By Nnamdi Ezenwuzie
On the 8th of August this year, the Executive Governor of Anambra State, Chief Willie Obiano turned 60. He had every right to roll out the drums to celebrate the occasion, and he did just that. For several weeks prior to the due date, there was a promotional frenzy in quite a number of media platforms. His Internet Boys, infamously known as ‘e-rats’, over-reached themselves as they even composed music in his name. A medley of friends, sycophants, shouters and hangers-on were also prompted to place newspaper advertisements in praise of their great leader.
On D-Day, some newspapers literally went to town on him. His media aides, led by James Eze, tried in vain to co construct their boss in term alien to the man. They attempted to ascribe to him characteristics he neither possesses nor even faintly portrays. This piece is focused on de-constructing their thesis on Chief Willie Obiano, and to demonstrate a synthesis of his real self.
My reasons are unambiguous: I am fond of Chief Willie Obiano and I love our dear Anambra State. Having followed his tenure as Governor so far, it has become clear that he need to be extricated from the stranglehold of his media aides. In taking advantage of his weakness for adulation, they have continued to ascribe to him things he is not; and – if not checked – would render him a development disaster for Anambra State. Samplers are telling:
Writing under the title “Obiano at 60: Expanding the Frontiers of Excellence”, his lead-media aide, James Eze had proclaimed that: “Obiano … rode to power on the crest of popular votes”. In a democracy, unfettered votes of the people are always popular, but it is rather disgusting that his boss, Obiano does not acknowledge that it was his immediate predecessor, Mr. Peter Obi that almost single-handed secured the seat for him. As at the time he was brought back from the USA, where he was said to be earning a living as a baby-sitter, Obiano was barely known in Anambra State. The electorate made it clear that votes for him were for Peter Obi’s unofficial ‘third term’. The out-spoken Anglican Bishop of Amichi, Most Revd. Dr. Ephraim Ikeakor had pointedly told Willie Obiano: "This may not sound palatable to Your Excellency, but someone must tell our Governor the obvious truth. Your Excellency, Anambrarians did not vote for you; rather they voted for Mr. Peter Obi whose glaring achievements spoke for him, and [is] still speaking for him. We did not know you and what you stand for, but trusted that this man that Mr. Peter Obi is confident to present to Anambrarians to succeed him must be a performer."
As Governor Obiano’s performance rating dips, it is his sponsor, Peter Obi that is receiving the most blame and flak. Ironically, the easiest best means to make friends with Willie Obiano today is to drop a word or two against Peter Obi. Take this one from James Eze: “For instance, unlike his predecessor who had Local Government allocations to play with, Obiano is condemned to dream big dreams with lean resources”.
Even as James Eze and his ilk pretend to be in blissful ignorant of the national & international stature of Peter Obi, it will bear repetition to state that goodness, like light, cannot be hidden! He is the only State Governor in Nigeria that Governor that did not borrow money in his 8 years [two terms] in office. Beyond standing out in several indices of development -- including the best road network in the country -- he left N75 billion in cash and investments for his successor-in-office, Willie Obiano. The breakdown is both widely-available and verifiable: N27 billion in stock and shares of quoted & unquoted companies [now valued at some N40 billion today]; US$156 million in foreign currency- denominated bonds & cash [valued today at US$170 million] and N28 billion Certified State/MDA Balances.
With such whopping sums attached to the hand-over notes, James Eze unashamedly talks about “big dreams with lean resources”. How luckier can a State Governor be in view of what occurred in many other States across the country? Governor Willie Obiano had N75 billion in the kitty before the take-off of his administration, and barely 18 months later, the State is wallowing in debt. In his time as Governor, Peter Obi did not owe any Anambra contractor on jobs/projects duly certified as executed, but James Eze’s boss is indebted to contractors alone to the tune of over N80 billion.
Quite a number of the projects Governor Obiano inherited from the Peter Obi administration have been pawned to companies of doubtful ownership, while many others have been abandoned. Willie Obiano announced a salary increase; paid it for a month, and systematically deducted the so-called increase to revert to the old figures. Out of the blues, he has announced another 15% increase in salaries; as the hapless public servants look on in trepidation.
Meanwhile, how many people are aware that Willie Obiano’s Anambra State now pays salaries from Bank Over-Drafts? Given the current trends, the unfolding scenario for Anambra State leaves little to the imagination!
It is misleading to say that Peter Obi had Local Government funds “to play with”. Unlike the good fortunes left for Willie Obiano’s administration, Anambra State’s account was in the red when Peter Obi took over – with a myriad of debts owed variously to public servants, pensioners, contractors, counterpart funding, among others. His shrewdness and experience as a resource manager came into marked focus as he saved billions of Naira in his first six months in office; while systemically sorting out the State’s indebtedness. During his time, close to N40 billion was spent to clear gratuities and pensions alone, which had accumulated since 1999.
Yes, the Local Government elections were delayed, but the Local Government Areas themselves knew he was utilizing their allocations for their socio-economic benefits. The LG account was jointly managed! The community leaders, womenfolk & children, security agencies & vigilance services, health workers, school pupils & students, farmers, among others, acknowledge that Peter Obi added value to their areas.
Has James Eze and his cronies wondered how the various LG roads were constructed, how the mini-water works came into being, how violent crime was drastically reduced with tremendous support to Government security agencies and re-organized vigilance services? Are they playing the ostrich with the befitting LG Secretariats in Dunukofia, Onitsha North, Onitsha South, Idemili, Awka North, Ihiala, to name a few? Or how did majority of the Local Government Areas of the State own their Primary Health Centres during Peter Obi’s tenure? What about each town getting security vehicles and 5-classroom blocks?
Tragically, is James Eze aware that his boss, Governor Willie Obiano only releases a paltry N1.5 million monthly to each of the Local Governments supposedly for “projects”?
Relentlessly, Obiano’s shouters tell us how he attracted US$2.4 billion (some bandy $3Billion) to the State since he became Governor. It is interesting to note that Anambra State in less than 2 years under Obiano has signed over 30 Memoranda-of-Understanding (MoUs) with all manner of companies. After each signing ceremony, the company will pledge to invest some Dollars in the State. Even as those firms have not been to Anambra State since the impressive signing ceremonies, James Eze and his associates have added up the figures proposed at the signings as actual investments attracted by their boss. Another concrete illustration is revealing:
The Obi administration had invested over N1 billion in Onitsha Hotel & Convention Centre. Without any further ado, Governor Willie Obiano hocked the project to one “Cardinal Developers”, who pledged to commit N2 billion to it. That, to James Eze & Co., was N2 billion “investment attracted to the State” by their boss.
Governor Willie Obiano seems to believe that projects should be for the cameras and for showmanship. Consider this caption: “The three fly-overs rising in concrete splendour in Awka are eternal monuments to the Obiano years” crafted by his media aides. The Projects even when still far from completion already have his names boldly inscribed in them. Many Anambrarians and Anambra-watchers have agonized over the rationale for embarking on the construction of 3 fly-overs over a less-than-one-kilometre stretch of road without traffic challenges. In the meantime, he abandoned value-added projects which would have tremendous impact on the people and the State at large. How could one describe a mind-set that favours those fly-overs over the permanent site of the Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu University, The Agulu Hotel, and Anambra Three Arms Zone?
Things that happen about us should be appreciated for their instructive value. At his 59th birthday celebration, nearly all the major contactors in the State placed advertisements for him. This year, as he turned 60, less than 2% of those contractors in the State felicitated with him in the media. The advertisements came mainly from Anambra State MDAs as well as his retinue of PAs, SAs, SSAs and sundry other Assistants, for he has over 200 of them.
Who is fooling who? We cannot manage public affairs successfully by wastages, lies and attempts to hoodwink the people.
James Eze, who incidentally is not from Anambra State, does not mean good for the State. While Eze and his ilk tell Governor Obiano what he probably wants to hear, let all true lovers of Anambra State join hands to rescue our homeland from this perilous drift; so help us God.
(Ezenwuzie wrote from Port Harcourt)