Controversy Over Naming of Achebe Airport: Matters Arising

By Jude Atupulazi

Within the last week, a news report came out like a bomb. It was that former Anambra governor, Chief Willie Obiano, was unhappy with his successor, Gov Chukwuma Soludo, for not naming the Anambra Airport after him, Obiano, but rather going ahead to name it after Chinua Achebe.

I could really not believe it when I read it because I found it preposterous and very, very vain. I even heard that the House of Assembly had even concluded plans to name the airport after Obiano but that, Soludo, as then governor-elect, influenced the dropping of the idea.

That was a great intervention by Soludo, I must say. While it is bad enough for a leader to want to have any institution of state named after them, it is crazy to want to do so while still in office. That is vanity and a bad example of leadership and statesmanship. But perhaps it will be better we refresh our minds with the newspaper report.

According to the story, Obiano had expressed a strong disapproval of the decision to name the Anambra State International Airport after Prof. Chinua Achebe, referring to it as a cruel and ungrateful act. The story claimed he suggested that the singular action validated the concerns raised by many people, including his wife, regarding Governor Charles Soludo’s “inhumanity”, and that the naming of the airport after Achebe was one of the reasons she and others were mad at him for supporting Soludo’s bid for the governorship.

‘A very unforgiving man; that was why he fought against my wife’s senatorial ambition’, Obiano was quoted to have said.

The story said that Obiano shared those sentiments with a group of Anambra residents who visited him in the USA, led by Prof. Chinedu Onukwuru, an academic teaching in the United States. The purpose of their visit was to express gratitude to Obiano for his role in establishing the airport.

During the discussion, Obiano reportedly recounted how his administration approved the naming of the airport after him and sent the resolution to the House for confirmation. However, he claimed, Prof. Soludo, who had already been elected as the governor at the time, interfered through influential individuals in the House and changed the decision.

Obiano, the story went on, also reminisced about how those close to him staunchly opposed Soludo’s candidacy for governor, including his wife, who supported Hon. Umeoji. He asserted that he had made it clear to Soludo that his only request was to have the airport named after him. But, instead, Soludo chose to name it after Prof. Achebe.

The story said that Obiano argued that, as a literary figure, Achebe should have been honored with a facility like the International Conference Centre, which hosts seminars and educational events.

Expressing his frustration, the report continued, Obiano stated that anyone who knew Soludo should advise him to keep the International Conference Centre and name it after whomever he pleased. He concluded by saying that Soludo could even name it after himself or his wife, but not after him.

But reacting to the story, Christian Aburime, the Press Secretary to the Anambra State Governor, Prof Chukwuma Soludo, said he doubted the story.

Aburime said, ‘I cannot confirm it. But I doubt if former Gov Obiano would speak in this way.’

For a truth, I would want to believe that Obiano never said what was ascribed to him although every indication points to him saying it. In that case, that is shocking, very shocking. If Soludo had not stopped it, it could have opened a new chapter in which those occupying public office would all be trying to have things named after them, thus ridiculing governance.

At a time when society has been overwhelmed by those seeking personal glory over the interest of the state, it would have been terrible if Obiano had succeeded in having that airport named after him. I recall that all the major institutions of state named after people usually came about after those people had long left office.

Thus we have roads bearing such names as Nnamdi Azikiwe Road; Zik’s Avenue; Awolowo Way; Murtala Muhammed Airport; Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport; Okpara Avenue; Akanu Ibiam International Airport; Herbert Macaulay Way; Bisalla Road, among others. Some of these leaders were not even alive when those institutions of state were named after them and that wasn’t because those leaders did not want to enjoy such privileges. It was simply that they knew it was inappropriate and vain to do such while they were in government.

But for Obiano to be here virtually ranting about Soludo not naming the airport after him is really a shock. Indeed, Soludo did very well by having the idea botched.

But then, while Soludo did so well by not allowing that to happen, he has fallen into the same trap by naming the state’s football team after himself; Solution Football Club.

That’s as bad as what Obiano tried to do because Soludo is a sitting governor who has not even concluded his first tenure. So why stop the airport from being named after Obiano when he has chosen to have the state’s football team named himself, even while still in office? That’s as vain as Obiano’s intention was.

Despite the all arguments against having a state team named after him, Soludo had insisted on having it so. He has not taken into account the ridicule it will cause the state when every succeeding government changes the name and probably names it after themselves. How, indeed, would Soludo have felt if he had inherited a state football team named Akpokuedike FC? Would he have been happy sponsoring team that bears another’s name? Has he also not wondered how it would have looked if the state team had answered Okwute Fc and Onwa FC after Peter Obi and Chris Ngige?

The main issue is that Anambra will be making unwanted history by naming a football club it owns after a serving governor; something that has not been done in the history of football in the country. The teams which bore individuals’ names were owned by private individuals who were not in government. Such clubs were Iwuanyanwu Nationale of Owerri; Abiola Babes of Abeokuta; Jasper United and Gabros International. So why would Anambra’s be different?

So what am I saying? Obiano and Soludo seem tarred with the same brush. A pity it is.

The Rivers State Drama and the Shame of a Nation

The drama between Rivers State governor, Simi Fubara, and his erstwhile political godfather, Nyesom Wike, has just poignantly portrayed the way politicians in the country have been toying with the sensibilities of the people. A situation where any greenhorn is foisted on the people by an incumbent, using his powers, has been making a nonsense of our democratic experiment. It has also led to many tales of the absurd coming out from our country.

If there is a politician who has been displaying plenty of absurdity, that politician is none other than former Rivers State governor, Nyesom Wike, now Minister of FCT. This man thinks himself a national hero, while in actuality, he is a national tout. He represents all that is rotten, shameless and ridiculous about our brand of politics. Any time he opens his mouth, it is to ridicule himself but the tragedy is that he believes he is making sense. He believes he is fooling Nigerians.

Wike has successfully built himself into a monster, a leprous politician and a jester. He likes to bully everybody around him, and, to his mind, he is now the de facto president of the country by virtue of being the number one in the nation’s capital city.

The scenario playing out between him and his erstwhile godson, the now governor of Rivers State, Simi Fubara, is as gaudy and as garish as they come. Just seven months after successfully foisting Simi on the people of Rivers State, he is now fighting to remove the same man over selfish interests; a development that is not new to Nigerians. After all, did Wike’s ally, Tinubu, not remove his godson, Ambode, because the latter refused to dance to his tune after becoming governor of Lagos State? Tinubu pulled the strings to ensure that Ambode was not given the return ticket of his party, the APC. Today he has a man who is ready to lick his boots as the governor of Lagos State.

Honestly, the kind of things the likes of Tinubu and Wike are doing are enough to trigger an almighty revolution. Let me not mention the other one. But Nigerians have become so dazed by hardship that all that matters for most people is to eat whatever they see on the table.

It is not for nothing that many Nigerians are standing with Fubara, even though he may be tarred in same brush with Wike. But Nigerians hate bullies; the common Nigerians, that is. The happening in Rivers State is a shame to our brand of democracy and it remains a crying shame that there are still people who tolerate Wike, either as a party man or as anything.

What a useless country, Nigeria!