|Chukwudi Nwokoye||Thursday, March 8, 2007|
Upper Marlboro, MD, USA
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ANAMBRA STATE AND THE ONE-TERM GOVERNOR SYNDROME
y history teacher in those days, one Mr. Pius Onah, would say “we do not know what will happen tomorrow, only God knows, but we can safely predict the future from the study of the past…..which is what the subject ‘history‘ is all about” The words of my history teacher never resonated more loudly to my ears than now as we face another gubernatorial election in my state, Anambra.
From the time of Gov. Nwobodo of the old Anambra state to the present governor in the new Anambra state, Mr. Peter Obi, the state continues to pride itself as the only state in the federation to keep to this state of event.
In 1979, during the governorship election, Chief Jim Ifeanyichukwu Nwobodo, riding on the popularity of Great Zik, who was the leader of Nigerian Peoples Party (NPP), roundly defeated Chief Christian Chukwuma Onoh of the National Party of Nigeria (NPN) to become the first executive governor of Anambra state. When Nwobodo became the governor, he met lots of obstacles with the central government controlled by NPN under President Alhaji Shehu Shagari. Nwobodo discovered that he only won a battle and that the war raged on. His Tormentor-In-Chief was the Vice-President of Nigeria, Chief Alex Ifeanyichukwu Ekwueme who also hails from Anambra state and in fact, Chief C. C. Onoh whom Nwobodo defeated. With the federal apparatus under their disposal, the ruling party fought Gov. Nwobodo to a standstill. When “Jim” as Gov. Nwobodo was fondly referred to, refused to bow to the federal might, the ruling party with their well-oiled political propaganda tried unsuccessfully to rubbish everything that Nwobodo was doing. They used the Nigerian Television Authority, (NTA) and the Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria (FRCN) as their propaganda machinery to attack the governor both personally and in his conduct of his administration.
Gov. Nwobodo fought back aggressively. He created the Anambra Broadcasting Service (ABS) with main station at Enugu and substation at Onitsha to counter the misinformation by NTA against his administration. He did not stop there, but he went to work for the people in keeping with the slogan of NPP which was “power to the people”. Gov. Nwobodo carved out Anambra State University of Technology (ASUTECH) from Institute of Management and Technology (IMT). He went ahead to start a multi-campus system with Enugu , Awka and Abakaliki campuses in keeping with all the senatorial discipline of the state. He also went ahead with massive Rural Electrification Project which brought electricity to many towns in the old Anambra state. The company that handled the project was a renowned electrical company named Brown Brovry Company (BBC) and they did an outstanding job. To this day, the cable and the electric poles used by the company remain super! The road projects undertaken by Nwobodo’s administration were solid. When the feds saw that Nwobodo remained resolute in providing democratic dividends to the people of the old Anambra state, they resorted to side-talks like “onya needed a onyere unu anaghikwa enwu oku”-this spider webs he built for you does not have any electricity. They were referring to rural electrification of the government. They even swore that the project would not see the light of the day. Even many people did not even know who was doing what at the time. The NPN claimed that they actually did many things that Nwobodo was doing. They would not give him credit for anything, but it soon became clear when the people read between the lines.
Both Onoh and Nwobodo men fought all the way to the Supreme Court to determine who actually won the election. After the highly contentious appeal, the Supreme Court declared Chief Onoh as the winner.
Chief Onoh took over as the 2nd executive governor of Anambra state in October, 1983 with his party, NPN, controlling both the federal and the state government. His government did not last long as the military took over on the 31st December, 1983. So a one-term of three months was what Onoh’s administration had.
Then came the 3rd Republic. At that time before the creation of states, the political climate of the old Anambra state was star-studded. Many experienced and astute politicians were in the field. Politicians like Dr. Joe Nwodo of Nwodo political dynasty, Bro. Hyde Onuaguluchi, Vitalis Ndu, Gbazuoagu Nweke Gbazuoagu aka GNG, Ben Collins Ndu etc with Chief C. C. Onoh in one camp and Chief Jim Nwobodo controlling another camp both as god-father. The political water was shark-infested and it was highly unpredictable to know who would emerge governor of the old Anambra. It was during that period that a new Anambra state was created under the evil genius, General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida in 1991. At that time before the creation of states, the politically dominant Enugu got its own state and Enugu retained the headquarter of Enugu state.
It was because of the creation of the new Anambra state that Dr. Chukwuemeka Ezeife won the Social Democratic Party (SDP) primary. The stars were no longer in Anambra as they now have their own Enugu state. Dr. Ezeife won SDP primary simply because the brutal, semi-illiterate and mean Chief Okey Odunze was disqualified by Prof. Humphrey Nwosu led National Electoral Commission (NEC). Chief Odunze was traversing the state and intimidating every opposition on his way and was almost coasting to victory when Anambra state citizens swore that Chief Odunze will never be governor of the intellectual studded state. Dr. Ezeife coasted to an easy primary and went ahead to defeat Dr. Nnamdi Eriobuna of National Republican Convention (NRC) to became the first executive governor of the new Anambra state. The Okwadike of Igboukwu, as Dr. Ezeife was known was also a one-term governor. The ‘goateed‘, praise-singing-loving, secretary marrying, magic performing and Igbo tradition proud governor became a disaster thanks to his agitation over June 12 election nullification. Gov. Ezeife though courageous, was not able to read the handwriting on the wall to know that Gen. Sanni Abacha was going to take over from the Interim Government led by Chief Ernest Shonekan. Okwadike was bidding his time believing that June 12 would be actualized and that Chief MKO Abiola would get his mandate and become president and then he would work hand in hand with Abiola being of the same party and then he would be able to develop the state. Instead of facing his task of governance he kept the state money unused though un-embezzled until the military swept off the civilians.
After years under Gen. Sanni Abacha and subsequently that of Gen. Abdulsalam Abubakar, the 4th Republic came. Dr. Chinweoke Mbadinuju was chosen by the god-fathers over a more qualified and tested Prof. ABC Nwosu. Mbadinuju became the governor. He started off well with security as his greatest achievement. His first two years in office was successful until he fell out with his god-father, Chief Emeka Offor. From then on, his administration lost it. He didn’t bring the people along by performing for them. Government workers, school teachers and pensioners were not paid for over one year because the state coffer was compromised because of phony agreement with his political sponsors and the stakeholders . Schools were closed for a whole year and government workers were on strike. His administration became paralyzed. Ironically, security of life and property which was touted as the governor’s strength became his greatest undoing. The killing of former Onitsha Branch Chairman of the Nigerian Bar Association, Mr. Boniface Igwe and his pregnant wife by assassins suspected to be members of the dreaded “bakassi boys” which was the security arm of Mbadinuju’s government was the last straw that broke his administration’s back. When time came for a second term, Mbadinuju became a political liability. Out of all the PDP governors, he was the only one that was refused re-nomination by his party. Even the most corrupt governors in his party received their party’s re-nomination on a platter of diamond. PDP nominated Dr. Chris Nwabueze Ngige. In desperation, Mbadinuju joined the Alliance for Democracy (AD) to actualize his dream for a 2nd term, but it was too little too late as the people has abandoned him. He became another one-term governor as he could not win a second term under AD.
At the 2003 election, PDP ably commanded by it’s general, Chief Chris Uba, massively rigged the election in all electoral offices in the state. All Progressive grand Alliance (APGA) was reported to have won by a landslide in the election but was rigged out. Dr. Chris Ngige of PDP became the governor instead of Peter Obi of APGA. The latter went to court to challenge the election result. Dr. Ngige was sworn in but soon fell out with his god-father, Chris Uba. In spite of the humiliations he suffered in the hands of his Abuja- connected foes, he kept faith with the people of Anambra state borrowing a script from Chief Nwobodo of the old Anambra. Ngige took charge of his destiny. He got the members of the House of Assembly hitherto loyal to Chris Uba to his side and took over the PDP machinery in the state. He undertook a massive road construction and promptly paid civil servants their wages. The people of the state was solidly behind him. Though his government was technically illegal, he was able to provide the democracy dividend to the people yearning for a good governance. Majority of Anambrarians did not care much that he was not elected as he was performing for them what they never expected was possible. So it did not matter that he was not duly elected by the people. He finally lost in the Court of Appeal and Peter Obi recovered his stolen mandate. Peter Obi took over in May 2006 but before his administration started to run full speed, he was illegally and unconstitutionally impeached by a faction of the PDP controlled House of Asembly members playing the script of Abuja politician led by Dr. Andy Uba. Obi’s deputy, Lady Virgy Etiaba, was sworn in to hold the forte while Obi went back to court to challenge his impeachment. Etiaba stayed focused and implemented the programs that she and his boss, Peter Obi, had for Anambra state. Peter Obi finally had his impeachment nullified by both the High Court and the Court of Appeal. He returned to re-take his mandate. It was a cordial transition of power and Anambra state was better served by lack of acrimony between Etiaba and Obi. Between the two APGA governors, the dividend of democracy was not lost in the state. They undertook massive road construction, salaries were being paid, agricultural sector was being revamped, hospitals hitherto not recognized were being accredited and many other ongoing projects.
I don’t know whether to call Ngige a one-term governor. I think the proper thing is to call him a co-one term governor. Under the same term of 4 years, Anambra state produced three different governors (Ngige, Obi, Etiaba and then Obi). Ngige took almost 3 years out of the 4 year term, while Obi and Etiaba shared the remaining one year as governors.
It should be noted that despite the volatile political climate in Anambra state, the state was the most developed in its democratic values. The court remained fearless in the discharge of its duties. Within these past 3 years, the people though weary of political wrangling, were sensitized about governance. The people learnt that actually, government can work if the politicians wanted it to work. They learnt that the state treasury can be used to provide the basic social amenities like good roads, water, health, education etc to the people. The people started paying attention to the fact that the state is governable and that the power belong not to the Abuja cabals but to the people.
With INEC playing to the script of Andy Uba and his master OBJ by trying to disqualify Ngige of AC and barring Peter Obi of APGA from contesting, they believed that the coast is clear for Andy Uba. However, my guts tell me that all these shenanigans will not succeed. Andy Uba will not rule Anambra state despite his federal might and sycophants surrounding him. Mark my words, and these hype will fizzle out when the chips are down! Anambra people are getting politically sophisticated. I believe that Ngige will be allowed by the courts to participate in the election and I believe that Peter Obi will also be allowed to contest. However, Peter Obi is poised to win his court case for the interpretation section 180(2) of the constitution as regards his tenure. He has a 50-50 chance of winning his case even in the supreme court. Whatever happens these coming months, I still believe that Anambra people will finally make a choice as to the best person to govern them. The era of business as usual is over.
One term syndrome in Anambra had been going on for years and only time will tell whether it will be a thing of the past. It could be seen that it was only the governors that were in the opposition to the ruling central government and listened to their people’s yearning for good governance that fare much better than the governors dancing in locked steps with the Abuja cabals. The administrations of Nwobodo and Ngige showed that a governor can call the bluff of the federal government and still survive politically as he make things happen for the people. The legacy that Nwobodo and Ngige left and the good names they made for themselves remain unassailable.