By Ifeanyi Afuba
What went right? William Maduaburochukwu Obiano was not supposed to emerge the APGA candidate for the November 18, 2017, Anambra State gubernatorial poll but the Working Willie did just that on August 15, 2017, in a transparent, peaceful and orderly primary. According to a script from the Nigerian political theatre of the absurd, Obiano was to suffer the ultimate humiliation of being the first Governor and Chairman, Board of Trustees, of his party unable to secure re-nomination for a second term in office. His fate would not emanate from a test of popularity but a magisterial fancy of neo-fascists, still smarting from their failure to assume veto power in the present dispensation. To be sure, the plot sounded like a page from wild, wild fiction, but the authors were not exactly cracking a joke.
There was only one dark route to executing the repulsive scheme. By most credible accounts, Obiano’s three and a half years in office have witnessed phenomenal development of Anambra State. State security and stability opened the door to an influx of investors leading to the present ranking of the state’s economy as the fourth largest in the country. President-General of Ohanaeze, John Nnia Nwodo, had this to say at a special session of the Anambra State House of Assembly on June 29, 2917: ‘Today, Anambra has the lowest poverty index in Nigeria. Today, Anambra has the highest growth rate of manufacturing outfits in Nigeria. Today, Anambra has the highest growth of import substitute endeavours in rice and vegetable production in Nigeria. Today, Anambra is the state with the lowest loan exposure in Nigeria with the capacity to meet its monthly obligation to workers timeously. Today, Anambra and Lagos are the only states involved in the building of new cities planned to meet the standard of any modern city in the world.”
It was clear to the conspirators that the pull -him-down plot would never fly with an appreciative majority of NdiAnambra so an alternative jungle path had to be travelled.
An ambush on the party leadership would leave Obiano’s cart rudderless and put him at the mercy of the successor authority. And if there was any doubt about the intentions of the puppet administration to be foisted on the APGA, it was erased by the desperate attempts to produce another governorship candidate, in defiance of serial court pronouncements. A week after the August 15, 2017, Court of Appeal judgment in Enugu reaffirming Victor Oye’s chairmanship of APGA, the rat race by this stranger structure to reinvent the wheel of the party’s primary was still going on. But what the planned assault on the body fabric of the party failed to contend with was the social cohesion that had made APGA the most brutalised yet most resilient opposition party in the country today.
In the light of APGA’s historical and policy perspectives, membership longevity, as desirable as it is, does not weigh as much as personal commitment in impacting on the fortunes of the party. Thus, it is easy to see how Willie Obiano, a relative newcomer to APGA, left his imprint repositioning the party.
Reconstruction of the APGA machinery had become imperative for similar reasons that necessitated the recreation of Anambra’s economy and society. In tandem with the demand of charity, it was only natural that the rebuilding of APGA should commence in the zone where the party first sprouted. This rejuvenated APGA had further become attractive as a party without a dictator-godfather standing in the way of participatory democracy and development.
Mindful of the enormous responsibility thrust on his shoulders at this historical juncture of APGA’s journey, Obiano had taken on these challenges from complementary approaches. The message of hope, equity and empowerment, which APGA represents, could have no better affirmation than its expression in the governance of Anambra State. Trends in the administration suggest as much emphasis in addressing the plight of the weak and disadvantaged as growing the state’s economy. With Obiano holding out a huge promise in leadership and creative governance, he moved to galvanise APGA in pursuit of the Nigerian project. Nor can it be forgotten that it was an APGA policy in the interest of equity to zone the governorship to Anambra North Senatorial zone, where Obiano hails from.
There can be no gainsaying the fact that APGA suffered neglect in the past. Governor Obiano has been mindful not to abandon the party faithful that helped him come to power. It is not necessary to alienate party supporters from the system just to prove that government is a serious business. By rallying members of the party and giving them a sense of belonging, Obiano has struck the fine balance to hold government and party together. Interestingly, Obiano, dismissed by critics as a political neophyte, has recognised the place of party caucuses and their input in decision-making.
On the strength of this new cohesion in the party, Obiano further rose to the occasion by widening the territorial spread of the party’s presence in the country. APGA’s current marketability is to be seen in not just the fact of having governorship candidates in Zamfara, Oyo, Nassarawa and Lagos states in the 2015 elections for the first time but also in the impressive quality of the candidates. The quest to take APGA to the front row of the Fourth Republic’s political parties was perhaps best illustrated in the narrow and controversial loss of the Abia State governorship by APGA’s Alex Otti. Indeed, Obiano made one of the most powerful political statements in the country in 2015 with the defection of 21 former PDP House of Assembly members to APGA.
With APGA members strongly mobilised around this vision and the party assuming the force of a vehicle of social reconstruction, it was a mission impossible for the usurpers. And with Ndi Anambra savouring the leap in their fortunes under Obiano, the return of the Working Willie as the APGA candidate for the November 18, 2017, governorship poll was a passionate prayer answered.