Prince Arthur Eze, the controversial businessman from Anambra State who wants to be regarded as the new godfather of the state’s politics, in spite of the consistent defeat of every candidate he has ever backed in an election, has, in the last few months, proved to be a more accomplished propagandist than a businessman. This is no surprise. He has granted several interviews against Governor Willie Obiano, but the governor has refused to utter a word against him. Yet, Chief Obiano is much younger. Critics would tend to regard Obiano as more mature.
In the middle of this year, when the police authorities chose Ukpo, Arthur Eze’s hometown, in Dunukofia Local Government Area, to be the headquarters of a new police zone for the South East to be known as Zone 13, which would cover Enugu, Ebonyi and Anambra states, the Anambra State governor dispatched a letter to the police to protest that he was not in the know even as the chief security officer of the host state. Obiano is highly regarded by the country’s security and intelligence community for acute security-consciousness.
The governor also protested that the headquarters should be in the state capital, like other zonal commands in Nigeria. Chief Obiano, in addition, noted that, in consideration of the grave crises between Ukpo people and their neigbours in Abagana, Njikoka LGA, and their neighbours in Abba town, also in Njikoka LGA, it was not advisable to site the headquarters there, all the more so given the fact that a lot of highly regarded people from the two towns, like Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, the globally acknowledged novelist and essayist, have been accusing the police high command of playing a very partisan role in the crises on the side of Arthur Eze.
When Arthur Eze saw the Obiano letter to the police, however, he went to town to allege that the governor was protesting against the location of the zonal police headquarters at Ukpo because he wanted it in his hometown of Aguleri in Anambra East Local Government Area. It was good propaganda stuff. Even journalists, who should know better, did not demand evidence to substantial his allegation. It is reminiscent of how journalists reported claims that there was an ongoing bloody land crisis between Umueri people and Obiano’s Aguleri elements. Yet, the journalists knew that the crisis was ended by former Governor Chinwoke Mbadinuju in 1999, a few months after he assumed office.
Now, Arthur Eze is at again. Following the acquisition of a new national office by the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) some party chiefs went to Abuja last week to inspect the imposing edifice. Some of them, led by Chief Benjamin Obi, decided to visit a number of prominent Anambra indigenes in Abuja. One of them turned out to be Arthur Eze, a good friend of Chief Obi for many years. Arthur Eze’s media chaps wrote and quickly circulate the story that Governor Obiano sent the top party persons to—wait for it—plead for forgiveness from him!
What an irony! Nigerians know very well who has been asking Chief Obiano for forgiveness in the last few days. Immediately the South East Development Initiative (SEDI) published in the last week of August a comprehensive press statement demanding the Anambra, Ebonyi and Enugu state governors to probe the multimillion African Development Bank-assisted contracts for rural water supply and rural electrification in old Anambra State as well as the building of an Industrial Development Centre (IDC) in Awka, someone began to plead with prominent Anambra people to intervene. The petitioners threatened to report the matter to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and President Muhammadu Buhari for action. Even the Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr. Chris Ngige, a former Anambra State governor, supported the move, threatening to hand over his file on the contract scam to the President. Who has been sending people to Dr. Ngige to “take it easy on our family member”?
Is it sheer coincidence that a mere four days after the press statement by the South East Development Initiative was issued, the 12 traditional rulers who accompanied Eze to see President Buhari and say unprintable things against their own state on Friday, August 7, at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, now ran to the Speaker of the Anambra State House of Assembly on Friday, August 28, and in full public glare began to apologise profusely to Chief Obiano? These are the same men who were threatening fire and brimstone against the Anambra State government a few days earlier in the mistaken belief that Eze was not vulnerable because of his wealth. Even Chief Austine Ndigwe, Eze’s staunchest and longest acolyte who is known as Ozo Gidigbam Gidigbam—whatever that means—has changed sides. He has since been praising Obiano to high heavens for turning his hometown of Awka from a mere township to a city through massive infrastructure development, which includes turning the abandoned Awka Township Stadium into Awka City Stadium.
Arthur Eze has hit his own new musical tune. He now says that his object for attempting to take the 12 renegade chiefs to Abuja to meet President Buhari was not to vilify Chief Obiano, but to commend Buhari for such achievements as the reconstruction of Akanu Ibiam International Airport in Enugu and the ongoing construction of the Second Niger Bridge. Earlier, the media reported that they were going to Buhari to report that Gov. Obiano had not been paying them a certain percentage from local government revenues. He seems not to be aware that the media reported very well how President Buhari directed him during their meeting on August 7 to go home and make peace “with your governor who is doing a very good job in Anambra State.”
Arthur Eze appears to have suddenly forgotten that the media reported how Buhari’s Chief of Staff, Professor Ibrahim Gambari, granted him and his 12 chiefs audience on condition that they would not be allowed to say anything unflattering about the Anambra State administration.
We invite Arthur Eze to reflect on the word of God: “You will know the truth, for only the truth shall make you free” (John 8: 32). God’s word remains constant both in this world and in the world to come.
•Obiekunie, a retired deputy director in the Anambra public service, lives in Onitsha, Anambra State