“When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice. But when the wicked rule, the people groan (Proverbs 29: 2).”
When Most Reverend Dr Valerie Okeke, the Archbishop of Onitsha and professor of Moral Theology, took the stage yesterday (Saturday, March 17) to pray at the second inauguration of Governor Willie Obiano, he prayed God to make Anambra continue on its present development trajectory so that other states in Nigeria would emulate it.
It was a thoughtful prayer, in synch with the current mood in the state. Any person who attended the swearing-in ceremony or watched it live on television is bound to be proud to come from Anambra State. I have never seen the state so peaceful, so united and so progress-oriented as in the last one year.
Senator Ben Ndi Obi, the immediate past National Secretary of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) was right to tell Channels Television that the “galaxy of personalities” who attended the inauguration, regardless of their political leanings, shows that the people cherish the atmosphere of peace prevailing in their state. Though Obiano belongs to the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), the VIP stand was almost dominated by members of the so-called opposition parties and other personalities who are not politicians. For example, erstwhile Senate President Ken Nnamani (APC), Senator Stella Oduah (PDP) and former Aviation Minister, Senator Andy Ubah (APC), Senator (Mrs) Uche Ekwunife and Dr Chike Obidigbo (APC) arrived early enough.
All former democratically elected governors of Anambra State attended the ceremony except Mr Peter Obi. Dr Chinwoke Mbadinuju and Chris Ngige , both APC chieftains, and Dr Chukwuemeka Ezeife and Mrs Virgy Etiaba, Nigeria’s first female deputy governor, arrived, with the crowd cheering. If Peter Obi had made it, he probably would have stolen the show. By being the odd man out, Governor Obiano’s predecessor is portraying himself as a bitter man. This is not the right reputation any person who wants to be relevant in the state should cultivate. He ought to have known that the people objected to his refusal to pay both Dr Mbadinuju and Dr Ngige their salaries and other entitlements, an anomaly which Obiano corrected no sooner than he assumed office. The image of a bitter man made the people vote against him even in his hometown of Agulu during the November 18 gubernatorial election which his successor won in grand style. Mr Obi needs to avoid being seen as a person at war with his predecessors and his successor.
Back to Obiano’s second inauguration. Apart from the governors of Ebonyi, Delta, Taraba, Enugu and Ekiti states as well as ex Central Bank Governor Charles Soludo and Dr Ogbonnaya Onu, the Minister of Science and Technology, who are politicians, some of the prominent persons in attendance who are not politicians are Chief Nnia Nwodo, the Ohaneze President General who was twice a minister; Chief Emeka Anyaoku, ex Commonwealth Secretary General; Igwe Alfred Nnaemeka Achebe, Obi of Onitsha; the Inspector General of Police who was represented by DIG Val Ntomchukwu; the Ooni of Ife; the Ewi of Ekiti; Prof Uche Azikiwe, wife of Nigeria’s greatest nationalist, Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe; Prof Elochukwu Amucheazi, former Director General of the Directorate for Social Mobilisation (MAMSAR); Engineer Otis Anyaeji, immediate past President of the Nigerian Society of Engineers; and Venerable (Professor) Chinedu Nebo, former Vice Chancellor of the Federal University in Ekiti State and of the University of Nigeria at Nsukka as well as the immediate past Minister of Power. Not to be overlooked is the diplomatic community, including the American mission.
The organized private sector was fully represented. Dr ABC Orjiako, chairman of Seplat, the only Nigerian firm traded on both the Nigerian Stock Exchange and London Stock Exchange; Chief Allen Onyema, chairman of Air Peace which is now West Africa’s largest and fastest growing airline; and Mr Cosmas Maduka, chairman of the Coscharis Group, were easily recognizable faces in the crowd. They mixed freely with representatives of the traders associations, including the president of the South East Amalgamated Traders Association. Such corporate leaders as Dr Ernest Obiejesi, chairman of Nestoil, and Engr Emeka Okwuosa, chairman of Oilserv, who could not make it had earlier sent their apologies.
It is interesting that the Alex Ekwueme Square in Awka was filled to capacity, despite efforts by the committee which organized Obiano’s second inauguration ceremony to reduce the crowd to a manageable level because of logistic, safety and security concerns. Anytime the Obiano administration organises a public function, it is almost embarrassed by the humungous crowd which honours it. On October 3, 2017, when it launched Operation Show Muscle to flag off its reelection campaign, it expected some 200,000 persons, but well over 500,000 people trooped to the Ekwueme Square. Its strategists were banking on winning the reelection by defeating opponents in some 15 local government areas, but they ended up clearing all 21 LGAs in the state by a wide margin. Even if the votes for the other parties were combined, they would not be anything near a half of the votes given to Obiano in this election which became the most peaceful and transparent organized by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
On November 23, 2017, the governor went to the INEC office in Awka to collect his Certificate of Return, and he and his wife chose to walk to the place which is some distance—perhaps to test their popularity–and there was almost a pandemonium. Offices, shops and markets closed spontaneously, as over 10,000 persons, including commercial bus drivers, okada and keke riders, joined them. INEC officials were overwhelmed because they did not expect any crowd at all, let alone a large number singing, dancing, drumming and praising God.
Before the November 19 governorship vote in Anambra State, Ms Chika Jenny Okafor, a Nigerian lawyer and blogger in the United Kingdom, provoked a debate when she started a conversation on the topic, “Is Obiano the most popular governor in Nigeria?”. I should think that events of the last few months have settled the question. The fantastic progress in Anambra should serve as a wake-up call to the governors of Imo, Abia, Delta, Bayelsa and other states. As Archbishop Okeke noted during his opening prayer at Obiano’s second inauguration, Nigeria will experience rapid progress when other states emulate Anambra.
•Nzeribe was a manager with both First City Monument Bank and Keystone Bank. [email protected]