By Chuks Iloegbunam
I write this letter with a very heavy heart. For some time now I have watched events in Nigeria with alarm and dismay. I have watched particularly the chaos in my own state of Anambra where a small clique of renegades, openly boasting its connections in high places, seems determined to turn my homeland into a bankrupt and lawless fiefdom. I am appalled by the brazenness of this clique and the silence, if not connivance, of the presidency.
The above is from a letter Chinua Achebe wrote to President Obasanjo on October 15, 2004, rejecting his nomination for national honours on the grounds that under the President’s watch Anambra State had become a political gangland. Anambra State is once more sitting precariously on the horn of a dilemma. The gubernatorial election is slated for November 6. There are over a dozen candidates, which, comparatively speaking is merciful. Ordinarily there should be more than 200 candidates, something close to the scenario of a church with more pastors than the congregation.
There is a matter of primary concern. Where are the election materials to be stored? The Awka branch of the Central Bank has vaults spacious enough to store all the materials necessary for the election. The place was previously used to store such election materials. Why might it not be used this time around? INEC says the election materials would, instead, be stored in Owerri, Imo State. Why?
Now, take a look at the candidates. It is not rocket science to fathom that Chukwuma Charles Soludo is the quintessential candidate, the best prepared and by far the most exposed to direct with passion and vision the affairs of Anambra State. Academically, Soludo attained his professorship in the 10th year of his lectureship. As a technocrat, he has advised unilateral and multilateral institutions and financial organisations, including the African Union and the World Bank, to resoundingly successful effect. He acquitted himself creditably both as Economic Adviser to the Federal Government of Nigeria and as the Governor of the Central Bank. To Soludo’s eternal credit, the consolidation of Nigeria’s banking sector took place under his watch. His setting in 2005 of N25 billion as the minimum capital base for any bank reduced the number of banks from an unwieldy 89 to 24 viable financial houses that enhanced the national economy.
Unfortunately, Soludo has as fellow contestants some of those that turned Anambra State into a lawless fiefdom in 2004, folks that journeyed to the United States and stayed there for decades but came back home without as much as the academic equivalent of the ordinary national diploma.
People who incinerated the Government House in Awka, the Ikenga Hotel in Awka, the INEC offices in Awka, blokes that abducted a sitting governor and went scandalously unpunished are back 17 years after their villainy, wrapped in the effrontery and temerity to glibly declare the intention of governing Anambra State, a state that sired the likes of Nnamdi Azikiwe, Alex Ekwueme, Dora Akunyili, Mokwugo Okoye, Kenneth Onwuka Dike, Roy Umenyi, Pius Okigbo, Modilim Achufusi, Francis Cardianl Arinze, Cyprian Michael Iwene Tansi, Igwe Nnaemeka Achebe, Emmanuel Okala, Godfrey Ezekwe, Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu, Charles Nnolim, G. C. M. Onyiuke, and thousands more. The proposition swallows response, being innately and irreversibly sacrilegious.
There are things you tell a woman with the strident warning that her husband must never get an inkling of it. Ndi Anambra are today being subjected to moonlight tales regarding the wisdom in switching political parties at the drop of a needle. If a woman plundered the national treasury and is called upon to hold herself accountable for corruption, yes, she could hop into the party of the centre where mere membership exculpates even the most heinous of atrocities. If a man expected appointment to high political office or election to the National Assembly but drew blank on both scores, he could plunge into the party of the centre where the sheer acquisition of membership card could translate into the diversion of crumbs from the national purse to his pockets.
But neither the women nor the men primed by the impetus of personal aggrandisement should presume to cajole the APGA faithful into partaking in their non-altruistic gambits. The Party of the Centre has nothing to offer Ndi Anambra and Ndigbo as a whole, being the flank trying to imprint on our scandalised senses the obnoxious lesson that a cow’s life is more valuable than that of a human being.
APGA has been the most enduring political party in the Southeast. Unfortunately, its electoral fortunes have, every so often, been violently vitiated by the manipulations of election riggers. It won Imo in 2011 only for Rochas Okorocha to donate the electoral mandate, hook, line and sinker, to the APC. Thereafter, he left the state in wrack and ruin, a sellout that Hope Uzodinma is today single-mindedly sustaining. Ndi Anambra can never be persuaded to join the macabre dance of the Party of the Centre. But if their state is yanked from them by federal might, Ndigbo will have lost their last voice in Nigeria for the foreseeable future.
Common sense makes it the case that, if there are problems in APGA, as there are in all political parties the world over, the sane measure to take is to sit down around a table and fix them, not to career from one counterproductive party to another like an anchorless ship. Those APGA members that have recently jumped ship for instant dividends will eventually end up like fish out of water. On the day of reckoning, they would be ordered to find their level. Who does not know that there are prominent Ndigbo in the PDP and the APC today? Who does not also know that their vaunted prominence notwithstanding, none of them, including the nosier noisemakers of the lot, ever earned a ticket to caucuses where important decisions were taken?
It leaves us with one more word – on Governor Willie Obiano. The man has his critics. He has, as a matter of course, always taken criticisms of his administration in good faith. I do not mistake him for a perfect man. He never garlanded his head with a saint’s hallow. But the gracious adjective suits him nicely. His legacy in Anambra will remain imperishable. We had an international airport in Uli that survived the civil war. Central politicians scraped it out of spite. It took 51 years for Anambra to have another airport, the one at Umueri that Obiano built. He gave Anambra an international conference centre. He gave us the longest bridge in the state. He has helped more than all previous governors to transform Awka’s provincialism into a thriving metropolis. He has always and promptly paid salaries and pensions, unlike what obtains in many states whose umbilical cords are tied to the Party of Centre, including Imo, where unpaid salaries and perquisites have since blown all computation metres to smithereens.
Governor Willie Obiano made Anambra the safest state in Nigeria, to the point that neighbouring states hit by virulent and violent criminality invariably ran to him for assistance in combatting the renegades and nonconformists. Then the era of “unknown gunmen” materialised, something decidedly not home grown. Still, Anambra State holds its head high, thanks to Obiano’s steady hands at the controls.
I am confident that it will be a seamless hand over of power from Obiano to Soludo, and a continuation of the continuous business of good governance – if the Party of the Centre allows the voice of the people to matter in the ballot of November 6.
- Iloegbunam is the author of Ironsi: Nigeria, The Army, Power And Politics.