By Odogwu Emeka Odogwu
Governor Willie Obiano of Anambra state is back to Nigeria after several weeks of vacation amidst Covid-19 pandemic. Former Governor Peter Obi of Anambra state has again become subject of discourse by Obiano’s aides. These aides are fighting over who hauls the highest quantum of abuse at the former Vice-Presidential candidate of PDP. Whatever the target is, Odogwu’s son can’t tell.
Aside referring to the ignominy in Imo state politics between former Governor Rochas Okorocha and incumbent Governor Hope Uzodimma, these later-day politicians in a verbal discourse claimed Peter Obi destroyed Anambra politics by playing religious politics. And I asked: How? They responded that Obi introduced religious politics into Anambra political lexicon; that Obi killed the Civil Service, destroyed Town Union and Traditional institutions and the Church with religious politics. I wasn’t happy because daily they kept bringing me back to write about events in the past rather than face some of these politicians masquerading as messiahs for Ndi Anambra, but may offer nothing, judging by their antecedents.
How did Peter Obi introduce religious politics? They claimed he handed over two Anglican schools to Roman Catholics through Nze Olisah Emeka who was more Catholic than the Pope, or so I think! That he gave money to Catholic Bishops and Reverend Fathers, as well as Sisters regularly without giving Anglican and Pentecostal Bishops and Priests. That he used Architect Calistus Ilozumba , former Commissioner for Works, to appoint only Catholics or 90 percent Catholics into transition committees of the twenty-one local government areas in the state. That Catholic priests campaigned for him in Churches. They went on blabbing. Let me not call their names, so they don’t look like fools.
The question I asked was “How did these endless lists of Religious politics allegedly played by former Governor Peter Obi affect good governance in Anambra state during his tenure of office? And now that we have no religious politics, so to speak, how has Anambra state fared? Luckily, that question silenced the noise as the twist got enough hype. I gave two life examples of how Peter Obi didn’t play religious politics, but worked simultaneously for the growth, development and progress of all sectors of the state through ANIDS. Would Obi have denied his church on political grounds? Interestingly, Obi is married to an Anglican babe, Mrs Margret Peter Obi and his three brothers schooled at Boys Secondary School, Agulu – an Anglican school.
I asked them to go to the Catholic hospital at Urum and the Anglican hospital at Awba Ofemmili given the same amount of money in millions by Obi’s administration for rehabilitation of existing structures to ensure they were functional. The two hospitals are incomparable today. Whereas Awba Ofemmili is moribund so to speak, Urum could be said to be flourishing, judging by their locations in rural areas.
Where did the money come from? Recall that in June 2013, former Governor Peter Obi had during the flag-off of the National Obstetric Fistula Repair Programme at the Anambra State University Teaching Hospital, Awka, said the state had matched the US$1 million monetary award from Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation for being the best state in South East in Immunization coverage with N120 million to build 10 health facilities in the rural parts of the state. That’s where the money came from. Let me not go to other hospitals.
Boys High School, Agulu and Girls High School, Agulu were given the same amount of money in millions by Peter Obi, aside normal grant to Churches after handover of schools, to make them best among equals. Go there today, Agulu Girls is bubbling, even with Roman Catholic Church renaming it to a jaw breaking name, Rosa Mystica High School, Agulu, but Agulu Boys remained an eyesore even when Obi mobilized additional funds from his three brothers who are Old Boys of the school. Obi attracted the building of an imposing hostel there among others. Thank God, the Archbishop, Province of the Niger and Bishop of Awka Anglican Communion, His Grace, Most Reverend Alexander Chibuzo Ibezim, PhD, JP has stepped in to resolve the eyesore. I am already writing on that. Has the success or failure of these institutions anything to do with religious politics? Perception is blurred in a biased mind set. We should free our minds and hearts from this opium of the masses called religion and vote a candidate that will develop Anambra more than former Governor Peter Obi, be he/she a Roman Catholic, an Anglican, or a Pentecostal or even a Traditionalist. Obi did his best and we are witnesses.
Today, Obiano is doing his part and sooner than later, we should be referring to his terms of office when a new Government emerges. But, to me, Obiano is the one playing religious politics though not directly. However, because the buck stops at his table, he takes all the glory and all the blame, 80 percent of Town Union crisis in Anambra State today is traced to religious politics and favouritism. Take Ogbunka Community as a case study where the Community brought out Dr Foster Ihejiofor and a handful brought out Chief Johnmark Anyaoha, allegedly with the support of Catholic Bishops. Why should a Bishop be interested in who is the President General or Traditional Ruler of a community? The Community raised it and shouted it on roof tops, asking for truce with a consensus election since there is crisis already but Governor Obiano issued certificate to Chief Anyaoha, daring the community. He did it because Anyaoha is a Roman Catholic and Catholic Bishops boasted. The villagers alleged this. Obiano’s statement while handing over the certificate to Anyaoha left much to be desired. He claimed Dr Ihejiofor is his friend but he won’t give him certificate, ignoring all the cries from Ogbunka community. Of the 185 communities Obiano has presented certificates to their traditional rulers, over hundred communities are torn apart over wrong processes of selecting the traditional rulers.
Peter was at home with the traditional religious groups (Odinana Ndigbo traditionalists) in the state led during his time by Late Dr Dozie Ikedife from Nnewi. Chief Obumneme Ikechukwu Okoye from Ogidi is leading another group. They are better people in action and deeds than many of the so-called Christian brothers in Churches and Christians at large. Peter worked with a number of Anglicans who were very close to him, and his administration was rated super till date.
Opposition politicians’ e-rats can urinate on their pants if making allegations of religious politics is the only thing they know how to do because, for me, Peter remains the rock in public administration any day, any time, hence he is sought after by all and sundry for lectures on this.
What are we not saying, Peter Obi was wrongly impeached by a practicing Roman Catholic, Right Hon Mike Balonwu and his co-travellers, mostly Roman Catholic members, for saving money and being prudent.
I can vouch that Peter didn’t deliberately distinguish between Roman Catholic and Anglican during his term in office even when his portrayal sometimes was deceptive merely by looking at him and his actions because he is naturally a smart and cunning being. He only gives attention to that which he wishes to give attention to but pretends over others for reasons best known to him. We all have our faults, but Peter is a strong public advocate. He is uninterested in anyone’s private enterprise, unless God touches him. Imagine that woman at Ugwuoba vending food but had her food poured away meeting another former Governor and what her life would have become? But not Obi. Obi met her and never considered giving her more money than her market value for her wasted food. He gave her what she claims she gains in a day after sales. If that was for public good, Obi would have shown his strength, so I think?
During Obi’s term in office, 80 percent of his most loyal and hard-working team members were Anglicans. They served him diligently and he succeeded against odds. Take for instance, Obi’s ‘Man Friday’ was and still is Prof Chinyere Stella Okunna who was Chief of Staff, Commissioner for Economic Planning and Budget as well as Chairman Good Governance Committee, Chairman MDGs Implementation Committee, and Coordinating Commissioner for Development Partnership/Donor Agencies among others. Permanent Secretary Government House, Mr Ferdinand Obi who was in charge of all Obi’s correspondence. Till date, projects standing in schools were MDGs projects done during Peter Obi under Prof Okunna and Mrs Vivian Nwandu who was Permanent Secretary and later SA to Obi on MDGs with their team. Nwandu who was signatory to the MDGs accounts that Obi couldn’t even as Governor is also an Anglican. Others were wife of an Anglican Venerable, Dr Kay Onyechi who was Commissioner for Education; Commissioner for Lands Barr Okoli-Akirika; Attorney-General/Commissioner for Justice, Barr E.D. Chukwuma; Commissioner for Local Government, Mrs Azuka Enemo; Commissioner for Health, Dr Lawrence Ikeako; Commissioner for Agriculture, Dr Tim Menakaya; Commissioner for Women Affairs, Lady Henrietta Agbata; Commissioners for Youth and Sports, Mrs Chinwe Anowai (first term) and Dr Edozie Aroh (second term).
He can be reached @ [email protected] or phone number 08060750240