HARDBALL, an opinion column of the Nation newspapers, on Friday May 17, 2013, took a swipe on Governor Peter Obi of Anambra State over alleged comments on succession to the office of the governor of the State. The Governor was said to have communicated his aversion to being succeeded by a professional politician to a group of religious leaders when they paid him a visit at the Governor’s Lodge at Amawbia.
His words: “He (the next governor) must not be a professional politician that sees politics not as a vocation to advance the progress of civilization, but as an avenue to steal the people’s money”.
The piece was prefaced with a review of past presumptuous talk on succession and its negative impacts on the practice of democracy. It expressed concern over the fate of democracy should voters cede the right of king- making to an individual. But more than that, the paper seemed scandalized by the Governor’s unpretentious acknowledgement of a search for his successor.
It wrote inter alia: “…He still owed his state and the country as a whole the obligation to talk diplomatically, disguise his intentions, or pretend he thought it objectionable for the electorate to have such unpalatable view of the Nigerian electoral process”.
There is no doubt that democracy does not accommodate a variant of its kind. The gain of democracy is bountiful if allowed unfettered practice. A regulated democracy brings with it a moment of difficult presage. Like a clunker, it devastates, and is barren of good result. No sane person acquiesces to a fettered democracy. Even in places with worst case practice, offenders still make efforts however difficult, to protect its inviolate practice.
The fear expressed over Governor Obi’s alleged choice of a successor is understandable given that his choice may turn out to be wrong. But again he should have a choice. “The one pervading evil of democracy,” wrote British Lord Acton, “is the tyranny of the majority”.
Though democracy allows for popular participation, yet the minority must have their say. Obi’s choice and or its expression should not be caused to assume the toga of imposition. As the chief executive of the State for two terms, it is believed, he is in a position to understand firsthand the varied shades of interest of those eager to succeed him.
Lest we forget, he is still answerable to the people of Anambra, whichever way the cookie crumbles. It will be wrong to impute imposition over a mere expression of an opinion. Except perhaps Hardball is saying, because of his status, he should flinch from expressing a choice, or become deaf-mute.
Lumping him together with all those alleged to have either made presumptuous search for a successor, or talked glibly about it, is wrong. Unlike him, all those involved previously were military men whose attitude to democracy is common knowledge.
If there is any civilian among them such person must be executing a charge and, like the paper rightly observed, should be dismissed as a glib talker. It would seem that what got the newspaper riled is not the whole idea of imposition but the indiscretion in voicing it out. Otherwise, what effort, if any, has the paper made about such impositions elsewhere, especially within its domicile.
By its own account, the paper admitted that only about three or four out of more than 20 of such impositions in Nigeria turned out right. One would have loved to know how much of the hardball talk the paper engaged those involved in the impositions. It is common knowledge that five governors out of the six Yoruba states were aided to power by Asiwaju Bola Tinubu.
So far nobody accuses of imposition as most of them served variously in his government before they were sent to man their states. Today Tinubu is celebrated as an icon of democracy even by the paper. He may have been spared the hardball treatment because, unlike Obi, he was discreet about those impositions. But did that extenuate the ills thereof?
There is no doubt he would wish to extend such imposition further down East. The concern of the newspaper is understandable. However, it should bear in mind that neither Obi nor the people of Anambra State is bereft of understanding.
The paper was right to observe that it took the effort of Ngige to free the State from the claws of Chris Ubah, and that of Obi to prise her loose from the jaws of Andy, whom it erroneously referred to as the younger of the Ubah brothers. Beyond this, Obi has successfully tucked the state away from further despoliation. To suggest he will be returning the state whence he laboured hard alongside Ngige to extricate from the jaws of profiteers is hard to believe.
Worst scenario, he will only attempt the Tinubu magic in just one state – four still short of Asiwaju’s feat. The only drawback in this kind of undertaking (imposition) may mean tougher challenges for the Action Congress of Nigeria, in which case its desire to have an outpost in the East will suffer stillbirth. It is clear what the interest of the paper is. The party’s run for control of more states elsewhere will suffer difficult challenge with Obi’s involvement.
To be aroused because of mere expression of opinion whiffles with an air of insincerity. Notwithstanding the choice of the modal verb “must” instead of the adjective “likely”, in describing the choice of a successor it is still difficult to justify the position of Hardball. It is nothing more than a function of lexicon which at best should be ignored.
However, the hypocrisy of the Nigerian state is making it an issue amidst worst cases of impositions. It is not readily admitted, but Obi ranks among political figures who do not have high regard for imposition in government. He is not a beneficiary and tried not to create a fiefdom. Earlier elections in the state are ready examples. Up till now, some hawks among his party men and friends could not appreciate his democratic disposition.
They had expected a hijack of the process of election by the Governor to advantage. But to their consternation he has always allowed for the prevailing of popular will. Hardball should spare itself the splitting of hair on the issue of succession to the governorship of the state. At the appointed time the flock will search out the shepherd.
Mr. LOUIS EJIKEME, a political analyst, wrote from Awka, Anambra State.