I was tempted to describe the ongoing campaign for the November 18 gubernatorial election in Anambra State as a comedy, but on reflection chose to see it as a tragicomedy because of reasons you will soon find out. On Friday, October 20, my party, the All Progressives Congress (APC), kicked off its own campaign in Onitsha. Vice President Yemi Osinbajo was unbelievably there. So were various APC governors, including Rochas Okorocha of neighbouring Imo State and Yahaya Bello of Kogi State. The APC governors raised the hand of APC candidate, Tony Nwoye, asking Anambra people to vote for him.
In other words, Governors Bello and Okorocha want Anambra State to be governed the way their own states are administered. The same day Bello was advising Ndi Anambra to make their state APC like his own, the media reported that a director in the Kogi State Teaching Service Commission, Edward Soje, had committed suicide because his wife gave birth to triplets after 17 years of childlessness and he had no money to support the family. Soje was paid last in December, 2016, and ever since he had been depending on charity and borrowing from friends and relatives. Yet, Governor Bello wants Anambra to become an APC state, like Kogi State. Ironically, Governor Bello has been sending delegations to Anambra State in the last two years to understudy how Anamabra State, under Willie Obiano’s leadership, has raised internally generated revenue by 300 per cent almost overnight.
Just last night, I saw a YouTube where a Kogi civil servant was weeping uncontrollably because he watched his daughter die of a simple illness. He could not afford the hospital bill. The video has gone viral. Kogi workers have, in recent months, been on strike over non-payment of salaries, despite the bailout from President Muhammadu Buhari and despite the humungous Paris Club refunds. APC governors dominated in sheer number last week’s meeting between them and President Buhari who wondered how some governors go to sleep when they have not paid salaries for months. The comic show of APC governors asking Anambra people to vote APC in the impending election so that their state could be run like APC ones would have been more complete if Governor Rauf Aregbesola had made it to Onitsha penultimate Friday to join the APC rally and raise Tony Nwoye’s hand. I don’t know if anyone remembers the last time public servants, like doctors, received their pay in Osun State. Maybe eight months ago or even longer. A sitting judge even publicly called for the governor’s impeachment.
Governor Aregbesola’s absence at the APC rally in Onitsha was made up for by Governor Okorocha’s presence and exuberant remarks. Yet, towards the end of every month, civil servants and teachers in Imo State troop to neigbouring communities in Anambra State to borrow money and foodstuffs from their Anambra counterparts. While civil servants and pensioners in Anambra State promptly receive their pay, which was reviewed upwards two years ago, their Imo counterparts wait for theirs for several months.
Okorocha’s Imo State has a queer value system. While President Jacob Zuma is facing over 70 cases of corruption and gross abuse of office at home in South Africa, Okorocha declared him a role model. He built a huge statue for the South African leader in Owerri and ordered a traditional ruler to confer on him a chieftaincy title. The whole world has been in great shock. And the shock came when Nigerians were yet to recover from the shock of how Rochas woke up one morning, two months ago, and decided to destroy the Ekeukwu Market in Owerri and, in the process, a young boy was killed. Most victims have yet to find an alternative means of livelihood, all the more so in these very hard times. Still, Anambra people are enjoined to make the governance of their state look like that of Okorocha’s Imo State.
Truly, wonders will never end, as Election Day approaches in Anambra State. It is turning into a farce. Our immediate past governor, Peter Obi, who is a personal friend, has strongly accused his successor of running a government of deceit and lies. Interesting. Why has our amiable former governor refused to comment on how the Lagos State Police Command under Marvel Akpoyibo arrested on Sunday, June 1, 2009, a whopping N250million raw cash in a Government House SUV belonging to Anambra State in his private office complex at 7, Aerodrome Road, Apapa, Lagos? We hope Peter Obi will someday be frank enough to tell the whole world how efforts were hurriedly made, including a meeting at a hotel in Maryland, Lagos, with a view to killing the story. Will Peter Obi be courageous enough to tell the whole world how much so-called communication consultants charged to kill the story and even turn some opinion moulders and columnists into his public relations consultants?
Peter Obi says that the dispute between him and his successor is not over a demand for repayment of some N7billion purportedly spent from his personal resources for the election of his successor. Perhaps, Obi is right. But the problem is that I have not seen one single person from Anambra State who believes his account. Joe Martins-Uzodike, Peter Obi’s Commissioner for Information and Man Friday, has consistently made the payment of this amount the first condition for a possible reconciliation between Obi and his successor. Uzodike’s repeated demand was made on various radio programmes, and it is available to every Anambra person.
Why has Peter Obi, the epitome of transparent leadership, been reluctant to tell the world that his Next International built the largest shopping mall in Abuja while he was serving as our selfless governor? Why has he been reluctant to tell us that he promised that public schools in Anambra State would be so well run under his leadership that his two children would attend them, but rather than fulfill the promise he ensured that his children have been in London?
Obi is a lover of education and healthcare. So, he built the Anambra State University Teaching Hospital. He brought journalists from all over the country to write flattering articles about the hospital. But for the eight years he was governor, the school could not earn accreditation because it had little equipment and insufficient regents as well as grossly inadequate staff. Consequently, the medical students were becoming perpetual students until there was a leadership change three and a half years ago in Government House. The students have now become doctors, and some are training to become consultants in the same school, a development, which would not have occurred if Peter Obi had remained governor. Lest I forget, it will be great if Obi can tell us why medical doctors in the state civil service were not paid for more than half a year. Why were they on strike for this long? No other governor in our state’s history has this dubious distinction.
I am glad Anambra is doing well right now. Salaries and pensions are paid before month end. Roads and bridges are being developed at an impressive speed. Lagos can compete with Anambra in infrastructural development. But not in security, agriculture or education. Supporting Willie Obiano is not a matter of party loyalty. It is a about the future of our state.
•Hon Okechi, a former chairman of the Anambra State House of Assembly Committee on Information and of Public Petitions, is a founding APC member in the state. He is leading a movement to reform the APC in Anambra. Email: [email protected], 0803 558 5188. He is voting Obiano (not APGA) in the impending Anambra election.