One thing, which the November 17, 2017, gubernatorial election in Anambra State made clear, is that the era of so-called godfathers in the state’s politics is over forever. Prince Arthur Eze, for example, was rejected all the way even in his Dunukofia Local Government Area, as his anointed candidate was well defeated by Governor Willie Obiano. Still, a handful of individuals, including Arthur Eze, have refused to face facts. Eze’s latest attempt to mobilise an infinitesimal group of shadowy elements to stir a political controversy that will see him play the godfather in the impending governorship election in Anambra State is a flawed strategy.
No candidate backed by Arthur Eze has ever won an election in Anambra State. And none can ever. Ndi Anambra have every reason to distrust him. Eze’s latest gambit of claiming that the Anambra State administration is against the President Muhammadu Buhari government amounts to dethronement of reason. All Nigerians, including President Buhari, know the very elements who, as former Senate President Pius Anyim put it, were swarming round ex-President Goodluck Jonathan when he was in power and saying unprintable things against Buhari, but are now pretending to love the current President.
It is revealing of Arthur Eze’s loyalty to President Buhari that he is now in cahoots with a suspended traditional ruler in Anambra State being prosecuted by the Buhari administration before Justice Okon Abang of the Federal High Court in Abuja. To worsen matters, he has even got the suspended monarch to claim that he has been working for Buhari for several years. Nothing can be further from the truth. An authentic friend of the Buhari administration, known for its reformist agenda and anti-corruption stance, can only be above board.
The Anambra State administration has a most admirable and effective policy towards the Buhari government: constructive engagement. Though the two governments are run by two different political parties, they cooperate very well for the benefit of Anambra people. The results include the quick completion of the Zik Mausoleum in Onitsha, after a whole 21 years, the impressive rate of the building of the Second Niger Bridge and the massive reconstruction of federal roads in the state, as well as the reimbursement of the billions of naira, which the state government expended on the rehabilitation of federal roads in the area. President Buhari, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo and Works and Housing Minister Babatunde Fashola are among top federal officials who have publicly commended Governor Obiano for his maturity, farsightedness and commitment to his people, advising other non-APC governors and officials to borrow a leaf from the Anambra leader.
Against this backdrop, the claim by Arthur Eze and his new friends and companions that they are punished by the people of Anambra State for their support for President Buhari is awful. The relationship between Anambra State under Governor Obiano and the Federal Government under President Buhari remains a perfect example of cooperative federalism as opposed to adversarial federalism.
Arthur Eze has been advised by many to look around and learn from younger but much wealthier Nigerians like Alhaji Aliko Dangoke, Dr. Mike Adenuga, Mrs. Folorunso Alakija, Mr. Femi Otedola and Mr. Tony Elumelu. We would like to add our voice to this wise counsel. Dangote is from Kano State, but no one has ever heard him launch a war against the people and government of Kano State. Dr. Adenuga is from Ogun State, and no one has ever seen him abuse his people and their government. Mrs. Alakija is from Lagos State, and not even one word has she expressed against the people and government of the state. The same thing can be said about Otedola, who is also from Lagos State. Elumelu is from neighbouring Delta State, and he has never taken up the cudgel to fight his people and government because he is wealthy.
Each of these personages has been busy developing his or her home state. Arthur Eze needs to have at least one investment or business in Anambra State. It is a far more rewarding enterprise than to support people who do not add value to society.
The time has come for Eze and the courtiers around him to accept that the days of self-styled godfathers of Anambra State are gone. Those days represent the darkest era in our state’s history. They were the days of arson, mayhem, kidnapping of top government officials like the state governor, irrevocable standing payment orders, which enabled the godfathers to be paid without the verification of contracts they purportedly executed even before civil servants, teachers and pensioners were paid at the end of the month. The great writer and thinker, Professor Chinua Achebe, memorably described them as renegades who were determined to turn his homeland “into a lawless and bankrupt fiefdom.”
It is in Arthur Eze’s interest to think again about his current war. He has in the last few years been fighting the people of Abagana and Abba, both in Njikoka Local Government Area, and he has now decided to launch a full-scale war against the whole of Anambra State, with the assistance of some persons. One thing is certain: Anambra State, having tasted good governance in recent years, can never return to the days of godfathers.
•Dr. Chukwumyem wrote from the University of Texas, United States