THE face-off between Governor Willie Obiano of Anambra State and his predecessor, Mr. Peter Obi is getting messier, with their aides going all out to outdo each other in the media, thus polarising the Anambra political terrain. In the last few days, there have been threats and counter-threats by the two camps making many observers to wonder what went amiss after the smooth transition from Obi to Obiano, the first time such hand-over was ever witnessed in the state. Burning issues.
Issues that had been on the front burner since Obi handed over the reins of power to Obiano include the actual amount of money left for the governor, the flyover bridges being built by the present government, which some people in Obi’s camp often describe as waste of resources, Obi’s constant visibility in the state and Obiano’s personal lifestyle, among other issues.
As if each camp is always finding a way to hit the other, the latest altercation started last week during the 5th Zik lecture organized by the Faculty of Social Sciences of Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka in which the former vice president of Kenya, Mr. Raila Odinga and former Nigerian Vice President, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar were guest lecturers. Former Governor Peter obi was present at the Zik lecture series and made a speech on investment in education that held the audience spell-bound. A member of Governor Obiano’s media team, Mr. Ifeanyi Anago, had in a statement accused Obi’s media aide, Mr. Valentine Obienyem, of taking photographs of a private jet that brought Atiku and Odinga to Enugu and claiming that the jet was hired by Obiano in time of recession. Anago said the truth was that Obiano boarded Arik Air and not the private jet, describing the allegation of his boss using a private jet as an attempt to blackmail the governor. He said further that when they discovered that the allegation of the private jet did not achieve its objective, Obi’s camp began another story that the governor deliberately refused to attend the Zik lecture, which they described as a slight on the personality of the late Zik of Africa. Anago, who is the senior special assistant to Governor Obiano on social media, said apart from providing all the necessary support and ensuring that visiting speakers and participants at the lecture were safe and well catered for, Obiano sent his deputy, Dr. Nkem Okeke, who represented him well at the lecture. He recalled that Governor Obiano personally attended the 4th lecture that had former Governor Adams Oshiomhole and Ethan Musolini from Uganda as guest lecturers and wondered why it became an offence for a governor to detail his deputy to represent him at the lecture when he was attending the National Economic Council meeting in Abuja the same day. Anago said: “We are getting tired of all these mischief and denials. You malign a governor through your e-thugs and quickly run to the media to shout that the governor is after you. If the government is after blackmailers, why are you afraid if you are not a blackmailer? The guilty is always afraid and the perpetual lie-teller is always the first to cry and swear. Another media aide to Obiano, Mr. Oliver Okpala, was reported to have threatened to deal with Obi and a former Secretary to the State Government, Mr. Oseloka Obaze, over their alleged comments on Obiano. Okpala was also quoted as saying that henceforth, any further unwarranted attack on the governor would be met with a very tough response. He said: “Let it be noted that we have done our investigations, and we know that those sponsoring these unfounded attacks against the governor include those who have tasted power before, either as governor or secretary to the state government. “We have their records, to the minutest of details, and we will not hesitate to unleash a higher degree of attack on their persons with verifiable proofs in our possession so that the world would know the dirty stuff they are made of.” Reading one of the postings of Obiano’s men in the social media, Mr. Valentine Obienyem, the media aide to former Governor Obi said he was shocked that people who work for the state could be saying such unpalatable things against someone who made it possible for them to be where they are. He did not go further. Perhaps the worry of Obiano’s men is the constant visibility of Obi in the state, especially at social and political events. Because of his above average performance as governor, he is still loved by the people who hail and sing his praises whenever he is sighted at a function. 2017 re-election And with the 2017 governorship election drawing near, the fear of Obiano’s camp is that Obi’s influence might stand in the way of the governor’s re-election. Like he was doing when he was the governor, Obi is still making donations to schools and hospitals to enable them upgrade their infrastructure, an action some observers claim was whittling down the popularity of the governor. To those, who hold this view, it would be better that Obi becomes less visible in the state, since, according to them, he has had his time and should leave the public arena for the person in charge. But at a public function, weekend, at Oraifite in Ekwusigo local government area, Obi insisted that Obiano has no legal right to bar him from visiting the state or airing his opinion about the state. Dictatorial society Obi said it would be disastrous if Anambra degenerated into a dictatorial society under a democracy, insisting, however, that he would continue to uphold the tenets of democracy and decency. He said: “Such an order (for me to be less visible) will amount to asking me to go on exile. I have a house in Onitsha and I live there. I served Anambra State for eight years. As the governor, I kept saying I would live in the state for the rest of my life to enable me share the joy and grief of the people. Why would somebody say I should not attend events in the state? “Why would somebody request that I should stop saying what I did as the Governor of Anambra State, when people are still talking about the good deeds of the likes of Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe and Chief M.I. Okpara? “Most of the things I said are not for self-adulation, but to use my experience to demonstrate to our people that we can do certain things we thought are impossible. An example was that I returned schools to the church and provided them with over 30,000 computers, generators and internet connectivity. “The fact is that under our government, we cleared arrears of pension of over N35bn, paid for all the certificates generated by contractors without borrowing a kobo, but instead left money, including dollars for the state.” Town unions join fray In the meantime, the face –off between Obiano and Obi is taking a dangerous dimension, with the involvement of their respective towns taking sides for their respective sons. While Agulu in Anaocha local government area is defending their son, Obi, Aguleri people in Anambra East local government are always eager to stand by their son, Governor Obiano. For instance, Obi’s kinsmen, under the aegis of Agulu Leaders of Thought, at the weekend, appealed to Obiano, to stop threatening their son, reminding him that it was Obi that single-handedly made him a governor. A statement signed by the secretary of the group, Mr. Joachim Emegwamuo, read in part: “When the news of the threat to the life of our son, Mr. Peter Obi, started circulating, we ignored it as one of those rumours until Chief Joe-Martins Uzodike made it clear during a radio programme. “We are aware that it was Obi who single-handedly made Obiano governor and we are also aware of several indignities Obi is suffering under the governor, ranging from lack of respect to continued and inexplicable witch-hunt. “Obiano has deliberately allowed his aides to abuse Obi to the point of openly denying the over N75bn bequeathed to him. Obiano has abandoned the projects started by Obi upon which he was elected, thus portraying Obi as an unreliable leader among the Anambra people. If anything happens to Mr. Peter Obi or any of his aides, Obiano should be held responsible.” What is happening between the two is an indication that the public embrace between them at the instance of the Catholic Archbishop of Onitsha, Most Rev Valerian Okeke during the burial of late Rev Fr Tagbo, the Principal of Christ the King College, CKC, Onitsha did not actually sink. The question is, when will this feud end?