By Jude Atupulazi
Except for Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, no other Vice President of the country has been very visible and influential. Serving under Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, a retired army general, as his vice, Atiku pulled enough weight to take the nation’s number two seat well above its perception as a sort of spare tyre. Today, the same Atiku is gunning for the presidency of the country and he has chosen a man whom many see as another person to make the veepee seat a lot more than ceremonial. That man is Peter Obi.
That a qualitative Vice President will strengthen the presidency is a no-brainer; especially if such a person is at home with economic matters which the office of the Vice President is supposed to handle. A president with a good vice who knows the art of governance and has a proven track record of achievements will, no doubt, have a lot less to worry about. A look at the man Atiku has chosen will easily tell one that the man ticks in all the boxes as far as quality, experience and pedigree are concerned.
In Peter Obi, Atiku will be working with a man who has seen it all in the business and corporate worlds. A man who has governed a state reputed to be one of the most difficult and come out with distinction.
Really, when one alludes to Anambra as a difficult state, some people may not understand, especially those either too young to do so or who were far away from home during that era.
To start with, when Obi assumed office after reclaiming his stolen mandate, a struggle that went on for nearly three years in the courts, he met a state so disorganized, chaotic and even anarchic, that angels literally feared to tread there. It was a state controlled by all manner of people described as godfathers. These people bestrode the state’s political landscape like colossi and their words were law. They ensured that no one occupied any political office without going through them and even a position as lowly as councillorship was not left out.
One could therefore imagine when they beheld somebody trying to come in without their say so. Indeed, they saw Obi as a kind of joker when he announced his aspiration to govern the state. To worsen matters, he was trying to do so in a party that wasn’t ruling.
To underline their contempt for Obi’s ambition, one of the godfathers, name obviously withheld, had refused to see Obi when Obi came to his house to acquaint him with his ambition. He kept Obi waiting till evening without seeing him until Obi had to leave. To this particular godfather, Obi’s ambition reeked of unseriousness. He must have been wondering who ”this political upstart is”. But he and his ilk never reckoned with the tenacity of the man they were holding in contempt.
That must have been why they embarked on what remains Nigeria’s biggest electoral heist that saw the mandate of the people being thwarted in broad daylight. In that election, APGA had won with a landslide across the state except, perhaps, in Uli, the hometown of the then governor, Chinwoke Mbadinuju. But the then Resident Electoral Commissioner had gone ahead, on the bidding of his paymasters, to declare a different result to the utter consternation of all Anambra people. The people were simply stunned into silence.
But Obi pleaded with his supporters to remain calm. Such was the enormity and brazenness of the robbery that the man who was declared the winner of that election was not acting like a winner. I recall a journalist putting that question to him at a press briefing to which he barely gave a coherent response. At the initial stages, he was booed by the public whenever they saw his convoy until time began to pass and things began to take a positive turn for him.
It also reminds me of the scenario in the Old Anambra State during the Third Republic. Christian Onoh had been rigged into office by then National Party of Nigeria, NPN. It was an election everyone knew that Jim Nwobodo of the defunct Nigeria People’s Party, NPP, won. In the aftermath of the electoral robbery, Onoh was booed each time he was sighted.
That was the situation in Anambra after the electoral robbery of 2003. But Obi came, saw and conquered. He refused to accept the electoral heist and proceeded to court during which period he rebuffed attempts by stakeholders, traditional rulers and even a section of the Church, to accept his fate and allow the man declared by INEC to remain since, according to them, the man in question had started doing well.
Nobody thought that Obi would ever reclaim his mandate. To many people, his efforts to do so were so much waste of time and resources. Who has ever seen a sitting governor removed in Nigeria or anywhere else for that matter? They must have thought.
I also recall an incident at the electoral tribunal one day. A woman in an opposing party who was also in court to challenge her defeat had commented when she saw Obi coming to court: ”Ewuu nwa. Anyi ma na iwinii mana okaro mma na ije zue ike?” Roughly translated in the English Language, she meant that although everybody knew that Obi won the election, it was hopeless trying to reclaim that mandate.
She must have stated that because she knew how things worked in Nigeria. But then again, she didn’t reckon with the tenacity of the man called Obi. He continued fighting for his cause until the day the ”impossible” happened. The tribunal declared him the winner of the election.
But his opponent refused to bow and appealed the judgement. Again Obi was declared the winner. This time, the impostor governor had no choice than to vacate the seat.
But Obi’s troubles were far from over. He met a near 100% hostile state legislature peopled by stooges of the same cabal that stole his mandate. They wasted no time in concocting charges against him and impeached him when he was barely six months in office. He left and many thought it was the end of his journey, being that no governor had survived an impeachment.
But three months after, Obi was back, after the court quashed his impeachment. Mind you, one of the charges against him was that he refused to accept the inflated cost of rebuilding the burnt government house and governor’s lodge after the mayhem of 2004!
But his enemies were not done. Their next attack was to refuse to pass Obi’s budget. It took entreaties by traditional rulers, the Church and all manner of stakeholders to get them to bow and pass the budget. That was in 2007.
In the same year, the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, despite protestations, decided to conduct governorship election in the state and even excluded Obi and some other powerful candidates from that election. It was done just to ensure that the preferred candidate of the godfathers became governor at all costs. Thus, the election, referred to here as selection, took place and that preferred candidate was declared winner.
Again, Obi vacated his seat. To many, that was the full, final stop for him. However, he stunned them again by his tenacity. He returned to court to seek the interpretation of his tenure. He actually lost at a stage but went all the way to the Supreme Court where the landmark judgement was made. It was that his tenure began the day he took the oath of office and was sworn in. the man who was declared winner had only spent 17 days in office. Obi returned triumphantly to his seat for the third time.
In effect, he lost a full year fighting agents of destabilization. But that did not stop him from turning the state around and also banishing the hawks from the state. One by one, they disappeared until the state was sanitized.
That was when Obi settled down to work on his promises to the people. He went into that like a man possessed and tackled the state’s many problems on all fronts through his ANIDS mantra. He revolutionized the health sector, the education sector, institution of government and physical infrastructure, among others. Under him, the state got her first teaching hospital, her first workers’ secretariat, the best road network in Nigeria, and the first stock exchange facility east of the Niger.
He returned schools to their missionary owners and gave them funds to run their schools. Same was done for mission hospitals which were also funded massively to reverse their fortunes. Today such mission hospitals as Iyienu, Borromeo and Our Lady of Lourdes, still bear his Midas touch. Ditto the Schools of Midwifery in Obosi and Nkpor.
In education, various items were distributed among schools in the state, enabling the state to progress from 26th in external examinations to number 1 when he was there.
Some of the things he provided to schools included:
2. Two buses to schools in the state, including public and private.
4. Renovation and equipping of laboratories.
5. Provision of sporting equipment
6.Provision of sick bays
7.Renovation of the schools
8.Computers to schools
9. Establishment and equipping of libraries in schools, among others.
In doing all these, he incurred the wrath of those who fed off the system. They complained about his penchant to give money directly to school principals and missions. They cried that he was not adopting due process. Some even swore that he would be a victim of the EFCC once he left office. Today, however, they are cowering in their holes like frightened rats, trying to eat the humble pie as Obi not only walks the streets freely, but has become one of the most popular Nigerians alive today.
As the vice of Atiku, Obi will be bringing quality, doggedness, integrity, great vision and fresh ideas to the table, virtues honed by years of fruitful practical experience in the business, corporate and political worlds.
IF HE DID IT FOR ANAMBRA, HE WILL DO IT FOR NIGERIA