By Ejike Onuogu
It has been said that the path to good governance is not always the preferred choice in a system that is woven to produce the same result time and time again. The history of Nigeria and indeed of Africa will be re-written when dark horses emerge and enter the arena and redefine the political landscape in which only a privileged few find their way to the corridors of power and over time hijack the process and mold it into their self-contraption and finally, a family dynasty with no checks and balances.
Over time inertia weighs in and the system perpetuates itself in what becomes an unfortunate vicious cycle. However, with the emergence of Peter Obi as the Vice Presidential Candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Nigerians both at home and in the diaspora are assured of one thing: The fact that things will not be the same. It will not be business as usual.
Since His Excellency, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar chose Pater Obi as his running mate, many individuals especially in the South East have become sleep-deprived and are almost running amok for the simple reason that there was no adequate consultation within the party hierarchy especially the South East caucus prior to his decision on the choice of a running mate.
Yet we seem to have forgotten that in a Presidential system of government, a party’s flag bearer has the constitutional authority to choose his running mate. It is true that no one expects him to pick a running mate by throwing dice or picking a lot out of a basket. If he carried out consultation , he does not have to announce this by wearing ash on his forehead or ringing a bell in the market square.
The emergence of Peter Obi as the vice” presidential candidate of the PDP has sparked excitement amongst Nigerians living in the Diaspora. History will not judge us kindly if we forget quite easily why men fight and die for what they believe in. In fact it was Gowon who said that the Nigeria civil war was fought to keep Nigeria one. Yet there are crazy elements that believe that we should revisit those dark days of our national history. The protagonists of this idea believe that the emergence of a sovereign Biafra nation is the panacea to all the problems facing the black man.
There have been curbside talks about the Igbo people being victims of marginalization within the Nigerian enclave. This argument holds no water when one looks at the internal dynamics of the five South East states where the state of affairs have been presided by the Igbo man himself. With the exception of Anambra State , the argument of Igbo leadership per se is nothing short of fallacy.
Prior to Peter Obi taking office as Governor of Anambra State , there were historical antecedents that support this reductio ad absurdum. In 1979, Jim Nwobodo was the Governor of Anambra State. At the same time the Late Dr. Alex Ekwueme was the vice president of Nigeria. Though both of Igbo extraction, the two belonged to different political parties. For four years they allowed personal interest play a dominant role in the affairs of the day. As a result, Anambra state was left fallow and deprived of the dividends of democracy.
In the same period, the late Governor Sam Mbakwe of Imo State maintained a good working relationship with his NPN counterpart in the person of the late K.O. Mbadiwe, People called him the weeping Governor, but during his tenure , Imo State was a model to behold. Between 1979 and 1983, Mr. D. C. Ugwu was the Minister of Health in the Shagari-led NPN Federal Government. He was from Obukpa, Nsukka. He embarked on building comprehensive health center across Nigeria.
The prototype at Obukpa was a collection of dilapidated structures that mostly served as consulting rooms. The center was simply a skeleton. When Allison Madueke became Military Governor of Anambra State following the exit of the Shagari regime, Anambra state witnessed what most pundits would call a vacuum of leadership. Even his hometown Inyi, in Oji River LGA had the worst road you could think of in Nigeria. It was like climbing the Alps.
Then came Governor Nnaemeka Akonobi whose excesses were summarized in a book by the late C.C. Onoh titled , “ Monumental Corruption in Anambra State.” Much in-fighting between the government and many interest groups called moneybags marked the four years of the Mbadinuju regime. This grandfather system in many ways prevented the government from having a focus. The House was able to introduce legislation establishing the Anambra Vigilante Services under the code name “Bakassi Boys.”.
Governor Ngige who succeeded Mbadinuju was also caught in the web created by his godfathers and to a large extent his government was strangulated it was during his tenure that hoodlums abducted a sitting governor, and many state infrastructure destroyed by arsonists . Similar occurrences could be seen in Imo, Ebonyi and Abia State where the governors though of Igbo extraction , have not risen to the occasion to change the trajectory of state business for the benefit of the people.
Throughout history, leaders have emerged and championed a cause that has taken a people to a new level of existence and relevance in world history. Many of these leaders are students of history. These are men who believe in themselves, in destiny and their ability to bring a particular vision to fruition . The limitation of man cannot always be a Freudian tragedy where the psychological growth of man is arrested at the level of the primordial instinctual drives of food and sex.
When Shaka Zulu took up arms and fought the British to a standstill, he was propelled by values far greater than his quest for personal vendetta against his father who repudiated his position as the heir apparent to the Zulu Kingdom. When in the fifties, the late Kwame Nkrumah had a dream of Pan Africanism, it was a vision rooted in altruism rather than personal aggrandizement.
When Julius Nyerere of Tanzania left office in 1985, he had served Africa well. He was a proponent of Pan Africanism. He was also a founding member of the Organisation of African Unity .His views on leadership is summed up in these words: “Those who receive this privilege therefore, have a duty to repay the sacrifice which others have made.”
They are like the man who has been given all the food available in a starving village in order that he might have strength to bring supplies back from a distant place.” When he left office ,his only assets were an old Land rover, 3000 Shillings and an old bungalow. He passed away in 1999 but before he died he was given the title “Mwalimu” which means “Teacher”. Tanzanians mourn his loss to this day.
When Nelson Mandela was elected President of South Africa, his resume included a period spanning 27 years spent behind bars. He did not draw blood, rather he chose the path of national reconciliation. Many South Africans saw this as cowardice; yet many others saw this as a manifestation of inner strength.
I have used examples within the continent of Africa to show that positive change is not limited to the Western hemisphere alone. Positive change can occur when we elect leaders with the right temperament, the right vision and the zeal to step up to the play and stamp their footprints on the immortal sands of time.
Nigeria at this point in history needs leaders who are de-tribalized; leaders who will not see Nigeria as a conglomerate of Fulani, Hausa, Igbo, Yoruba, Efik, Ijaw, Ibibio. Rather a Nigeria where tribes, languages are like petals of the same flower, and religion as a common conduit to glorify the Almighty God, who is the Author of all creation.
When he served as governor of Anambra State, Peter Obi came with a sense of purpose and a vision to rescue Anambra State from the unhealthy politics of nepotism that had marred the affairs of the state for years and turning the state into a breeding ground for thuggery, as well as other vices. During his tenure as Governor, Peter Obi repositioned Anambra State as a beacon of light in Nigeria. He embraced excellence and productivity and channeled state resources towards resuscitation of decaying infrastructure.
During his tenure, Anambra witnessed a plethora of inner city road network unseen in most parts of the country. He ensured that civil servants and pensioners were paid in a timely manner. He paid extra attention to refurbishing primary and secondary schools in the state and providing a conducive environment for students to achieve their potentials. He made sure that contracts were awarded and executed and not abandoned midstream.
He expanded the security apparatus of the state making it next to none in the nation. Today, Anambra citizens can go about their daily duties without fear of molestation by hoodlums, kidnappers or armed Robbers. Governor Peter Obi left over N90 billion in Anambra Treasury upon completion of his tenure and has welcomed investigation of impropriety by EFCC.
Those of us in the diaspora who have weighed his performance alongside his contemporaries believe it is a no-contest. He stands tall as the Governor of the Century.
The South East PDP caucus should set aside politics of personal destruction and rally around a man who in the next four years as Vice President will work with the incoming President to reposition Nigeria as a tour de force in Sub -Saharan Africa. Nigerians need a leader who is undaunted , fearless and who will not abandon ship.
Just before the outbreak of the second Punic War the Carthaginian General, Hamilca Barca called his nine-year-old son Hannibal and asked him if he would like to go to war. He said he would. His father took him to an altar where Hannibal was made to swear never to be a friend of the Roman people. At the age of 27 he took over as the Commanding General of the Carthaginian Army and carried the loyalty of his men.
His military maneuver across the river Rhone, the Little St. Bernard Pass into Southern France is taught in most war colleges. When he lost the war, he became a fugitive constantly evading capture by the Roman soldiers who were hot on his trail. Rather than be taken prisoner, he took his own life. In drinking poison, these were his last words: “ Let us rid Rome of all her daily worries.”
Such is the character of the man before us as the Vice Presidential candidate of the PDP. He will work tirelessly to bring representation to the six geopolitical zones of Nigeria. He will not be Vice President of the Igbos, but the Vice President of Nigeria and will work with Mr. President to protect the territorial integrity of Nigeria. His word will be his bond.
Dr. Onuogu is a Consultant Psychiatrist in New York.