Posted October 28th, 2006

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- By Henry Onukwuba -

Food given to a slave is not to assuage hunger but to keep him alive for the services of the master

Again Anambra State is in the news. Again for the wrong reasons! The latest impeachment saga in Anambra State deserves a place in The Guinness Book of Records as the most unpopular and most irrationally contrived impeachment exercise in modern day Democracy! It is disgusting. It is insulting to the mentalities of the right thinking people of Anambra State and Nigerians at large. However, when personal aggrandizement and spurious glory rather than common sense and good judgment are the motivating factors, then rationality and accountability can take the back seat.

More than anything else, this latest bad news from the notorious Anambra State, unfortunately my state, has once more brought to the fore the damaging effect of election rigging and manipulation to our nascent democracy. Do you wonder why despite the all round public opinion against the impeachment moves, coming from traditional rulers, religious leaders, elders of the state including the former Vice President Alex Ekwueme, the Ohaneze Ndigbo and even such federal government ministers as Oby Ezekwesili, a worthy daughter of Anambra State, these eighteen pro-impeachment legislators have refused to sheathe their swords. Wonder no more. The simple reason is that these honourable members with dishonourable intentions are not the true representatives of their people. They do not owe the people any allegiance because they were not elected by them Period. They were part of the Chris Uba rape on democracy in Anambra State, with the active support of another Uba in Aso Rock.

The 2003 elections in Anambra State were contested mainly on party lines. For most of the seats, there were little or no campaigning by the contestants; the electorates did not know the candidates until after the elections. A good case was the three Anambra senatorial seats which were won by the PDP, but nobody knew who actually contested the elections; only after the elections did the fight for who to represent the State in the Senate start. If we did not know who contested the senatorial elections how much more the House of Assembly elections? Many of these Honourable members were hand picked by Chris Uba and his band and foisted on the good people of the State. Given that The Enugu Federal Court of Appeal ruled that the 2003 Anambra gubernatorial elections were roundly rigged in favour of Ngige and the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, and that the All Progressive Peoples Alliance (APGA) of Peter Obi truly won the elections; since, as earlier pointed out, many voted for parties rather than individuals, we can therefore conclude that not only Ngige was rigged into office, most (if not all) these PDP legislators were also rigged into office.

Despite the publicly expressed displeasure of the PDP hierarchy on the impeachment move and the visit of the PDP National Chairman, Senator Ahmadu Alli to the legislators’ hideout in Asaba, Delta State, Aso Rock must do more to convince Nigerians that this is not another Ekiti in the works. There is a very strong suspicion that this is nothing but a grand design to draft in Andy Uba, Obasanjo’s Senior Special Assistant on Special Duties/Domestic Affairs as Governor of Anambra State. Before now, there have been reported clandestine visits to Abuja by the Anambra House members. During the recent President’s visit to Anambra State, the House held a special session with both the President and Governor Obi in attendance, in which it, of all serious legislative functions, unanimously adopted a motion requesting the President to release Andy Uba to enable him contest the Anambra State gubernatorial election. The motion was moved by the Majority Leader, Hon Humphrey Nsofor representing Ekwusigo State Constituency and seconded by Hon Ben Obidigbo representing Oyi Constituency.

The legislators have also attributed all the federal presence to the influence of Andy Uba on the presidency. Bravo! To whom do we attribute the neglect of the Onitsha – Enugu Federal Expressway, the yet-to-be-constructed second Onitsha head bridge despite the overwhelming need; or the seemingly endless dualisation of the Onitsha – Owerri road which has turned the road to a nightmarish experience for travellers. Where was Andy Uba when his brother Chris set Anambra State over N30 billion back by his wanton destruction of public institutions and properties including the Government House, Awka and the Anambra State Broadcasting Service, ABS, Onitsha?

The plot, according to reliable sources including some of the other PDP gubernatorial aspirants is to impeach both Obi and his deputy, Dame Virginia Etiaba, thereby ending APGA’s hold on the state; Speaker Mike Balonwu would be sworn in as acting governor pending election of a substantive governor. Within three months, Andy Uba would be released by the Presidency to contest the Anambra gubernatorial seat in a bye-election, with Speaker Balonwu as his deputy. Once beaten twice shy, the PDP would this time make sure nothing goes wrong in its claim to the Anambra Government House. Uba would then employ all the incumbency might to ensure that he returns himself and the party to power in 2007.

It is very clear that the impeachment charges are trumped up. One of the charges is that Obi reconstructed the Anambra State Government House damaged by Ngige and Chris Uba’s in their moment of madness without due process. Obi has since responded that the contract for the rebuilding of the Government House was awarded by Ngige before he left office for over N240 million, but he got it rebuilt with just N31 million! I had seen the government house before its reconstruction; I have also seen it after its reconstruction. If indeed Obi did that job with N31 million, he deserves a special commendation by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC). If the destroyer was not impeached, why is the rebuilder being punished?

Another allegation is that Obi keeps the State’s money in Fidelity Bank where he was Chairman before his election as governor. Obi’s defence is that the State keeps her money in eleven other banks of which Fidelity is one, and that the account has actually been operated by his predecessor in one of the banks which became part of Fidelity Bank after the consolidation.

The other is the state of emergency and shoot at sight order in Onitsha and other parts of the state during the Bakassi disturbances. I thought this was with the approval of the Federal Government? How else do you respond to a situation where army armoured vehicles and police stations are set ablaze by hoodlums, and prison yards invaded and prisoners set free?

Obi is one of the few governors given a clean bill of health by Nuru Ribadu of the EFCC in his recent revelations in the Senate. If Obasanjo allows Obi to go then he can as well forget his fight against corruption in Anambra State.

Anambra State is in dire need of responsible governance; Obi seems closest to offering that. Since swearing in six months ago, Governor Peter Obi has been governing Anambra State in a very unusual manner. Gone are the generosity and sometimes recklessness of the previous governments. Everyone around him is complaining, but for the wrong reasons. Obi is so tight fisted and prudent that he is unpopular among those around the corridors of power, not in the least the honourable members, who are used to the largesse and dole outs of the previous governments. It is said that Obi would go on official trips, not with a thirty-man entourage but with one or two. He would book his own hotel room and would not spend a night outside the State longer than necessary. One of the jokes going the round is that Obi once instructed his aide to ‘settle’ one of the big time professional government hangers-on who was singing his praise. The aide wanted to know by how many thousands of Naira, Governor Obi replied N200. Obi would normally drive to work from Onitsha to Awka siren-less, would stop to intervene where a law enforcement agent becomes brutal in his law enforcement duties. Some even accuse him of bringing down the prestige of the governorship seat by his over-simplicity, whatever that means. Anambra State has not witnessed this kind for a very long time, and many are still trying to come to terms with his style of governorship.

“If a man does not know where he is going to he should at least know where he is coming from.” For Honourable Speaker Mike Balonwu, a friend and a young, quiet man from a good home who had given serious thoughts to a life in the monastery before his adventure into politics, remember that when one excretes on the path he is traveling, on returning he will be greeted by flies. The Onitsha people whom you represent in the House are not with you on this. The Obi of Onitsha, His Royal Majesty, Igwe Alfred Achebe, Agbogidi, is not in support. The Onitsha Improvement Union has written against this. As a matter of fact, Onitsha people have not seen any gains from your speakership of the House. Onitsha does not have pipe-born water for the past decade. Onitsha roads are non-existent. The Ngige government despite its legendary road reconstruction did not deem it fit to repair the popular and ever busy Awka Road that passes through your father’s compound and links Onitsha with the other parts of the state. Traders going home from work are trapped on that road for hours deep into the night everyday. It took the President’s visit for Governor Obi to give the road a facelift. You and your honourable friends should not allow yourselves to be used once again to drag Anambra State to the mud. History will not be kind to you if you sell the soul of Anambra State for a plate of porridge.

For Governor Obi who is a strong believer in God, my advice is do not fear the one who can destroy the body but not the soul, rather fear him that can destroy both body and soul. No matter the severity of the storm a calabash in the river cannot sink. No matter how long the night, dawn will eventually come. Long live Anambra State! Long live Democracy! Long live Nigeria!

Henry Onukwuba is a consultant, author and public commentator, he writes from Lagos.

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