By Brendan Ejike
THOSE who describe history as the account of exploits of courageous men and women may well be right. For, there comes a time in the life of a people when the fortunes of a protagonist and that of the larger society interweave.
Anambra State, long held down by local colonialists, is at such a critical juncture as she considers whether to renew Peter Obiâ€™s mandate in January 2010.
Amongst the army of contenders and pretenders for the 2010 governorship election, Governor Obi easily stands out. This distinction, it should be pointed out, is not merely on account of incumbency. In 2003 even as a newcomer and opposition candidate, Obi stood out like a shining star. His vision and passion for the development of Anambra State resonated with the people.
The promises of great leadership held out by Obi were soon put to test in the aftermath of the April 19, 2003 governorship election. Whereas the fascists in Abuja and Awka entertained some hope that Obi would hop into the next plane to return to his London base, Obi settled down to the mission of political and economic empowerment of the citizenry which the times had thrust upon him. Subtly giving heed to Fanonâ€™s generational mission and Achebeâ€™s generational theses, Obi embarked on a campaign for participatory democracy through the actualization of his mandate.
He was called a daydreamer in some quarters for daring to unseat an executive governor. That would have been no issue if the detractors had stopped at name-calling. The establishment mounted tremendous pressure on Obi to discontinue his politico-legal activism.
The attempts started with offers ofÂ compensation in return for abandoning the mandate. When the proposals were turned down, subtle and outright acts of intimidation followed. Without saying so in words, Obiâ€™s calm composure in the face of these harassments and threats, was an echo of Nelson Mandelaâ€™s historic declaration in 1964 – The Struggle is My Life.
For their part, the bene-ficiaries of the stolen mandate invested consider-able resources, time and energy trying to run down the struggle. Official propaganda presented Obiâ€™s campaign as personal ambition in conflict with the larger interest of the state. What was important was not who exercised the mandate of the 2003 election but to what use it was put.
The social services accruing to the masses from the post-election government rendered retrogressive any challenge of the election process, the beneficiaries stridently proclaimed.
If this self-serving appeal to sentiment was intended to incite the populace against Obi, it failed woefully. As the erudite and forthright Chukwudifu Oputa educated such misguided minds in The Guardian, January 9, 2005: “If you abandon the base, the structure has no foundation. Democracy dividend is freedom and not good roads, light, water”.
Obiâ€™s triumph at the Election Petition Tribunal and Appeal Court, provided opportunity to witness another of his leadership attributes.
Against the backdrop of consistent subversions of the mandate, Obiâ€™s ascension to power could have proved turbulent. In such circumstances, the average politician would have embarked on a vendetta against identified political enemies.
But like the legendary Mandela, Obi shunned vindictiveness and gloating. Instead of petti-ness, he offered conciliation.
Someone rightly said thatÂ politicians think of the next election whereas statesmen think of the next generation. Anambra State was in dire need of peace to realise its development potentials. To his eternal credit, Peter Obi did not abuse this prized opportunity with politics of bitterness when he assumed power.
The merit of this pacifist â€˜ideologyâ€™ is all too evident today. Peace has returned to Anambra State. Notwithstan-ding the assaults of implacable interest groups, the state has enjoyed political stability in the three and half years of the Obi administration.
The result has been a leap in the fortunes of the state. Investors and donor agencies have returned to the state satisfied that government institutions are working and responsive.
Entrepreneur confidence has been buoyed by government business ethics which places premium on competence and transparency. Recall that the respected Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala recently described Peter Obi as the most fiscally transparent governor.
Little wonder that Anambra State has recorded impressive gains in social infrastructure in the past three and a half years. What is noteworthy about the provision of social amenities is that they have followed a planned pattern in which all sectors of the economy have been covered.
With a process of rebirth underway, it would be a great tragedy for Anambra state to suffer a reversal of fortunes at this time. Such a frightening scenario can happen if the state falls into the wrong hands.
A woman who has suffered a hundred tearing of laps needs a caring, hard working man. Anambra state needs a continuation of the Obi revolution to stand firm and blossom in the sun.