Interestingly, since the return of democracy in Nigeria, Anambra state politics has remained a complex but dynamic one. It has been on the go, assuming different positions and surmounting various challenges. However, today, the case is a different thing altogether.
A close peep into the state’s politics since 1999, when Dr. Chinweoke Mbadinuju of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, held sway will definitely tell you that there is a tremendous change. A greater departure from the usual politics of violence, kidnapping and burning down of government structure, hijacking the common wealth of the masses, thereby impoverishing the people, and forcing their children out of schools.
Recent events in the political atmosphere of Anambra, the most homogenous state in terms of politics, however point to the fact that the state since its inception has never been at rest each time it is time for elections. This is evident in the recent primary elections held in the state by all the participating political parties ahead of the November 16 governorship election where crises and allegations of horse trading pervaded the events. In some situations, two candidates emerged. In the Peoples Democratic Party,PDP, Senator Andy Uba and Comrade Tony Nwoye emerged through parallel congresses.
Now, with the emergence of Obiano,the former Executive Director of Fidelity Bank PLC and close ally of the outgoing Governor, Peter Obi, as the APGA governorship candidate, another set has been put in place to determine the next war that will rock the state if, by all implications, he fails to dance to the tune of the man that made him the governor if he wins the gubernatorial election slated for November 16, 2013.
Anambra politics when appraised only from its negative perspective looks like an aborted pregnancy. There are so many things that are too good to say the least to be desired. Yet, the leaders were swimming in oceans of plenty, causing untold hardship to their adherents and making life unbearable for them.
Chinwoke Mbadinuju and Sir Emeka Offor (PDP,1999-2003) .
Dr. Chinweoke C. Mbadinuju hails from Uli in Ihiala council area of Anambra state. He became the first democratically elected governor of the state since the return of democracy in 1999. He was entangled in a political relationship with Sir Emeka Offor, a big business man and oil magnate from Oraifite in Ekwusigo council area of the state. Both are from Anambra South Senatorial Zone.
From the time elections were conducted all over the country,and with the then President Olusegun Obasanjo coming out of prison to win the presidential election, the state immediately was engulfed in the web of controversies arising from a little misunderstanding between the former governor, Mbadinuju and his estranged political godfather, Emeka Offor.
Little did the people of Anambra state know that the little crisis that started like a joke which was earlier seen by political watchers as a storm in Mbadinuju’s tea cup could envelop the entire state, consume the governor, truncate his second term bid, and entirely destroy governance in a state that’s richly endowed with human and natural resources.
Workers were forced to go on indefinite strikes that hindered governance. School children were also forced out of schools, and crimes were freely committed in various parts of the state with the commercial cities of Awka, Nnewi and Onitsha top on the list.
This prompted the state government through an enactment of law by the state legislature, to bring the dreaded Bakassi Boys that helped to restore normalcy in the state and was allegedly used by power brokers to unleash mayhem on Anambra people. As the turbulent administration of Dr. Mbadinuju progressed into the last stages of its era, the state seemed to be ready to erupt and to rupture the political atmosphere. Yet the resilient and controversial people of Anambra remained undaunted as the two political gladiators held the state hostage for four years.
Firearms were freely used at political gatherings. One one occasion ,the governor was allegedly smuggled into a waiting vehicle by his aides to save his life, while little or no attention was given to the ordinary masses who have been forced out by hunger as a result of intractable industrial actions caused by the failure of the government to pay workers’ salaries.
While the whole political hullabaloo lasted, Mbadinuju said the major cause of disagreement between him and his estranged political godfather, Offor, was that he refused to share the state’s allocation with him.
Then, many posers emanated as to the whereabouts of the state funds since he (Mbadinuju) refused to oblige Emeka Offor. The crisis reached a crescendo with the killing of an Onitsha-based lawyer and chairman of Nigeria Bar Association, NBA, Onitsha branch, Late Barnabas Igwe and his pregnant wife, Amaka, by a group of unknown gun men.
The unresolved murder of the Igwes however helped cripple the state the more, till the end of Mbadinuju’s tenure. In the weekly Monday prayer sessions organized and coordinated by Mbadinuju (Odera) , aspersions were cast on Offor by the governor who continued blaming him for his woes and the failure of his administration to deliver on its campaign promises to the people of the state.
In Mbadinuju and Sir Emeka Offor’s case in the public court, there was no apparent damage on state government infrastructure like that between Senator Chris Ngige and Chris Ubah in 2006 .
According to Sir Eugene Oba, “Mbadinuju and Offor showed more maturity in handling their differences” adding that “…they took their battle to each other’s door steps and never used state structure like the government house and other infrastructure as instruments of warfare.
“I was a member of the APF, Anambra Peoples Forum, formed by Emeka Offor , but I can tell you without any fear that during the battle between the former Governor Mbadinuju and Sir Emeka Offor, caution and maturity played the major role as the two gladiators took the battle to each other’s door steps. Apart from the effect of the strike actions caused by the inability of the former governor to pay workers, nobody could have noticed the war between them.
“They fought each other tactically but at the end, Mbadinuju carried the blame because he was the governor.
“There was no government structure be it houses or cars that were burnt during the fracas. Sir Emeka Offor always told his boys that the war between him and Mbadinuju was an intellectual war and that nobody should take the battle outside to the masses because the masses were not party to their agreement that later turned out to be a war”.
Though, their war later became the most bloody as it affected so many people who were just coming out of military regime, our people expected democracy to favour them but it was the other way round” he said.
Finally, the war escalated and reached Aso Rock where Mbadinuju was given a red card by former President Olusegun Obasanjo and the former Chairman of PDP, Chief Audu Ogbeh who finally showed him the way out of the party. Mbadinuju went to AD in a bid to actualize his second term ambition. He lost and the rest is history.
Senator Chris Nwabueze Ngige and Chief Chris Eselu Ubah (PDP, 2003-2006)
Senator Chris Ngige is an Alor born medical doctor turned politician from Idemili South council area of the state. After many years in the medical profession, he decided to represent Anambra Central Senatorial Zone as a senator in 2003 but was allegedly conscripted into being the governor of the state by his estranged political godfather, Chief Chris Ubah who hails from Uga in Aguata council area of Anambra state.
Ordinarily, one would have believed that with the political fortune that came the way of Ngige as the second governor of the state since the return of democracy in 1999, his quest for a senate seat later would be seamless.
Unfortunately, the fortune turned out to be his greatest undoing, but the joy and hope of the people of Anambra state became high again as the tenure of Mbadinuju ended. This was evident in the large crowd that gathered at the Chief Alex Ekwueme Centre for the inauguration of Dr. Chris Ngige as the newly elected governor of the state.
But the joy of the people of the state was short lived when shortly after he took over as the governor, his tenure was enveloped in intractable political crisis, thereby forcing the people of the state into another political quagmire as he disagreed with his godfather, Chief Chris Ubah.
This time around, according to Eugene Oba,it was bloody; it was not like the battle of might between Mbadinuju and Sir Emeka Offor.
This war continued till the end of Ngige’s reign, which came through an Appeal Court’s judgment. But before he bowed out of office, the lingering crisis between him and his estranged godfather led to destruction of government property including the burning of major offices like the ANSIEC and governor and deputy governor’s offices and lodges.
As Ngige was still grappling with the challenges facing him, there was again a failed attempt to illegally remove him from office by his godfather for allegedly reneging on the agreement concerning the sharing formula of state allocation.
Ngige however survived the abduction and came out openly to spill the beans that the problem between him and Ubah was because he (Ngige) refused to allow him siphon and suck the state dry.
He maintained that his refusal was informed by his passion to use state funds to develop the state and right the wrongs committed by his predecessor. He insisted that he would not divert the money meant to deliver democratic dividends to the people of the state . He also refused to be used by his godfather to defraud the state and further impoverish them as his predecessor did.
However, Ngige, like the proverbial lizard that fell from a tree top and beat its chest quickly said in his valedictory speech before he vacated the government house for Mr. Peter Obi that,
“…Pensioners were owed for many months and retirees were owed gratuities running into two decades. Dearth of infrastructure, particularly roads stared us in the face.
Housing and water projects were non-existent.
Primary and secondary schools
buildings/furniture were utterly neglected, not to talk of the only newly
established university-Anambra State University-which did not benefit in terms of
“I am happy to say that after 33 months in the saddle, all these have changed for good
in the first year, for better in the second year and for best in this third year.
We have built 44 inter-local government, state and federal roads spanning all local
government areas in the state.
We have also built 10 township roads in Awka,
including the on-going massive dualisation of Nnamdi Azikiwe Avenue, 14 township
roads in Onitsha, and eight in Nnewi. All roads are equiped with concrete drains
and erosion checks to make them last.
In all, about 72 were constructed /reconstructed by our administration”
He reiterated that his refusal to allow some cabal to continue to loot the state treasury earned him greater respect and endeared him to the people of the state, hence, his intention to return as governor again.
Ngige then attributed the success and breakthrough he recorded in the area of funding and re-engineering the state to his refusal to allow profligacy on the side of state functionaries as well as his refusal to allow the state to be milked dry by his godfathers.
He added “…At the inception of our government on May 29, 2003, we met an empty treasury, and there was no single kobo to run government business, not to talk of paying salaries. We owed banks and other financial institutions. The state could not even service her counterpart funding for various projects”
“As I leave the saddle of governance of the state today, we have in the state coffers as state funds, the sum of N12.8 billion. This is made up of a strategic reserve of N7.5 billion for road construction, N1.5 billion for the development of the new Anambra State University. This is drawn from the Excess Crude savings and is for the development of the three campuses at Uli, Alor and Igbariam. We have another N1.3 Billion for Housing development programmes and N2.5billion as recurrent account for salaries, wages and pensions. These are aside from the N0.3b billion in the State-Local Government Joint Account, dedicated to the construction of Inter-local
His antagonists disagreed with him on his allegation that the carnage and mayhem in the state was masterminded by some people that felt they have been disengaged from the state treasury.
Emeka Nwankwo said “I still have questions. After hired arsonists burnt down all government structures in the state during Ngige’s regime, how on earth did they fail to burn Ngige’s house in Alor or his hotel which is 3 buildings away from the state house?. Were they told where and what to burn and for what? To gain sympathy or to gain rebuilding contracts?
Governor Peter Obi and Chief Victor Umeh (APGA, 2006 till date)
Peter Obi, an international business man took a shot at Anambra governorship in 2003 on the platform of All Progressives Grand Alliance(APGA). The Agulu-born politician however had a tortuous journey at one time or the other, before he got to his final political destination. He has announced that he will retire from active politics at the end of his tenure.
At one time or the other, it was Obi who faced the pressure of political challenges of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). He faced the party that paraded Ngige in 2003. The election was conducted, won and lost but Obi, not satisfied with the declaration by INEC that Ngige and his PDP won the election, contested it in court untill he got his mandate at the Appeal Court in 2006.
Shortly after he was sworn in following the ouster of Ngige which saw PDP losing grip in the state, the joy of the people of the state knew no bounds. At least, a change of guard and political party could help save them from the numerous problems they had been going through since the return of democracy.
As Obi was still packing into the government house in Awka, it was time for 2007 general election. In what looked like a blatant abuse of rule of law, election into the government house, Awka was conducted by the then INEC Chairman, Prof Maurice Iwu and Senator Andy Ubah was declared winner and sworn in as the elected governor of the state.
Dejected but resilient Obi went back to court to contest the actual tenure of a democratically elected governor. Luck smiled his way again when the Supreme Court nullified the election that made Andy Ubah of the PDP governor of Anambra state barely few weeks into the life of the administration.
Obi was then faced with the challenge of running a government where all the members of the state House of Assembly were PDP and supposedly “ Andy Ubah’s boys”. Expectedly few months rolled by and soon impeachment notice was served on Obi.
After he was impeached, Obi returned to the court for the third time. Thanks to the court, he was reinstated after some months, during which his deputy, Dame Virgy Etiaba took over the mantle of leadership.
While Obi was at one stage of his battle or the other, the people of Anambra state were receiving the heat from the political instability that ensued.
After Obi’s return, he was to finish his first tenure amidst crisis. The journey for second term began. That was when he met Chief Victor Umeh, the National Chairman of the All Progressives Grand Alliance(APGA). A deal was allegedly struck between the two brothers. Some highly placed individuals in the party were sacrificed to consolidate the political covenant between him and Umeh.
After Obi’s emergence as the elected governor of the state for the second term, the entire polity became hot and there were various political crises arising from within the party that later escalated to the national body of APGA.
Though Anambra people have become used to political crises, the recent crisis in APGA had been blamed for the political woes in the state. It’s clearly evident though , that throughout Obi’s reign, the men that brought untold hardship to the people of the state were nowhere to be found. Arson was eliminated and never given the chance to rear its ugly head.
In fact Obi had insisted that he was faced with the challenges of rebuilding the state which was hitherto embroiled in different political warfares of his predecessors and their political godfathers. This is the status quo of Anambra politics.
Meanwhile, there are dark clouds hovering on the political future of the state at the end of Obi’s tenure regarding the return of these strong men. Many political analysts posit that Obi has helped to eliminate political thuggery and rascality with his style of leadership by starving the so-called political leaders of funds with which to unleash mayhem in the state as well as keeping them away from the scheme of things.This also contributed to the magic, but till the emergence of the next governor of the state after the November 16 election, only time will tell.
The emerging controversies?
It’s now expected that at the end of the gubernatorial election slated for November 16, both Obi and his anointed son, Willie Obiano will not be against each other. Like they say, power is like a masquerade, it does not fear anybody.
May be ,because the face and eyes are always covered, anybody in power always tries to liberate himself from the shackles of tutelage and that has always been the problem of the people of Anambra state.
Many are already saying that the next war that stares Anambra people in the face is the emerging controversies that will erupt in the state if Obi and his political son, Obiano disagree. In his acceptance speech shortly after he was declared the winner of APGA’s governorship ticket at the Women’s Development Centre, Awka, by the Chairman of the Electoral Committee, Chief Martin Agbaso, Chief Willie Obiano said that he will consolidate on the achievements of Governor Peter Obi.
Many people want to believe that he will do just that and nothing short of that will be acceptable to the people. That is if he defeats the candidates of All Progressive Congress, APC, Ngige and that of PDP as well as Ifeanyi Ubah of the Labour Party.