In his sermon at the mass of the plenary of the first 2018 Conference of Catholic Bishops of Nigeria on Sunday, February 18, John Cardinal Onaiyekan, the Archbishop of the Abuja Archdiocese, stated that: “Many Nigerians are looking for a new political organisation that can truly bring about genuine change for the better. Having tried our two major political parties and found none of them to meet our expectations, the nation is on the verge of despair.”
Cardinal Onaiyekan’s observation would seem to echo a widely publicised statement earlier in the year by former President Olusegun Obasanjo, issued on January 23, under the title “State of the Nation: The Way Out.” Chief Obasanjo stated pointedly that both the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), which has been in national government since May 29, 2015, and the opposition People’s Democratic Party (PDP), which was in power for 16 years until 2015, have failed woefully. He, therefore, called for a coalition of forces to rescue the country from PDP’s and APC’s misrule.
The PDP, which began as Nigeria’s most important national movement, after the National Council of Nigerian Citizens (NCNC), lost its soul the day it kowtowed to the military apparatchik and chose General Obasanjo, the surrogate candidate of the military, over and above Dr. Alex Ekwueme, who gave the PDP credibility, as its presidential candidate in the 1999 presidential election, Obasanjo was, for all practical purposes, an outsider who made absolutely no contribution to the PDP. Even when he lost his ward to the rival Alliance for Democracy (AD), the PDP chose to violate its own rule that no person could participate in the primaries unless the party won his state. Ekwueme, on the other hand, delivered not just his state but also the entire South East by almost 100 per cent.
The APC has proved not to be in any way different from the PDP. In fact, most of its members moved from the PDP not based on any ideological difference or perspectives in vision but on crass opportunism. All those social ills, like the culture of impunity and squandermania, which made some of us run away from the PDP and embrace the APC, are now well pronounced in the latter party.
APC states are run down like those of the PDP. Osun, Imo and Benue states, which are all APC, owe workers several months of salaries. This is despite the two bailouts and the two tranches of Paris Club refunds from President Muhammadu Buhari’s federal administration, which were humungous. In PDP-controlled Bayelsa State, which has only eight local government areas but receives over N9 billion for being a major oil-bearing state, workers are owed. Local government employees are owed for about a year. Lecturers and the non-academic staff of the state-owned Niger Delta University are tired of going on strike over unpaid wages. Retirees have long forgotten pensions and gratuities. In other oil-bearing places, like Abia and Delta, the PDP has since become a byword for gross incompetence and maladministration.
I wonder how successive Abia governors feel anytime they have cause to visit Anambra State and see the very impressive network of roads. One also wonders how Governor Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta State feels anytime he visits or passes through Onitsha and returns to Asaba, his base. The long stretch of road in Onitsha leading to Asaba is wide, about 10 lanes, well paved and complete with streetlights, which beautify the environment. There are no more street traders, as the area has become better than how the hardworking former Lagos State governor, Babatunde Fashola, transformed the chaotic Oshodi Market. In contrast, the road in Asaba is narrow, ill maintained, with potholes and craters everywhere. Both sides are littered with shacks, with people urinating and defecating in the open, drinking and smoking all manner of stuff. Let Governor Okowa not plead that Asaba is in a mess because the road is a federal one. Is the road in Onitsha not owned by the Federal Government? Does the Delta State government need special permission from the federal authorities to stop street trading and other illegal activities in the place?
While most APC and PDP states are in a mess, the same cannot be said of Anambra State. Even though it is not officially classified as an oil-bearing state and, consequently, has limited resources, no one talks about salary or pension or gratuity payment as an achievement because it is taken for granted. It is the only state to have increased workers salaries across board in the last five years and is even considering another increase. People are still recruited into the public service, especially the physically-challenged. Governor Willie Obiano is right now hiring 1,000 persons to teach mathematics, sciences, Igbo and English in primary and post-primary schools. Investments are coming into the state on a big scale. The state is leading in security and education, and industrialisation is doing well. Sab Miller, the South African brewing giant, is about to start sourcing all its sorghum for use not only in its Onitsha plant but also in its operations in Port Harcourt and elsewhere from a farm in Igbariam, Anambra East LGA. In collaboration with a Catholic priest, who is an engineer, biologist and agriculturist, Prof. Godfrey Nzamujo, obviously a genius, Anambra State is showing the world that sorghum can be grown in southern Nigeria, contrary to the view held even by accomplished scientists across the world.
Clearly, what is going on in Anambra State today is not happenstance. It owes to the purposeful government that the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) has provided since 2006 when it took over the state government. The party’s performance in the November 18 gubernatorial election in the state, where it won all the 21 LGAs in the state with an unprecedented landslide, is a testimony to its purposefulness. It would seem that it can do very well in every state where it is in charge. There is, throughout the South East, a strong desire for APGA. This is why Victor Umeh improved on Gov. Obiano’s sensational electoral record by scoring over 95 per cent in the January 13 election in Anambra Central senatorial zone.
APGA, however, should not limit itself to the South East or even the old Eastern Region or the South East and the South-South. It has something to offer the Nigerian nation. It has a concrete development vision. Gov. Obiano has stated that he and APGA feel challenged by the development of the Southeast Asian nations, like South Korea, Malaysia and Singapore. These nations and territories, like Taiwan and Hong Kong, developed rapidly because they embraced a development model known as developmentalism, or state development ideology, which stresses transformation from Third World status to the First World within a generation. This contrasts with the situation in Africa, where leaders are obsessed with political power and primordial issues, like ethnicity and religion.
Gov. Obiano does not talk about politics until an election is around the corner. His belief that raising the living standards of the Nigerian people is what should matter, and not manipulation of primordial differences, has shown him to be a firm practitioner of the state development model. Ethiopia, the only African country that has adopted developmentalism, is now the fastest growing economy on the continent.
In the wake of the gross underperformance by both the PDP and APC, such patriotic Nigerians as Prof. Pat Utomi, Mr. Olisa Agbakoba and Mr. Femi Falana have come up with the Third Force, also known as the National Intervention Movement (NIM). It is probably what Obasanjo referred to in his recent state-of-the-nation statement as the Coalition for Nigeria. But he has warned that it should not become a political party. This warning is wise, so that the NIM can remain a true national movement. But a nation has to be led by a political party. Therefore, a credible party, like APGA should be embraced by all, so that a new Nigeria can be revitalised.
• Hon. Nsofor, ex-Majority Leader in the Anambra State House of Assembly, is an engineer and knight of St. Christopher. He was also state PDP chairman.