Uzor Maxim Uzoatu
Governor Willie Obiano of Anambra State
The recent declaration of the Igbo stand on the restructuring of Nigeria in Ekwueme Square, Awka, Anambra State, posits Governor Willie Obiano as a political leader with his finger on the pulse of history. Nigeria is at a crossroads, and true leaders should make their points of view to count. In providing a home for the Igbo apex body, Ohanaeze Ndi-Igbo, to make broadcast the unanimity of view of the Igbo is indeed worthy of celebration.
Anambra indeed stands as a test case for the challenges of democracy in the modern-day evolution of Nigeria. The command structure of the military has largely compromised democracy in the post-war politics of the country. The war generals and commanders who have superintended over the transition-to-civil rule programmes almost always insist on using the language of one of their ilk, ‘Garrison Commanders’ to lord over whole states.
Mr Ukpabi Asika who was appointed the Administrator of the East Central State, the Igbo enclave, after the civil war remarkably said: ‘Amnesty is not amnesia.’ The vestiges of the war had to be rammed home to the new political leaders emerging from the rebel section of the country. Incidentally, Anambra is the homeland of the foremost founding father of the country, Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe, and the declarer of the independent state of Biafra, Dim Emeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu.
Since the return of civilian politics in 1999 Anambra State, which was created by former military president General Ibrahim Babangida in 1991, has fought protracted battles in regard to turning an entire state into a private fiefdom. It is a phenomenon that commands special attention in the discussion of democracy, or lack thereof, in Nigeria.
The former President of Nigeria, General Olusegun Obasanjo, in his eight long years of imperial power somewhat put Anambra State on the front pages. The 1999 Governor Dr Chinwoke Mbadinuju was the only governor dropped by his party, the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), in the 2003 re-election battle schools were shut for an entire year while workers remained unpaid, and pensioners were dismissed as ‘deadwoods’.
Dr Chris Nwabueze Ngige who replaced Mbadinuju as the PDP gubernatorial candidate was declared winner of an election that was highly dubious. The concerted force to make get the declared ‘winner’ beholden to his political godfathers led to the Thursday, July 10, 2003 abduction of Governor Ngige by a host of federal forces led by Police AIG Ralph Ige and Chief Chris Uba. It was only Ngige’s miraculous phone call to then Vice-President Atiku Abubakar that spawned a chain reaction that restored him to power. This treasonable act was dismissed as ‘a family affair’ by Obasanjo and the PDP. At about 4 a.m on November 10, 2004 some hoodlums brought into the state in 40-odd buses burnt every building of government business and the broadcasting houses while the police stood idly by, obeying ‘orders from above’.
The prominent son of Anambra State, the novelist Chinua Achebe, author of Things Fall Apart, turned down the offer of the national award, Commander of the Federal Republic, and forwarded a stinker to President Obasanjo: ‘I write this letter with a very heavy heart. For some time now, I have watched events in Nigeria with alarm and dismay. I have watched particularly the chaos in my own state of Anambra where a small clique of renegades, openly boasting its connection in high places, seems determined to turn my homeland into a bankrupt and lawless fiefdom. I am appalled by the brazenness of this clique and the silence, if not connivance, of the Presidency.’
Then PDP chairman, Audu Ogbeh, fearing that the regime may collapse over the Anambra matter like the National Party of Nigeria in the Second Republic, courageously wrote to Obasanjo: ‘About a month ago, the nation woke up to the shocking news of a devastating attack on Anambra State resulting in the burning down of radio and television stations, hotels, assembly quarters, the residence of the state chief judge and finally, Government House, Awka. Dynamite was even applied in the exercise and all or nearly most of these in the full glare of our own police force as shown on NTA for the world to see. The operation lasted for three days. That week, in all churches and mosques, our party, and you as Head of Government and leader of this nation came under the most scathing and blistering attacks. We were singly and severally accused of connivance in action and so forth. Public anger reached its peak… I call on you to act now and bring any and all the criminals, even treasonable activity, to a halt. You and you alone have the means.’ Audu Ogbeh, of course, lost his job for his effrontery in the court of the Nigerian leader. Ogbeh was reportedly forced to resign as PDP chairman at gunpoint!
Having failed in his bid to find reasons to declare a state of emergency in Anambra State, Obasanjo had to reluctantly bow to the rule of law by letting Ngige be removed by the election tribunal, thus paving the way for the coming to power of Peter Obi. Even so, the war on Anambra continued with Governor Obi being unconstitutionally impeached in an unholy hour by a handful of legislators holed up in the hotel room of a neighbouring state. Governor Obi’s deputy, Dame Virgy Etiaba, was sworn in as governor and had to be led to Aso Villa to pledge her loyalty to Obasanjo by Obasanjo’s factotum, Andy Uba, whom he had openly in a campaign rally promised to hand over the state for his dutiful service!
Peter Obi went back to court to win back his mandate. In the 2007 gubernatorial election in Anambra, Obi was excluded from the ballot by INEC on ‘orders from above’. Andy Uba, who had supplanted his hapless brother, Chris, as the grand ‘godfather’ of Anambra State politics, was declared the winner of the election with a number greater than the list of registered voters in the state!
Peter Obi was back at the Supreme Court, asking for the determination of his actual tenure. Poor Andy Uba, he served only 16 days as ‘governor’ before the Supreme Court, in a landmark ruling, sent him packing. As his mentor Obasanjo was no longer in power, Andy Uba had to quickly flee from Government House, Awka.
It is through proper grounding in the recent history of Anambra State and Nigeria that Governor Willie Obiano’s peaceful administration comes into remarkable depiction. Through the restructuring being promoted now whole states in Nigeria can no longer be turned into the personal fiefdoms of so-called political godfathers.