When an online news medium recently reported that a minister under ex-President Goodluck Jonathan was keen on participating in the November gubernatorial election in Anambra State, it drew plenty reactions. None was flattering. One of the most hilarious came from Phillip Ezeana, an energetic blogger from Ukpor in Nnewi South Local Government Area of Anambra State, who is popularly known as Igirigi. “He is not running to be governor,” thundered Ezeana. “He wants to be a commissioner!” When another politician claimed on the social media that he had been endorsed by his people to run for governor, a lot of social media activists, including Ezeana, who holds a prestigious traditional title, retorted: “It is not true. Every group in Anambra State has endorsed Chief Willie Obiano”.
The impending governorship election may be seven months away, but the outcome seems already known to everyone. The Columbian journalist and novelist, who won the Nobel Prize in literature, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, would describe the result as the chronicle of an election foretold. The outcome is based on a verifiable service record. The late Chief Obafemi Awolowo once said that the greatest legacy a leader could leave is to write his or her name in gold in the hearts of the people. This is what is going on in Anambra State. True, the developmental revolution did not begin with Obiano. Most Anambrarians believe it began with Dr. Chris Ngige in 2003 when he set in motion the machinery for the state’s liberation from financial leeches and political parasites.
Interestingly, Obiano gives credit for the developmental strides to all his predecessors, including Dr. Chinwoke Mbadinuju, who, he acknowledges, ended the vicious fight between the neigbouring Aguleri and Umuleri communities in Anambra East Local Government Area. Obiano acknowledges Mbadinuju’s role in chasing away violent robbers from the state, though through an unusual means, which became controversial. Not to be forgotten is that it was Mbadinuju, argues Obiano, who played a critical role in the establishment of Orient Petroleum, the Anambra-based company, which produces crude oil and is about to commission a refinery.
Back to the topic of this article. I have for weeks been reflecting on the forthcoming election in our state, which, for all practical purposes, is unnecessary; it will hold just to fulfill all constitutional righteousness. I was wondering why a couple of politicians insist on contesting in an election when Professor Charles Chukwuma Soludo, the brilliant erstwhile Central Bank governor and creative economist, delivered the lecture on the third anniversary of the Obiano administration on March 17 and counseled the politicians to not only defer their gubernatorial ambitions but also use the election funds to set up firms in the state. Professor Soludo practically stole those words from my mouth!
Every election in Anambra – whether gubernatorial or senatorial or any other – has since 1999 been the most expensive in the country. This is because Anambra probably has the highest number of successful business executives and professionals of all states. I am told a large number of people at party headquarters look forward to Anambra elections because they make fortunes from the primaries. But I think the funds could be channeled to other areas. Soludo has suggested the setting up of new firms. This is wise counsel, which will benefit us all. I will add establishment of first class primary and secondary schools as well as universities.
I am passionate about education because this is a knowledge-based era. The difference between a developed society and an undeveloped one is, at bottom, the education difference. Take South Korea, Japan, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Singapore, which have practically no mineral deposits but have joined the developed world, unlike Nigeria and the Democratic Republic of Congo, which have huge minerals but are poor countries.
Sir Peter Chukwura established Our Lady’s High School in Onitsha, which produced the likes of Admiral Alison Madueke, the first Igbo to become a service chief after the Civil War, and General Chris Alli, ex-Chief of Army Staff. He also set up New African College in Onitsha which trained Prof Ben Nwabueze, Africa’s greatest Constitutional Law scholar. In addition, Chukwurah built Fatima High School at Aguobu Owa in Ezeagu Local Government Area of Enugu State. There were eminent proprietors like Chief Gilbert Ekwenugo Okeke, who set up Abbot Schools in Sapele in Delta State and in his hometown of Ihiala in today’s Anambra State. They contributed significantly to the miracle of what Prof Chinua Achebe calls in The Trouble With Nigeria, the “Igbo wiping out their educational handicap in one fantastic burst of energy” between 1945 and 1965, thus emerging the most educated ethnic group in Nigeria.
Not to be forgotten are people like the late Chief Vincent Ikeotuonye, who built Zixton Grammar School in his hometown of Ozubulu in Ekwusigo LGA, attracting students like Olisa Agbakoba, SAN; Gozie Agbakoba, his brother and a former member of the House of Representatives; Emeka Maduegbuana, a former director of the Bureau of Public Enterprises, who now runs a very successful marketing communications firm in Lagos. I mention these people because their parents sent them from places like Jos and Lagos to acquire quality education and also familiarise themselves with their people’s cultural values.
There are millions of Igbo people outside Igboland, who would like their children to study at home so that they will not lose them culturally. Professor Bart Nnaji, a globally recognised scientist and Nigeria’s best Minister of Power ever, brought his first two children from the United States to study at Grundtvig International Secondary School, Oba in Anambra, and he and the children are the better for it. We need more of such schools today, especially given the fact that Anambra is now the safest state in Nigeria. Our people send their children and wards to Olashore High School in Osun State and Adesoye College in Offa, Kwara State, for quality education, and they pay handsomely for it.
We need more private universities. Anambra currently has four private universities; the fifth one promoted by the Catholic Diocese of Awka is on the way. But then Ogun State has about 18, including Christopher University owned by Chief Christopher Ezeh from Igbo Ukwu in Anambra State, who was chairman of the Council of the Enugu State University Business School. Ogun is benefitting from its proximity to Lagos, Nigeria’s commercial nerve centre. We need universities, which can attract international attention as the Lagos Business School has been doing. Why can’t Anambra be Nigeria’s educational capital as Boston is in the United States?
The fortune spent on elections can be used more productively. Some politicians spending money stupendously in the hopes that our state must be acquired “by force or by fire” with the so-called federal might must perish the thought. Both President Muhammadu Buhari and Vice President Yemi Osinbajo are too decent for “by fire and by force” elections. They did not instruct INEC to announce false election results in Rivers State.
Anambra can set a new record if some politicians in our midst do the right thing by spending their money for the benefit of our people. Anambra is now a model state. Let us make history by being the first state to return our governor unopposed.
• Chief Umeh was Commissioner for Information and Culture in Anambra State under ex-Gov. Peter Obi.