This Day (Lagos)

26 June 2006

Nigeria: Anambra Saga - Our Collective Guilt

opinion

Awka — I have seen the face of God '-that was Peter Obi the current governor of Anambra State of Nigeria. That was probably the most important statement in the speech he delivered at his swearing in. Only very few living persons have seen the face of God. Anybody including Peter so richly blest has very little margin for error. More on that later and possibly for another occasion.

That statement was the reasoned summation of a man who fought for three solitary and lonely years in trenches of frustration and near despair to overturn what he believed was robbery until the court of appeal with one voice handed him his prize.

In many other states, the incumbent governors must be sitting rather uncomfortably for they know their positions are exactly like Anambra. Both Chris Ngige and Uba are children of circumstances beyond them-circumstances imposed by the maelstrom Nigeria. The intricacies of what happened in Anambra nay Nigeria during the last elections are still unravelling.

One core point that bothers many discerning folk is why enlightened, educated and supposedly 'polished'; people subject themselves to all sorts of indignities such as Ngige narrated took place at Okija River shrine. Fabian Osuji a contemporary at Ibadan and also a friend was subjected to a similar ordeal when he aspired to the governorship of Imo State under the NPP. Fabian and Chris belong to that group that espouse the highest ethical standards and yet?

Chris Ngige's troubles started because his algebraic equation failed to include the age-old factor that whoever pays the piper will only listen to those tunes that please his ears. His equation therefore could not balance and the end result is the Ngige/Uba katakata which kept Anambra unfocussed for three years.

Peter Obi on the other hand has emerged as a counter force to the high handedness of the PDP (who would not nominate him) and has claimed his delayed prize on APGA,'s swan song that 'He is our own'.

Now that the court of appeal has done the right thing (irrespective of and defying the Nigerian factor) all people of goodwill have a duty to help Anambra move on. It is time to bury the hatchet.

In the councils of our land, Peter Obi as the only APGA governor is a minuscule minority whose voice could be easily submerged but these bodies are not about parties but the nation. Those who may plan to ignore Peter's contribution will do so to their grief.

Some of the volcanic eruptions from Anambra are lessons which must not be swept under the carpet if we are serious about sanitizing our body politics. The first citizen-President Olusegun went public comparing Ngige and Uba to two armed robbers whose only disagreement was how to share the spoils of their loot that certainly was enough prompt for the police to start criminal investigations into Anambra elections. Tarfa Balogun was I.G. at that time so understandably nothing happened. In the western world, criminals are still prosecuted for crimes committed 30-40 years ago.

One salient fact of the Anambra saga is that the presidency was not happy with Chris Ngige as governor. The action of the police in defrocking him of his security apparatus was also in tune. Chris Ngige's stubbornness in a way paid off for when the state security was withdrawn, Anambrarians felt some revulsion and now bonded with him. The partnership worked. The people provided security and Ngige delivered projects. Civil servants, pensioners, teachers et cetera were paid and on time. Anambra gained.

Another offshoot of Anambra politics now reinforced by Oyo state is the emergence of the terrible and virulent cancer known as god-fatherism. It is not entirely new but like all cancers it is spreading and dangerously too. It can kill our fledgling democratic experiment. It is known that when people lose faith in peaceful means of changing governance they resort to desperate action.

The last aspect that needs public scrutiny in the Anambra saga is the role of INEC. Now that the courts have shown that fraud was committed, who were the collaborators? They need to be investigated and possibly prosecuted.

Peter Obi has assumed the governorship of Anambra riding on the crest of people power. For one who has seen the face of God and who prays more than 6 times of Moslems, there is only one way-transparent/honest and accountable governance. Any mistakes have to be those of the head and not the heart. Anambra deserves peace and all of us have to collectively atone for the injustice inflicted on her. We wish Peter and Anambra well.

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