Governor Peter Obi overcame an illegal impeachment and the truncation of his first term to accomplish eight years in office. It is a feat that has many of the state’s professional politicians and moneyed power traders envious. Now in the twilight of his second term, the outgoing governor who had promised to relocate to the boardroom from whence he came is now changing his mind. Has he caught the bug?
BY VINCENT UJUMADU
GOVERNOR Peter Obi of Anambra State whose eight year tenure will come to an end on March 17, 2014 has finally succumbed to pressures from religious leaders, interest groups and politicians not to completely quit politics after serving out his tenure.
Though the pressure had been mounting on the business man –turned politician to present himself for other elective positions at the national level after stepping down in March, he had maintained that he would need to face his business as he is not interested in becoming a senator or a minister as is the desire of nearly all Nigerian governors when they leave office.
Among those that had at one time or the other urged the governor to consider serving the country in other areas were the Catholic Archbishop of Onitsha, Most Reverend Valerian Okeke, his Nnewi Diocese counterpart, Most Rev. Dr. Hilary Odili Okeke, as well as Anglican Diocese of Amichi, Rt. Rev Ephraim Ikeakor.
According to the clerics, it is the desire of the people of Anambra State, Igbos and Nigerians that people like Obi should have the opportunity of serving Nigerians at the centre, in view of his exceptional performance in Anambra State.
There were also indications that even some powerful people in the presidency wanted him to remain in politics beyond March 2014, given speculations that he is being tipped as a minister or full time special adviser in President Goodluck Jonathan’s cabinet.
Though Obi, at various fora insisted on leaving after his tenure, his political party, the All Progressives Grand Alliance, APGGA, may have boxed him into a corner with the decision last weekend to push him to step into the shoes of the late Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu as the party’s national leader and chairman Board of Trustees, BOT.
The National Executive Council, NEC, of the party confirmed the appointment at its meeting in Awka following an earlier recommendation made by the National Working Committee, NWC, during a meeting in Abuja last year. The motion for Governor Obi to step into the position last held by the late Ojukwu was moved by the Oyo State chairman of the party, Mr. Samson Olaniyi and seconded by the Bayelsa State chairman, Mr. John Sokari.
National chairman of the party, Chief Victor Umeh who, inside party sources said, was instrumental to Obi changing his mind about quitting politics, said after announcing the appointment of Obi as the leader of APGA and BOT chairman, that APGA needed to consolidate on its gains by beefing up its leadership at all levels.
Umeh said: “We want to place it on record that Governor Peter Obi was the force that made our victories possible in both Anambra and Imo states. Obi was the first governor, since the creation of old and new Anambra State, to win election for two terms. From the time of Chief Jim Nwobodo to Chief Christian Onoh, to Dr. Chinwoke Mbadinuju, only Obi has won governorship election back to back.
“The success of APGA in Imo State was virtually made possible by Obi who provided the resources that brought Governor Rochas Okorocha into office.
As he was completing his two terms as governor of Anambra State, Obi’s excellent performance made it possible for APGA to win again, which means that an APGA government will be handed over to another APGA government to be headed by Chief Willie Obiano who secured a landslide victory in the last governorship election in the state.
As Obi settles down to lead APGA, the NEC of the party has approved a 30- member Board of Trustees selected from the six geo-political zones to work with him. Some of the BOT members include the leader of APGA in Imo State, Chief Martin Agbaso, a former Commissioner for Women Affairs in Imo State, Mrs. Ann Dozie, who refused to join Governor Okorocha in decamping to All Progressives Congress, APC, Chief Onwuka Ukwa, John Akpan Okon, Dr. Ahmed Umar Muktari, Chief Ziggy Azike, Mr. Chris Giwa, Chief Okey Ezeibe, Emeka Odumegwu Ojukwu jr and Chief Obi Nwosu, who is the Nigerian Ambassador to Burundi. Also in the BOT are Dubem Obaze, Nasir Abubakar, Alhaji Ibrahim Barde, Mr. Sola Oyeleke, Dr. Mike Adams, Boniface Alu and Chief Rommy Ezeonwuka, among others.
Governor Obi, who went down memory lane to trace the history of APGA, said every member of the party should be grateful to God for the journey so far.
According to him, many people sacrificed so much to ensure the unity the party is enjoying. He also told the story of how some well –placed politicians in the country, including serving governors, had urged to join the ruling party at the center, assuring that he would not deviate from his earlier decision that he would not leave APGA.
To spur Obi to more action in the party, the party leadership presented him with an Award of Excellence along with the national chairman, Chief Victor Umeh.
The presentation was made by the national vice chairman of the party in the South West, Alhaji Tai Sowumi, who described Obi as the most performing governor in the country. “This governor has raised the bar of leadership and redefined good governance in the country in all facets and we cannot afford to let him go for now,” he said.
Already, the NEC of the party has set up a committee to review the constitution of the party, while the NWC was mandated to fill existing vacancies. All the decisions reached at last week’s meeting in Awka are to be ratified at the national convention of the party slated for February 15, 2014.
Perhaps the first major task before Obi as the national leader and BOT chairman of APGA is the resolution of the leadership crisis in the party in which a Federal High Court sitting in Abuja ruled that Chief Maxi Okwu should be the national chairman of the party. Okwu, it would be recalled, went to court despite the fact that the Court of Appeal had earlier ruled that Umeh remains the national chairman.
Indeed, Umeh made reference to the Abuja court judgment during the Awka NEC meeting, arguing that APGA went ahead with the meeting because it was relying on the Court of Appeal judgment that set aside the judgment of the Enugu High Court. Besides, he said, the Court of Appeal judgment is superior to that of the Federal High Court.
Obi will have to resolve the issue of Dr. Tim Menakaya whose appointment as BOT member was rejected by NEC because he was said to be on the side of Okwu in the latest court case.
Menakaya and Obi are known to be very close, but there was nothing he could do when majority of NEC members rejected Menakaya’s nomination as BOT member.
The new national leader also has the task of bringing back into the fold, Dr. Chuke Obidigbo who Okwu favoured to be the flag bearer of APGA for the governorship election of November, until the Court of Appeal nullified the convention that produce Maxi Okwu and others.