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Obi: Mending a war zone

By Ochereome Nnanna
Mr. Peter Obi, the Governor of  Anambra State, is a strange man. Or so it seems to some. He is like the planet Neptune which, while the other planets are orbiting the sun in one direction it is said to be moving in a retrograde one.

During the economic summit organised by the Sun Newspapers in Owerri last year in November, he had told the organisers that he would be a bit late to one of the sessions. When he arrived, the lecture was in progress, so what did he do?

He simply looked for an empty chair at the back of the lecture hall and quietly sat down. He had come with only a couple of assistants.

Most people did not take note of his arrival because most eyes were trained on the lecturer. It took the enterprising eye of one of the Masters of Ceremony, Barrister Oscar Onwudiwe, to spot the Governor and he hurriedly sought the permission of the chairman of the occasion to recognise Mr. Obi and invite him to the high table.

Even at that, he was reluctant to go there, saying he was fine where he was.

Then a contrast presented itself within a couple of shakes. Dr. Chris Ngige, the man who held Obi’s mandate “in trust” for three years, stormed the venue. From the doorway, he shook hands, patted shoulders and hugged people as he went on, all his traditional chieftaincy instruments clutched in his hands.

Ngige electrified the hall, but he also disrupted the occasion for 10 minutes because he made sure to greet all politically-expedient “greetables”. In Anambra State, just like in every part of this country, Ngige’s style of entry is the more conventional type.

When a group of columnists responded to his invitation last week to look at some of the job he has done for his people in three years, Obi narrated some of the experiences he has gone through as a result of his ascetic style of politics, which you find in America and Europe.

For instance, he once paid a traditional ruler an unscheduled visit at 7.00am one day with only a couple of cars and no siren. The royal father expressed his embarrassment that the Governor of Anambra State would visit his palace and no one in the town would even know about it.

How would he even convince anyone that the Governor visited? He pleaded with Mr. Obi to save his face and send a sirened convoy to come into town “properly”!

Another one happened at a reception where the Governor arrived ahead of most of the invited dignitaries. The musician on duty did recognise his arrival but only barely.

But when one of these super rich Anambra tycoons came and parked his Rolls Royce right in the middle of the arena, the musician erupted: “Someone has come at last!” He got rewarded with bundles of one thousand naira notes sprayed all over him.

Mr. Obi told his listeners that his greatest challenge in office was getting the people to do things the “right way” and depart from practices that will never develop an entity. He has not made much headway with the elite in this direction.

The prebendary elite are only interested in sharing the revenue allocated to the state or at least being allowed to control sources of internal revenue that should be deployed to solving its problems.

And since the two sides are like water and oil that will never normally mix, they are going their separate ways.

“I am interested in the elite that will contribute, not those who will destroy”.

Those who would destroy showed their hands both during the time that Dr. Ngige was in office. Organised mobs of thugs, with complete police protection and in the full glare of national television, had gone on a burning spree in the state capital, destroying the Governor’s office, his residence, the judiciary complex and many other structures.

Obi started his work as a governor from a rented apartment in Onitsha and gradually started rebuilding the state. And he was not in short supply of progressive Anambra professionals, who converged from all parts of the country and abroad to help put up a document titled: Anambra State Integrated Development Strategy (ANIDS).

For the first time in its history, the state is making steady pace. The educational, health and infrastructural systems are coming back on stream.

The only roads linking towns in Anambra that are still in bad shape are liable to be federal roads.

Obi believes he has done enough for each community in the state to show the people when he comes campaigning for a second term in office early next year, and there was a surfeit of them for the touring journalists to see.

However, Anambra’s number one problem remains the scourge of violent armed robberies and kidnappings. As the new political season warms up, this trend is getting worse and must be brought to heel by the man on whom the Constitution conferred the title of Chief Security Officer.

Shortly after the journalists left and Obi and his entourage departed to Enugu to attend the burial of Chief Christian Onoh, a member of the so-called Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB) had the gumption to attack Obi and plant a knock on his head! You could imagine the consequences if Obi had not kept his head and held his security men in check. His sin?

He does not pay them!
But the greatest challenge Obi faces arises from what people see as his inability to invest adequately in his political party, the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), which was a party of choice in the South East in 2003.

In spite of Mr. Obi’s laudable developmental strides and civilised approach to handling of public office, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), the party that wrecked the state during President Obasanjo’s reign in Aso Villa, remains the numerous Anambra governorship aspirants’ party of choice.

Many of them are waiting with their billions to throw into the race ahead.

Will the Anambra electorate be able to resist the lure of money and stay with the man who works for them but does not give them “transport money”?
Time will tell.


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