What does Peter Obi really want?
The political tug of war going on between former governor Peter Obi and his successor, Chief Willie Obiano, the governor of Anambra State has continued to astound many observers. Coming against the backdrop of the former governor’s assurances of non-interference when he handed over power in March last year, the raging face-off between the two brothers remains a curiosity to people who had hoped that finally, Anambra had shrugged off the usual ego clashes between her leading citizens. That this needless ego clash has continued to fester against wise counsels and endless interventions by their mutual friends speaks to the deeper psychological inadequacies that characterize the lives of public servants in Nigeria.
In this case though, Mr. Obi seems to be the guilty party. After wrestling power from the strong men whose sole purpose of seeking political power was for personal enrichment and setting a record as the first governor to successfully hand over power to his anointed candidate, expectations were understandably high on Peter Obi. Many people had hoped that Obi would ascend to a higher grace; that he knew too well the cost of war to offer his successor peace. Many people had wished that Obi’s unassuming nature and loud simplicity would dictate his attitude to life after service. Alas, they were all wrong. It soon became clear that Obi was only willing to relinquish the office but not the power. The former governor has continued to act as though he is the alternate governor of Anambra State; stage-managing public functions for himself across the state where he is either flagging off a project or commissioning a new one with fanfare and robust media coverage. Obi’s recent visit to St Augustine’s Primary and Secondary School, Nkpor is one instance that stands out as not only unwise but needlessly provocative.
As was reported by Valentine Obienyem, his media aide who is infernally drawn to intrigues, Mr. Obi has visited at least one school a month since he left office. Obienyem, irredeemably obsequious and always eager to go beyond his master’s brief, garnished his narrative with misguided allusions to “costly wines and Epicurean indulgences.” But the point here really is not about costly wines and lifestyles but about Mr. Obi’s new found love for philanthropy, which has prompted the rhetorical question – Is Saul also among the prophets? Seriously, is Obi, a man famous for his tight-fist also, among the emergency philanthropists? Okay. For the sake of argument, let’s agree that this particular Saul is now counted among the prophets; would it be asking for too much to suggest that this strange philanthropy be done in a silent, if not less offensive way? How about simply making a quite donation? Would Obi’s peculiar philanthropy amount to less if it is not turned into a state function? If he performs it in a way that makes it look a little less than an outright eye-ball contest with the man he handed over power to?
Beside the notion that Obi is hell bent on an avoidable head-on collision with his successor is also the sad narrative of the infuriating cold-shoulder he has given the man that he fought to install in office. Keen observers believe that the cold war between the duo began immediately after handover, when Obiano began to show unexpected confidence in his own ability. Obi had hoped that the ex-banker would be overwhelmed by the new challenge sooner than later and scurry back to him for guidance. When it didn’t happen, he decided to recoil from him, shunning all invitations to public functions in the state and avoiding open association with Obiano. But what got people talking was that when Obiano began to garner rave reviews from his sterling performance, Obi stood aloof and never for once said what people had hoped he would say to re-enforce the general perception of the man he had campaigned so intensely for. Obi’s silence and deliberate absence from state functions to which he was always duly invited left gaps in the new Anambra story for the public to fill with rumours and malicious speculations. If only Obi had deigned to say one pleasant thing about his successor, if only he had said a simple “I told you so.”
If Obi’s aloofness smacked of thinly veiled witch-hunt, his dogged campaign to drum home the fact that he handed over the sum of N75bn to his successor was simply curious. It is indeed curious that for one whole year, Obi and his battery of aides have turned this singular topic into a tragic refrain. The curiosity deepens when it is realized that at no point has Obiano raised questions about this “great” inheritance. And from the look of things, the state does not seem in imminent danger of bankruptcy. Salaries are not owed and other financial obligations have not gone bad. So, why is Obi suddenly anxious to shove this great legacy of his down our throats? Hello!
Be that as it may, whatever Obi has up his sleeve will show itself one day. Whatever that may be, one however hopes that unleashing his media aides to launch dirty calumny campaigns against Obiano as has been the case in the past six months is not a part of it. Nor the planting of moles in Obiano’s cabinet and living quarters to snitch on him and his wife. That is a low down dirty scheme that should not come from a venerated Knight. Truth be told, Val Obienyem’s “young” English and Stanley Chira’s (Mazi Odera) hilarious grunts on social media all in an effort to attack Obiano who they erroneously see as Obi’s enemy, come across as one more reason why Peter Obi may never be finally counted among the greats.
Already, questions are being asked about what Obi truly wants. Another term in office as governor? Already, there is a disquieting murmur that Obi who had a turbulent time in his eight years as governor is stricken with a strange malady that makes him fancy himself as the best thing to ever happen to Anambra State, preening and grandstanding in a hollow show of faux statesmanship. The fear is that this illness has reached an advanced stage where Obi now sees himself as the alternate governor of Anambra State, holding state functions with pomp and pageantry. Fortunately, this is a bizarre psychological condition which has yet to show itself in any other ex-governor in Nigeria except Peter Obi.
Aghadinuno ( [email protected] ) writes from Nsugbe