Obiano vs Obi: What went wrong?

Obiano vs Obi: What went wrong?


Since Governor Willie Obiano of Anambra State took over power from his predecessor, Mr. Peter Obi, the relationship of the two former close associates has been a source of concern to many. The matter was resurrected last week after Obi lashed at the wasteful spending of state governors. Associate Editor, Sam Egburonu, in this report, attempts to uncover the origin of the face-off between the two leaders.

When, on August 3, 2016, Governor Willie Obiano of Anambra State offered public apology to his estranged political godfather, former governor Peter Obi, pleading his forgiveness of every wrong done, many thought the political face-off between the two leaders has been settled after all.

The venue of the apology was, according to informed observers, most appropriate and instructive. It was the burial mass of their most respected former school principal, Reverend Father Nicholas Tagbo; in the presence of thousands of other former school mates who had also come to pay their last respects to the late principal reportedly “known for discipline, love and forgiveness” and at the premises of their common alma mater, Christ the King College, Onitsha.

Given these details, many said the development was all that was needed to reconcile the former political associates. This feeling was given further boost when Obi, in his reaction to the development, was quoted as saying, that as Christians, “it is important to forgive,” pointing out that whatever they, as leaders, are doing, “the interest of the children of Anambra State should be paramount.”

But that illusion of final resolution of the political face-off lasted barely a month, for since the first week of October, when at a public event in Lagos, Obi made elaborate reference to his leadership style when he served as the Governor of Anambra State, hot reactions from Obiano’s camp confirmed that the once political associates who fell out shortly after Obiano’s emergence, are still deeply divided.

What Obi said at the Platform

While speaking on the topic, ‘Cutting cost in governance,’ at The Platform, an annual programme organised by Covenant Christian Center, in Lagos, the former Governor of Anambra State, Mr. Peter Obi had made shocking revelations on wasteful spending of most state governors in Nigeria.

Making reference to his style of governance, he told his audience that his prudence made it possible for him to save a whopping N75billion for Anambra State.

He explained that he saved $50m and N7b in Access bank, $55m and N10b in Fidelity bank, and $155.4m in Diamond bank, pointing out that “the over-bloated spending habit of most governors is what is causing poverty” in Nigeria.

He specifically alleged that “governors spend between N600b and N800b to run their office and sponsor their aides;” that they will save reasonable money if they agree to “do away with the office of the First Lady, which he said is “unconstitutional” but “run with N2b.”

Other suggestions he made include a possible reduction of “Governor’s cars to 2, instead of 6 bullet-proof cars;” and “Government House jeeps instead of 25 jeeps.”

As would be expected, Obi’s submissions have since then sparked off debates, especially in the social media and in Anambra State, where his supporters and the supporters of Governor Obiano argue so passionately over whether or not Obiano was the real target of Obi’s postulations at the Platform.

One of the close associates of Obi, who said it was not necessary to formally comment on the media war that has trailed the Platform lecture and Obi’s relationship with his successor, Obiano, said “we are surprised at the reaction because if you watch or listen to the lecture again, you will see that he did not mention any particular governor. He only spoke on frivolous spending of Nigerian governors and offered some prudent measures that will help state governments to save money.

But for Obiano’s supporters, that is not true. “It was obvious he set out to ridicule Obiano. Although he did not mention his name as you claimed, everything he said about number of bullet proof cars and so on were targeted at the governor,” says Ifeanyi Uzoma, a staunch supporter of the current state government.

As the verbal crossfire continues, observers are wondering why these former associates, who should work together to develop Anambra are seemingly not ready to bury their differences. They are also wondering what actually went wrong, why the once close political associates, former school mates, fell so deeply apart.

Two insiders in the administration of the two governors, Joemartins Ositadinma Uzodike, a former commissioner during Obi’s tenure and former Special Adviser on Political Matters in Obiano’s government and Prince Oliver Okpara, one of Obiano’s image makers have reacted both to the contentious issue of what went wrong and on the performance of the two leaders.

While Uzodike blamed Obiano for refusing to acknowledge or appreciate that it was Obi that made him governor, Okpara denied allegations of non performance leveled on Obiano and insists that Obiano has performed very well.

As the verbal war continues, our investigation shows that the reasons that can be adduced for the face-off include whether Obi actually saved N75billion in Anambra; the peculiar circumstances that led to the emergence of Obiano as the governor of Anambra State, and how he has allegedly handled his relationship with his former godfather after his emergence, amongst others.

More than the other factors, the issue of the amount saved by Obi before he left office has been made public. It is no longer news that during the handover ceremony at the Alex Ekwueme Square in Awka, Obi had announced that he left over N75 billion in cash and investments for his successor.

As would be expected, this revelation made Obi even more popular, because such feat is unheard of in Nigerian politics where most outgoing state governors leave huge debts for their successors. It was therefore of public interest when shortly after the handover stories began to make the rounds that Obi did not leave the alleged N75 billion for his successor. Of course, has stood his ground and given evidence, including the banks where the said savings were lodged. The bubble burst when the Anambra State House of Assembly reportedly refused to approve loan request for Obiano in view of the said N75 billion left for the administration.

At this point, Obiano’s top government officials, including the Secretary to the State Government,

Chukwulobelu said openly that “The N75 billion was not there,” and that it was not handed over to anybody.”

Obi had, even in that Platform lecture repeated that he actually left the money, even as he named all the banks where the savings are domiciled.

The money aside, our investigation shows that the seed of division may have been sown as a result of what one insider described as “a perceived breach of trust, given how Obi single handedly sponsored Obiano and how the governor chose to reward him. As our source puts it, “we all know that Obiano appeared on the scene at the tail end of the underground campaigns, just before the primaries. But because Obi accepted him, he turned the table against others. Before he came for the governorship job, he worked and rose to the rank of an Executive Director in Fidelity Bank, a bank that Obi not only served as Chairman but is the Majority Shareholder.

“Originally, Obiano was not in the picture for APGA’s governorship candidate in that election. But Obi had assured that he would keep his promise of ceding the governorship slot to Anambra North. That promise had kept aspirants from Anambra North Senatorial Zone like the then Secretary to the State Government, Mr. Oseloka Obaze, who is from Ogbaru in, and Prince Idigo, a lawyer from Aguleri royal family, as the leading aspirants.

Obiano’s sudden emergence, though also from the North, left tongues wagging that it had so much to do with his personal links to Obi. The argument was that apart from the Fidelity affinity, the two were also school mates at the famous Christ the King College (CKC) Onitsha. But we can all bear witnesses that after Obiano’s emergence, Obi has been demonized by the same government he labored to set up. That is the problem.

Another source in Awka however said the whole matter is just a power game. “The truth seems to be the struggle over who should be regarded as the greater political force today: is it the former governor or the current governor? I think it is the refusal of the two actors on the answer to this poser that is the problem,” he said.

Source : Thenationonline