Without Chief Victor Umeh, Governor Peter Obi would not have had a second term of office. This declaration is an easy start to explaining the title of this article. It happened this way. Well before his first tenure ended, Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu, fed up to the hairline, ruled Mr. Obi out of a second term. One morning, General Ojukwu arrived All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) offices in Awka, to the cheers of party faithful and expectant journalists. There, he lifted the hand of Mr. Emeka Etiaba, now a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), and pronounced him the man to fly APGA’s flag in the 2010 governorship election.
Government House, Awka, immediately went into turmoil, with Governor Obi looking like someone poleaxed. Long hours later, he ditched lamentation for counteraction. This came in his flying to Umeh’s patronage. They met later that week at the grounds between Government Lodge, Enugu, and the Enugu State House of Assembly, Governor Obi having chased security aides, drivers and other convoy regulars to no less than 50 metres away. Left severely alone, the governor pleaded with Umeh for a second chance. After some contemplation, Umeh reluctantly decided to give Obi a kind ear.
Former Anambra State Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) chairman, Dan Ulasi, recently recounted on two national television stations, AIT and Channels, what happened next. Arriving Chief Ojukwu’s Enugu home one evening, Chief Ulasi was startled to find Obi and Umeh pleading profusely. Umeh was suppliant; Obi was plaintive. Feeling that, with Umeh’s support, Obi had repented, Ojukwu relented. Obi giggled back to Awka, the second term ticket firmly in his kitty. When the campaigns started a few months later, Ojukwu touched Anambra’s emotional nerve by giving his people a “last wish,” which was to vote Obi again.
When Peter Obi spoke at PDP’s campaign flag-off on October 14, 2017, he denied Governor Willie Obiano the benefit of the doubt that Ojukwu and Umeh had generously accorded him. On and on he went, pillorying the governor of Anambra State, Obiano. Dates must come into play here. Ojukwu died in November 2011. Less than three years later, Obi abandoned the APGA he had vowed before the Ikemba to sustain. This happened only six months after his governorship ran out. Obi plunged into the PDP, arguing that it was wiser “to be a competitor and not a spectator in national affairs”! Four months later, in February 2015, Governor Obiano gave the boot to Joe-Martins Uzodike, his political adviser. After another four months, Mr. Oseloka Obaze, who had continued as SSG under Obiano, was instructed to tender his resignation. This shows that even before Obiano had done half of his first term of office, the Peter Obi-inspired coalition against him was well in place. Clearly, Obi’s animus against Obiano is unconnected to the latter’s governorship credentials. Thus before Governor Obiano had done two years in office, the war of attrition against him had been joined.
By the time I joined the Obiano administration in July last year, Mr. Uzodike had made 77 anti-Obiano appearances on various Anambra State FM radio stations. Obi’s men constructed, especially on airwaves and the Internet, a skyscraper of lies against Obiano, denigrating the man, disparaging him, minimising his achievements and cursing the flaming daylight out of his good deeds. Remarkably, there is no record of Governor Obiano, a perfect gentleman, ever repaying his traducers with swear words.
If Obi’s concern was quality leadership, why didn’t he remonstrate with Governor Obiano for any perceived shortfalls? Hadn’t Umeh led him by the hand to obtain reprieve from General Ojukwu? Why did he shun Obiano who publicly offered apologies to him for any perceived infractions right in front of the casket of Reverend Father Tagbo, their principal at Christ the King College, Onitsha? Why did he decide rather to upset the applecart? APGA is bigger than any of its members. Why is Peter Obi on a course of destroying the party that gave him eight years of governorship?
Let’s bring in Alex Ekwueme. In 1999, political generals stopped Ekwueme and handed national leadership to an Olusegun Obasanjo they had spirited from the jailhouse. Yet, Dr. Ekwueme remained in the PDP. Had he decided to pull out of the party because he was given short shrift, Obi would today probably not find a PDP platform from which to try and destroy APGA, the only national party rooted in Igboland.
When, in the 2015-2016 English Premier League season, Chelsea performed abysmally, club owner, Roman Abramovich, didn’t throw away the baby with the bathwater. He had the club reworked into winning ways and the league title last season. Assuming Governor Obiano has performed below expectation (which he has absolutely not), Mr. Obi’s only right course of action would have been to locate ways of righting wrongs, not demolish a house he had helped in constructing.
In 2006, when I was Chief of Staff at Government House, one rich man gathered his disgruntled cohorts and unjustly impeached Governor Obi. All our efforts to prevent the injustice were met with the prime mover’s boast that he had the means to carry through the impeachment. It is the same boast that we hear today: Obi has the means to unseat Obiano! That’s not only unjust but impossible.
To invite Dr. Ekwueme again. Speaking at the PDP campaign flag-off in Onitsha, he said the party lost previous elections due to indiscipline. Mrs. Uche Ekwunife left the party and joined another. Andy Ubah left the party and joined another. Nicholas Ukachukwu left the party and joined another. Well, isn’t the same indiscipline currently repeating itself? Who saw Princess Stella Oduah, Dr. Alex Obiogbolu, Chief Ifeanyi Ubah, Chief John Emeka and many others at the PDP campaign flag-off? Isn’t that a forewarning that previous PDP electoral defeats are on course for reenactment? Doesn’t it show that the PDP is rallying for APGA’s continued supremacy?
Dr. Ekwueme, for the final time, for he is a man without cant. At PDP’s campaign flag-off, he had no ill word for APGA or Obiano. His contribution was clearly a rally in APGA’s favour. Months earlier, he had given this unequivocal endorsement: “In retirement, I consider myself an elder statesman. But at a personal level, I am close to Governor Obiano and I think he is doing well and should be given a chance to complete his second term. Even purely from a selfish point of view and as somebody from the southern senatorial district of Anambra State, it is in our interest that he should have a second term of four years because once he finishes that, there will be no question of anybody coming to contest with us.”
It leaves us all with the recurring, pertinent question: If it isn’t broken, why mend it, when wisdom dictates that a good first term deserves a second?
• Iloegbunam is the chairman of Governor Obiano’s Media Team.