Anambra: This is utterly contemptible - By Valentine Obienyem
I must confess that I have not been a fan of Mr.Tude Fagbenle. A friend of mine brought my attention to his last piece entitled Anambra: This is Utterly Contemptible. I decided to react not because of what he wrote against me; I have since taken falsehoods against me as part of the hazards of my position in consideration of the peculiar nature of our State. However, because of what he wrote about the Government of Anambra State, there is every need to set the records straight.
While reading the article, I remembered a phone call which I had received from a columnist friend of mine to the effect that Dr. Okey Ndibe is reaching out and indeed recruiting his friends who are column writers to deal 'a crushing blow on' on me , that is to utterly destroy me for exposing his lies and impropriety against the best from Anambra State in Saharareporters that he owns with Sowore. As usual, I laughed, comforted by Napoleon's sister, Catherine, who said that the sound of the cannon was neither new nor unpleasant to the ears of the Bonaparte. My friends told me that Fagbenle is so principled a writer that Okey could not have reached out to somebody like him and that he probably wrote out of conviction. As usual with my reactions, I do not like crossing swords with people; I explain to them, especially when they appear to be uninformed or plainly misinformed, which is the case here.
If you read Okey's pieces, you will notice that in a year, he has written not less than 15 articles directly on Governor Obi or he would use one or two paragraphs in articles that are not on the Gov to behead him with his scimitar. What baffles me is that 99 per cent of what he writes about him are usually pure, unadulterated falsehoods. One common thing about these pieces is that he often couches them in words a Fagbenle will not dare use to describe a fellow Nigerian not to talk of a Governor! He has become so obsessed that he extends his falsehoods to anybody or anything that has to do with Governor Obi or any person who challenges his mentor who is still warming up to contest the Governorship of Anambra State in spite of many failed attempts in the past. If he is looking for a way to project him, while does he not question the leadership of the Senate why it has not found him fit to chair any Senate Committee.
' Emulating the Lagos Fashola phenomenon, Peter, without fanfare or air of self-importance, built kilometres upon kilometres of roads, constructed canals against floods, built hospitals, and generally improved the quality of life of the masses. By general acclaim, no governor of Anambra State before him had come close to achieving so much in so short a time. ' No matter how unbalanced one may perceive Fagbenle's article to be, the above quoted lines have redeemed it. Elsewhere, Fagbenle wrote: ' First term of four years behind him and now into a second term, news coming out from Anambra distresses. Obi, I'm told, has not only shown signs of tiredness, even nonchalance, with the challenges of governance, Anambra is falling back into a state of disrepair. Many who were with him at the start are deserting him. '
Let me remind Fagbenle that Gov. Obi became Governor before his soul mate and fellow action Governor, Fashola. I will leave it at readers' discretion to determine who, logically, is emulating another. Local politicians running around in Anambra State, whose idea of climbing up the rungs of political ladder is to pull others down, are among those spreading falsehoods, but what is critical is what the masses of Anambra people genuinely feel about their Governor.
Those out in Abuja are aware that the man does not sleep while running around for the good of the State. He meets everybody that could help the State, even those his status dictates that he should not meet. We are here talking about a Governor who often travels to Abuja and elsewhere alone because he wants to conserve funds for the State. It may sound incredible, but most times he travels to Abuja and comes back the same day to reduce expenses and attend to affairs at home. Those in Abuja must have taken note of his passion for the State and his commitment to Nigeria by drafting him into one Committee or the other. It is not for nothing, and certainly not a sign of dwindling performance, that the President named him an Honorary Adviser on Finance and a member of the Presidential Economic Monitoring Team. When other Igbos are pleased with Obi's leadership style which led other Governors of the South-East to insist he remains the Chairman of the South-East Governors' Forum which hitherto rotated among the Governors, people like Okey would scheme for him to be removed. Why do they delight in creating war situation where there is none? But it is unfortunate that unlike the good example by the Fagbenles of this world who project their best, the likes of Okey Ndibe are more interested in drawing their own back.
If you judge the Government of Obi by what Okey writes, you will throw pure water at him for non-performance. He has consistently called the Governor a propagandist, without showing one example of what he said he did that he did not do. Let me assure you that the man has done more in his second term than he did in his first term. Is it not in the second tenure that he built the second Phase of the imposing State Secretariat; the imposing Second Business Park at Onitsha ; many bridges such as Otuku at Umueze-Anam (completed), Umuodu (completed), Ogbonabo (nearing completion), Ebenebe (nearing completion), Okpu Bridge (on-going); procured new set of machinery to maintain Anambra roads; started the building of the permanent site of the State University at Igbariam with perimeter fencing covering seven Kilometers, and the erection, nearing completion, of Senate building, Faculties of Management and Agriculture; supplied computers, provided school buses, boreholes and Internet facilities to secondary schools in the State; completed block of five classrooms in each of the 177 towns in the State and commencing same number very soon in the second phase; built 7 out of 15 imposing buildings at the new teaching hospital such as the Pharmacology building, the College of Medicine building, the Laboratory, the Pathology/Mortuary buildings; given over 100 patrol vehicles to the police and other communication gadgets, One can go on and on. Certainly this is not a sign of dwindling performance.
Away from infrastructure, I respectfully invite Mr. Fagbenle to note that in spite of what Obi is doing, he has not borrowed a kobo or raised bond since he became the Governor; instead he is strategically saving billions for the State. Those same people some of us want to compare him with, borrowed hundreds of billions of Naira to financial institutions. Not that he is averse to borrowing, but he wants to do so only when it is imperative to so do and with bankable projects, too. When he became Governor, pensioners were owed almost for 18 months, he has cleared that. It was in his second tenure that he cleared the arrears of gratuities owned since ten years ago. He spent over six Billion Naira on this! Today, retirees get their gratuities two months of their retirement.
If you are in touch with Okey, call him. I assure you that like other destructive critics, he does not know the details of the labour crisis in Anambra. The Governor does not owe doctors, but they are demanding increased payment. The Governor has offered to pay 50 per cent of their demands but they will have none of that. Lagos State had the same experience. In the area of minimum wage, the Governor paid that in August, by adding 10,000 Naira to all level of workers - a move which no state in the East and West, perhaps excepting Lagos has done and yet workers went on strike. When they gathered for the strike and poured vituperations on the Governor in a language fit for common criminals, Okey celebrated it! Today, they have called off the strike without achieving anything. Does this not tell you that they were out to destabilise the Government? One of the labour leaders in the State, Mr. Patrick Obiayo even asked Anambra elders that intervened to go to hell ( Daily Independent of October 5 th ). He has been attacking all notable people from Anambra State that one way or the other identified with Obi or are planning to contest against his mentor. This was how he attacked the internationally revered Chief Emeka Anyaoku ( Sun of 27 th September), because he commended Gov. Obi. He has also vilified Prof. Dora Akunyili, Soludo, among others. If he could open his poisonous tongue against Anyaoku and Akunyili on the pages of newspapers, why do you think he will spare anybody? He has lost the sense of respect and decorum.
It was in this second tenure that Obi attracted a fortune 500 company, SABmiller to start building what will become the biggest brewery in Nigeria in Anambra State in what represents the biggest foreign direct investment into the country (120,000 Million Dollars). Ask other South-West Governors how they healthily contested Gov. Obi on the facility coming to Anambra as each wanted it for his State. As I write, the Governor is off to South Africa to persuade another big company that had already visited Anambra but lost hope because of useless internal politics of people asking them to distance themselves from Anambra and most likely the type of bile-studded articles of Okey Ndibe, that all is well with the State. Certainly, this is not a symptom of dwindling productivity.
Let me take the liberty of this space to give Mr. Fagbenle an example of Okey's typical criticisms against Obi. In one of his columns, he described the imposing new teaching hospital Obi is constructing as not fit to host prisoners. Let me apologise I am divulging a private conversation here, but Prof. Elochukwu Amucheazi told me that the moment he read that, that he lost all respects for Okey. If he is your friend, tell him that he had done violence to himself. His writings only exude sadism and pessimism.
Let me give one more example of how Okey reaches at the truth. In one of his write -ups, he said I was the one caught with 200 Million Naira in Lagos. The truth of the matter has since been established, but I was nowhere near the scene, I only got into Lagos later in the evening. If am interested in millions as damages, I will simply sue him.
As for some people deserting Obi, let me tell Mr. Fagbenle that Pini Jason was never part of his Government, I only call him now and then for guidance which Okey could not offer me. Obi is perhaps the Governor with the longest lasting Cabinet in Nigeria. He is still working with same Cabinet for close to six years. Some members of that Cabinet found to be wanting have been forced to resign, about two resigned on their own after getting other offers. One was promised a higher post and was lured to resign, by the time he begged the Governor to come back, it was late.
Finally, Dear Mr.Fagbenle, ask yourself why Saharareporters carry anti-Obi articles without taking our responses. Okey is a co-owner and it is not my fault if in the process of pursuing the Governor for nothing they went all out against prominent sons of the State.
Obienyem wrote this piece from Awka .