Obaze And Issues Around Anambra 2014
I HAD a chance encounter with Oseloka Henry Obaze in July 2012. I was in Awka, about to confer with a number of folks on official business, when someone introduced one of my would-be interlocutors -Mr. Obaze - as the Secretary to the State Government of Anambra (SSG).
For whatever it was worth, I quickly mentioned to the hearing of all that I had resigned my political appointment in Anambra State a year earlier and, since I was entitled to some disengagement fees, it was, to say the least, embarrassing that I hadn't received anything. Mr. Obaze asked how long I would be in the state for and where I was lodging.
Thereafter we had our deliberations and went our separate ways. Two days later the receptionist at the hotel I was staying alerted me via the intercomthat I had a visitor. Since I wasn't expecting anyone, I replied that there must be a mistake.
The receptionist had the visitor identify himself as Mr. Obaze's PA. Downstairs the man, the son of a prominent female politician from Onitsha, thrust pen and paper in my face, and I signed the document to indicate that I had received my severance allowance from the Anambra State Government!
Since Mr. Obaze's behaviour ran against the common Nigerian grain, I subsequently rang up a number of my former colleagues in Awka, including a couple of them working in the SSG's office, to ask what kind of man Obaze really was.
Did he act that kind and considerate way to me because he knew that, if the spirit moved me, I was liable to ruffle a few feathers? No. That was Obaze, came the common reply. Still surprised, even if pleasantly so, I decided on investigating the Obaze phenomenon a little bit more. I found out that the man had trained in the United States and held down diplomatic positions at the United Nations.
Last August I attended the World Igbo Congress (WIC) summit in Orlando, Florida. On one of the nights during the summit, I found myself in congenial company that included Chief RaphUwechue, then President-General of OhanaezeNdigbo, Professor Pat Utomi, Professor Michael Echeruo, Professor Ebere Onwudiwe, and many others. We were being hosted by Dr. Obi Nwakanma and his wife, Mira, in their Orlando home.
When I spotted Chike and Ethel Momah, a most distinguished couple, I knew I had my best opportunity to obtain a character profile on Oseloka Obaze. Chief Momah, a friend and contemporary of Chinua Achebe's from their Government College, Umuahia, days, and his wife had been married since 1959. He was the first indigenous Librarian of the University of Ibadan.
His wife, an elder sister of Senator Onyeabor Obi, is a professional in her own right. They lived for decades in New Jersey, where Obaze was reportedly also domiciled. I casually mentioned to them that Anambra had a new SSG, a certain OselokaObaze, who NdiAnambra were yet to place. Without any hesitation whatsoever, the Momahs pronounced Obaze a decent and likeable person, a proficient diplomat.
That settled it for me. OselokaObaze appears to be a square peg in a square hole. I left the matter there until most recently when the media reported that Obaze was considering seeking nomination to contest the Anambra governorship election slated for later this year.
I decided to probe the Obaze man a little bit more. Where, indeed, was he coming from? What, for a second instance, are the details of his credentials?
Mr. Obaze, I found out, was born on April 9, 1955 in Chinua Achebe's hometown of Ogidi but hails from Ochuche Umuodu, in the Ogbaru LGA of Anambra. His father, Anthony Chukwunweike Obaze, (1920-1969), was a Senior Local Government Administrator and his mother, Mrs. Rosemary OmuluzuaObaze (1928-2009), a school teacher.
This second of six children had to spend his early life in many parts of Eastern Region - Aguata, Anang, Onitsha, Umuahia, Uzuakoli, etc, as the father got transferred from one station to the other. For his secondary education, he attended the two oldest (and most famous) colleges in Onitsha - Christ the King College (CKC) [1967-1970] and the Dennis memorial Grammar School (DMGS) [1973-1974].
Obaze earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Political Science from the Nebraska Wesleyan University, Lincoln, NE in 1979, and a Masters degree in Political Science and International Relations from the University of Nebraska (1980.) He also holds a Certificate in Diplomacy from the Nigerian Foreign Service Academy, Lagos, Nigeria (1983); Certificate in Peacekeeping and Preventive Diplomacy, from the UNITAR/International Peace Academy Course, Burg Schlaining, Austria (1996); Certificate in Early Warning and Preventive Measures, from the UN System Staff College, Turin, Italy (1999); and a Certificate in Facilitation of Dialogue Processes and Mediation Efforts, from the FolkeBennadotte Academy, Sandon, Sweden (2007).
Obaze worked in the Nigerian Foreign Service from 1982 to 1991 when he joined the United Nations where he served for 21 years before he took office on June 29, 2012 as the Anambra SSG. A published writer and literary critic of note, Obaze is married to Dr. Ofunne Omo Obaze and they are blessed with children.
I have briefly gone into Obaze's past in order that NdiAnambra will acknowledge where the tree fell and where its leaves scattered.
This is because it will be impolitic to ditch the venue of a chieftaincy celebration simply to pitch camp at the propitiation of the god of recklessness. There are nearly a hundred gubernatorial aspirants in the state at the moment! Some of them are graceless. Others are comical. A third category, some say, are of characters better administered long stretches in solitary confinement. The categorisation bears elasticity.
For a few, governorship aspiration is a once-in-four-years ritual, a jamboree. For a special group, it is a means for jostling for crumbs after the main prize. Closely associated to this group are jesters digging above their limit, plotting to update their CVs as 'also-aspired' and 'also-rans'. The really qualified can be counted on the fingers of one hand.
However, the good thing about democracy is that when its doors swing open, everyone is let in, except those barred by legitimate statutes. In this wise, NdiAnambra deserve praises for their toleration of the babel of voices aiming for the top job in the state.
These are a few of the reasons I humbly and solemnly urge NdiAnambratosit back and examine with open minds the possible candidacy of Oseloka Henry Obaze in the forthcoming governorship election. I already sat down and scrupulously examined the prospect.