Willie Obiano And The Price For Excellence

By James Eze
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If Governor Willie Obiano ever doubted that excellence comes with a heavy price, his doubts must have been erased by now. In the past one week, Chief Obiano who took only two years to change the narrative of Anambra State and rekindle hope in the citizens has been on the cross. Obiano’s sin is quite simple – he dared to be different. To represent the future, when some people would rather regress to the past.

For this simple reason, the mob is beginning to gather at the periphery. They just can’t understand why the auguries should favour Obiano; why Senator Ben Bruce, Prof Pat Utomi, Senator Ben Obi, General Ike Nwachukwu, Labaran Maku, Ben Akabueze and even Oby Ezekwesili should endorse him as a great performer who has justified the confidence of the electorate in just two years. In fact, this extremely destructive group, heavily funded by opposition figures who have sworn to reverse the wheel of progress in Anambra State felt violated by the string of awards and recognitions that have trailed Obiano’s two-year regime.

His emergence as the Governor of the Year 2015 through a rigorous process carried out by The Sun newspapers seemed such a bitter pill to swallow to the opposition that they rolled out a fat budget for a smear campaign that ran simultaneously with the award to dilute the image benefits therefrom. But their blood pressure hit an all-time-high when Obiano was named a winner of the Zik Prize for Leadership in the Good Governance category. It was one massive blow too many to their solar plexus. So, this time, they doubled their efforts but it still went down in a whimper.

Their search for a chink in Obiano’s armour took a dangerous turn though, and sooner than later, something had to give. The opportunity presented itself in the recent interactive session the governor held with Anambra communities in Abuja and the North. Cross-eyed with rage over the impressive turnout and the epic approval that Obiano garnered from the elders and leaders of Anambra, they latched onto the wrong straw from the governor’s Report Card and hired Sahara Reporter, a disreputable media undertaker to execute their plot. They are miffed that Obiano should have the audacity to claim that Anambra has been exporting vegetables to Europe; an idea that didn’t seem reasonable or feasible to them when they held sway in Awka. So, they scrambled up a puerile piece that couldn’t have been published in any respectable media outlet and Sahara Reporters quickly rushed out with a screamer – “Obiano Lied.” The story is the typical antithesis of good journalism; the very epitome of writings that ruin the party for journalism anywhere in the world. It was never researched, never verified and never thoroughly edited. A pathetic piece that advertised its ignoble mission on face value!

As if choreographed, once Sahara Reporters screamed “Liar!” Other vuvuzelas swung into action. They had found a free-for-all. Bitter people who had hitherto waited for the slightest crack to aim a shot at a man whose profile had constituted a source of concern, all crawled out from tiny slits in the wood. Those who also hate to hear that anything good can come out of the Nigerian political class felt it was time to put out the flickering hope that Obiano represents. For me, the lowest point in this despicable episode was when a certain professor of Literature and African Studies in Canada jumped into the fray, committing the rather unexpected error of speaking with neither facts nor evidence and lumping Obiano in the same basket with some APC governors. His commentary was so derisive that it could only have come from someone who is not adequately informed on the matter he was engaging. And that is truly untidy for the reputation of any public intellectual!

But even so, can we look at the rather ridiculous controversy over the Anambra vegetables export more closely? Is it by any stretch of the imagination possible that Governor Willie Obiano can announce that Anambra has exported vegetables to Europe when it never really happened? Is it even conceivable that anyone who has followed Obiano’s exploits could conclude that he would lie about a phantom export to boost his profile? Is Obiano under any pressure to prove that he is a performer even with the wide-spread endorsements and recognition he has garnered in two years? Come on, folks! Why would Obiano lie about exporting vegetables when his achievements are so outstanding that even his closest aides are pleasantly surprised? Can any political leader hope for any greater validation than to have prominent figures of the opposition party endorse him? Well, just in case you missed it, that was exactly what Senator Ben Obi, a PDP stalwart did when he said - “He has certainly made a remarkable mark in the governance of the state. You know that we don’t belong to the same party but the fact remains that one can testify to some of the good things that he is doing and I wish him well.” Prof Pat Utomi echoed the same points when he said – “Interesting things are happening and I am proud of what is going on and I am hopeful that more will happen. I am pleased to see the progress that has been made in Anambra.” Utomi belongs to the ruling APC. Closer home, Prince Ken Emeakayi, the Chairman of PDP in Anambra State showered praises on him, praying that the spirit of the Great Zik of Africa should strengthen him to improve in the sectors where improvement is needed in Anambra State.

Oby Ezekwesili’s own endorsement must have increased the growing misery of the opposition. Evidently on account of her reputation as a principled woman who cannot be easily swayed, Oby’s comment on the Anambra vegetable export must have finally riled the opposition, prompting them to look for something to hurl at Obiano to dilute the import of the statement. In a candid assessment of Obiano’s vegetable exports, Oby had declared thus – “the fact that you have managed to beat the very stringent European Union standards for export of anything that resembles food into their territory, is something worthy of note and worthy to be replicated in as many sectors as possible.” Not surprisingly, Oby’s comment had acknowledged the symbolism of the agricultural export and placed it firmly beyond the estimated dollar value that the hysterical opposition seems funnily pre-occupied with. A clear proof that genius does not come easy to everyone!

But Obiano’s endorsement went a notch higher when the former Minister of Information, Labaran Maku held him up as a model for other governors in Nigeria. Maku captured that in these few lines – “And so, they must come to Anambra State; each of the states in the north and other parts of the country that have security challenges, they need to come and study the Obiano formula; a leader that is serious and will not tolerate malfeasance - will not tolerate indiscipline and insecurity in his state because he knows that once that creeps in, you can say bye-bye to development.” I guess truth hurts but the truth is that I have yet to see a Nigerian governor who has been publicly endorsed by his political opponents. Obiano has managed to string sparkling endorsements from key opposition figures from across Nigeria. There may be no greater indication of impact!

And talking about impact, it is now common place to hear exchanges on social media where indigenes of other states jocularly propose to Ndi Anambra to trade the governors of their state for Obiano. These banters may be often said for laughs but they offer us a rare insight into the towering stature of Governor Willie Maduaburochukwu Obiano in just two years!

Sadly, that is also why the calumny campaign against him is on. In reality, all the energy being exerted to shoot down Anambra’s export of Onugbu and Ugu to Europe is a mere smokescreen. Neither Onugbu nor Ugu is the issue here.

The issue is Governor Willie Obiano who the mob at the periphery insists must pay the price of excellence!