Nigeria’s democracy, Anambra’s Governorship election: Winners, Losers and task ahead
By Attorney Chris Aniedobe
Edited version for USAfrica, USAfricaonline.com and CLASSmagazine (Houston) and IgboEvents
USAfrica, Feb 8, 2010: I am satisfied that the re-election of Governor Peter Obi was, substantially, free and fair and does reflect the electoral wishes of the voters/citizens of Anambra State of Nigeria. Many people voted for him because they felt that he was better than the rest. It is now up to him to decide whether he wishes to continue to be a C+ rated governor in a field where the average mark is D- or whether he can be an A rated governor.
Following the February 6 reelection, Gov. Obi now has the opportunity to be a transcending Igbo hero. So far, he has been very ordinary in my estimation.
As I offer my congratulations to the Governor, it should be emphasized that the election was not perfect by any means.
Only about ten percent of registered voters participated in it. Many people were disenfranchised. But the picture of our people peacefully standing in line and waiting for their opportunity to vote; the picture of INEC counting the votes on the ground in the open and collating the results in a credible manner; the absence of widespread violence are all images that should gladden the hearts of our people. I am a happy man today. I have hope that we have the inherent capacity to practice representative democracy. Inherent capacity is the operative phrase.
Dr. Chris Ngige and all the other candidates who competed against Peter Obi should accept the result of the February 6, 2010 elections in the interest of our people. They should sheath their swords and go to work to strengthen our democracy. It is time for everyone to close ranks behind our Governor and those who wish to contest again should wait four more years.
Perhaps, the biggest winner of this election was INEC’s chairman Prof. Maurice Iwu. He demonstrated that all these years, he knew what could be done but was under considerable pressure to do the wrong thing (during the Obasanjo era-controlled governorship presidential elections).
Apparently, it would seem, with no one breathing down his back, with his tenure nearly over, with the generational wealth he would secured over the past years, he had nothing to lose. He did a very good job. He can leave now on a face saver. Iwu must still go for running what I consider to be the worst election in Nigeria’s history in 2007– which gave us Umar Yar’Adua as Pesident.
The other winner is the people of Anambra State. Run up to the election was looking like a political jungle, a show of shame. Obscene amounts of money were thrown around in an electoral fiesta that was very disturbing. We set a new high for what it takes to be Governor. You needed a war chest of at least Five Billion Naira to compete (One U.S Dollar equals almost 150 Naira). What message are we sending? Many thugs were well fed. Many journalists became ordinary thugs. Extortion became an art form. Kidnapping went down to zero. Being a thug became a very lucrative profession. Thugs were making as much as 20,000 Naira on a good day – just making noise for the money bags who wanted nothing but a shot at our Treasury.
Cash was wheeled around like people dug them from the streets. Clearly, a lot of unearned money and money belonging to the masses were being impiously spread around. Anyone who is not troubled by that – has no concerns for the welfare of our people. This was evident madness. Now it will be payback time from our treasury. Somehow, all that wasted money has to be recouped by any means necessary. Are we going to live now at the mercy of contract hunters and black mailers? We have work to do and anyone who rejoices beyond the first twenty four hours after the election has no clue how decadent we are. That animal show was not acceptable and cannot be acceptable.
It is gratifying that in the end, it was not money that decided the elections – it was the conscience of our people as to who could be the best Governor. We have earned a right to choose our own leaders and that is the very definition of participatory democracy.
The other winner in this election was PDP. They came out of it having a human face. They had everything it took to “capture” the election but with an unpopular candidate (former CBN chieftain Prof. Chukwuma Soludo) and a leader (Yar’Adua) struggling for his life in Saudi Arabia, particularly with Prof. Iwu (who could pass for a PDP agent), PDP showed that it can be beat in a relatively fair contest. There is yet hope for democracy in Nigeria.
Or maybe we are dealing with a dangerous power vacuum in Nigeria that portends grave danger for our nascent democracy. The Iwu dilemma was that there was no way he could win this for Soludo and not draw the ire of Andy Uba – his political mentor, and there was no way he could do it for Andy Uba without drawing the ire of PDP and Soludo. In the end, he did the smart thing. He let the people and their wishes be a perfect alibi for him. Anambra won!
There are many on the loser’s column but a stand-out loser is the Diaspora-based Anambra State Association-USA (ASA-USA) that flung its cloak of independence way back into the middle of the last decade and looked and operated very much like a campaign outfit for Governor Obi. With its independence thoroughly compromised, how is it now going to check Governor’s Obi’s excesses?
We formed ASA-USA to be between our leaders and our people, and in order to prosecute the cause of good governance. It is time to reclaim our association and we must resist any mentality that ASA-USA is also a sharer in the spoils of political victory which in Igbo we call “agbata eke.” The “agbata eke” folks are already chomping at the bits. But I have bad news for them: ASA-USA is in the public interest business and anyone who wishes to be in the “agbata eke” business knows the right thing to do. Simply leave ASA-USA out of it.
I am calling on our great men and women of ASA to re-assert, in a resounding manner, our position as a public interest organization and pull our drifting association back into the public interest domain. The association needs a tune-up, if not a serious overhaul. Officers and ranking members of ASA-USA in the “agbata eke” business are being respectfully asked today to shift platforms. They are standing on the wrong ground.
Also, the Governor must welcome constructive opposition. It is very healthy for Anambra citizens to have opposition groups looking over the shoulder of the Governor. I must therefore caution people against demonizing opposition groups. We need them. Chris Ngige, Chukwuma Soludo, Andy Uba, Nicholas Ukachukwu have the right to form opposition groups. It is better for them and us if they will oppose the Governor in a constructive manner than be hunting for contracts. However, to show that they can do that in good faith, they must accept the outcome of this current election otherwise they run the risk of being discredited from the get go.
The other issue is how and when Obi will improve the organization of his sponsoring party, APGA – which is still in tatters. Surely, Mr. Obi understands that it was not a well organized APGA platform that won the election for him. It was anything but that. His credible performance in office and the vacuum left by a sick President in Saudi Arabia and a divided PDP helped him a lot. But the health of APGA is central to the Igbo question. Mr. Obi has never been much of an ideological person but history keeps thrusting him up. He has four years to see if he can make it to the history books. He has four years to decide if he is going to be satisfied with just being better than the rest or whether he is going to perform at a level that clearly separates him from the rest.
On individual responsibility, Anambra citizens are a tough people to govern. We have to each take individual responsibility for what I consider Governor Obi’s C-rated performance so far. Whatever grade he gets is our grade. We cannot expect an A rated performance from Governor Peter Obi if we don’t help him get there. We must be an A rated people in terms of abiding by the rule of law and working with the Governor to deliver the dividends of democracy.
Those dividends cannot be measured by the contracts we win, the fast money we make, the good cars we drive, the nice buidlings we make; those dividends have to be measured in terms of the overall quality of our lives and our environments, and the sacrifices we make for a great society. We must create jobs. We must pull our masses from abject misery to dignified poverty. We must put our youth back to work. We must clean our environments.
We are looking at a whole generation of uneducated kids and the future looks bleak with kids like that. Our basics are off balance. We cannot be a corrupt people in the main and be looking for a Governor who is beyond corruption. Obi cannot be great if we cannot be great citizens of our State. We have demonstrated to the whole world that we have what it takes to be great citizens, let us build from there. We have hope.
•Aniedobe, a lawyer and author, is based in the Washington DC area and contributes commentaries to USAfricaonline.com and USAfrica-powered blogs IgboEvents and AnambraPolitics. Responses to the issues he has raised are welcome and will be published on USAfricaonline.com