Rather than respond to issues, Anambra’s Gov. Obi turns his propaganda machine against me.
By Prof. Okey Ndibe.
One might as well state it as clearly and pointedly as possible: Governor Peter Obi of Anambra and Valentine Obienyem, the man who runs Mr. Obi’s sordid propaganda machine,
are merchants of lies. In fact, Mr. Obienyem, the governor’s Man Friday, is a depraved manufacturer of falsehood.
Last week, Mr. Obienyem wrote and widely distributed a piece titled “Anambra: May God Help Okey Ndibe.” It presumed to be a rejoinder to my column a week earlier titled “High-Paid Mediocrities.” In that column, which looked at Nigeria’s laggardly pace in the Millennium Development Goals, I expressed dismay that Mr. Obi continues to sleep soundly in a state where doctors and other healthcare professionals have been on strike for seven months.
In particular, I criticized former Commonwealth Secretary General, Emeka Anyaoku. Here’s part of what I wrote: “Mr. Anyaoku, who chaired the event, was content to cheer Governor Peter Obi, describing him in superlative terms. Yet, Mr. Anyaoku knows – he must know – that doctors in the state have been on strike for more than six months in a dispute over modest increments in their pay. Is it not a scandal that any government would treat its people so callously, indifferent to something as critical as their health?”
I stand by that piece.
Mr. Obi, who loves to inflate his meager achievements and to absolutely deny any shortcomings, might have asked his hireling to counter my point – if he was up to the task. Instead, in a response that was ordered – and even shaped – by Governor Obi, Mr. Obienyem was doubtless handicapped by his lack of argument. So what to do? In a contemptible exhibition of his facility for deception, he concocted a series of scurrilous verbal attacks on some of Anambra’s most venerable religious and civic figures. And then he claimed that I had written the insults in a column published in saharareporters.com!
I’ve since heard that Mr. Obienyem is an ex-seminarian. Yet, he called the most revered Roman Catholic churchman of Igbo descent “a failed cardinal.” He called a former Anambra governor “a canonized goat;” a former Central Bank governor “a pseudo professional;” a retired Anglican bishop “a retire [sic] bishop in search of rehabilitation;” a respected traditional ruler “a king out of touch with his kingdom;” two former female ministers “a pretender” and “a confused one” respectively; one of the state’s elder men “a candidate for senility” etc, etc. After penning these outrageous affronts to reason and decency, Mr. Obienyem had the temerity to write that the vile, impertinent words were mine. Aware that his lie would be easily established, the governor’s spokesman fibbed that, after a sustained barrage against me, I had pulled the offensive column from the Internet.
Of course, apart from the tag team merchants of lies called Obi and Obienyem, nobody else – nobody else in the world – ever saw the purported piece attributed to me. Nobody else saw or read it because it didn’t exist – until Obienyem, sitting in his office in Government House, Awka, strung together that toxic cocktail. The calculation by Obi and Obienyem was to portray me, in the eyes of Catholics, Anglicans and other Nigerians, as a foul-mouthed, impudent fiend with no modicum of respect for ecclesiastical authorities and civic figures.
Let’s pause to thank God that Valentine Obienyem never made it to ordination as a priest. With his genius for shamelessness, his vulgarity, and his Olympian disrespect for the truth, Mr. Obienyem would have brought great scandal to the church and led many trusting souls to utter damnation.
There’s no question in my mind that Governor Obi is implicated in Obienyem’s flinging of gratuitous abuses at men and women who did not deserve it. If Mr. Obi did not encourage these twisted epithets, he would have since ordered Obienyem to apologize to me and to those he excoriated. And then he would have fired Valentine.
Instead, my understanding is that Governor Obi took exultant pleasure in his aide’s deplorable, deceitful act. Last week, I received a telephone call from an employee of Government House, Awka. Familiar with the fraud in that conclave of impunity, the caller nevertheless confessed to being utterly shocked at the unrestrained, egregious excess of Obienyem’s latest merchandizing of falsehood. Above all, the man was dismayed that a governor, aware of his aide’s unprovoked, inexcusable and abhorrent attack of a cardinal, bishops and other citizens, would join the said aide in giddy celebration. The caller revealed that Obienyem’s notorious motto is, “Adi acho ogu nma” (loosely translated as, “There’s nothing like a clean fight”). He said Valentine and cohorts were gloating, professing that they had “finished” Okey Ndibe!
Perhaps the governor and his pathetic coterie don’t realize that it’s sheer ignorance to boast of vanquishing truth with a tissue of lies? Obienyem appears to aspire to the Femi Fani-Kayode-school of hounds. Yet, since he lacks Mr. Fani-Kayode’s intellect and language power, Valentine’s efforts end up exposing both his ineptitude and his master’s hypocrisy and lack of touch with reality.
It is a measure of the depth of deception reigning within Governor Obi’s inner circle that his morally bankrupt mouth piece would embark on a malicious mission to attribute to me words that issued from their lying hearts and sick minds.
Alas, that was not the only lie that Obienyem tried to sell to readers. He alleged that former Governor Chris Ngige had promised me a political appointment if he becomes Anambra governor in future. That line is so ridiculous, so tiresome, that I won’t even dignify it with a response. Both the governor and Obienyem know that I’m not – and have never been – for sale to anybody.
Let’s sample yet another falsehood from Obienyem’s pen: “When Ngige illegally usurped the Governorship, [Okey Ndibe] defended him on the reason that he was building roads. [Okey Ndibe] even boasted that it was because of him that Ngige built the only road around Awka, the Amawbia by-pass, for Okey is from Amawbia.”
My past and present columns are readily available online. Valentine should provide proof of any column that I ever wrote proposing that Ngige should hang on to the gubernatorial mandate he and the PDP usurped in 2003. Valentine should disclose where I ever claimed credit for Mr. Ngige’s building of the Amawbia by-pass. Put up, Obienyem/Obi, or be subjected to the fulsome contempt that you have earned.
Mr. Obi and Valentine Obienyem know that I was one of two or three writers who insisted, on principle, that Mr. Ngige was an illegal occupant of the governorship seat. On principle, I also wrote to encourage Mr. Obi not to abandon the pursuit of his mandate. Those columns are available on the Internet. If Obi or his hirelings deny it, I will happily point them to a few.
It’s my duty, as a citizen and humanist, to register objection to the governor’s ruinous policies. Forget the whole argument about whether Obi has built more roads than anybody in history. Forget his advert pitch that Nigeria has seen no better husband of public resources. It is the height of callousness for a governor to remain unperturbed about a strike by medical doctors that has entered its seventh month! It amounts to abandoning the most vulnerable in society — children, AIDS patients as well as others susceptible to predatory diseases — it amounts to consigning them to excruciating suffering and grim death. I will not, I cannot, keep silent about this tragedy in progress.
Blighted by moral kwashiorkor, Obienyem (and his sponsor) must have hoped that all readers of their lies would be gullible, easily duped by falsehood. They never counted on people sniffing out their bazaar of lies. As it turned out, many readers were knowledgeable enough about the Internet to check things for themselves. I heard from two strangers who told me that they ran checks on the words that Obienyem attributed to me. The words showed up only in the man’s confection.
Who, by the way, is Valentine Obienyem? He’s Governor Obi’s chief factotum, and was smack in the middle of a scandal two years ago when police in Lagos stopped a convoy from Anambra – only to discover that Obienyem and his men were in possession of more than N200 million in cash. The money had been transported by road all the way from Awka.
Mr. Obi and his aides couldn’t give a straight account of the source of the money. Why did a governor with established investment in the banking sector need to convey such stupendous cash by such primitive means? If the source and destination of the cash was above board, why transport it by road from Awka to Lagos?
Outraged by the scandal, I wrote a column titled “Is Peter Obi A Hypocrite?” That article began the season of attacks on me, with the usual cheap canard that I had Mr. Ngige as my sponsor. I have written elsewhere that Mr. Obi squandered the greatest political capital and goodwill that any present Nigerian politician had ever accumulated.
Obi’s troubles are self-inflicted, often the product of his myopic vision and hypocrisy. Yet, he has the habit of whining that Ngige is behind all his travails. Mr. Ngige vacated Government House, Awka six years ago. Yet, Governor Obi goes about implying that his predecessor has omnipotent powers. As I write, state employees in Anambra are on strike. Obi blames Ngige. Residents of Awka and Onitsha complain that their streets are overrun with fly-infested mounds of trash. Of course, it’s Ngige who put them up to it! Ngige also supposedly ordered the strikes by medical doctors and staff of the judiciary.
It’s time Mr. Obi stopped making excuses and started governing. It’s self-indicting to suggest that the people of Anambra are so enamored of his predecessor that they go on strike or criticize Obi at his beck and call.
USAfrica: With little to show for years in office, Anambra Gov. Peter Obi takes to advertising hollow accomplishments. By Prof. Okey Ndibe. http://usafricaonline.com/2011/08/16/anambra-gov-peter-obi-advertising-hollow-accomplishments-by-okey-ndibe/
Two weeks ago, a caller dialed a radio interview featuring Mr. Obi and asked what the governor planned to do to end the strike by doctors. Obi’s answer: that he had nothing to say about the matter! We must ask: Did Governor Obi obtain a special divine dispensation banishing all illness and disease from Anambra during these months of strike by health workers? Is it not ridiculous to boast about attracting the largest brewery to Anambra, even as residents of his state are dying from lack of medical care? Pray, does the governor plan to take beer to the cemetery to toast the dead? Since when did beer become a replacement for medicine?
If Governor Obi can’t pay state doctors, what’s the sense in building a huge structure you call a teaching hospital? Where will he find the consultant physicians to scramble for positions in the teaching hospital? Each month, Mr. Obi – like other governors – is handed hundreds of millions in security vote. That cash is never accounted for. And yet, the governor and his handlers think that it’s the place of Anambrarians abroad to supply books for the governor’s e-library?
Ignorance and poor education are security threats. The ravages of disease also constitute hazards to the security of the state’s populace. Mr. Obienyem alleged that – until his Saint Peter rode to Government House – Anambra had been “in the hands of thugs who visited her with rape and rapine thus injuring her in body and spirit.” Yet, Obi and his media hands have to wonder how his administration managed to alienate much of the populace? How did Obi achieve the sad distinction of being bracketed with former Governor Mbadinuju?
Mr. Obi ought to have figured out that a governor who must put up billboards to convince his people that he has chalked up achievements is, in all likelihood, nothing more than a gubernatorial featherweight, a pretender.
•Ndibe, a professor of English at Trinity College in Connecticut and a novelist, is a contributing editor of USAfrica multimedia networks since 1995.
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