A perfect bumper sticker for Governor Willie Obiano’s campaign stomp should read: “Recession out, investors in!” This is stating it as clearly as former American Vice President Joe Biden did on the re-election campaign trail back in 2012 when he proclaimed to a crowd of cheering supporters in Detroit, Michigan: “Osama bin Laden is dead and General Motors is alive”!
As far as bumper stickers go, Obiano has a compelling catalogue of achievements on the security and economic fronts to adorn the colourful profile of a thousand bumper stickers. But his re-election is not expected to be half as tough as Obama’s 2012 summer run against Mitt Romney. Obiano’s record has placed him beyond the optimistic aspirations of the most ambitious opponents in the forthcoming election. His vision and creative policies have saved the state from economic recession and in the process foisted some sort of political recession on the state that has left the political landscape starved of formidable opposition.
But politicians are creatures of habit, and like the Bourbons that ruled most of Europe centuries ago, the political actors in Anambra seem to have learnt nothing and forgotten nothing from the past. So, the race is on, and following the same familiar pattern of intra-elite war with little or no bearing on the real issues of concern to the electorate. In its current form, the race to the polls is simply a battle between progressives, swept along by the discernible outcome of Obiano’s strong ideas and transformative vision and those die hard traditionalists stuck in time with nostalgia about the fading era of strong men like Obi.
This divide has made the race primarily a contest between Obiano and his predecessor, Peter Obi. It really could have been a tripod, but for the fact that Tony Nwoye of the APC is lacking meaningful political capital. His antecedent is a troubling chronicle of political controversy and the fact that the APC as a political vehicle is anathema in the region. And things couldn’t get any worse than recent revelations by the World Bank that President Buhari’s declared obsession is with developing the North at the expense of the rest of the country.
All of a sudden, whatever little merit there was to Nwoye’s dangling carrot of linking Anambra to the centre has been completely pulverised by this revelation. Successful political campaigns are scarcely built on such parochial vision in a plural society, except, of course, you’re running under the moniker of Donald Trump or Buhari. The party was over for Nwoye long before it started.
In reality, therefore, besides ceremonial opposition by other contenders, Oseloka Obaze has emerged as the main opposition candidate. The intrigues and drama that thrust Obaze into the fray created deep disaffection within the state PDP structure but cleared the coast for the former governor to embark on his most impossible political task yet – that of finding a replacement for his high performing successor. It is a self-imposed task and one that may eventually define the final stages of an uneasy journey to self-demystification. Without doubt, Obi had woven a larger than life myth around himself in his two terms as governor. He was widely regarded as the strongman of Anambra politics and chief political strategist of the South East.
Those who could read the crystal ball predicted a brilliant future for him as a statesman, post-governor’s lodge. What with the invaluable backing of the late Ikemba of Nnewi, Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu, as founder and backbone of the APGA dynasty and the determined leadership of the politically astute Chief Victor Umeh to steer the party through the intrigues and rough-hewn paths of partisan politics. Obi was raised on goodly political heritage.
This reputation prompted former President Goodluck Jonathan to snap him into his strategy team as soon as he vacated Government House, Awka. His inexplicable defection to the PDP was considered a major victory for PDP strategists and the president’s headhunters. With soaring ratings, he was revered as the potent talisman that would ensure that GEJ got re-elected. The rest they say is history. Overnight, his ratings collapsed even as he moved from the centre to the sidelines of politics in Anambra. Unwilling to accept his diminished political fortunes, he has emerged from the margins of state politics to test his weight against the tide of public opinion in the ongoing race for the governorship crown in November.
His latest move signifies a major misstep in a series of catastrophic political miscalculations since he wandered outside the shadows of the party that brought him to fame and political relevance. Isolated at the periphery, and opposed to the disposition of well-meaning citizens ,even in his own divided party, Obi is out to test the APGA slogan of ‘NKEABU NKEANYI’ (this is our own) to see whether it truly means anything to the people of Anambra.
Obi has said that nothing would save Obiano from the sad fate of those who found themselves opposed to him. Such exaggerated notions of self and the illusory political value of politicians, like Peter Obi, were the slow burning trigger that led to the electoral woes of former President Jonathan. This self-serving estimation birthed an epic decline and turning point in Peter Obi’s political career.
Obi put his political fortunes on the line when he turned his back on APGA. His switch to PDP and appointment to the federal cabinet were designed to give him the clout he needed to set up an alternative power base to confront APGA.
PDP stalwarts in Anambra admit that a positive re-election bid for GEJ would have reinforced the myth around Obi and given him the latitude he needed, like the Uba brothers, to make his own unilateral imposition on who could become the next governor of the state.
This ambition was also confirmed by some of his close political associates who conceded that, stripped of the federal cover he so craved, Peter Obi completely unravelled and, in present form lacks the clout to make a dent in the deep rooted APGA structure. For 12 straight years, APGA has excelled at addressing the state’s fundamental political and economic problems and in the last three years witnessed unprecedented improvement in security and economic growth under Obiano. At the root of this APGA miracle is the little known Swiss model of power rotation between the Swiss Cantons that has ensured centuries of remarkable stability in Switzerland. This model thrives on economic and social capital equity for all parts of a territory with an inclusive power sharing formula for all units as stakeholders in the collective fortunes of a sovereign territory.
Before now, Obi was well aware of this arrangement in APGA and was its first beneficiary. His current peregrination is considered a stab in the back by the elite in Anambra, especially given that the incumbent governor’s exploits are widely acknowledged as exceeding all positive expectations. Unfortunately, Obi’s only idea of political power in Anambra is a concept that revolves around him. But like all tragic heroes, he is now following another ill-advised part that would only deepen his alienation from the power elite in Anambra State. Since he switched sides, he has groped in the dark for political power and relevance. Oseloka Obaze offers a fickle chance for a comeback for Peter Obi, but the odds are that it will mark a fading sunset for his Political career.
For a change, the world has been griped by the steady flow of good news from Anambra in the last four years. The elimination of organised crime that had crippled the state with dozens of high profile kidnappings is considered the greatest achievement of Obiano’s administration. The people want to keep it that way. His award winning economic policies and community based development agenda have not only kept the state high above the tide of recession but also generated billions of dollars in direct private sector investment in agriculture, manufacturing, and world-class service oriented infrastructure. That is the Anambra of the moment; it is the Anambra of the future.