ByÂ Joe Ofodile
SINCE His Excellency, Mr. Peter Obi assumed the governorship of Anambra State, the thought of being the first to do anything in the state has been his obsession. If he is not the first to buy five ambulances, he is the first to visit all 177 communities in the state or better, â€˜developâ€™ all sectors simultaneously.
On Wednesday, October 14, 2009, the Governor through his Commissioner for Local Governments, Mr. Dubem Obaze, organised an elaborate party in Awka where the Governor gave out cheques to different town union presidents and in some cases, traditional rulers in the absence of the presidents, for the reconstruction of school buildings. It is indeed a first.
As unprecedented as this feat of sharing of Anambra money to non- accountable organisations for the â€˜benefitâ€™ of the â€˜educationalâ€™ sector was, I ask Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala the former Finance Minister and World Bank chief who told the whole world that Peter Obi ranks number one in fiscal control, whether she envisaged such display of naivety when she gave her unsolicited opinion? Can this be the display that earned Obi her thumbs-up? Can she come back to confirm her rating of Obi or will she retract her rating?
I stood in the hall and watched the traditional rulers whose modus operandi is to support any government in power and the town union presidents hail the Governor as he doled out Anambra State money to a body that is neither a legal entity nor was there any form of control in place to prevent the recipients from squanderingÂ the money received. These are the same people he has been releasing Anambra money to for palliative measures of our rural roads every December with nothing to show for it.
What makes him think that having squandered those palliative monies meant for our roads, this one will be an exception?
It, however, confirms to me why the Governor keeps interfering with who becomes president-general of our town unions as he intends to use them as his campaign coordinators. This being the case, it will really not matter whether they squander the money or not. The more I looked at what was going on in the hall, the more questions arose in my spirit.
The first question was: If the recipients squandered this money, who will be held accountable or are we practising democracy without accountability? On the cheques were written the names of the towns or communities as the case may be. For example, the cheque for Awka town bore â€˜Awka Townâ€™ on it. Who on earth is Awka town? Where does it maintain a bank account or if it is a cash cheque, who will cash it? Is this not an invitation to chaos? I ask further. Under what legal or social framework are they to ensure performance.
The second question was how do these town unions award or execute the contracts? Are they going to invite tender or what? Is it part of their duty as town unions? I began to query where Dr. Oby Ezekwesiliâ€™s due process had gone to, knowing that Dr. Ezekwesili is a close confidant of Mr. Obi. I started wondering why “Madam Due Process” has not been able to get her friend to see the need for due process to be given a pride of place in the state, her own state by birth and by marriage.
Governor Obi replying his critics in one of his interviews on due process, ignorantly and sarcastically noted that due process was about â€˜saving moneyâ€™ for the state and he knows that he has been saving money for the state by his micro-management of the state affairs.
That is what he understands by due process. The next agitating question on my mind was whose money Obi was distributing. Was it his internally-generated revenue or money released to the State by SPEB, a Federal Government agency? I realised it was money in custody of ASUBEB and received from the Federal Government. I began to imagine how Gov. Obi will account to the Federal Government who I know still believes in due process. I wondered where this ignoble decision was taken, knowing that SPEB has its dos and donâ€™ts.
Looking at the Chairman of ASUBEB who looked completely lost in the hall, I was sure he had a few issues flying around his head. As the chief custodian of the money being shared, I could see him sweating and fidgeting. Such is the lot of the men and women who work with the first scoring Governor.
For the headmasters whose classrooms were to be renovated, I wondered who they should approach to assist in making sure that the monies are applied well. Having approached the Chairman of ASUBEB for comment and he declined, I decided to tell the world through this medium that another vista has been opened in Anambra State and things will only get worse as the election approaches.
Why did every community receive N2 million? A town like mine, Awka, received N2 million while another town like Akwa-Ihedi received the same amount. By my calculations, Awka town has more schools than all the towns in Nnewi South Local Government where Akwa-Ihedi is located, put together. I wondered where this decision was coming from.
I finally had to leave the venue when one of the commissioners whispered to his friend that the Governor is beating other politicians to their game.
I realised it was all politics with Anambra money. It was money earmarked for campaign and not anything serious. It was N354 million of Anambra Stateâ€™s money which the Governor reckoned will oil his campaign machinery. I left the hall before the end of the â€˜gameâ€™ but before I did, I prayed a short prayer which I know God heard. I prayed that God would have mercy on my state.
Mr. Ofodile, a commentator on national issues, writes from Awka, Anambra State.