THE feud between the immediate past governor of Anambra State, Mr. Peter Obi and his successor, Chief Willie Obiano, which reared its head even before the handover of the reins of power on March 17, 2014, has finally blown open.
By Vincent Ujumadu
IT was not clear what led to the misunderstanding during the governorship campaigns that brought Obiano to power, but those close to the ruling All Progressives Grand Alliance, APGA, in the state, knew that all was not well.
While some said it had to do with the management of campaign funds, others said the then Governor Obi, after close observation of Obiano shortly after the party’s primaries, felt that his choice of a successor might after all, not be the best.
Before APGA settled for its governorship candidate, Obiano was not actually in the picture. Though Obi, who insisted on keeping his promise of ceding the governorship slot to Anambra North, was said to be considering the then Secretary to the State Government, SSG, Mr. Oseloka Obaze, who is from Ogbaru in the same Anambra North senatorial zone, and Prince Idigo, a lawyer from Aguleri royal family, as his likely choice.
However, few weeks to the party primaries, Obiano, also from Aguleri, was sighted at the APGA secretariat in Awka to purchase forms for the governorship election. Considering the fact that he retired from Fidelity Bank as the deputy managing director, the bank in which Obi served as its chairman during Obiano’s stay in the bank, it was easy to conclude that he (Obiano) was Obi’s final choice. In a surprise manner, Obaze, who was tipped to emerge the party’s candidate, was disqualified by the screening committee on the ground that he did not possess the voter’s card, despite all the efforts he made on his return to Nigeria to get it.
Return to Nigeria
Apart from the fact that Obi and Obiano worked together at Fidelity Bank, both were also school mates at the famous Christ the King College, CKC, Onitsha, and for the fact that Obiano is an accomplished chartered accountant, the people of Anambra State believed that the choice was okay for the state.
Indeed, Obi carried out the campaign as if he was seeking re-election and used the resources of the state to ensure that Obiano emerged victorious. The main thrust of their campaign was continuity, which was why the outgoing government was flagging off new projects and paying contractors till the end of the administration.
During the handover ceremony at the Alex Ekwueme Square in Awka, Obi announced that he left over N75 billion in cash and investments for his successor, a situation that was unheard of in Nigerian politics, because often times, most incoming governors inherit debts running into billions of naira.
But shortly after the handover and with the already existing feud between the two men, stories began to make the rounds that Obi did not leave N75 billion for his successor as stated in the handover note. In fact, a group of people from Obiano’s Anambra North, in an advertorial in some national dailies, said that rather than leave assets, that Obi left so much liabilities and a large number of uncompleted projects. They also accused Obi of employing so many people into the civil service and conducting local government elections, the first in 15 years, at the tail end of his administration.
Though the Obiano administration had kept mute over the matter for nearly two years, even when the camps of the two men engaged each other in social media war, the decision of the Secretary to the State Government, Professor Solo Chukwulobelu to address a press conference at the weekend on the N75 billion saga came as a surprise to political watchers.
It was gathered that the state government decided to blow the matter open following alleged reluctance of the state House of Assembly to approve loan request for the governor in view of the said N75 billion left for the administration by former Governor Obi. According to a government source, the state treasury is virtually empty and only borrowing can save the situation, which is why the government decided to state the facts concerning what it inherited from the previous administration.
Chukwulobelu said: “The N75 billion was not there; it was not handed over to anybody. At best it can be half truth. Instead, the state government inherited a total contract sum of N185.1 billion as liability from the Obi administration. In the real sense, what the Obiano administration inherited from Obi was N9 billion cash and N26 billion near cash.
He said the explanation had become pertinent because of the ground the rumour of the N75 billion was gaining, both in the social and traditional media, adding that it took the state government this long to reply to the claim in order to put the rumour finally to rest and urged the public to discountenance the claim because it does not exist.
But in a swift reaction, Obi faulted the state government’s figures, describing it as a deliberate attempt by the state government to misrepresent facts.
Mr. Valentine Obienyem, who is Obi’s media assistant insisted that Obi left over N75 billion in cash and investment, adding that the breakdown shows that N27 billion was in local currency investment; N26. 5 billion in foreign currency investment and N28.1 billion in Certified State/ MDS balances.
He said: “Even in the final handover document, Obi deducted N10 billion approved Federal Government refund, as well as the salary, pension, gratuity, money on certificates raised on contracts for the month of March which all amounted to N5 billion before arriving at the balance of over N75 billion he bequeathed his successor.
“As a financial expert, Obi went to his end of tenure event with Governor Willie Obiano and said this in the presence of all the bank MDs in whose banks the monies are lodged. In fact, as at March 17, 2014 when he handed over, he got all the certified statements of Anambra’s accounts from the banks the monies were lodged and handed them over to his successor. If they were confused on where the monies were, why would they not call Obi who kept them to explain the whereabouts to them as much as he knew?”
Obienyem said it was good that the state government did not deny the fact that before leaving office, Obi paid billions of naira for the completion of Agulu Lake Hotel, Onitsha Hotel, Awka and Nnewi shopping malls, and invested in SABMiller Breweries in Onitsha, value of which, he said, has tripled.
He added: “It is curious that the denial came at a time the state government had concluded arrangements to massively borrow money from banks and financial institutions.
“But they did not need to paint Obi black to do so, especially when the man, since leaving office, has not for a day commented on what is happening in Anambra, even with the daily drench of blame coming his way as being responsible for whatever, right or wrong, that is happening in the state for making his successor the governor, single handedly.”