Anambra State Governor, Willie Obiano’s re-election bid is not a walkover, writes Charles Onyekamuo
By November next year, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) would have conducted elections into the office of Governor of Anambra State, preparatory to March 17, 2018 formal handover date to the winner of the election or swearing-in of the incumbent, Chief Willie Obiano.
Obiano was sworn-in as the 17th executive Governor of the state on March 17, 2014 at the Alex Ekwueme Square in Awka amidst expectations that he would pick the state’s developmental gauntlet from where his predecessor, Mr. Peter Obi stopped. His emergence as the candidate of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) in the 2013 governorship election was a thing of compromise so to say, considering that the then governor, Mr. Peter Obi had said his successor would come from Anambra North Zone.
This he said would be in keeping with the spirit of Anambra’s political configuration since the south zone had since creation of the state in 1991 produced Governors in Dr. Chukwuemeka Ezeife, Dr. Chinwoke Mbadinuju, Senator Andy Uba, and Dame Virgy Etiaba, while the central zone had produced Dr. Chris Ngige and himself. It was one idea that was timely and which he pursued with vigour making promises to the people of Anambra North during his second term campaigns, swearing at each stop to drum home the sincerity of the promise.
Thus, he charged the elders, traditional rulers and Town Union Presidents-General from the zone to discuss and give him an acceptable candidate, who would success him. This prompted the people of the area to set up a committee, comprising all the traditional rulers, stakeholders and presidents-General from the communities that make up the seven local government areas in the zone.
The committee which was chaired by the Obi of Onitsha, Igwe Alfred Nnaemeka Achebe had after a painstaking search culminating in interviewing all the aspirants on the platform of APGA from the zone came up with the name of Dr. Chike Obidigbo, an industrialist and manufacturer, who was then the chairman of Anambra, Enugu and Ebonyi States chamber of commerce and Industry as their choice candidate and submitted to Governor Peter Obi who accepted same.
In fairness, Chief Obiano, who was then in his home in Houston, the United States of America was not among those interviewed by the committee and was not in the picture. But his name popped up in the run up to the primaries of APGA after the Chief Victor Umeh-led national executive of the party allegedly rejected the northern committee’s choice in a meeting with Christian leaders in the states and other stakeholders of the party in Awka, thus holding the meeting down for more than an hour to enable Chief Umeh call Obiano in the United States.
Chief Joe Martins Uzodike, Peter Obi’s Commissioner for Information at the time told THISDAY that when Obiano was contacted on phone, he said he was swimming in his compound in America and should be given some time to consult with his wife.
When he eventually called back to accept the offer to be APGA’s candidate in the election, he allegedly complained that he hadn’t enough money to immediately take a flight back home, much less prosecute the campaigns to which he was assured of ample assistance. And there and then, an arrangement was made through a businessman from Awgbu in Orumba North Local Government Area of the state resident in Lagos to transfer some money to Obiano to enable him come home. And the journey began thereafter.
THISDAY checks revealed that this last minute game that changed the Anambra North Committee’s choice of Obidigbo to someone who did not even participate in the screening and interviews later became a thing of disagreement between Obi and Igwe Achebe, who accused the former of betrayal and nonchalant treatment to his person prompting his resignation then as the chairman of Anambra State Traditional Rulers Council. He has since been persuaded back to his chair. The former governor, it was also learnt, had apologised to the Monarch and Obidigbo, expressing regrets.
Now, barely two years in the saddle as Governor of Anambra State and with an eye on his re-election, Obiano appears to be having multiple challenges that may derail and the threaten his chances of getting a second term in office. The discontents are a product of his activities in office in the last two years, coming from both his APGA and even the people of Omambala area comprising the contiguous local government areas bordering the Omambala River in Anambra North from where he hails.
The four local government areas are Anambra East, Anambra West, Ayamelum and Oyi. Even as Obiano hails from Aguleri in Anambra East Local Government Area, there is a growing discontent from his Omambala brothers that he is not doing enough for the people from the communities in these four local government areas other than his immediate Aguleri community.
He has been roundly accused of nepotism in both appointments and infrastructure development in favour of his Aguleri community to the exclusion of other communities, and that he is totally disconnected from the reality of the after-effects of his lopsided appointments and the grassroots.
For instance, there is this allegation that about 70 per cent of his Special Assistants and Advisers are either from his Aguleri community or Ogbunike in Oyi local government area from where his wife hails, making tongues wag as to whether these two communities alone ensured his victory at the polls. THISDAY checks discovered that four of his first cousins from Ihiala, Ihiala local council are his Senior Special Assistants. It is understood that their mother is the elder sister to the governor’s mother.
Besides, members of APGA in the state, who worked for him during the election, are now disenchanted with his obvious nepotism, which favored his former classmates and old Boys of Christ the King College (CKC), Onitsha as well as some Diaspora Anambrarians in the United States, who were with him while there to the exclusion of those on the ground. There were also former directors of failed banks, who worked with him previously in First Bank plc and other places.
“Let me be honest with you, the governor has shown disdain to APGA members in the state. He didn’t remember them in his appointments and no sooner had he won the election than he abandoned the party structure. Imagine that out of over 200 political appointments he made, about 140 are either his kinsmen, in-laws or relatives. If that is not nepotism then what is it? Johnson Emeh, an APGA stalwart in Orumba South told THISDAY.
According to him, when the governor was picked as APGA candidate, in 2013, he had no campaign structure because he was in the Diaspora and not on the ground. Then his Kinsman, Chinedu Idigo, a lawyer and leading aspirant then offered him his campaign structure with which he campaigned and won the governorship election. But today, Idigo has been frustrated out of APGA, all because of the way the governor abandoned him.
Outside of nepotism in appointments, the governor has also been accused of nepotism in the citing of projects especially roads, or outright abandonment of the ones he inherited from the Obi administration to the discontent of the affected communities or diversion all the same.
Mr. Hycinth Obiudu from Nteje, Oyi Local Government Area in Omambia axis of Anambra North district told THISDAY in Nteje, Governor Obiano has been sectional in his road protects in Anambra North and that apart from some township and streets roads built in Otuocha and Aguleri town in Anambra East Local Government Area of the state, no new roads had been constructed and the ones he inherited in the area had been abandoned. He gave instances with the Nteje-Odumodu road and the Awkuzu-Nando road as well as several other roads in Oyi, Anambra East and Ayamelum, which the governor inherited from the Obi administration but are now abandoned.
He said the state government’s claims on Anambra rice are false because the rice had been on before his coming on board. He said he owns a rice farm in Omor, Ayamelum Local council of the state and that no access roads to the best of his knowledge had been provided for the farms. What is happening, he said, is that middlemen who are government agents come to buy the local rice from them and send to a milling plant in Amichi, Nnewi South Local Government Area of the state and package them in bags with Anambra rice inscription and sell to marketers in the state’s markets at very ridiculous prices.
“A bag of local rice in Anambra costs as much as N15,000. It is not even found anywhere because these middlemen hoard them. The loan the state government promised rice farmers could not be accessed, no assistance whatsoever. For the people of Anambra North, it is like wasted years and another election is fast approaching. I just pray that he does something before the elections because people are not happy at all,” he said,
THISDAY checks further revealed that despite the discontent from the people of Anambra North Zone, people from the central zone of the state are not amused either. An Awka indigene, who pleaded anonymity, told THISDAY in Awka, that before Peter Obi left office, he had awarded the contract for the dualisation of both sides of the Umuokpu-Amansea end of Enugu/Onitsha expressway, which is in total disrepair. Amansea is the border town between Anambra and Enugu States.
It is being alleged he said the office of the Commissioner for Works under former Governor Obi kept aside the sum of N24Billion for the completion of the road which was on-going before Obiano came, adding that the moment the governor took over, he allegedly diverted the money to the construction of township streets in his native Aguleri community, abandoning the road till now. Nobody, he said, is against his building of roads in his area of the state but that he shouldn’t have diverted the money meant for projects in Awka elsewhere.
He further alleged that the Amansea-Awba-Ofemili Ebenebe road, Awka-Okpuno-Amanuke road – all in Awka North and the Ekwulobia- Ezinifite road in Aguata, among others, all of which were at various stages of completion before Obiano came have been abandoned more than two years after.
Similarly, a group, Omambala Rebirth unity forum, which is an association of stakeholders from the four Local Government Areas that make up the Omambala area of Anambra North zone, where the governor hails, penultimate week bemoaned the way Governor Obiano allegedly threw away the goodwill of Anambra people, who gave him their mandate in the 2013 governorship election and his seeming insensitivity to the cries of nepotism as evidenced in his lopsided political appointments and abandonment of inherited projects in the state.
According to the group’s Chairman, Mr. John Udealor, who addressed stakeholders at a meeting held in a hotel at Nsugbe, Anambra East Council Area of the state said his actions negate the state’s political power configuration and constitutes a stumbling block to his re-election.
“We now find it difficult to talk to people from other sections of the state on the need to re-elect the governor and they will quickly point to us that the clamour for a governor of Anambra North origin had been fulfilled and they had seen what he is doing with power.
“He told members present that there was need to draw the governor’s attention to these lapses and where he didn’t listen, the people of the area should begin to look for a vibrant aspirant from the Omambala axis of the zone that they can sell to the people of the state given his pedigree, political experience and preparedness to enable the enclave do another four years in office, even as he noted that it is not a fait accompli in Anambra state.
Names of some politicians from the area who they claimed had aspired to the governorship position in the past traversing the length and breadth of the 177 communities in the state were bandied at the meeting. These former aspirants whom they said were then prepaid and could be supported, party affiliation not withstanding included, Chief Chinedu Idigo, a lawyer who incidentally hails from the same Aguleri with Obiano; Dr. Chike Obidigbo from Umunya, Chief Mike Ikegbuna, a lawyer from Ayamelum and Chief Basil Iwnoba who hails from Umueri in Anambra East Local government Area.
He said somebody like Mr. Ikegbunam is not only young and vibrant but from findings, he is also close to the grassroots and accessible. He however said when they approached him, he appeared to be indifferent.
“But my mind tells me that the problem of the young man may be finance. Beside this, he has pedigree and knows like others aforementioned from this zone the problems of Anambra State in his failed bid to aspire to fly the PDP ticket in 2013, when the then President Goodluck Jonathan asked other aspirants in the party to withdraw because he had thrown his weight behind the APGA and its candidate as a reciprocal gesture to the party for supporting him prior to his second term election, which he lost to Mr. Muhammadu Buhari.
In the face of these Challenges, the question on the lips of many in Anambra is: can Obiano surmount them before the campaigns next year given also that the party on which platform he rode to power appears to be having internal problems?
Recently, the members of the National working Committee (NWC) of APGA were enmeshed in a battle with its National Chairman, Dr. Victor Oye, whom they accused of subverting the party’s constitution, over-reaching himself, non-inclusive administration and does not convene meetings, including the use of uncouth language against members, and therefore suspended him.
Hon. Nwabueze Okafor from Enugu State was said to have been appointed as the party’s acting National Chairman. In spite of two meetings in quick succession at Awka and Abuja with the leader of the party and its Chairman, Board of Trustees (BOT), Governor Obiano, to resolve the problems, nothing appeared to have been achieved as the acting chairman had slammed a suit against Oye at a federal High Court in Abuja praying it to stop him from parading himself as national Chairman of APGA. But the suit is yet to be determined and Oye hzs since remained in active capacity, regardless of what Okafor lays claims to.
However, the chairman of Obiano support group in the State, Mr. Jude Emecheta told THIS DAY that there was no cause to worry as Obiano’s works would deliver him. He said those accusing him of nonperformance are simply mischievous because he has performed beyond the imagination of his critics.
He said outside making sure that salaries of workers, teachers and pensioners’ stipends are paid every month, Obiano has increased the state’s revenue profile from N500million monthly, which he inherited at his inauguration to about N1.3billion monthly presently. He also said that the governor had successfully completed three fly-overs in Awka and had attracted investments worth several billions of naira to the state through the Anambra State investment promotion agency (ASTIPA), adding that no one can take that away from him, speaking glowingly also of Obiano’s achievements in the security sector.
Anambra, Emecheta said, is witnessing a revolution in all sectors courtesy of the governor, and that in keeping with that spirit all the roads already begun would be built as soon as the rainy season subsides. These roads, he claimed, would be completed before the first quarter of next year.
Barely two years in the saddle as Governor of Anambra State and with an eye on his re-election, Obiano appears to be having multiple challenges that may derail and the threaten his chances of getting a second term in office. The discontents are a product of his activities in office in the last two years, coming from both his APGA and even the people of Omambala area comprising the contiguous local government areas bordering the Omambala River in Anambra North from where he hails