Uche Ekwunife, Mr Oseloka Obaze, Mr Chinedu Idigo and Chike Obidigbo.
It was believed that the choice of the then governor, Obi, was Obaze, with Idigo as a back-up. Obaze is an international diplomat whom Obi brought home to study the terrain as SSG before taking the plunge. But their ambitions were brutally cut short by the then party national chairman, Chief Victor Umeh, who in one fell swoop disqualified all these strong candidates.
It was clear that none of the few left could win the main election and so, like magic, Obiano’s name was conjured up and he was flown home in the last minute and eventually became the winner of the ticket of APGA. I recall that the first time I saw his picture was at Abagana Secretariat when one of my friends drove in in a bus on which Obiano’s picture was emblazoned. We all gathered to look at the man that was said to be the chosen one.
Thereafter, we all began work to sell him and what a battle we faced. (I was then a councillor in Njikoka). Then, the opposition claimed that Obi had no right to impose zoning, while some of the candidates overlooked for Obiano were anything but happy.
But the storm was weathered and Obi managed to sell the Obiano Brand. One thing was clear then: Obiano was voted for on account of Obi’s popularity. Obiano was a dark horse then, even though a man of means and acceptable background.
But no sooner than Obi left than stories stated emerging of a fall out between the two. I could not believe such stories which I dismissed as one of those bandied by mischievous people. Unfortunately, however, it turned out that the stories I was hearing were very much true.
Thus, on the celebration of Obiano’s First 100 Days, the who’s who in the state were there except Obi! It was then that those who doubted the stories started believing. It was also when efforts to reconcile them begun. But those efforts went up in smoke and have remained same to this day.
If anything, the spat between them has now developed into a full scale war, with their supporters daily spewing hate speech against one another. The gulf between them if not for anything, has widened, especially after the 2017 guber poll where Obi supported a candidate to replace Obiano.
Obiano would also retaliate three years later by attempting to truncate Obi’s Vice Presidential ambition.
Now, in two more years’ time, Obiano will take a bow. But he will be likely doing so without reconciling with his godfather, for that’s what Obi is to him. Should Obiano leave without the rift between him and Obi being settled, it will not be all too good for the state, as the two are the state’s illustrious sons.
Future politicians will not see the virtue of maintaining friendship and many may tarry before helping anyone for fear of ending up like Obi, while others may not accept help for fear of being treated like Obiano when they go for second term.
Having been part of the efforts to sell the OBIANO BRAND then and knowing what we went through to get it done, it surely gives me a pain to see what is playing out now.
This is not the time to trade blames as to who is right or wrong. It is the time to make one last ditch attempt to reconcile the two juggernauts, especially now that nothing is at stake. Obiano is on the verge of finishing his second and last term. No one can stop him from doing that except through an impeachment which seems well-nigh impossible. Obi, having since served his own eight years, will not field a candidate to stop Obiano. That stage has become part of our history. The reality now is that Obiano will join Obi pretty soon as an ex-governor.
But it is in our own interest that we have these two shake hands genuinely despite the scourge of the coronavirus. If we cannot get them to shake hands, let’s get them to hug. What will matter is that the original love between them will return for the interest of our state.
I call on all those who tried before to reconcile them to return to the table and invite them. I feel ashamed when I read all these unnecessary attacks by both camps. Surely, Anambra does not deserve this.
But as the peacemakers regroup, it behoves the two gladiators to make themselves open to reconciliation, as without that, any renewed effort at reconciling them may again end up in smoke.
Our men of God, our politicians, our elders, our royal fathers, Ohaneze chieftains, journalists, and indeed, everybody; this is the time to make one last push to save the state the huge embarrassment of having two of her best sons throwing punches in the market square. The time to act is NOW!