By Ifeanyi Afuba
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In the wake of Mr Peter Obi’s path – breaking inauguration as Governor of Anambra State on March 17, 2006, March became the transition month of Anambra State’s democratic calendar. At the turn of the incumbent Willie Obiano regime’s third anniversary, the transition road is set to be travelled again. With the next governorship poll scheduled for November 2017, the state’s political road will sooner than later be busy with all sorts of aspirants – dreamers, speculators and contenders to the seat of power. From the Anambra north senatorial district, Obiano’s very zone, has reportedly come an unanimous adoption of his candidacy in February 2017 by the Anambra North Peoples Assembly [ANPA], a non partisan consultative forum. Does the ANPA resolution premised on the ‘achievements of Obiano in the past three years’ bode well for democracy?

One of the ways Nigeria’s career politicians have sought to exclude responsibility, accountability and service from political office was by selling the dummy that politics is a game. By extension, there are no permanent enemies but permanent interests in politics. Election rigging is no mortal sin and the rigger has only outsmarted his opponent. By the same token, federal and state legislators will without any consideration for the sensibilities of the political parties that sponsored them nor regard for the constituency that elected them defect to another [usually the ruling] party where the night clubbing promises to be greater fun. In the second republic, the defunct NPN put a bold face to the circus show with the riposte: If you can’t beat them, you join them. However, it was the late musical genius Fela Anikulakpo – Kuti, who debunked the notion of politics as a game in a very disarming way. No, countered the iconoclast; politics could not be a game because it rubbed off on his well being in society. And anything that affected his very life was rather a serious business. If only Nigeria’s army of rice and stew politicians will pay heed to these wise words!

Aside the soldier’s State House ambition, bitter politics and maladministration were at the root of the collapse of the first and second republics. Learning the costly lessons of the Chinwoke Mbadinuju period when politics was elevated above governance, Ndi Anambra seem resolved not to allow career politicians make a playground of political offices in the state anymore; especially the most important political office, the governorship. In the period 1999 to 2003, statecraft was on flight in Anambra State. Against the colossal failure of the typical politician in Government, the active involvement of civil society in the political process became inevitable. Towards achieving the desired social reconstruction, a shift in leadership typology was to be cultivated. The result was the election of Peter Obi; and flowing from the impact of this new consciousness Chris Ngige’s puppet suicide as de facto Governor from 2003 t0 2006; the reelection of Peter Obi in 2010 and the consolidation of this socio – political order with the election of Willie Obiano in 2014.

Is there a connect between the performance of Willie Obiano in the past three years and the record of his last two predecessors in office on one hand and the quest by Ndi Anambra to break new grounds in leadership on the other? We think there is. The denial of the APGA governorship mandate won in the April 19, 2003 election had provoked the people’s outrage. Acutely aware of the public mood, Ngige the beneficiary of the manipulation did not need anybody to tell him his job was already cut out for him. His regime could not survive the ensuing crisis of confidence without a pacification of the electorate. And so with zest and haste, he embarked on a populist campaign and ambitious road construction. Ngige’s achievements in his period of office could not be ignored by the incoming Peter Obi administration. While not diminishing Obi’s resonant campaign manifesto [which in fact pledged 100 kilometres of road every year], it is reasonable to hold that Ngige’s approval rating at his exit led Peter Obi to redouble his efforts. Obi finished on a high score – meaning that Anambra State was better for it.

Then, enter Willie Obiano, a man sought out by the delicate circumstances of the State. Here was a State recovering from decades of neglect and abuse; the foundations of development were just being laid and a period of consolidation was acutely needed. Ordinarily, Obiano’s past accomplishments stood him in good stead of meeting the challenges of his new task. But inspiration was also a significant factor in the new equation. The record of his last two predecessors could not be ignored. He could not go below the set marks; maintaining the same level of performance achieved in the past would not be good enough. The only way forward was simply to add value to what already existed.

By several credible accounts, Obiano has within the prevailing circumstances of his governorship lived up to the estimation of leading Anambra towards the next level. From the Church to communities; from the Zik Prize in Leadership [2015] to the Sun Man of the Year [2015]; from Vanguard Governor of the Year[2016] to Silverbird Man of the Year [2016]; and from Chukwuma Soludo to Senator Ebenezer Ikeyina have come attestations of Obiano’s stellar stewardship. We may use the comment by Clifford Ndujihe in Vanguard, Friday, March 10, 2017 as the aggregate appraisal of Obiano’s performance. According to the analyst, the Anambra chief executive stands out for ‘keeping the economy of his State afloat in spite of the billowing winds of recession in the country, making giant strides in agriculture and provision of infrastructure.’ It is worthwhile to mention that for some others, Obiano’s strongest point is the fostering of high standards in the discharge of his mandate.

The recent endorsement of Governor Obiano for a second term of office by the Anambra North Peoples Assembly is another rating of his performance in the mould of the above and other assessments of the Obiano regime. It is instructive that these positive appraisals have largely come from apolitical sources independent of the Anambra State Government. It indicates that the Assembly’s choice of Obiano above other known aspirants from the north zone is well considered and consistent with mainstream view of his profile. The ANPA decision is also significant, coming from home territory where all the aspirants from the zone have some degree of leverage. For obvious reasons the Assembly is one body suitably qualified to make submissions on the credentials of the aspirants and what is in the best interest of the zone – which she has stated clearly.

There are at least two benefits of the intervention by ANPA in the state’s unfolding transition process. ANPA has issued a testimonial on Willie Obiano and we all know the importance of highly regarded referrals in the determination of roles – profile compatibility. Obiano is a public figure and the present and future health of Anambra State is an issue of legitimate public interest. The Assembly’s statement serves as both a public advisory and sharpening of the debate on Anambra’s transition. Insights and fresh perspectives emerge from informed debates. ANPA has not shut the door against other aspirants but enlightened us on the zonal perspective of the debate and their contribution will be useful in taking the discussion further. The onus is now on those who think they have superior logic on the subject to marshal them.

In history, there comes a time in the life of a people when there emerges a protagonist who embodies the aspirations of the society. At that juncture, the interests of the protagonist and the community interweave. For us, Anambra is at that turning point with the political journey of Willie Obiano.