Billionaire oil magnate, Arthur Eze and the Governor of Anambra State, Chief Willie Obiano, have lately been engaged in a bitter fight. David-Chyddy Eleke reviews the cause of the differences and the new level it has assumed
Eze, a prince, is reputed to be among the biggest philanthropists to emerge from Africa. His philanthropic gestures know no bounds, and many have testified to his generosity.
Although he is known to be a political godfather to many politicians across Nigeria and in Africa, where he openly boasts of having installed a number of governors in Nigeria and three heads of states across Africa, he is not the type to get in the fray himself, especially in his home state, Anambra.
Lately, Eze seems to have decided to openly involve himself in politics, instead of sponsoring people to public offices as he is wont to do, and two persons have suffered from such position. First is a former secretary to the government of the federation, Senator Anyim Pius Anyim, and second, Governor Obiano.
The rift between the two Anambra great sons started during the inauguration of the Zonal Police Headquarters, when Eze revealed that Obiano was in Abuja in attempt to influence police authorities to move the establishment to his local community in Aguleri, Anambra East Local government.
Eze said, “Governor Obiano wanted it to be sited in Aguleri, his hometown. Aguleri and Umueri are fighting war for many years, killing themselves. They are not in good terms. He has never reconciled them. He was talking about where to site zone 13. The most important thing is for him to reconcile Aguleri and Umueri communities. They are still fighting up till today.
“This is important. If he wants to take Zone 13 let him go and take it. It does not bother me where it is sited. How many years shall I live? Five or 10 years, and I will go. Where you site it does not bother me and doesn’t make sense to me.
“The point is that I didn’t even fight. I didn’t have the impression that I was fighting but when I heard that Obiano wrote petition against me, I knew that there was war. I thought that he could have been happy we brought it to the centre. From here to his place is less than seven minutes; from here to Onitsha is seven minutes.
“I thought that we were working together until I heard that he went to Abuja to spray money. Some people threw him out. The other man told him, ‘Take this bag (money) you kept there. I don’t want to take it. I know Prince Eze since over 30 years. I didn’t know him because of money.’ So, he (governor) is sharing your money everywhere,” Eze said.
Though Obiano applied tact and carefully avoided replying Eze’s accusations, his media aides took to the social media to deride Eze, with some saying his wealth was useless to the state as he neither has meaningful investment in the state, nor can he claim to be employer of anyone in the state, despite his wealth.
But, Eze, as if standing by, launched another attack, claiming that Obiano was misusing local government funds, and that he was going to sue him (Obiano) for that.
In a later meeting with traditional rulers Eze said, “During the Abacha era, there was a law for all state governors to reserve five per cent of the state’s revenue for the traditional institution. Go to the north, they are paying, even in Enugu, the governor is paying, but here, Obiano is not paying. I will drag him to court for that.”
Arthur’s attack on the governor has however claimed one casualty. Obiano, in what looked like baring his fang, last week suspended the monarch of Ukwulu Kingdom, Igwe Peter Uyanwa, who hosted Eze and other monarchs at a meeting where Eze threatened to sue Obiano.
Though many believed that Obiano might have been unhappy with the monarch, because he previously was close to him, and was also in support of Eze, who opposed the governor’s plan to move power to the southern senatorial zone after his tenure.
But government explained that the one-year suspension had nothing to do with his association with Eze.
A release signed by the Commissioner for Information and Public Enlightenment, Mr. C. Don Adinuba said, “Following a series of petitions against the Traditional Ruler of Ukwulu in Njikoka Local Government Area from many people in Ukwulu and elsewhere, who want to forestall an impending huge crisis in the community, the Anambra State Government has decided to suspend Chief Peter Uyanwa as the Igwe of Ukwulu for one year with effect from Friday, July 24, 2020, in the first instance.
“His Certificate of Recognition as Igwe is also withdrawn with immediate effect. Consequently, Chief Uyanwa can no longer function as Chairman of the Traditional Rulers Council, Anambra Central Zone. These actions have been taken in the public interest. The appropriate security agencies have been notified.”
The rift, however, entered a different phase, when on hearing of the suspension, Eze led a delegation of monarchs from all parts of the state to visit the embattled traditional rulers in his palace. Eze said the suspension was an indication that Obiano had declared war on him.
“Go and tell him (Obiano) that we are the people that make governors. He is fighting a lost battle. The people of Ukwulu installed the monarch and not government, so he can not remove someone he did not make a king,” Eze declared.
As if to spite the governor further, Eze added: “I have been in and around government since 1970, and within that period I have made many governors in Nigeria. Since Obiano is not ready to pay you people (traditional rulers), I shall be giving N200,000 each to all monarchs in the state every month. I shall also give N10m to former LGA chairmen to pursue their matter in court, against the governor for removing them before the expiration of their tenure.”
Seeing Eze as an influential personality, the Anambra State governor has so far handled him with care, trying not to launch any direct attack on him. The state government through the chief press secretary to the governor, Mr. James Eze, in a recent press release insisted that the suspension of the monarch by Obiano was the right thing to do, because of the many petitions against the monarch, which could lead to unrest in the community.
Eze warned against Ukwulu monarch resisting the suspension, reminding that no monarch could stand the power of the state government.
“It is therefore easy to see why Emir Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, who was a First Class traditional ruler in Nigeria, stood no chance at all against the executive wrath of Governor Gadnuje of Kano State.
“That is why it is somewhat pathetic that Igwe Peter Uyanwa of Ukwulu, who witnessed the whimsical dethroning of Emir Sanusi and his immediate banishment from his kingdom by the governor of Kano State should attempt a regrettable show of arrogance towards the governor of Anambra State,” Eze warned.
As the battle progresses, most people have called for peace between Eze and the governor. Southeast governors had earlier waded into Eze/Anyim feaud, calling for a ceasefire.
Linus Mbonu, a lawyer, who spoke to THISDAY said, “There is need to mediate between the governor and Arthur Eze before this show of power snowballs into something else. I understand Eze’s position, he is someone who does not like to see the people suffer, and he believes that Obiano’s style of governance, especially with the non-conduct of election was making the people suffer. The bone of contention between both men is primarily the non-conduct of local government election.
“This has also been settled before by former Chief Judge of Anambra State, Justice Peter Umeadi, who while presiding over a state High Court had in 2017 sacked the local government caretaker chairmen and councillors appointed by Governor Willie Obiano, declaring their appointment as unconstitutional. Justice Peter Umeadi then had ordered the Anambra State Independent Electoral Commission to conduct local government election in the state within 90 days of the judgment.
“I want to call on the elders of the state to mediate between Arthur Eze and Obiano, but in doing so, they must urge Obiano to implement the Justice Umeadi judgment, instead of running to the Appeal Court, where they quickly cite that the matter was still in court, while they are the ones who took it there.”
THISDAY gathered that the non-conduct of the local government election since after the last set of chairmen and councilors were removed shortly after Obiano came to office for his first term was because the matter has remained in court.
Eze has however never hidden the fact that he did not like the local government areas being run by appointees of the state government, who do not have the full powers to effect change in their communities.