Late Justice Lawrence Anoliefo was on his way to Awka-Etiti, his home town, when assassins killed him. Dr Eddy Okafor was on his way to Umuchu when he was killed along with his driver. Chief Goddy Chikeluba (Akajiaku) was killed in his house by assassins. A serving President-General was killed in his town at Osumenyi. Engr Tony Okafor was addressing his town union colleagues and was about to leave for Enugu when assassins stormed the venue and killed him. Mr. Obiukwu, MD, Comrade Press Ltd. was with his family in Awka-Etiti when assassins stormed his house killed him.
There was a time in Anambra State when it was death and death everywhere in connection with town union issues. That is why whenever there is town union crisis and there is assassination or something like that, it is always assumed that it is in connection with town union crisis. That is why people try to avoid town union crisis because it can be very deadly.
The current scenario in Akwaihedi is one example too many of how Commissioner Greg Obi has been sowing seeds of communal crisis which is now causing problems in Akwaihedi and that is why I am worried. The story of how the Akwaihedi PG was removed from office is a pathetic one. He has been in Anambra State all these donkey years, until he wanted to take some time off to go overseas.
After only two weeks in Canada, the PG got a call from Greg Obi, asking him to come and pick up his letter from his office. The PG requested to call the commissioner back, with the intention of calling him with a foreign number to confirm that he was not in town. When he called back the commissioner, the commissioner asked him to send somebody to collect the letter on his behalf, which the PG did.
Before the messenger could send the letter to the PG, the traditional ruler of the community went to the community and announced to the public that the PG has been sacked. When the PG got wind of the rumour, he did not believe it, believing that he could not have been sacked without a query to hear his own side. However, when he eventually received his letter through WhatsApp and opened it, lo and behold, he had been sacked!
It was said that the President-General and the traditional ruler had had issues over who will control the market built by the state government. Naturally, the Igwe is in charge of culture and tradition while the town union is in charge of town administration, including markets.
The sacking of the President-General by the commissioner is a mistake that is about to lead to a major crisis in the community which will not be in the interest of Anambra State. About ten branch unions in Akwaihedi have rejected the dissolution and called for the restoration of their Central Executive dissolved on the instance of the traditional ruler.
They accused the commissioner for local government and town union matters for colluding with Igwe JOC Onebunne to ferment trouble in Akwaihedi. But the local government commissioner is unruffled, apparently because of his often-claimed intimacy with Governor Obiano, which emboldens him to intimidate town union administrators. As I write, Greg Obi has dissolved not less than 20 town unions in Anambra State and imposed caretaker committees headed by self-appointed chairs to wit:
1. Nando 2. Nsugbe 3. Omasi 4. Nawgu 5. Nkpor 6. Uke 7. Alor 8. Okija 9. Akwaihedi 10. Ezinifite 11. Osumeyi 12. Utuh 13. Akili-Ogidi 14. Ogwu Ikpele 15. Awa 16. Ndiowu 17. Umunze 18. Nkwelle Ezunaka 19. Nteje 20. Ideani
About 10 more town unions are currently under attack and are likely to go the way of these twenty. I do not want to believe the gossip making the rounds that out of the N80,000 monthly allowance to Town Union Presidents-General in the State, each of the current caretaker committee chairmen make a return of a whopping N50,000 each to a certain government functionary, leaving them with a paltry N30,000 balance.
Greg Obi has certainly performed below standard and crossed the red line in his overbearing and clearly meddlesome attitude to town union affairs. Greg Obi is not the first local government commissioner in Anambra State. We have had many of his predecessors none of whom has exhibited such annoying power drunkenness and authoritarian disposition towards town union administrators.
It is on record that not less than 10 of his predecessors had at one time or the other had reason to counsel Greg Obi on his approach to town union issues in various communities but he has remained defiant and refused to take correction. Instead, he goes about bragging everywhere about his personal closeness with the State governor, how he is a sacred cow and how his actions are unchallengeable.
As former president-General of my Mbaukwu town union and former chairman of the General Assembly of Anambra State past and serving presidents-general as well as founder of the maiden Conference of South East Town Unions Presidents-General, with cognate experiences of the long-existing modalities of town union relationship with local government commissioners, I have more than three times sought audience with Greg Obi to offer him some advice on how to reduce conflict between himself and town unions in Anambra State, but in each of the three occasions, he failed to keep to the appointments he gave me.
A word of appeal to the workaholic ASATU President-General, Chief Alex Onukwue on the issues raised here. The ASATU PG must rise to the occasion and to the demands of his office. He should be concerned that this is the first time in the annals of Town union administration in Anambra State that Town union Presidents-General have been sacked in such alarming number.
He should talk to the Local Government Commissioner and if he will not listen, the PG should mobilize a delegation to the governor. It is certainly not enough for the President-General to sit in office and watch television while those he is supposed to be leading are being hounded out of office like common criminals often without trial and often without good cause. That was not how leaders like Anambra-born David Ojelli led his workers in those days.
I should advise the Local Government Commissioner to desist from name-dropping the State governor by telling anyone who cares how close he is to the governor and how they schooled and worked together for years. This is childish.
The commissioner should also be advised to be cautious how he stirs up trouble in town union administration, because town union politics can be one of the most dangerous in termers of repercussions, social and political. A word should be enough for the wise. I am assuming that the commissioner is wise.
Finally, I advise the local government commissioner to revisit the Akwaihedi case with the justice and fairness it deserves. I do not in any way hold brief for Engr Charles Ekekwe for whatever reason the Commissioner sacked him. But I am totally opposed to the commissioner’s unilateral suspension of the President-General, without making open his offence or giving him an opportunity to defend himself against any accusation, which is against the fundamental principle of justice, equity and fair hearing. Similar unilateral actions by Greg Obi characterized most other cases of suspended Presidents General across Anambra State.
The usual government procedure before indicting or suspending a public servant such as a president-general or an entire town union executive is to set up an investigation team to investigate any allegations against such president-general of Town union exco, and if the allegations are verified, appropriate punitive action may then be taken, but not before.
It is certainly provocative for elected president-general or Town union executives to be dissolved with a fiat without justified or proven offence. It is also unfair for elected town union officials to spend several thousands of naira to run their elections only for them to be deposed for no good reason, and some even before they spend one year in office, or worse still, just to please individuals or install friends or mules in office.
All these things are not happening in other States of the South East, even in Nigeria. Why only in Anambra State?
Mazi Omife I. Omife Mbuze Mbaukwu PPG, Mbaukwu Town Union