“Peter Obi and the Rest of Us” by Donatus Ikem Nwabugwu, Jnr, (The Sun, back page, Monday, January
12) is as stimulating as it is revealing. It provides for thought. Still, not everything claimed in it is unassailable. For instance, it said that the staff members of the Anambra State Water Corporation were not paid for five years under Peter Obi’s leadership in the state.
Peter Obi was in office for a whole eight years. He did not pay them at all for the eight years. The record is worse than that of Rauf Aregbosola who has the distinction of owing workers longer than any other governor in recent decades. Aregbosola certainly did not owe the Osun State Water Corporation staff for a whole eight years.
The article said all the corporation’s staff and pensioners had received all their salaries and benefits under Governor Willie Obiano. Not quite. Governor Obiano complied with the National Industrial Court order for payment by making the funds available to the workers’ lawyers, though the court gave the directive when Obi was still governor.
The workers, curiously, never received the hundreds of millions of naira that Chief Obiano paid. Good a thing that the Economic and Finan- cial Crimes Commission (EFCC) is stepping into the case.
Some people may think that Mr. Pius Nwabugwu, the brilliant geologist, was the most pathetic case in the water corporation salary saga. True, Mr. Nwabugwu’s case is very dispiriting. The geologist, perhaps, could have been the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) group managing director, as his classmate and colleague, Godwin Gaius-Obaseki, became in 1999, if he had remained in the NNPC. He would have been at least a group executive director, if sheer love for his motherland had not led him to the Anambra State Water Corporation, which turned out to be his greatest undoing in life. Yet, Mr. Nwabugwu’s fate was far better than that of most the water corporation’s employees.
For example, there was a lady who died out of hunger in Awka and no person knew until after three days when her body had begun to decompose badly. When Obi’s aide then heard of the tragedy, he was reported to have quickly written to his principal advising that the blood of the workers should not be on his head.
The bad news was that the lady who died out of hunger and malnutrition for nonpayment of salaries for years was only one of several casualties of the Anambra State Water Corporation mess. There were several cases of deaths arising out of hunger and starvation.
The water corporation tragedy is one of the great ironies of modern Nigerian political history. The corporation’s officials and trade union officers were fanatical Peter Obi campaigners when he was a candidate. Take the energetic and committed public relations officer of the corporation, who was seconded to the corporation from the Daily Star newspaper and trained by the World Bank in water management issues. As secretary of the Cathedral Basilica of the Most Holy Trinity Parish Council in Onitsha, he oversold Chief Obi to the ecclesiastical authorities. He must today be gnashing his teeth.
There is a general belief among the Anambra State Water Corporation staff that the tragedy of the state-owned enterprise is far beyond sadism. The way its assets in Onitsha GRA were vandalised would provide sufficient material for a movie to be titled “Gangster Paradise.
For instance, each of the 49 industrial boreholes vanished overnight in order to make way a Shoprite Complex in Onitsha. Each of the industrial boreholes can supply the huge Onitsha population 50 per cent of
its water needs. The boreholes were among the World Bank-packaged water plan for six local government areas in Anambra, including Onitsha North and Onitsha South, as well as Ogbaru and Idemili North.
Governor Obiano should find out why private residential buildings have sprung up in sites that belong to the state corporation meant for water production and distribution. Who authorised the alienation of the lands? More importantly, Governor Obiano should ensure that there is public water supply in Anambra State. After all, there is water public supply in Enugu and Ebonyi states, two states that used to share with the present Anambra State Water Corporation.
Anambra people are lucky that Governor Obiano is no Pharisee, a congenital hypocrite.
•Chinedu was a bank manager in and around Onitsha, Anambra State