By Ikechukwu Amaechi
I waited this long before weighing in on the Anambra State Governor, Willie Obiano’s contrived face-off with the President-General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Chief Nnia Nwodo, because I thought the story was a classic case of fake news. Obiano was alleged to have called Nwodo an idiot.
I thought that was impossible particularly given the reason for the governor’s angst. My thinking was that he was too urbane and cultured that even if he was inebriated, he will not behave so aberrantly.
What was the issue? Nwodo in his capacity as leader of the pan-Igbo socio-cultural organisation announced the group’s endorsement of Atiku Abubakar’s candidature in the February 16 poll. Abubakar is the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP.
Apparently, Obiano, who is neither a member of the PDP nor the All Progressives Congress (APC), is rooting for the incumbent president, General Muhammadu Buhari, the APC candidate, for reasons that are obvious to all discerning political observers.
Consensus of the Ime Obi
But Nwodo did not take a unilateral decision. It was a consensus of the Ime Obi, Ohanaeze’s highest decision-making organ.
But Obiano was so disconcerted by the endorsement that he lost it, literally, and had to vent his spleen on the messenger.
“Nnia, I didn’t know that you were so idiotic,” was the governor’s sharp rebuke.
Nwodo himself made this disclosure. In a message on social media, he wrote:
“Your Excellency Gov. Obiano, I was surprised to receive a call from you a few minutes ago in which you said the following words, “Nnia, I didn’t know that you were so idiotic.”
The Ohanaeze President must have been as bewildered as any other person as reflected in his response.
“I am shocked that you can be so insolent. I am sure that I was not so idiotic when I addressed your State Assembly asking Ndi Anambra to disregard the IPOB boycott of your election nor was I idiotic when I pleaded with the Commander-in-Chief to restore your security details.
“History will judge who amongst us is idiotic. If standing with the popular wish of Ndigbo makes me idiotic, I am happy to be called an idiot.”
Even after confirming that this message actually came from Nwodo, I still didn’t believe that Obiano would be so daft to utter such profanity.
But it turned out I was naïve because I got a dose of the ‘Nwodo treatment’ when I confronted one of the governor’s aides who tried spinning the story.
My offence? I gave Obiano the benefit of the doubt by enquiring from his aide if he really said Nwodo was idiotic.
“You have suddenly become irascible, too judgmental, and extremely careless. I hope you don’t continue along this trajectory,” was the aide’s riposte to my question.
I told him I was more disappointed in him than even in his principal because he should know better. I also reminded him that less than three years from now, Obiano will no longer be governor and the ultimate judge, history, will deliver its verdict on who really is the idiot.
It doesn’t matter who Obiano was trying to impress. What is indubitable is the fact that calling Nwodo an idiot for whatever reason is abhorrent. That crosses the red line.
Granted, it was a case of transferred aggression because Obiano’s real target was Peter Obi, his estranged political benefactor, who happens to be Atiku’s running-mate.
The Anambra governor is upset that Ohanaeze’s endorsement of the Atiku Abubakar/Peter Obi ticket burnishes the chances of trumping President Muhammadu Buhari, his preferred candidate, at the polls. And his greatest political nightmare is the prospect of an Obi vice presidency.
Obiano would rather commit hara-kiri than standby and watch that prospect become a reality. And he is doing everything in his power, including deploying the patrimony of Anambrabrians to stop the political ascendancy of their own son. How he thinks the people will buy into that dubious project beats the imagination.
His infantile obsession with this self-assigned, albeit ruinous project is leading him from one political faux-pas to another. For instance, on February 1, in a desperate bid to stop Anambra monarchs from welcoming Obi and his principal, Atiku, who were campaigning in the state, Obiano fixed an emergency meeting with the traditional rulers in Awka “to tackle the menace of cattle herders and the destruction of crops in Anambra North senatorial zone.”
Horse of mischief
Yet, he abandoned the royal fathers in Awka and purportedly left for another meeting in Abuja without the courtesy of informing his guests or offering any apologies. It took a subtle protest from the royal fathers before an aide could help the governor dismount his horse of mischief. The idea was to stop the traditional rulers from assembling at the palace of the Obi of Onitsha to welcome Atiku and Obi. But when Buhari came a few days earlier, the governor personally led the welcoming party. That was a childish political stunt.
To be sure, there is nothing wrong in Obiano working for Buhari’s re-election. His being a governor does not preclude him from that inalienable right.
But everything is wrong with his presumption that his position as governor confers on him the right to determine the direction Ndigbo should go politically.
Again, no-matter what political difference(s) Obiano has with his predecessor today, he should not forget that without Obi, he would have remained a political nonentity.
The fact Obiano fails to appreciate is that between President Buhari and Ndigbo, there is no love lost.
And this has nothing to do with the president’s ethnic origin or religion. Ndigbo have worked perfectly well with leaders from Buhari’s neck of the woods in the past. Only nine years after the civil war, Dr. Alex Ekwueme deputised Alhaji Shehu Shagari, a scion of the Sokoto Caliphate. Who can be more northern, more Fulani and more Islamic that Shagari? Ndigbo voted for and worked with President Umaru Yar’Adua, a blue-blooded Fulani Muslim from Katsina State. Even Atiku, the man majority of Ndigbo are rooting for, is a Fulani Muslim from Adamawa State.
His body language and utterances
The difference is that of all northern leaders – military and civilian – Buhari seems to be the only one still fixated on the unfortunate cataclysmic events of the 1960s. His body language and even utterances suggest he still feels that Ndigbo have not been punished enough for their real and perceived roles in those unfortunate sagas.
That is why he would retort to a question thrown at him during a media chat, thus: “What do they (Igbo) want? Who is marginalising them?”
It is disingenuous for anyone to claim that Ndigbo are not discriminated against in Nigeria, a reality that Buhari has taken to the ‘next level’ since he became president by excluding them from key appointments into the innermost sanctum of his presidency.
As Obi Nwakanma noted in his January 10, 2016 column in the Sunday Vanguard, “The Igbo want the same thing every thoughtful Nigerian wants: a great nation of which they can be proud. They want equal protection, and the equal rights of citizenship; they want non-discriminatory standards applied, which does not undermine their individual aspirations towards economic justice and the pursuit of happiness.”
This can only be achieved in a restructured Nigeria. Buhari does not believe in restructuring. Atiku does. It is only natural that Ndigbo will support the ticket that will protect them and promote their interest.
That is called enlightened self-interest. Igbo support for Atiku is not necessarily because Obi, their kinsman, is on the ticket. Without Obi, majority of Ndigbo would still have preferred an Atiku presidency to Buhari’s. Insulting Nwodo does not change that reality.
Obiano’s dissent is sheer political naivety. For the governor to predicate that support on the so-called promise that Buhari would give the Southeast an additional state as he claimed on Wednesday makes it even worse. He simply does not get it.