By Jude Atupulazi
We are in a period when events are moving with the speed of lightning. Last week, I was overtaken by those events after I thought I was on course to doing a good write up on the argument on whether the PDP presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar, should choose a running mate from the East or West. But no sooner had I submitted the piece and we went to press than I heard that Atiku had nominated someone from the East. That person, I learned, was no other than our very own Okwute Ndigbo, Peter Obi. That announcement took a large chunk off my article, leaving me to hope that what remained could make sense. Well, that's one of the pains of working in a weekly, rather than a daily medium.
Anyway, the announcement of Obi by Atiku took the shine off every other topic for many days. One of the things it subsumed were the primary elections of the ruling All Progressives Grand Alliance, APGA, in Anambra State. But now that the Atiku/Obi whirlwind is losing a bit of steam, I decided to also look at the APGA primaries in this week's edition. But first, let's Obiticulate.
Peter Obi, Mr Consistency, Gets his Just Reward
I have since thought that if there is any Igbo man who could be president of Nigeria at any time in the foreseeable future, that man must surely be Peter Obi. Indeed, more than many Nigerian politicians, he has carved out a niche for himself as a special breed. Hate him or love him, that fact stares you in the face. From what we have been able to glean from this man as mere mortals (only God knows the heart of men), Obi comes across as a breath of fresh air as far as Nigeria's politics is concerned. This is a man who has given hope to many purists that the country can still be run along sane lines.
Really, I can comfortably say that among those who do not like Obi's face are the greedy, the jealous and the thieves. The greedy are those who fell out with him because they did not get the favours they expected from Obi. The jealous are those politicians who are not at ease with Obi's growing popularity and relevance. The thieves are the looters whose source of looting was blocked by Obi while he was governor in Anambra. Perhaps, there may be a fourth group that comprises people who have no reason to hate him but who hate him all the same.
Whatever the case, all of the above people are currently uncomfortable with the choice of Obi by Atiku as his running mate. But all I can say to them is ''sorry, folks, there ain't nothing you can do''.
Obi is unlike any politician I have come across. But what appeals to me the most about him is his simplicity. He likes to keep things simple, so simple that as governor, he was thought to have demystified that office. Indeed, when I see how some governors and political office holders go about today in their loudness, I wonder if it wasn't the same office Obi once held.
This is a man that will come to church quietly and sit down in an obscure side of the church. Often times, you get to know about his presence only when the priest or pastor announces his name. He believes that anyone that comes late to church, or indeed, to any other place, should not disturb others. Compare this with some people who come late and proceed with their escorts to the front of the church or to the high table in an event.
Obi's convoy is always moving about without sirens blaring. He did not do it as governor; he is not doing so now. He believes in spending money on good causes. If you expect him to give you money for you to celebrate your birthday, sorry, you're onto the wrong person. As governor, he only listened to you if you had ideas that would benefit the state. If in the process you make some money off it, it was allowed; after all, a labourer deserves their wage.
But his tight fists and rather rigid approach to matters of money have cost him a few friends. He doesn't however care.
He came to Anambra when the state was at her bestial worst. Then, godfathers held sway and dictated to the governor, the lawmakers and other government functionaries. Obi plunged headlong into changing the status quo. It nearly claimed his scalp but for a combination of his doggedness and street wisdom. It earned him an impeachment but he fought against it and proved its illegality in court and was promptly reinstated.
He was disqualified from contesting an election fixed by INEC in 2007 when he had barely spent a year in office after recovering his stolen mandate from Chris Ngige. The election held and Andy Uba was declared the winner. Obi ran to court and had Andy sacked after just two weeks. The Supreme Court declared that Obi's tenure had not ended when INEC conducted the election.
Indeed, Obi is a stickler to the rules. He is so rigidly stuck in this that sometimes he is seen as ''wicked''. But Obi is not one to be bothered about perceptions. I remember when he used to say after coming on board as governor of Anambra State that he was not in government house to contest popularity with anyone.
That was when the man he threw out, Ngige, was still very popular. When he was the governor, Ngige used to make a show of visiting project sites in baggy shorts. People liked it and declared him an action man. But Obi came and inspected projects dressed in corporate attires. People thought he was dull and wanted him to dress like Ngige. No way, Obi told them. For him, he was not competing with anyone for popularity but was fully focused on good governance.
Obi was so prudent in the management of resources as governor that when he left, the state's coffers had a healthy balance, the first time it would happen anywhere in the country.
As governor, he was fully in charge of his government. He paid attention to every detail and this way ensured that no appointee embarrassed him. Thus, when he left office, his traducers who laid ambush with petitions to the EFCC were left disappointed.
Out of office, Obi became the most popular ex-governor in the country, giving talks and touring schools across the country, giving them money for infrastructural development. At one time, he even went to a school in Kenya and donated money. He became a global player; not just national.
While he soared and soared, some people continued to search for loopholes to nail him but they all failed.
Obi has remained a man who would not be swayed by sentiments to do what he sees as wrong. He has doggedness and integrity and he is CLEAN. The other day when he went to conduct a primary election for PDP somewhere in Abia, the people were elated when they saw him as the umpire. He conducted the election without incident and everybody was happy, including the losers.
Any wonder then that when Atiku picked him as his running mate, Nigerians celebrated it. He may not have won the presidential election yet; he may not even win it, but the euphoria triggered by his nomination has clearly shown that Nigerians know a good thing when they see it.
From the depth of my heart, I congratulate him on his nomination and wish him luck. In him, Atiku has shown that he will do whatever is necessary to save Nigeria.
What is happening in APGA in Anambra today is akin to what used to happen in the dark days of the state when PDP held sway. Then, results of elections were written in hotel rooms and candidates of connected people bought their way to elective positions. Bullets were readily fired from smoking guns. When APGA came in 2002, it was seem as a breath of fresh air.
Many disillusioned PDP members joined APGA. The party turned out to be the real Messiah as it changed the political fortunes of the state for good. But many years after, the first cracks are beginning to appear on the walls of the party, no thanks to the shameful turn of events in the party primaries of the APGA.
What happened appears as if strange elements have hijacked the party touted as Party Ndigbo. From duping guber aspirants in Imo State of their money with fake promises of delivering them, to the imposition of some unpopular candidates, the recent primary elections of APGA in Anambra have reduced the morale of members to an all time low.
What aggrieved members were and are still asking is, ''If the party hierarchy knew that they already had favoured candidates, why did they collect huge money from other aspirants only to dump them?''
No one at the moment is answering this question.
Among the aggrieved ones is the wife of the eternal leader of the party, Bianca Ojukwu. She lost in her bid to go to Senate. In the aftermath of her defeat, she bemoaned the irregularities, intimidation and thuggery that marred the primaries. She all but gave up on the party, even though she's urging the aggrieved members not to leave.
While conceding that there were areas where the right people won, those other areas where under hand tactics were used succeeded in rubbishing the entire process. Right now, many people are threatening to cast protest votes against APGA in the general elections. Something should be done and done fast before APGA in Anambra goes the way of the old PDP.