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Obiano and the judgement of history

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By Rowland Odegbo

THOUGH he was not a career politician at the time fortune brought him forward to lead Anambra State, but he has since proved that he is as good as any politician elsewhere in Nigeria. His position on the last presidential election has proved him a man of deep political insight contrary to what many are willing to concede. Governor Willie Obiano may not be your first choice of a politician if the decision is put to vote. He cuts straight and does not believe in calling a spade by another name.

Since assumption of office he has taken certain decisions that seemed politically imprudent at first, but which proved sagacious in the end. Determined to redress the palpable loss of political patronage by the people, he set out early to play inclusive politics. This decision, even when it does not compromise the interest of the people, is bitterly criticized by few politicians who play on the fickleness of the people’s emotion. Deliberately dismissed as not showing good judgement, yet the evidence on the ground very easily shows inclusive politics as deserving.

Anambra election results

Willie Obiano

Perhaps it is in keeping with this choice of uninformed opposition, even at possible risk to her position in national politics, that the state gave the least votes to the ruling APC government in the entire South East. The argument here is twofold. One is that the APC administration is not disposed to the interest of the Igbo. Two is that the running mate to the presidential candidate of the main opposition party is from the state. At face value both arguments are acceptable, but will fall flat in the face of real politics. However discriminatory the government at the centre may be, it is not known to have done anything more for the other four South East states that gave it more votes than Anambra. Neither did the votes of the four states given because their governors were elected on the ticket of the ruling party.

Two, if the state is eager to have one of her own at the commanding heights of the government she should cast her votes for Kingsley Muoghalu. The vice presidential slot does not confer the power that is being sought. Professor Yemi Osinbajo does not cut the picture of a powerful VP and that situation does not appear to change any time soon. Not once was his office alleged to be made of little importance. And did the entire Yoruba states vote for the APC to prove they have their son as the second man in government? If the idea is to prove to President Buhari that the Igbo are not happy with his government, wouldnt a protest vote for Muoghalu communicate the message? It takes political naivety to think that a sitting president of African descent will lose power without a fight. Goodluck Jonathan and a few others who did were exceptions not the rule. The rumour in some quarters that Governor Obiano was supporting Buhari merely because he was trying to ingratiate himself with the Federal Government was just to intone the refrain of hate. Otherwise whose favour were the other four governors of the South East trying to curry when they gave him more votes? Truth is that Governor Obiano is the only governor from the East who has not followed the government at the centre sheepishly. He might have supported it, but not to the detriment of the people whose mandate he holds in trust. What other governors could not touch with a long pole for fear of losing their position Obiano has done. A few examples will suffice.

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Few months into office, his government embarked on a project that gave Ndigbo (both living and dead) a sense of belonging. Unsung heroes of Biafra, those whose sacrifices kept the Igbo spirit aglow, were given a symbolic burial to bring a closure to the unfortunate war. Previous governments in the entire South East states never contemplated such project not to talk of embarking on it. Needless, to recount here the pressure the governor weathered to have the event conducted. A less motivated Igbo would buckle under the pressure from the security forces and have the event cancelled.

It takes a governor of Obiano’s resolve to fight the relocation of Boko Haram prisoners to Ekwulobia prison. The governor mounted pressure on the Federal Government, insisting that the prisoners were radicalised and could not be accommodated in the state. In the end, he was able to have the prisoners transferred to the relief of Ndi-Anambra and the entire South Eastern states. The invitation given to pre and post-war musical bands from Aba some two years ago neither portrayed Governor Obiano as slavish to the establishment nor a selfish governor. The invitation was equally provocative and a lilly-livered governor will flinch from it while a self-absorbed politician will discard the thought altogether. But the Igbo man in the governor could not discourage the event and allow him to appreciate the risk to his office. He is yet to change since then.

Just last year, at his instance, Ndigbo were invited to Awka (Ekwueme square) to make a political declaration. The idea of a restructured Nigeria which the Igbo canvassed and still canvass was discussed in a gathering that attracted people from every walk of life. Also present was the President General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo.

Other political actors were there to give value to the position of the Igbo. It is not likely that any other governor would accept to host the event, considering the risk. But Governor Obiano braved all for the interest of the Igbo. His support for the re-election of President Buhari was neither dictated by hatred for his predecessor nor personal aggrandizement. It was purely for the interest of Ndigbo, aimed at pushing them closer to the centre. Sadly, the support was not given and, as it stands, may once again expose the state to another form of denial.

The idea of opposing every decision of government, however, germane to the cause of the people does not augur for a peoples political development. It vitiates their interest and sets them back many years. It was unfortunate that the state contributed the least to the victory of the APC-led Federal Government.

It is hoped the president will be more liberal this time and bring in qualified Nigerians of different political hues. It is also hoped that the people will be more politically sagacious next time around.

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