It was a notoriously crowded field. Yet as they gathered at a Town Hall meeting, only two gubernatorial candidates were on the raised platform.
They were Chris Ngige and Ifeanyi Ubah. By way of irony I had reduced the field that made it through the party rigmaroles to these same two candidates. Where did the rest of the field go? The answer is obvious and goes to the heart of why the Anambra elections can uplift or damage the future, not only of Anambra people but the Igbo Nation as a whole.
When I narrowed the field in facebook comments not long ago I got the usual mix of reactions, from those who agreed, to those who were genuinely upset at dismissing what the APGA leadership supposedly anointed for Ndigbo had done, to paid hands steeped in abuse on behalf of the APGA leadership. It was to be expected.I reiterate here that I consider myself a true friend of APGA leadership and as individuals they know how I relate to them in full appreciation of their persons. But for some reasons they seem to have become victims of Groupthink inadvertently set to damage the future of the Igbo Nation, in the path of their choice.
I have met with some of the APGA leadership and spoken several times on telephone and private brotherly meeting with the Anambra State Governor Peter Obi on evolving thinking about succession. I have also never quarreled with the idea of justice in turning to Anambra North, often left out, for gubernatorial candidate. I can see a few people from Anambra North who can lead the challenge of continuity and renewal. But I certainly do not see it in the direction they have turned to.
The Anambra elections are particularly important for several reasons. First, Nigerians confuse public office with leadership and so look to incumbent governors for leadership of the region. Secondly, the South East is not particularly lucky with current offering, ill health, age, and other challenges reduce the effectiveness of the current college of governors. Should Anambra be governed by an aloof, disconnected person, with a limited sense for how the Igbo nation should be engaged, the tragedy will be of greater magnitude than the afflictions before the Chris Ngige restoration.
My concerns go back to issues I have raised for more than 20 years which are now coming home to roost regarding care and strategy for the South East as my predicted Bontustanization of Nigeria is beginning to show its ugly face. I raised it repeatedly as a trustee and member of Aka Ikenga. On Chris Ngige’s watch as President of Aka Ikenga, when I served as chairman of the Economic and Finance Committee of that Think Tank I was mandated to develop what I called the Niger Basin Project, a strategic plan for building a collaborating South East and South South zones into a region of economic prosperity.
In fashioning infrastructure linkages between production clusters based on factor endowments and new technology across the two zones the idea was to create a new Rhine valley in the NigerBasin. Lethargy in facing what is more important, including considering of the plan document at the WIC of 1998 in London has come to haunt all as the desolation of the homestead has bred the crimes of today. The vicious cycle is entrapment of for the people as keeping away from the home stead breeds more crime and more people keep away or need armies to visit home.
This clearly is the worst time for politics as usual as has been played by the APGA leadership which has relied on support from Abuja and playing the game of support from clergy as those who have disagreed with me on facebook, see as their assurance.
I know the Bishops of Anambra, both Catholic and Anglican. Three of them share a common surname. They are wise men and the Holy Spirit is still alive and at work in them. To use the wool of continuity to blindfold them on a greater good is not to give credit to the spirit of wisdom.
Given the way things continue to be done in Nigeria, anything is possible, as outcome but men of their word must stand up to be counted and so it is imperative that my voice be loud and clear, given the importance of this moment for which history will judge us all. Given how the APGA leadership has conducted things the field is narrowed to Ngige and Ubah, and Ngige is the man that fits the bill for the moment.
Of course, I have a partisan preference being of the same political party, the APC, as Dr Chris Ngige, but the bottomline is a picture much bigger. Like all people, he may not be perfect. Even if I criticized his not moving more quickly on the agenda I outlined at Aka Ikenga, when he became Governor, but there is no doubt in my mind that he is the person of the moment in Anambra.
In the affairs of a people there comes a time when grown men must stand to be counted. It is on the heads of elders that the coconut is broken. I have become one and will do harm to posterity should I not address a truth so naked. As I addressed Igbo elite, recently, Chief Simon Okeke smiled and whispered, the young have grown. I imagine he was thinking precarious 27 years old he first met standing beside the then vice – President Dr Alex Ekwueme. Many years have passed and several of the incumbent Governors of the South East call me big brother. I must not be like elders of the recent past who would not speak truth to power. I went for my conscience, history and God to judge me knowing that I was true to myself, even if I may be wrong.
Pat Utomi, Political Economist is professor of Entrepreneurship and founder of the Centre for Values in Leadership.