Anambra Guber: Will the past shape this election?

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
any development”
“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
government roads”

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.


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