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Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Anambra's Politics Of Accommodation And Solidarity

One thing is certain as Governor Willie Obiano gets ready for the second inauguration on Saturday, March 17: A number of the prominent faces at the swearing-in ceremony will be members of opposition parties, including the candidates who ran against him and their greatest supporters in the November 18, 2017, gubernatorial election. William Shakespeare would describe Obiano as a noble Nigerian in whom there is no guile or bitterness. Even some opponents he failed to invite personally to the ceremony will be there.

Among opposition members expected are Hon. Tony Nwoye, the All Progressives Congress (APC) candidate in the election, and his financier, Prince Arthur Eze; the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) candidate, Mr. Oseloka Obaze; Chief George Muoghalu, an APC gubernatorial aspirant; Engr. Barth Nwibe, another APC aspirant; Prof. ABC Nwosu, ex-Minister of Health and  later chairman of the Anambra PDP Caretaker Committee; Sen. Ben Ndi Obi, former PDP National Secretary; and Mrs. Josephine Anenih, an ex-Minister of Women Affairs, who was, until recently, the secretary of the PDP Caretaker Committee in Anambra State.

In his well-measured acceptance speech following the sensational reelection, Governor Obiano announced that the victory was for all the people of Anambra State, as there was neither winner nor vanquished. It was a well-crafted speech and well-delivered. Obiano spoke like a statesman to watch.

There is a new brand of politics in Anambra State. It is the politics of solidarity, accommodation and forgiveness. This explains why there were no incidents of violence during the electioneering leading to the governorship vote last November. It explains why the election was free and fair, and thus became the most transparent conducted by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). It also explains why, shortly after the result was announced, candidates of the leading political parties accepted the outcome, despite their crushing defeat even in their wards and hometowns, and congratulated Chief Obiano who won by a wide margin in each of the 21 local government areas of the state.

Anambra State has come a long way within a very short period. Olusegun Adeniyi, Thisday editorial board chairman, revealed in his most recent book that ex-President Goodluck Jonathan told him that the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) is so fractious in the state that each aspirant for public office from the state always obtained  three court orders declaring him the rightful candidate even before the primary election was held. This is not altogether surprising. Anambra PDP has always had at least three different factions, each with its own set of officers whose election was attended by INEC officials as a mark of its validity.

Anambra PDP is the party whose members forced the governor-elect in 2003 to swear an oath of perpetual and uncritical allegiance to certain party leaders before the infamous Okija shrine in the dead of the night. It was the party whose members abducted the sitting governor and even announced his resignation based on a forged document.

It was the party whose members unleashed  unprecedented mayhem on the state for three days in November 2004, burning the judiciary complex, the House of Assembly, the state broadcast stations and the state-owned hotel as well as the Governor’s Lodge in Onitsha and Government House, Awka. Yet, when the last November 18 gubernatorial vote was announced, the same party and its candidate accepted it instead of going to court, as they were wont to do in the recent past. It shows there is, indeed, a new spirit in the state.

When you watch political opponents like Labour and Employment Minister Chris Ngige and Sen. Victor Umeh eat at the same table, drink from the same bottle and crack jokes at public functions, you would never know that they have ever belonged to different parties, let alone contested for the same office. Such shows of camaraderie are common in the state. I am the best of friends today with the office seekers who I excoriated in different publications during the campaign.

When you hear what obtains elsewhere in the country, where political differences mean perpetual enmity, you cannot but be proud to come from Anambra State. I wonder why APC National Leader, Bola Tinubu, and his sidekick, Governor Akinwunmi Ambode of Lagos State, should be in such a relentless and vicious war against Power, Works and Housing Minister Babatunde Fashola, as well as against Solid Minerals Development Minister Kayode Fayemi and Ogun State Governor Ibikunle Amosun, when they all belong to the same party.

Obiano embodies the new spirit of tolerance, accommodation and solidarity in Anambra State. He and former Vice President, Dr. Alex Ekwueme, belonged to two different parties, but when the great statesman died last November and was buried on February 2, this year, the Anambra State government did everything to ensure that the venerable statesman left in a blaze of glory, which he was eminently deserving of, in consideration of his monumental contributions to national development. Obiano’s preeminent role in Dr. Ekwueme’s funeral becomes more significant when we consider that the former Vice President’s first daughter, Mrs. Chidi Onyemulukwe, was the PDP deputy governorship candidate in the November election. In other words, Ekwueme’s daughter stood against Obiano in an election just a day to the former Vice President’s death in a London hospital, yet the governor went out of his way to honour Ekwueme in a most unforgettable way.

While most Nigerian leaders use their high positions to accentuate differences, which ends up heating up the polity, Obiano does the opposite. When he had a disagreement with his predecessor, Mr. Peter Obi, the governor chose the path of peace, humility and reconciliation, heroically resisting the temptation to use the state apparatuses. In an unexpected and dramatic move, he publicly apologised to Obi in the interests of the people of the state, even though he said he did not know how he offended his predecessor. It was on August 4, 2016, at the funeral of Rev. Fr. Nicholas Tagbo, the longstanding principal of Christ the King College, Onitsha, which he and Obi attended in the 1970s. Some people thought that Obiano’s apology before a large crowd in the church was a mark of weakness. But they were in error.

At the mass in March 1998, at Oba Airstrip in Anambra State, for the beatification of Venerable Michael Iwene Tansi, incidentally Obiano’s uncle, Pope John Paul II told Nigerians who were heavily divided under Gen. Sani Abacha’s leadership to reconcile with one another, so that their nation could experience peace and rapid development.

He admonished: “All Nigerians must work to rid society of everything that offends the dignity of the human person or violates human rights. This means reconciling differences, overcoming ethnic rivalries, and injecting honesty, efficiency and competence into the art of governing.

“When we see others as brothers and sisters, it is then possible to begin the process of healing the divisions within society and between ethnic groups. This is the reconciliation, which is the path to true peace and authentic progress for Nigeria and for Africa. This reconciliation is not weakness or cowardice. On the contrary, it demands courage and sometimes even heroism. It is victory over self rather than over others.”

Anambra State under Obiano’s leadership will make a rewarding study in societal transformation. As the governor begins his second term, Nigerians are expectant that the next four years will see greater progress for Ndi Anambra in all ramifications. He has made APGA synonymous with development.

By Echezona Okechi


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