BY DAN ONWUKWE
FEW politicians have traversed the distance between the lowest lows and the highest highs quite like Mr Peter Obi, Governor of Anambra State. If life can be likened to a marathon race and politics the test of it, Obi has sweated it out and finished on a flourish. Among the attributes of a good politician is how he handles the slippery slop of politics, the storms that come. Justice often comes to those who believe in hope and never quit.
While his political travails lasted, from one court to another, to reclaim his mandate widely believed to have been ‘stolen’, when he got it, a phoney impeachment was hatched that temporarily swept him away. He headed back to court, and a final victory at the Supreme Court was achieved on two occasions-June 14,2007 and January 29,2008.
From that moment, Obi became a symbol of democracy, a positive reference point for justice and perseverance. In that regard, if life is measured by the impressions that people have about others, this much is not in doubt about Peter Obi, especially his political beliefs: he is a man of high principles, of deep convictions, with a solid strength of character, wisdom and sobriety. His critics may fault this.
They would rather say he is too thrifty, and too rigid. That’s why late Ikemba Nnewi, Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu,an unapologetic admirer of Obi, stated matter-of- factly, that “Obi is the first governor of Anambra State that is not a politician”. What Ojukwu meant was that while a typical politician would ask the electorate to read his lips and do the opposite, promised the ‘moon’ but deliver ‘cheese’ without any twinge of conscience, Obi sees governance as a contract that provides the opportunity while the people must take responsibility.
In this regard, many agree that Obi is the benchmark of what politics ought to be for politicians, that is, service. Not personal gains at public expense. Our democracy needs people like Obi,who are sticklers to the rules. Sadly ,the essence of governance has been lost on many of our politicians. For a lot of them, the primary concern is personal aggrandizement using public purse. With Gov Obi about to begin his last days of his second-term in office, following his re-election on February 6,2010 which constitutionally will end in March,2014,the sun is, literally speaking, about to go down .
The final lap is on. The governor is on a home stretch now. Therefore, this is an opportune time to begin to assess how splendid or otherwise his tenure has been. If Obi’s re-election in 2010 was an endorsement of his first-term, how has he faired so fair? Three years have indeed come full circle this week since the Independent Electoral Commission (INEC) declared Obi duly re-elected with 97,834 votes out of the 301,232 valid votes cast in the Feb 6,2010 governorship election.
By that feat, he became the first politician in the state to win a second term. The fresh mandate, he acknowledged during his second inauguration, was as significant as the first, and the message same as ever: more service to Ndi Anambra, with focus on leadership, education, roads, water supply, urban development, commerce and industry, environmental sanitation, health and prompt payment of salary of civil servants.
Undisputably, these are areas majority of the people clamour for government’s attention. Based on the recent assessment of Federal Government-sponsored “Good Governance” tour, led by the Minister of Information, Mr Labaran Maku, who described the quality of projects executed by Obi’s as “amazing”, there is, to use the words of former Secretary-General of the Commonwealth, Chief Emeka Anyaoku, a “demonstrable evidence that things are working in Anambra.”
For instance, the 165 metre Odor bridge that connects Awgwu and Ama-Okpala communities of the State will a legacy for which Obi will be remembered. Onitsha,the commercial nerve centre and arguably one of the dirtiest cities in the country has become an orderly and clean city, with Onitsha Business Park, for the first time returning profit on investment last year. It is the result of the vibrancy of entrepreneurship which has reached a critical mass in Anambra State under Peter Obi.
Today, the State has the largest road network in the South-East. It is also the only State in the zone with an excess of N10 bn credit in its account. Education having received a boost with the hand over of schools to Churches, discipline and academic excellence are back in the school system. Just last year, a student from one of the mission-run schools emerged the best all-round student in the 2012 WASC result in the country.
Also, a recent United Nations report on Millennium Development Goals(MDG’s) rates Anambra as the only State so far in the country that has met the stipulated targets. As these accomplishments speak volumes of the character of the man, Peter Obi,they will count for little if he mismanages his exit.
This is because, how a politician handles his succession is very significant. I want believe the governor knows this. But if in doubt, he should ask two ex-governors, Chief Achike Udenwa of Imo and Malam Ibrahim Shekarau of Kano. In other words, has Obi groomed a successor who can continue his good works? That’s where we shall return next Tuesday.