Is Willie Obiano Paying The Price For Purposeful Leadership?

Thinking of the recent media attacks on Governor Willie Obiano and his wife, the only morsel of wisdom that comes to mind is the admonition by Winston Churchill that “You will never reach your destination if you stop and throw stones at every dog that barks.”

Famous for his inspiring leadership of 20th Century Britain to resounding victory over Nazi Germany and the Axis Power during the 2nd World War, Churchill has made quite a home in the hearts of millions across the world with his remarkable rhetoric. And of the futility of a leader responding to every calculated attempt to distract him, Churchill should know. Nothing makes a great leader wiser than crises or conflict and he rode the crest of the World War II to historical acclaim.

True, Anambra State is not at war with any visible enemy but like all human societies in quest of accelerated development, Anambra is at war with itself. Today, the greatest challenge that is facing Anambra State is the challenge of rejecting the half-way house to greatness; of accepting anything less than the fullness of its promise! And in defining this reality for Ndi Anambra and carving a stone-paved pathway for its rejection, Willie Obiano has erred in the sight of some people whose ultimate wish is that Anambra never rises beyond mediocrity.

These people are content with the poor picture of the old Anambra as the place where people point at from the safety of other less gifted neighbours. And now that their long knives are finally drawn, it remains to be seen whether Ndi Anambra will allow them a chance to plunge a blade at the figure behind their changing narrative and halt the emergence of a state of their dream.

This should provoke the thoughts of any right-thinking onye Anambra. Should this emerging symbol of renascent Anambra be allowed to be hacked to pieces so soon? Should Governor Willie Obiano be left at the mercy of power mongers whose only claim to fame is their infinite ability for mischief? Anyone who decides to choose silence in the face of this gathering storm should remember the warning from America's charismatic civil rights leader, Dr Martin Luther King Jnr that “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies but the silence of our friends.”

Quite frankly, the spate of attacks on Governor Obiano and the current wave of defections by some important figures in the All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA) are clear pointers to the discomfort of some elements with Obiano's giant strides in Anambra State. The recent concentration of earth-moving equipment to Aroma Junction in fulfillment of Obiano's promise to change the landscape of the long neglected Awka Capital Territory with a modern flyover and a fancy tunnel seems to have confirmed the worst fears of some politicians that the change in Anambra has gone beyond metaphor. Expectedly, their rhetoric has changed.

Suddenly, it is no longer that the indigenes of Awka are resistant to change and have frustrated all efforts to give Anambra a befitting capital but a funny story-line. Out of their fevered imagination leaps out stories of how Obiano has commenced payment of mind-boggling sums of money in settlement to Sir Victor Umeh, the National Chairman of APGA and how the governor's appointments have been skewed in favour of his own people. But these charges are at best jejune and at worst asinine!

They are products of an afflicted imagination that have found an outlet in a discredited blog. Ndi Anambra are far too sophisticated to be led by the noose. Already, they have started asking the only important question which is whether Willie Obiano has delivered on his promises in just 130 days. Okwu agwugo!

But sincerely, anyone who can read the political climate of Anambra State can easily tell that the recent wave of defections in APGA is nothing but a natural reaction by politicians who have lost the moral authority to work on behalf of the people who put them in office. Scared at the obvious reality that they have not earned their keep, these politicians have decided to make hay while the sun shines. They knew that in the renascent Anambra of the Obiano era, any public office holder who has not justified the people's faith n him has lost the moral claim to a renewed mandate. But they are not prepared to go down without a fight, without splashing mud all over the place to sully others up.

In proving that a people who are plagued by some persistent human problems can push back and reclaim a veritable foothold; that a gravely wronged society can finally seek redemption under a purposeful leadership, Willie Obiano seems to have asked for too much from some people who are yet to read the signs of the times. And for these people, all is fair in love and war! And in the ensuing melee, nothing is too sacred to be left out from the boiling cauldron, not even the Church.

How else can anyone explain the political undertone in the peaceful protest staged by the Anglican Diocese on the Niger over a disputed school block between it and Nkwelle Ezunaka, its host community? Chanting songs of protest and hurling invectives, the protesters had pointed a finger in the direction of the state government, claiming that the roof of their new building at Oyolu-Oze Primary School was pulled down on the instruction of the agents of the state.

On close interrogation, some leaders of the church explained that they were angry that the wife of their leader, Bishop Owen Nwokolo was not allowed to address the governor when he visited the scene of the crisis to announce the steps his administration had taken to address the dispute.

What has not escaped the curiosity of many discerning people however is how the entire population of the Anglican Church in Onitsha could stage a protest over an alleged slight on the wife of their bishop. There are obvious gaps in this scenario which gives the protest away as an outright machination of some out-of-favour politicians.

This is made even more so by the fact that on the same day that Mrs. Nwokolo was purportedly slighted by the government, she was invited to the Governor's Lodge along with her close aides and the church's legal counsel where she had a long and fruitful meeting with the governor and his deputy, Dr. Nkem Okeke who heads the special six-man committee on the dispute.

It must be noted that Dr. Okeke himself is a member of the Anglican Church. It is unlikely that the leadership of the church is aware of this meeting with Mrs Nwokolo. Otherwise, the staging of a protest to announce its displeasure over the purported slight which is in itself, an overkill would have been unnecessary. If not for the probable incitement of some insidious politicians, it is highly unlikely that a whole church would go on a protest to announce its anger over a purported slighting of the wife of its bishop. But politics corrodes and in its corrosive best, nothing is too sacred for it.

Sadly, barely four months on the saddle, Governor Obiano must be finally getting acquainted with the full meaning of purposeful leadership. He must be rubbing his chin and grinning to himself now that he has realized that sometimes, when a leader does his job well, he courts the disaffection of a segment of the people whose interest is better served by bad leadership. And for this segment, it is unacceptable for any leader to rise beyond mediocrity; beyond their limited vision of society.

But there is one more lesson for the high-performing governor of Anambra State. Using the paradigm of the orchestra to illustrate the nebulous relationship between a leader and his followers, Max Lucado, American-born writer and preacher observed that “a man who wants to lead the orchestra must turn his back on the crowd.”

In the final analysis, Governor Obiano will learn that to achieve his vision for Ndi Anambra, he must turn his back on the expected hysteria from a segment of the crowd and that if that does not work, he should take it all in his stride as the price of purposeful leadership.

Eze writes from Ifite, Awka.

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Articles by James Eze