President Muhammadu Buhari has since 2015 been projected in the public space as exceptionally parochial. His political opponents in the South East geopolitical zone have succeeded in portraying him as anti-Igbo, citing the absence of one of Nigeria’s three major ethnic groups in leadership positions in the military, police and intelligence services as evidence. They also cite his appointments, which they say are heavily in favour of northerners and Muslims. Yet, the Buhari administration is tackling the infrastructure deficit in the zone far more seriously than the preceding regime did.
President Buhari may, after all, not be the incubus of the South East. Take the event of last week, when the businessman, Prince Arthur Eze, brought a handful of traditional rulers from Anambra State to Abuja to discredit Governor Willie Obiano. Eze has of late been having issues with his home state governor over the location of the newly created police zonal command covering Ebonyi, Enugu and Anambra states. Whereas the governor asked that it be located in the state capital, as in every other zone, Eze demanded that it be located in his native Ukpo, which, in the last three years, has engaged neigbouring Abagana and Abba communities in well-publicised fights over land ownership.
Chimamanda Adichie, the prodigious writer from Anambra State, has accused the police of openly taking orders from Eze, a wealthy businessman, in the war against neighbouring communities. At the inauguration of Zone 13 on Wednesday, July 8, 2020, Prince Arthur Eze thanked the police authorities for locating the zone in his village.
If President Buhari had been anti-Igbo, as he is often portrayed in the South East, he would have seized the opportunity of meeting the traditional rulers whom Eze wanted to bring to him on Friday, to join forces with unpleasant persons to destroy Igboland. But he rather chose to shun the monarchs once he realised their mission was anything but noble. One of the traditional rulers has since October 25, 2019, been facing charges of conspiracy, perjury and forgery before Justice Okon Abang of the Federal High Court in Abuja, in suit number FHC/ABJ/CR/255/2019. The charges were, interestingly, brought by the Buhari administration.
The President not only shunned these monarchs, he also advised Eze to “go home and reconcile with your governor who is doing a good job.” President Buhari always tells people about the excellent collaboration from the Anambra State government, which has enabled the federal administration to complete the Zik Mausoleum in record time, and assisted it to work on the Second Niger Bridge at an impressive speed and to reconstruct such critical roads as the Enugu-Onitsha highway, which failed completely several years ago. President Buhari always tells people how exemplary the Anambra State government has been in providing security to its people. As someone from the northern part of the country where security is now a shambles, the President recognises that security cannot be taken for granted.
While President Buhari deserves commendation for his decision, southeastern appointees in the administration must be praised for speaking like one man on the embarrassment the monarchs wanted to cause. The southeastern political appointees know that the target of the visit was not Governor Obiano per se, but the entire Igbo race. As one of the Igbo appointees in the Buhari administration pointed out, “does Aliko Dangote or Mike Adenuga or Femi Otedola assemble a few unknown monarchs from his state to Abuja to abuse his governor for merely disagreeing on the location of the headquarters of a police zone?”
The Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr. Chris Ngige, should be singled out for commendation for fighting like a man, regardless of party differences. He doesn’t want his state or ethnic group disgraced by someone driven by personal ego.
It is unbelievable that Arthur Eze should think in this age that, in a federation like ours, a state governor should be reported to the President the way a parent would report a delinquent schoolboy to a headmaster in a village elementary school. Worse is that Eze is asking the Federal Government to seize local government funds due to Anambra State until the local government elections are held. The businessman is conferring on the President a right he does not possess. Let him learn from the case between Olusegun Obasanjo’s federal administration and Bola Tinubu’s Lagos State, when Obasanjo seized funds of Lagos State LGs on the grounds that Tinubu created new LGs.
Eze does not know that Anambra State cannot conduct the LG election right now. The election is the subject of litigation before the Supreme Court. Those who lost to the state at the Court of Appeal took the matter to the Supreme Court. But what is so special about LG election in Nigeria? The ruling party in each state achieves 100 per cent victory in every LG poll!
The penchant of wealthy Anambra people to flaunt their money and Abuja connections at the drop of a hat is sickening. Tony Elumelu, Aliko Dangote, Femi Otedola and Mike Adenuga, among others, have far greater connections in Aso Rock. Yet they do not engage in the drama of harassing their own people with their “federal might.” President Buhari, by refusing to see the monarchs, did what a statesman should. On no account should they be allowed access to State House to disgrace Ndigbo. This warning is important, as they are already boasting how they will lobby the President’s closest aides to get him to change his mind within one week. The President is proving to be a better statesman than many Nigerians seem to appreciate.
•Dr. Ezediokpu, an educationist, lives in Independence Layout, Enugu