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The problem with Governor Obi

By Louis Ejikeme

He may not be your first choice of candidate for a popularity contest. A swashbuckling, footloose politician would. He certainly does not fit the bill, and probably won't complain if you stand down his candidature. He has, on occasion, admitted to this very fact himself.

Before he leaves office as the Governor of Anambra State, Peter Obi may become one of the most vilified governors east of the Niger. The reason for this is simple. Since he became the governor of Anambra State almost eight years ago he has come to redefine the office and brought governance to the people. This approach is without doubt inconsistent with the expectations of a section of the people. A politician is unimpressed with performance that fails to impact on his pocket. Obi on his part has stood his conviction that government is for the masses and not a select few. Against the usual practice of trifling with the office in what many termed as political patronage he has instead chosen to align with the masses. Any wonder that upon all his efforts on roads, health, education, transportation, general infrastructure, and judiciary etc, not a few still attacks his government with blithering hate.

Bringing accountability and order to the system that once encouraged all manner of political disorder is expected to unnerve not a few. He has come to demonstrate Spartan ethic to work that frowns on waste -working all through the years without leave. Ethical reform, it is said, is the greatest form of statesmanship, and only a few leaders have attempted it in the past. Unfortunately, an average Nigerian politician hardly reckons with the general good of the masses as he does with what affects his interests. So all what the man has done in the State, in their thinking, is no work until he touches their pocket. Today there is a term among those not enamoured of his efforts. He has tarred all the roads in the State but he is yet to tar our tongues.

Professor Dora Akunyili recognized this much when she said that a lot of people had approached her to ask Obi to change. Speaking about this during an interactive session of Aka Ikenga sometime ago in Lagos she called it the problem with Governor Obi. Sadly enough this problem is that the man has refused to put the State finance to frivolous use. It is believed in some quarters that since the man is in his last days in office it is time for great indulgence. Unfortunately, he still works like a newly elected chief Executive. Just the other day the State Executive Council approved 18billion Naira project for Ikenga shopping mall and other projects not to talk of efforts in other areas. For example government's efforts in schools compare with no other since it took the decision to return mission schools to their owners. No school in the State, both government and mission, has not received subvention from the State. The volume of work here is such that the custodians of these schools, both Catholic and Anglican, have expressed their joy with Obi government. Severally have they made open confession to this effect and prayed God to give the State a successor like Obi. It may be trite to recount here some of the gains that have since accrued from such positive development. But suffice it to say that about one or two students from the State, who leveraged on the incentive provided by the government, have since set new records in WAEC.

This notwithstanding, the government still endures spiteful attacks. Because the man has refused to adopt the practice of sharing money which is the stock-in- trade of most administrations in their second tenure, opposition has refused to wane. The thinking is that since Obi is no longer under threat of re-election the volume of work should naturally drop. Yes, the thinking of most political office holders is to shift interest to personal concern and those of their aides at the twilight of the administration. But Obi will have none of that. Though he gave firm promise that his administration will work till the end but not many believed him.

It is to be noted that only a man with strong conviction and certain kind of discipline would attempt what he does in the State today. And resist the lure to go the way of the politicians. There is no doubt that second tenure for most governors is a period for personal aggrandizement. Very few among them do sincerely have the zeal to justify their offices. And those with such conviction only do so within the first four years in office. After that, nothing again seems to matter. Few, if any, would bother to replicate the first term “magic”. Where, however, achievements are to determine further successes, they prefer to deploy money. For many, the option of deploying money is preferred to exerting themselves to the task of building their states. After all, money answers all problems, including those of the electorate.

Some may disagree with this view, citing one or two instances where achievement may have dictated victory. Achievement has a way of making the heart grow fond of an achiever but money compels action. For every one politician who can win election on grounds of achievements there are several others who will do so without. Nigeria is replete with a dozen of do-nothing but rich governors who have won re-elections. This is neither an affirmation of money politics nor an indictment of hard work as a basis for winning elections.

The fact that Obi is not accepted wholly by careerist politicians in the State is a confirmation that he is working. What do I mean? It takes reasonable waste of public fund to seek popularity. Politicians have a way of projecting or condemning anything, depending on their interest. That is why beyond glare of success, only very few political office holders actually excelled. Even as he admitted to a non-popularity contest that does not mean that the people of Anambra State are not appreciative of their leaders. At the appointed time the falconer will recognize sound of the falcon. The people of the State, who have enjoyed unqualified democracy dividend, will not hesitate to reciprocate his kind gestures.

Louis Ejikeme
Lagos