Obiano: Alone On a Lonely Road


The Anambra State governorship election is due in November of this year and the lone governor of the All Progressives Grand Alliance, Chief Willy Obiano, appears to be walking a dangerously lonely road amid niggling intra-party malcontents. Olawale Olaleye writes

As it is in most climes, the re-election of Governor Willy Obiano of Anambra State is contingent on two distinct headers: governance and politics. Although there is already a swirling belief and which appears so that he hasn’t done badly on the first, which is governance, however, his politics has been dismissed on several occasions and in different quarters as both appalling and defective and sadly, it is believed to have been compounded by his seemingly poor disposition to the media.

Curiously, Anambra is not an easy turf, politically and it would take more than the sheer grandstanding of the incumbent or mere reliance on the weight of it to win an election. Tougher political heavy weights in the state had tried their hands on the seat a few times but ended up biting their tongue. Not only is Anambra politics complex and largely unpredictable, it usually throws up surprises at the least expected junctures, often proving bookmakers and pollsters wrong.

Thus, in November, when Anambra will go to the poll, Obiano will be out to fight the battle of his life, first to defend his first half of four years and justify whether or not his performance can earn him the other half. Then, he would go a step further to defend by also explaining how he had been able to balance the politics of governance with the business of governance in a politically savvy but volatile environment like Anambra.

The truth as being spoken on the streets is that Obiano had put up some good showing in terms of performance, relatively. This, perhaps, could be responsible for the array of endorsements he has been receiving from different institutions, groups, clans and persons in the state. But this too cannot explain why and how he fell out so quickly with his leader, godfather and benefactor, former Governor Peter Obi, who pulled all the brakes to make him governor. This curious ‘balancing act’ is the result that Obiano seeks as he faces the battle for re-election.

What is his score card like? In the area of security, the Obiano administration is believed to have improved what he met on the ground. With a successful war against kidnappers, armed robbers, drug-dealers and child-traffickers and other related vices, Obiano brought relative peace to the state, by effectively equipping the police.

One of the hallmarks of the Obiano administration is in the area of road construction. In over three years, he has built and maintained many roads and bridges in the state, with three flyovers in Awka. He has also built two bridges and a five-cell culvert in Awgbu-Ndiukwuenu-Awa-Ufuma axis, complemented by some over 102 asphalted roads.
His healthcare system is also enviable. He has hitherto added new units to the Onitsha General Hospital and built a helipad for air ambulances in the event of emergency. He has built blocks of houses as Isolation Units in the event of epidemics, designated as the Centre for Tropical Disease Control.

His government is in partnership with the Rise Health Incorporation of America to strengthen rural health delivery in the state. From this partnership came a specialist organisation known as the Anambra Business Coalition (ABC) through which the Orumba General Hospital has been refurbished and equipped to deliver world class medical services to the people of Orumba North and South. The ABC has also set up an ultramodern Rise Clinic in Adazi Ani and Onitsha respectively for quality healthcare to the people, even as it is working towards achieving a comprehensive Health Insurance Scheme for the state.

Under Obiano’s administration, the welfare of workers is considered top priority and that was why he reportedly increased the salary of workers by 15 per cent in 2015, interestingly at a time many states would rather seek bailouts. Apart from having cleared the N1.9 billion arrears of salaries owed the State Water Corporation staff, he has also paid off the approximately N1 billion pension owed local government retirees and inherited by his administration.

In the last two years, the Obiano administration had attempted to change the urban transportation system in the state by initiating the modern mass transit scheme that covers the three major cities in the state with 200 brand new taxis and 40 luxurious buses. To follow this up was the construction of modern bus stops and bus terminal in strategic parts of the state. This part of the idea was expanded to include marine transport with 24 speedboats and water ambulances and one gunboat for the Nigerian navy. With this, access to the riverine communities in the state is being opened to ensure that no part of the state is cut off.

But while all these are worthy of note, enough to calm nerves and reassure the governor of a re-election, having diligently covered the business of governance, the politics of it is more complicated than what it seems. For starters, Obiano is often accused of poor financial management. His predecessor, Obi, allegedly left over N75 billion for him in the state coffers, but he was alleged of “squandering” same, while seeking to borrow more money from banks and the bond market.

One of his political failures was located in his manner of appointment. A majority of the appointments in his government were believed to have tilted towards his Aguleri constituency. The same accusation is being visited on his handling of projects. A few of the projects believed to have been started by his predecessor had also been abandoned, as critics often cite the Agulu Lake hotel as an example.
Talk about education, Anambra State, which used to come first in Senior Secondary Certificate Examinations (SSCE) during the Obi administration has gone down the ranking ladder with Obiano as governor. Obiano has been rated poorly in the area of Agriculture too. There is said to be little or no policy in agriculture by the administration. Projects like the Coscharis Farms and some others are some sort of partnership with some private firms, but not doing well either.

In the area of Oil and gas, the Obi regime was widely reported to have attracted Orientoil and worked for the inclusion of Anambra as one of the oil producing states. But the incumbent is being tagged as having failed to build on this feat. And this is evident in the fact that the state has not been able to start receiving the 13 per cent derivation fund for oil producing states, almost four years after former President Goodluck Jonathan approved Anambra as an oil producing state. This is being attributed to Obiano’s inability to lobby and constrictively engage the federal government on the subject matter.

Now, the Obi Factor…
There is clearly no let down in the political rivalry between Obiano and Obi. Rather, it is getting messier, not with the principals, but more of a proxy war being fought through their aides, a majority of whom had strived hard to outdo each other in the media, sometimes over mundane issues. Whilst Obiano and Obi had tried to keep theirs under wrap by putting up faces in public, the development has no doubt heightened tension in the state as well as hardened the texture of the atmosphere.

But really, what are the issues? It is important to state that the core of their disagreement can be located, first, in the actual amount of money Obi claimed he left for the governor. Then, with time, the issues were made to appear as if it was purely a development debate such as the flyover bridges being built by the present government, but which some people in Obi’s camp were quick to describe as sheer waste of resources, coupled with the lifestyle of the governor which they describe as both wasteful and ostentatious.
What could have further compounded the overt discontent between them has been Obi’s constant visibility in the state. Obi’s regular presence in the state is believed to be deliberate and creating huge discomfort for the administration because of his larger than life image in a state he ruled for eight years.

But with election fast inching closer, there is the fear that Obi’s influence might stand in the way of the governor’s chances for re-election, especially when they could not tell what meetings he has been holding even if they could tell with whom. And to exacerbate their anxiety, Obi, just like he did in the twilight of his administration, has been making donations to schools and hospitals, ostensibly to enable them upgrade their infrastructure. But a majority of the people, particularly those in the Obiano camp sees it differently. They claimed it was a subtle ploy to undermine the popularity of the governor as well as water down his influence in the election.

Insinuations such as this had forced Obi to speak out on the alleged discomfort his presence in the state creates for the government when he said at a recent public function in Oraifite, Ekwusigo local government area, that Obiano has no legal right to prevent him from visiting the state or airing his opinion about the state. According to the former governor, it would be disastrous if Anambra degenerated into a dictatorial society under a democracy and insisted that he would continue to uphold the tenets of democracy and decency.

But it was not going to end there. The seemingly bitter rivalry soon extended to the various town unions of the two gladiators. For example, Agulu in Anaocha Local Government Area is defending Obi, their son, while the Aguleri people in Anambra East Local Government are always solidly behind their own son and incumbent governor, Obiano. After all, it is their right to defend him.

As the Race Toughens Up…
The election is four months away and the road is too lethal and treacherous for a loner like Obiano. Although Obi too was more or less a loner while in office and fought a string of intra-party battles, however, close to the election, he compromised on many grounds and even dined with the devil just to have his way, especially the need to get Obiano into office. Not only that, he equally played some “filthy national politics” just to secure the support of the Jonathan presidency and firmly establish his grounds as he went into the election and it all worked in his favour.

It is not clear now how much of horse-trading Obiano is doing. It was easier for Obi to get Obiano into office, because both of them were together as a tact team. Today, they are practically not together, even though Obiano enjoys a much peaceful party structure being held down for him by a political juggernaut, Chief Victor Oye, who too has suffered molestation of sorts as a result of his support for Obiano.

Make no mistake, the election is not going to be a walkover for Obiano or an easy grab by the opposition. At the very least, it is a free-for-all despite the weight of incumbency the governor enjoys. But it is not too late to make up and bring everyone on board. He could strike some last minutes deal with his avowed enemies and get everyone on board, if only to win. Otherwise, walking this lonely road to re-election might be tougher than he can ever imagine!