By Odogwu Emeka Odogwu
Continued from last week…
In that allegedly Religious Politics Administration, Obi surrounded himself with Anglicans, Pentecostals and even traditionalists, probably without knowing their creed on appointment but on strong recommendations from highly rated Anambrarians. Think of what Obi’s administration would have been without Prof Okunna, whom politicians wanted sacked because she wasn’t ‘vomitting’ against opposition parties by engaging in propaganda as Commissioner for Information. That was why Chief Maja Umeh came on board, as Obi re-deployed Prof Okunna to what ended up being some of the most strategic positions in his administration. People in positions of authority abused it because they were Roman Catholics like seen in the Civil Service employment during Obi under the watch of Barr Ifeoma Melifeonwu.
How many Anglicans are in Obiano’s cabinet comprising of Commissioners and extended cabinet comprising of SA’s and SSA’s as well as EA’s? I could remember how Anglican leaders and Pentecostal leaders, in spite of all the noise that 95 percent of his cabinet were from Roman Catholic in his first term, they threw caution to the winds and pleaded with their members to vote Obiano in for a second term. And in this second term, he has been accused that almost everyone in his inner team is not only Roman Catholic but from Aguleri, while the few who are not from Aguleri are all Roman Catholics. For example, of the over 115 appointments on the list compiled by Anambra Unite Against Denominational Domination in 2017, non-Catholics in the cabinet were about seventeen in number including Dr Chinedu Emeka, Commissioner for Mineral Resources; Chief Chikodili Anara, Security Adviser; Paul Nwosu, SA Image to the Governor, Dr Gilbert Onyekachukwu, SA Youth Empowerment and the almighty Hon Chinedu Obidigwe, SA Youth Mobilization, later SA Political Matters, but now a member of House of Representatives representing Anambra East and West. There were others.
Former Speaker of Anambra State House of Assembly, Right Hon Anayo Nnebe, an Anglican (even though he doesn’t like my style of ‘No friend, no foe’, journalism) remained the best Speaker Anambra had and the best to function with Peter Obi. He was in an opposition political party PDP and Obi was in APGA but he led his team to support Obi to make policies that enabled the state to save billions of money, which everyone in His Excellency Chief Willie Obiano’s Government is denying today, but the just shall be vindicated soon. Nnebe is alive, if his new romance with APGA for ticket would allow him speak. Obi didn’t enjoy Right Hon Chinwe Nwaebili, a Roman Catholic, in a similar way. It’s a story for another day.
Professor BonaChristus Umeogu sometime ago gave teachings in Philosophy and Theology, when he had only a Doctor of Philosophy, about Christless Church and Churchless Christ. It was confusing to me then but now, I understand it better. He was trying to inform that Jesus Christ has a meaning and existence independent of the Church, but the Church has no meaning or existence independent of Jesus Christ. This is because Jesus Christ is the founder of the Church which is His body.
There are several Churches everywhere today without Jesus Christ, yet Christians fill up such Churches, recklessly fighting for their denominational domination. Others turn to conmen and women in survival of the fittest rage in the name of Jesus Christ. Deceit everywhere in the name of God. Only a few still practice Christianity in its real essence.
And this has brought about religious politics in several states, but that of Anambra state appears to be the worst, given its status as the state with the door to progress and emancipation of Ndigbo. In this worst case scenario, Anambra’s predicament is no longer religious politics but denominational politics. It has torn the state into shreds, placing egocentrism, bigotry, nativity and clannishness at centre stage thus enthroning mediocrity and bad governance. Once a culprit is a church member, his or her sins are forgiven. Shame!
But, as a diligent observer, I can tell categorically that in Peter Obi’s first term, if his cabinet comprised mainly of Roman Catholic Church members, this wasn’t a deliberate action, as he likes to explain, but some Roman Catholics in his administration behaved as if it was so, giving the impression that they were specially and deliberately ‘selected’ and ‘owned’ the government, with non-Roman Catholic Church members looking the other way. When they (Anglicans, Pentecostals and the other denominations) eventually raised the alarm, Obi assured to correct anomalies if any. He even approached some Anglicans and Pentecostal members like Onyechi Ikpeazu, SAN, who retrieved Obi’s mandate in court and Chief Chike Obidigbo among others to co-opt them into governance of Anambra. A story for another day. While retaining a few of his first tenure appointees, it has been convincingly argued that Obi made a conscious effort in the appointment of his cabinet in the second term to reflect a balance and equity.
Obi’s government however goofed on the issue of Igwebuike Grammar School, Awka where controversy over ownership nearly tore apart his excellent work in the school system. The school was not handed over even when historically it is Anglican Communion-owned but former Chairman of PPSSC, Nze Emeka Olisah PEN, posted Roman Catholic Principals there, thus creating room for subversion of facts and records. That bred contempt but Obi, rather than get involved, stayed aloof. What he was avoiding, Religious Politics was what he is being accused of today. Some actions Nze Olisah took weren’t ecumenical but because they with backing of Religious leaders with religious titles, he couldn’t have done otherwise. Nnamdi Azikiwe Secondary School, Abagana is also a case in point, where town’s leadership is bent on subverting facts to ensure it doesn’t belong to the Anglicans in connivance with holier than thou people in government.
Truly, Peter Obi was a ‘maradona’ in relationships with people with titles. Obi prefers to donate a car to a wealthy personality like Obi of Onitsha, Igwe Alfred Achebe and Eze Amosu of Mbaukwu, Igwe Anugwu who do not need these cars, rather than a journalist like me or driver and cook serving him diligently. He thinks giving you the gift is too much as probably you may start to incur expenses above your means. That’s him, I have realized lately. Thus, he used all the Bishops and Religious Leaders across board to actualize his dreams and visions of a greater Anambra State, hence he even equipped a Pentecostal Hospital in Awka in addition to a grant-in-aid to run the hospital like he did to Anglican and Roman Catholic hospitals. He went a step further to support Catholic Priests who own schools. This action by Obi to me wasn’t a deliberate discriminatory act but which unfortunately was exploited by some members of his team who used the services of some Roman Catholic Bishops , Priests and Catechists in selecting some people for appointments rather than party structure and a combination of other religious or denominational groups. Rome and England have divided us as Christians more unnecessarily. Can we ever learn?
Interestingly, while none of these recent rantings escalated into any form of petition against Obi to the best of my knowledge, I am aware that Governor Willie Obiano’s second term quest was greeted with a bombardment of petitions against him. Specifically, on 19th May 2017, Anambra Unite against Denominational Domination and International Center of Igbo Clergy (ICC) led by Co-ordinator, Apostle (Dr) Jeff Onyeamalu who is also President of ICC and Chief Anthony Ojemba Chigbo, General Secretary wrote Obiano.
……To be continued.
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