Obi’s political exit: The odd steps of a Nigerian governor

By Emmanuel Aziken, Political Editor
Gov Peter Obi
Gov Peter Obi

Governor Peter Obi's declaration of his imminent political retirement is an affirmation of the unusual political steps of the governor in his more than seven years in office.

“For me, I have come to the end of it; I want to quit and rest,” Governor Peter Obi said in a remark to the synod of an Anglican Church in Enugu last Sunday.

After two terms in office punctuated at different times by the macabre instincts particular to Anambra politics, Governor Obi's decision to exit the stage is indeed remarkable.

His decision to quit politics when many other governors in the second term are planning for either the presidency, or to retire into the Senate, is a departure from the norm.

But Obi has not been a normal governor. The sight of Governor Obi sauntering into an airport with one or two aides, and sometimes alone, is not strange to many Nigerians.

In many public functions where other governors are heralded by a long entourage of hangers on and protocol officers, Obi would normally saunter in alone or with not more than a handful of aides.

It was obvious that his aversion to protocol came from his first days in office as governor in 2006.

”When I came in as governor, I discovered that the state had 70 workers in Abuja liaison office. Apart from their salary, we spend close to N15 million maintaining that office. They have nothing doing there than to come to the airport and welcome me whenever I visited, constituting nuisance. So we re-deployed the workers and closed down the place. Till date, we have not missed them, which means they were really doing nothing there,” he declared last Sunday.

With the savings from such cuts, Governor Obi has even to the admission of several critics been able to up development in Anambra State sustaining and in some cases upping the legacies he inherited from Governor Chris Ngige.

One area of success is particularly road network and it is reported that the road network in Anambra State is about the best of all the Southeastern states.

Remarkably, the seeming stinginess with the official purse is a personal discipline that he has transmitted to his family as he confessed at the synod.

”I wonder why one person should own houses in Ikoyi, Asokoro, Dubai and he is not using them for anything. People accumulate what they don't need. It is madness. The level of greed in Nigeria is intolerable.

”I urge all of us to pray for greedy people in this country; they are accumulating what they don't need, stop accumulating things for your children,” he said as he confessed that he had never bought a car for any of his children.

It is a rather departure from the vogue where wives of governors and their children abuse the society with their wantonness.

However, his very public aversion to the code of behaviour of the ruling class is alleged in some quarters to be a façade for his alleged political ruthlessness and some also whisper, corruption.

However, none of his several antagonists among the ruling class has been able to point at one act of corruption against the outgoing governor. Obi in any case was a very rich man with board appointments in some of the country's most outstanding blue chip companies before his ascent to the governorship in 2006.

However, even where he can prove himself to be above board in money matters, Governor Obi is now variously credited to be a ruthless politician despite his acclaimed exasperation with that trade in this country.

His bold trouncing of the political godfathers in Anambra State is a testimony of his staying power.

Sir Emeka Offor, Chief Arthur Eze, Chief Chris Uba, billionaire businessmen who before the advent of Governor Obi pulled much influence in the politics of the state have largely returned to their respective businesses given what is alleged as the bad political business that Obi has turned politics in the state into.

Some say that a demonstration of the political ruthlessness of the governor is the brazen offensive he has launched against the chairman of his party, Chief Victor Umeh. Until recently, Obi it would be recalled, was in the same camp with Umeh in the crisis that bestirred the All Progressive Grand Alliance, APGA.

But now in cahoots with his uncle, Sylvester Nwobu-Alor, a member of the second republic Anambra State House of Assembly, he has fought a bruising political battle against Umeh.

Umeh has accused Obi like many other governors of refusing to conduct local government elections and appropriating the funds for the local governments for the execution of state government projects.

But in all, none has yet accused or faulted Governor Obi of personal corruption.

However, many former associates accuse him of political deception as reflective of his warm embrace of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP at the national level.

It is the romance between him and the PDP in Abuja that fueled suggestions that the governor was headed for the party at the end of his tenure.

However, given the recent declaration of the outgoing Secretary to the State Government in Anambra State, Mr. Oseloka Obaze to succeed the governor next year, Obi's declaration of his imminent political retirement looks doubtful.

Obi it is alleged, personally recruited Obaze from the United Nations secretariat in New York, United States to become the SSG. Obi has also declared that he would canvass for his successor to come from Obaze's Anambra North senatorial district.

Perhaps, that could be Obi's last political fight!

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