By Adaku Okwara
Anambra State politics is a perfect example where those who rake the muck and the muck-rakers co-exist. You see that in the teeming number of persons who want to be governor of the state. They are all queuing to succeed the incumbent Peter Obi whose tenure expires on March 16, 2014. Thus, on November 16, this year, according to the time-table of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), the people of the state would go to the polls to elect a new governor.
But who would such governor be? What qualities should the Anambra electorate consider before casting their ballot? To deeply appreciate the manner of personality that would successfully guide Anambra to its desired socio-economic cum political destination, it is imperative to go on a voyage of discovery of the present state of Anambra. This is a state brimming with sound intellectuals, seasoned technocrats, well-heeled business people and globally acclaimed professionals.
Anambra, remember, produced the great Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, Dr. Alex Ekwueme, the master bard Chinua Achebe, the computer icon Phillip Emeagwali and many other men and women of peerless accomplishments. It is therefore, first and foremost, an intellectual state. It is not, and never was, and never should be reduced to a trading outpost replete with all the appurtenances of a typical Nigerian market: touts, thugs, goons and goblins.
Unfortunately, this is what actors on the stage have reduced Anambra to: a huge market shorn of decency, development and acceptable social behaviour. Only in Anambra would you see a convoy of over 20 cars conveying a political thug to a meeting of his peers. Only in Anambra would you find mounds of filth co-habiting with humans and it is taken as the norm. This is the only state where disorder both in the streets, roads, offices and everywhere is seen as the routine. I have lived in Anambra all my life. I have travelled the world and I have traversed the states of Nigeria including making business sorties to many African nations, and in all my journeys, I am yet to encounter a state or nation that throws up as much absurdities as Anambra State. The state depicts the picture of a jungle where everybody is a government of his or her own. One moment, a cart pusher blocks a major road and causes a major traffic snarl, another moment a group of ruffians ambush passers-by and asks them to produce their tax certificate failure of which they are detained in a make-shift ‘cell’ and robbed. It is such a grinding experience for inhabitants of the state and it makes you wonder who is really in charge.
In simple language, Anambra has suffered a prolonged paralysis of law and order. And where there is disorder, development takes a flight. Anambra has remained underdeveloped in spite of the sterling efforts of the various individuals and groups that make up this all-important entity. But for the entrepreneurial prowess of the typical Anambra man especially the Nnewi people, the gutsy spirit of the Onitsha man and imbued derring-do of the average Anambra person, the state would have ranked on the same development index with war-weary Somalia or Afghanistan. If in doubt, drive through Asaba in Delta State into Onitsha and you would easily notice the difference between sanity and bedlam.
This is why the state needs a pragmatic, selfless, public-spirited leader, a person of integrity who can easily connect with the people and give them what they desire; not one with a history of thievery, brigandage and wanton indulgence in vainglory. What Anambra needs today and tomorrow is a leader they can trust, a man who has in time past demonstrated an uncommon knack to engender development even with limited resources. Among the motely crowd of contenders and pretenders to the Anambra Government House in the November 16 election, only Chris Ngige, a medical doctor-turned politician fits into this leadership mould.
Ngige has walked this path before. Between 2003 and 2006 when he was governor of Anambra State, every inhabitant of the state felt the halo of positive leadership. He remains the only person in living memory who amassed the highest followership and admiration from his subjects while in office in Anambra. His connection with the people has nothing to do with his oratorical suavity or persuasive dexterity, it owes so much to his indelible landmarks and footprints of development. Under Ngige, Anambra flourished economically, sanity was restored in all parts of the state especially in the bustling Onitsha market. Under Ngige, Anambra witnessed a great deal of transformation in infrastructure development, education, security and healthcare.
Anambrarians still remember his days in office with a sense of nostalgia. The pervading perception is that if Ngige had been allowed to continue in office for eight unbroken years, Anambra would have transformed to a Nigerian version of Dubai or Hong Kong. This is why Anambrarians want him back. They want him to continue from where he left off; they want him to clean up the mess and filth that have overtaken Onitsha; they want him to save Anambra schools from decay and decadence; they want Ngige to re-enact his magic wand which produced thousands of jobs, and created real wealth among the people. Under Ngige the Anambra civil servant earned both respect and good reward. The same civil servants are clamouring for his return because in him they see a man they can believe. As a former civil servant himself, Ngige made sure that civil servants in the state did not have to wait for their reward in heaven; they earned it here on earth.
All of this explains why Ngige has become the issue even among the other political parties. His opponents know too well that in a free and fair election, he has no rival. It is difficult to understand it but the affection for Ngige in Anambra especially among the voting class is simply overwhelming and it is such that should intimidate any opposition.
•Ms. Okwara writes from Awka