USAfrica: Anambra Gov. Obi is a rare gem; accusation of “hollow achievements” is misplaced. By Ken Okorie


Anambra Gov. Obi is a rare gem; accusation of “hollow achievements” is misplaced.
By Attorney Ken Okorie

Special to

Okey Ndibe, a professor and reputed writer, should command serious attention each time he puts pen onUSAfrica: Anambra Gov. Obi is a rare gem; accusation of "hollow achievements" is misplaced. By Ken Okorie

paper.  He missed his mark in his recent critique of the accomplishments of the Governor of Anambra State of Nigeria Peter Obi, published in August 2011 on
With little to show for years in office, Anambra Gov. Peter Obi takes to advertising hollow accomplishments.

Rather than draw constructive attention, Prof. Ndibe make some of us question his objectivity in his condemnation of the record and performance of the Governor.  With a commentary accusing him of advertising “hollow accomplishments”, you (Prof. Ndibe), betray a disposition to first take from the governor every credit earned before you, unwarrantedly, nail him.

First, is your report of the governor’s encounter with a Labour union team that is unhappy with the new minimum wage.  The Minimum Wage Act is new law for all of Nigeria and has run into objections from Labor movements in different parts.  The objections in Anambra are no different.  I think it is a low blow to burden the governor as a result of this encounter with union people.  Obi may wear the minimum wage yoke, but he did not design or build it.  Besides, If, “the workers unleashed a torrent of insults”  (your words) because he left, think of what might have happened had he stayed to bear further news the angry workers deemed unwelcome?

From minimum wage you moved to criticize Governor Obi’s campaign style, suggesting that you may still not have gotten over his winning his two elections.  At least you recognize the incredible odds that beset his access to Government House.  Have you also considered that the same forces that posed those unwarranted odds might still be handing around to undermine him?
Also, Catholic priests are not known to be casually swayed in their political conviction especially as relates to social issues.

It is more likely than not that their support of Obi’s candidacy was a matter of conviction and principle.  Besides encomiums frequently showered on Governor Obi for his accomplishments have come from Catholics, Anglicans, other Protestants, traditional rulers, professionals, youth groups, academics, and much wider spectrum of society. Several international organizations have also recognized his accomplishments.  Besides Obi is routinely acknowledged as one of Nigeria’s few performing governors.  Do you really think all of these assessments are naive or conspired?

It might be true that Anambra politics is beset by “godfatherism” and “violence”, but some of us have the impression that Obi’s detractors fault him for one thing:  his adamant refusal to corruptly open the spigot to the state treasury to benefactors as did his predecessors.   He personally supervises project details as a way keep a lid on resource leakage.  This has earned him the “notoriety“ of knowing everything, a phrase also used in your characterization of him.   To the contrary, some of us hope he does not change, for that is the only way to show any kind of result for our people. The results may be strong or mediocre, but they are results.

Ndi-Igbo have the saying that the taste of any fruit is only relative to other fruits (A si na ihe n’ato ekwue ihe o n’ato ka ya).  If Obi’s performance is uninspiring by any measure, I simply ask, What measure?  Have you wondered across state line to other parts of Ala-Igbo?  I believe your neighbors in Imo State, for example, would consider themselves hugely blessed if they got from Governor Ohakim 5% of what Obi has done for Anambra.  As an example, you estimate Obi’s 500 kilometers of poorly constructed roads.  I am of the old school that still thinks of distances in terms of miles.  I believe no two end points in Ala-Igbo are over 150 miles apart. As examples, Onitsha to Aba and Enugu Port to Harcourt are about 100 miles each.

Compare Obi’s 500 kilometers of highway to Ohakim’s placing dividers
on one-mile stretch of Mbaise Rd constructed before his term in Owerri but invited President Ya’Ardua to cut the ribbon as his completed road project!  Governor Obi’s 500 kms of road in Anambra translates to twice traversing by highway any two furthest end points of Ala-Igbo.   And what about the likelihood that perhaps no more than 50 kms of road may have been built in Imo and Abia combined since 2007?  How do I know this? The last time I drove through Aba (the commercial heartbeat of Ala-Igbo), it took 3 hours from Ogbo Hill to the Express Rd near Ariara market….a distance of not more than 7 miles! The story is just as deplorable elsewhere in Imo and Abia.

Again, I urge you to think beyond Anambra.  However shortchanged you feel Anambra has been in the hands of Governor Obi, consider that worse damage and fraud were inflicted on Imo by his counterpart.  Other Igbo states have not fared much better.

In the area of propaganda, if you think Governor Obi has used personal promotion to veil lack of a solid governance and verifiable achievements, I again remind you of a place called Imo, where the billboard business enjoyed geometric boost in 4 years of Ohakim, all of it extolling the non-existent virtues of a non-performing leader.

Perhaps, I am most disappointed that you accuse Obi of providing transformers where there is no electricity, computers where the is no Internet access or qualified technicians, building a library without books, and a hospital without adequate ventilation.  You may not realize how much communities in neighboring Imo would envy such projects.  At a minimum, Obi has challenged his successor to equip the hospital into a functional center for treating the sick, the schools into real centers of learning.  Children throughout my local government sit under the shade of trees to be taught, not because they are outdoor enthusiasts but because there are no buildings much less class room.

My point, Prof. Ndibe, is that there are places in Ala-Igbo that look no better today than they did on January 15, 1970 when the civil war ended.

Rather than write off Governor Obi wholesale, I would have hoped that the professor of English and noted writer you are, would use your connections in academia to get the rest of us here in the Diaspora on a campaign to populate the Kenneth Dike Library Governor Obi has built.  That would make that project more substantive.

The Prof. Kenneth Dike name (a/k/a K.C. Mellanby) is a landmark in the intellectual history of Nigeria and Africa.  Dike was the first Vice Chancellor of Nigeria’s first university at Ibadan. That sentiment and significance alone might cause some of us to commitment to few books. The poorly ventilated teaching hospital Obi has built today is one that will no longer be started tomorrow, but can at worse be modified.

Finally and to my biggest thing about Peter Obi.  The Igbo nation is starved of meaningful leadership.  In my view, the Governor’s record encourages and brightens our minds, and should our future.  He is a rare gem in a sea of dull stones. As the frightening news of Emeka Ojukwu’s health persists, so does the approach of the day we will wake up and find how hollow our collective Igbo political house is. Rather than cut Obi down, I suggest that we should find a way to encourage and build meaningful Igbo political capital around this proven leader.  There are not many like him today in Ala-Igbo.  I will settle for several Obi-style elephantine projects anywhere in Ala-Igbo any day than accept the fraud other parts of Ala-Igbo have experienced with political leadership in recent times.
•Okorie, energy and business issues attorney,  is a member of the editorial board of USAfrica and columnist for and CLASSmagazine. 

With little to show for years in office, Anambra Gov. Peter Obi takes to advertising hollow accomplishments. By Prof. Okey Ndibe.