By Ifeanyi Maduako
It is only when you give power to a man or woman that you can truly measure the worth, integrity and selfishness of such an individual at the end of his or her stay in public office. Some people would sermonize and pontificate for many years on how they love their electorate more than themselves, all in bid to grab power at all cost. But when they achieve their ambition that is when you will know that most of them are wolves in sheep’s clothing; that the sound of bitter kola in the mouth is clearly different from its taste. In Igbo land, nay Nigeria, former governor of Anambra State, Peter Obi, is one of the very few that have run public office with integrity. Peter Obi is an enigma. You cannot write the history of Nigerian democracy, especially the 4th Republic democracy without devoting a page or two to Peter Obi’s landmark contribution.
Peter Obi became Anambra governor on March 17, 2006, after a pulsating legal battle that lasted nearly three years under the platform of All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA). He won the 2003 gubernatorial election but the political buccaneers and undertakers in Anambra State stole his mandate. He went to the Election Petition Tribunal to challenge the bare-faced daylight robbery. People dismissed his quest to retrieve his mandate as mere academic exercise. Before Peter Obi, nobody in Nigeria had ever successfully retrieved his mandate, especially governorship mandate through the Election Petition Tribunal. But, he had and still has faith in God to do the impossible. Even his party leadership then, dismissed his case at the tribunal with a wave of the hand and aligned with the government of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) which was in power then.
On August, 2005, an earthquake in the form of an unprecedented judgment reverberated across the length and breadth of Nigeria when the Election Petition Tribunal led by Justice Garba Nabaruma delivered a judgment which restored Peter Obi’s mandate sacking then incumbent governor, Dr. Chris Ngige, who is the Minister of Labour and Employment now. Ngige, in an effort to buy time, went to the Appeal Court. And the appellate Court, on March 15, 2006, affirmed the judgment of the lower court. That was when governorship election petition ended in Appeal Court before it was amended in 2010 which makes the Supreme Court now the final bus stop for governorship election petition. Six months after he was impeached by Anambra State House of Assembly then led by Mike Balonwu.
Peter Obi resorted to his usual means of remedy which is the law court. After few months, both Federal High Court (FHC) and the Court of Appeal quashed his impeachment and returned him to office. When he returned, he declined participation in the 2007 general elections which was few months away hinging his hope on the fact that his mandate was yet to lapse by then. As usual, many people including this writer did not believe that the Supreme Court would give him a favourable judgment in his case for tenure interpretation.
Chief Andy Uba of the PDP who ostensibly won the so-called 2007 Anambra governorship election was pushed out of office by the Supreme Court after only seventeen (17) days in office. Peter Obi yet again returned to his seat and completed his tenure which elapsed in 2010. He equally got reelected by Ndi Anambra for his superlative performance and conduct in office, making him the first governor to be reelected for a second term in both Old and New Anambra till date. Peter Obi’s dogged judicial victories created a precedent in Nigeria in the form of staggered elections which states like Edo, Ondo, Ekiti and Osun have benefitted from. The governors of these states derived their confidence and impetus to challenge their stolen mandates from Peter Obi’s exploits.
Peter Obi is not an angel or a Saint but he managed Anambra State with utmost fear of God and prudence. President Muhammadu Buhari has said it for the umpteenth time that 27 states of Nigeria are having difficulties paying workers’ salaries and running their states, and that necessitated the bailout fund extended to these states to ameliorate the sufferings of their people, particularly workers even though most of these governors have, as usual, looted the bailout funds. Anambra State is one of the seven states that are adjudged to be so financially healthy that they did not collect the bailout fund. Why? Because a man superintended over the state for eight years with utmost prudence and managerial acumen and handed over to another astute financial guru.
When Peter Obi was Governor, he received the highest amount of money from the office of the Millennium Development (MDG) even when he was an APGA Governor. He came first in terms of MDGs rating followed by Gombe State whose Governor is Ibrahim Dankwambo, the former Accountant-General of the Federation. It is instructive to note, that Anambra State did not receive a dime from MDG from 1999 to 2007. The state started receiving money from it from 2008 till Obi left office and probably till now.
Even Universal Basic Education Commission rated Anambra State the number one among the few states sourcing funds from the commission and utilizing the funds for the purpose it was meant for. During Obi’s tenure, Anambra State that used to lag behind educationally surged forward and became number one state in WAEC, NECO and JAMB performances for four consecutive years.
•Maduako writes from Owerri