It is truly amazing what power does to even normal people. Henry Kissinger, a political science professor at Harvard before he joined the White House as National Security Adviser and subsequently emerged a very powerful Secretary of State in America’s history, described political power as “the ultimate aphrodisiac”. According to the highly respected chronicler, journalist and intellectual who trained at both Harvard and Oxford, Walter Isaacson, now President of the Aspen Institute, Kissinger made the declaration while aboard the highly prestigious United States Air Force jet used by Secretaries of State. Kissinger added that being even the Harvard president could not entitle anyone to flying around the world on this plane.
Peter Obi, immediate Anambra State governor, is a living example of the saying that political power is the ultimate aphrodisiac. Political power makes people do crazy stuff, as Americans put it. Since leaving office almost four years ago, Obi has latched on every opportunity to remain in public eyes in his quest to decide, first, the future of Anambra State and, second, become Nigeria’s vice president in 2019. Sometimes, this desire has seen him in the eyes of the storm. For example, he claimed last May, at a public lecture organised in Lagos by a Christian group, that he had been wearing only one wristwatch for 13 years. He was immediately confronted with several pictures of his at public events, wearing different watches in just one year.
To earn headlines and make him relevant in power play, Obi described the Supreme Court judgment of July 12, recognising Senator Ahmed Makarfi as the authentic leader of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) as capable of ending Nigeria’s recession. He made this amazing statement minutes after the judgment was delivered. It is immaterial that Obi made no effort whatsoever to bring the long lasting leadership crisis between Senator Makarfi and Senator Ali Modu Sheriff to an end, unlike such party leaders as Professor Jerry Gana.
Despite serving two terms of eight years, the maximum period allowed by the Constitution for state governors and the President, Obi has insisted on calling the shots in Anambra State. We did not mind when he chose to nominate his successor. We acquiesced for two reasons. The first is that Obi did not ruin the state, like many of his counterparts, even though he terribly sexed up the amount of money he was leaving behind for his successor from N11bn to N75bn! The second reason is that the person he nominated as his successor, Willie Obiano, has an impressive record of personal and professional accomplishments. A banker of repute, Obiano is development-oriented.
Our acquiescence to Obi, nominating his successor four years ago should not be interpreted as eternal, blind support for anyone ex-Governor Obi brings out as a governorship candidate any time it catches his fancy. Anambra is not his personal estate. This is why it’s perplexing that Obi should this year bring out Oseloka Obaze, his Secretary to the State Government, and expect us to clap for him uncontrollably. Obi brought Obaze from the United States, where he fancied being regarded as a career diplomat, and made him the SSG, to serve as a stepping-stone to his running for the office of governor. At the end of the day, however, Obi did drop him, maybe, due to the wide perception that Obaze is not strong enough a character to withstand the sharks and barracudas, which dominate the waters of Anambra politics.
What does Obi have against the present governor, going for a second term when his record is widely considered stellar? He has refused to disclose the reason to the public, but a few of his associates insists Obiano must pay Obi a whopping N7billion Obi allegedly spent on Obiano’s election, as the first condition for peace between them. Obi has never said this publicly nor applied for the said money formally.
Now, whether the money is expected from Obiano’s personal savings or the Anambra State treasury is a matter of speculation. This alleged demand must be very tough for Obiano, a professional accountant and auditor, to meet. Would Obiano still be able to pay salaries or maintain first class security if the N7bn is paid to just one godfather?
It has become increasingly difficult to dismiss the general belief in Anambra State that Obi was looking for what is now called a third term when he convinced Obiano to run four years ago. Obiano was the Executive Director of Fidelity Bank when Obi was the Chairman. In other words, Obi thought that Obiano would be loyal to him, no matter the wisdom or morality of any demand. He is thus disappointed. He now wants a replacement. The replacement is likely t be a pliable and malleable person, that is, someone who would not be as stubborn and “ungrateful” as Obiano.
Obaze wants to be seen as a gentleman. The problem with some gentlemen, however, is that you sometimes do not know where gentleness stops and where timidity takes over. Obi seems not to like people who have a mind of their own. This is why he has issues with even the two persons who served under him as deputy governors. The first one, Dame Virgy Etiaba, who became Nigeria’s first female governor, following Obi’s impeachment, is rather at home with Governor Obiano. The second, Emeka Sibeudu, is serving today as Chairman of the Anambra Security Committee, a key position to which Obiano appointed him. Obi barely speaks to Dr. Chris Ngige, his predecessor, who is the current Minister of Labour and Employment, because the latter is a strong character. The time has come for us in Anambra State to find out why Obi appears to be at war with both his predecessor and successor as well as his two deputy governors, to say nothing about several other principle-centred leaders who are independent-minded.
Obaze is a fine diplomat, who should have been left in the United States to enjoy good evenings with fellow diplomats over coffee, tea and barbequed fish and meat. He is not the material to cage rough politicians in Anambra State, who insist on the governor signing the so-called Irrevocable Standing Payment Orders (ISPOs) for contracts not executed. He cannot fight the self-acclaimed godfathers because he is himself a product of a godfather, Peter Obi. His own “godsonism” is so bad that he is not given any kind of breathing space, let alone independence. For example, immediately Obaze submitted his gubernatorial nomination form to the PDP headquarters, Obi’s publicists wrote online “Excitement as Peter Obi’s candidate Submits Form”. At the PDP convention in Awka, where Obaze was chosen as the PDP standard bearer in the November 18 election, all many of his campaigners were saying was “Vote for Peter Obi’s candidate” – not “Vote for Obaze”. When he won the nomination, they chorused, “Peter Obi’s man wins”.
Indeed, Obaze doesn’t appear like someone seeking the office of Anambra State Governor. He looks like someone holding the forte for another. Unfortunately, Anambra people are too republican and too proud to allow their beloved state to become the personal estate of anyone. Anambra is not for privatisation. Period!
*Odum, an Onitsha-based lawyer, is the Anambra State coordinator of Democracy in Action.