THE TURN FOR ANAMBRA NORTH SEEMS OVER: OBIANO’S RE-ELECTION AND THE DISCONTENT WITHIN [MUST READ]
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 to the winner of the election or swear-in the incumbent Governor, Chief Willie Obiano expected to contest for a second term in office if he won.
Obiano was sworn-in as the seventh 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.
Obiano’s emergence as the candidate of 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 Willie Obiano who was then in his home at Houston, United States of America (USA) was not among those interviewed by the committee and was not in the picture. But somehow, the name of Obiano cropped up in the run 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, necessitating that the meeting was 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 NEWSMEN that when Obiano was contacted on phone, he had said that 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 come and be the preferred candidate of APGA in the election, he complained that he hadn’t enough money to immediately take a flight back home and wherewithal to 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 United States dollars to Obiano to enable him transport himself home. The rest is now history”, he said.
Further checks revealed that this last minute game that changed the Anambra North Committee’s choice of Dr. Chike Obidigbo as their candidate in preference to someone who did not even participate in their screening and interviews later become 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 apologized to the revered Monarch and Dr. Chike Obidigbo expressing regrets.
Bygone, barely two years in the saddle as Governor of Anambra State and with an eye on re-election, Obiano appears to be having multiple challenges that may derail and the threaten his chances of greeting re-elected for a second term in office as Anambra State Governor. 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 from.
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 infrastructural 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% 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. We further find out 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 elections 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 that even ensured he became governor. There were also former Directors of failed banks who worked with him previously in first Bank plc and other places.
“Let me be honest to you. The Governor has show disdain to APGA members in the state. He didn’t remember them in his appointments and no sooner did he win elections than he abandoned the party structure. Imagine that out of over 200 political appointments he made, about 140 are his kInsmen, inlaws and relatives. If that is not nepotism then what is it”? Johnson Emeh, an APGA stalwart in Orumba South added.
According to him, when the Governor was picked as APGA Flag bearer, 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 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 thereby abandoning his 4Cs he promised Ndi Anambra.
Mr. Hycinth Obiudu from Nteje, Oyi Local government area in Omambia axis of Anambra North district also said in Nteje that 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 which were all abandoned today.
He said the state governments claims on Anambra rice is false because the Rice had been existing.
He said the he owed 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 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,
further investigation 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 to remain anonymous said 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 that the office of the Commissioner for works under the 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 to 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 were 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 from Penultimate week bemoaned the way Governor Obiano allegedly threw away the goodwill of Anambra people who gave him their mandate in 2013 governoship election in the state and his seeming insensitivity to 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 for 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 who 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 who they said were then prepared 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 that from findings on ground, he is also close to the grassroots and accessible. He however said that 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. Muhammad Buhari.
In the face of these Challenges, the question on the lips of many in Anambra is, “Can Obiano surmounts them before the campaigns next year given also that the party on which platform he rode to power appears to be having serious 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 who they accused of subverting the party’s constitution, over-reaching himself, non-inclusive administration that does not convene meetings, and the use of uncouth language against members, and suspended him.
They later appointed Hon. Nwabueze Okafor from Enugu state 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.
The suit is yet to be determined. However, the chairman of Obiano support group in the State, Mr. Jude Emecheta said that there was no cause to worry as Obiano’s works will deliver him.
He said those accusing him of non performance are simply being mischievous because he has performed beyond the imagination of his critics.
He said that 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 however that no one can take that away from him. He further spoke glowingly 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 said would be completed before the first quarter of next year.