By James Eze (email@example.com)
As he turns 62 today, Governor Willie Obiano knows that this is a year like no other in his entire life.
He buried dear mother last month. Adinije, as she was fondly called, was Obiano’s true pillar of strength. She assumed that role after Phillip, her husband died and left her with young Willie and his three siblings. In a moving tribute, Obiano had reckoned that he would miss her prayers.
This year, Willie Obiano will have to prove himself in two important ways. He has to prove that he can be his own man without his mother’s prayers. And two, that he can win an election on his own. This is why, this birthday is extraordinary. It marks a new phase of extraordinary challenges in his life.
Interestingly, most folks say that Obiano has nothing more to prove. That he has proved himself over again as his own man. That he has led a difficult people successfully without showing serious signs of stress for almost four years. That he led his party to the last House of Assembly Election and came back with a reassuring victory. That he has won every respectable leadership award in
Nigeria and overseas. And that Anambra has become a better place under him.
But some folks disagree with this position. They insist that Obiano has yet to prove his worth in gold in electoral terms. That the House of Assembly Election was not enough challenge to establish him as the new electoral sheriff. That the coming gubernatorial election is the ultimate test of strength for him. And that the awards he has amassed are not a true test of his leadership excellence. Of course the people who hold this position are essentially people who are weighing in from the other side of the simmering feud between Governor Obiano and his predecessor. These people are quick to compare the governor’s three years on the saddle at a period of economic recession to his predecessor’s eight years of luxuriating in a robust economy that offered everyone enough elbowroom to pursue their ideals. The incongruity of comparing three years to eight years does not matter to them. And they are almost implacable when they mount what looks like a weird campaign for a man who is not running an election of any sort at the moment. But that is the colour politics in Anambra. It is a game by all means necessary!
But if truth still counts for anything in these climes, it would be difficult to discountenance Governor Willie Obiano’s outstanding performance in the past three years. The bitterness of politics and the blindness it induces when politicians are daggers drawn, cannot even make a sincere man close his eyes to the glaring facts of Obiano’s sterling performance.
But politics being what it is, it would be naïve to expect Obaino’s challengers to sing his praises. No! Of course they won’t and of course they aren’t. On the contrary, they hurl all kinds of brickbats at him from a safe distance. They turn every little opportunity they get to make negative comments about him into a real feast of the absurd. When he rejoiced over the graduation of his only daughter in the US, they turned it into a tale of infamy. They brewed inane stories that only people who have no time to reflect could have believed and splashed them across the social media. When he buried his dear mama, they saw an opportunity to plunge a blunt dagger in his side. Their Facebook herdsmen galloped into the arena with incredulous stories that made self-respecting guests who paid him a condolence visit wonder if the reports were sincerely about the same events they had attended. When he signed an agreement with Chinese investors to build an audacious airport city in Umueri at an estimated cost of $2bn, former Aviation Minister, Osita Chidoka cried blue murder. It did not matter to him that the terms of agreement clearly stated that Anambra had no financial equity in the project. It did not matter to Chidoka that as Minister of Aviation, he left nothing that he could be remembered with in all of the South East. But all of these are mere irritants which Governor Obiano has learnt how to take in his giant strides.
Nevertheless, what would most certainly seem to be a niggling headache to Obiano might be the rash of litigations that his party the All Progressives Grand Alliance is currently embroiled in. While there is absolutely no doubt that the crisis that has engulfed APGA is induced by Fifth Columnists, it is as clear as daylight to everyone that Obiano is the target. The basic motivation of the people inducing the leadership upheaval in the party is to scuttle what looks like a clean, straight win for Akpokuedike Aguleri. Anyone who is busy weighing the internal wrangling and looking at who is to blame for the squabbles has missed the point. The struggle is not about Ozonkpu Victor Oye’s leadership style. Nor is it about Ochudo Martin Agbaso’s extraordinary political brinksmanship. It is all about stopping Obiano from winning a second term in office; a feat that only one man has attained in Anambra State. A feat that some ambitious people appear hell bent to preserve!
The good thing is that Governor Obiano is fully aware of all these calculations. The comforting thing is that he is seriously doing something within the realms of decency and the ambit of the law to clear the obstacles on his path. The multiple court reliefs obtained by APGA faithful last week are some of these steps. The fence-mending moves within the party hierarchy are also some of them. But perhaps more important than all of these is the formation of an Election Committee and the appointment of Chief Victor Umeh to head it. Umeh is a tireless war horse who knows where all the political dead bodies are buried in the state. An outstanding orator and grassroots mobilizer, Umeh’s appointment is seen as the game changer that has sent a loud warning to the opposition that Obiano is battle ready. The governor is also believed to have the leadership of the church as well as the traditional institution behind him. The leaders of the various market associations are also behind. So are the various associations of non-indigenes who are resident in the state. Above all, the logic of zoning and its inherent emotions of equity and fairness are all in his favour. And with all the familiar faces that are lining up to challenge him, it is obvious that Obiano may be running against himself on November 18, 2017.
So, at 62, Governor Willie Obiano might just finally erase all doubts about his capacity as a political leader who is just as good in driving reforms as in winning elections.
Happy birthday, boss!