by Okey Ikechukwu
Speaking more seriously, the point needs to be made here that the business of taking over from the incumbent Governor of Anambra State, Mr. Peter Obi, must be seen beyond the simple matter of swearing in another person who will thereafter be addressed as His excellency, the governor of Anambra State.
There is an outbreak of governorship aspirants for the 2014 elections in Anambra State. It is taking the form of an epidemic, I gather. Every kindred may yet have a candidate. There may even be putative ‘aspiring aspirants’ to boot. Which is a pity, for such a well-endowed state and its people. But not to worry, someone will soon spray a disinfectant (more like an insecticide really), or an ambition moderator, called party primaries. That will be the winnowing, to determine beyond doubt who is in the race on the respective party platforms.
For now, let them help move some money around and reflate the local economy. Beer parlours and Isiewu sellers may have a field day. As far as projections and permutations go, the possibilities are legion. One has even heard of the possible victory of a dark horse. My worry here is that none of the aspirants is called Chief, or Chief Mrs., Dark Horse. Even if we allow the first name, the surname of “horse” is certainly not an Igbo surname. We also hear that some aspirants believe they can entice the people by showing a dislike for the incumbent governor’s love of prudence. They they would rather advertise themselves as a “Kessiah” (onye na eke ihe nile, ma nke ya, ma nke ndi ozo), or one who gives out a lot, including what belongs to others. Hmm, 2014 is in trouble in Anambra State o!
Speaking more seriously, the point needs to be made here that the business of taking over from the incumbent Governor of Anambra State, Mr. Peter Obi, must be seen beyond the simple matter of swearing in another person who will thereafter be addressed as His excellency, the governor of Anambra State. It is about taking over and continuing with some of the gains in education, health and all other major spheres that make real impact on the wellbeing of the populace, as well as the reputation of the state. We may which to ask, for instance, the number of aides most of the aspirants have today, many cars do they move with and their general lifestyle. How many cars will they use if sworn in as governor, what would be their regular travel costs and to who would this would be transferred if they were elected Governor. What types of wine do they drink, including their special brands and at whose expense will this contrived ‘good taste’ be maintained? These are important issues. They are in fact, more important than all the talk about job creation and what not. These aspirants are warming over to take over from a man who often travelled alone, without this fact affecting his ability to accomplish any assignments he set out to deal with
At the time Obi became governor, Anambra State and its people had somehow become stigmatized and distinguished as morally and politically unreliable. The state had the image of as a people totally lacking in the needed level of political consciousness for group cohesion and survival. The state was said to be made up of extremely temperamental, predictably cash-driven and politically naïve ‘prominent’ people only target personal gains whenever they gain access to federal power. They were represented and led, particularly in Abuja, by an emergent elite with wrong ideas about leadership and social responsibility and so anything seemed fair gain in Anambra politics. Yet, these Abuja ‘leaders’ were actually disconnected from core national political issues. Very few of them seek, or bother, to draw popular support for an ‘Igbo Position’ on any issue.
It was the norm to seek and obtain endorsement from outside the region and the state in order to be governor, or Senator. Unlike Obi that many of them are eager to take over from, many of the aspirants measure their importance by the ease with which they can terrorize and silence anyone with a dissenting voice. Sad, is it not; that the larger half of these aspirants will offer no new, forward-looking ideas on how to enthrone the core values for genuine development and responsible citizenship. They are also mostly not rooted in 21st century values at the personal or group level. We can neither call them the genuine products of the old, core values that define Ndigbo, nor describe them as the hybrid of anything that can really be given a name. As curious persons of questionable antecedents, many of the aspirants in Anambra politics today have long since acquired a reputation for ensuring that the worst in the land stand forth as epitomizing the best.
That is why the state lost respect in national politics. Many of the politically visible among them came across as people who thrive on the most reprehensible brand of non-inclusive political conspiracies. Others were seen as brash, ruthlessly materialistic, avaricious and hard to appease, except someone is seen to suffer for every gain they celebrate. In the end, Anambra itself came across, unfairly, as made up of a hard-to-govern people. Until Peter Obi came on the scene and went through his litany of travails, any mention of Anambra State in enlightened circles immediately brought up thoughts of political degeneracy and the enthronement of folly. Thus the Anambra man, nay, the Igbo man walked the Nigerian political landscape with an unsteady gait. He appeared unstable at home and was misrepresented at the national level. He faced a crisis of relevance and identity. Even platforms that are supposed to represent the cream of Igbo elite, like Ohaneze, were suspected of not being authentic or credible.
Three related factors may well explain the crisis that later became Anambra State after May 1999. The first is that the state was created and ‘commenced operations’ without the most rudimentary of institutional infrastructure. Until very recently, successive governments failed to define its essence as basis for managing its human and material resources. The second is the pedigree of military officers sent to govern the state during the years of military rule. They were rarely sensitive to the needs of the state and rode rough shod in policy formulation and development. Finally, there is what can best be described as the Years of Locust, which began with the emergence of the PDP in 1998 and has emained its Albatross since. What we call Anambra State today is a territory that is progressively overcoming, and now seems poised to survive, the merciless political balkanization of its people and values. What we have today is the declining dominion of questionable characters as leaders and spokespersons for ndi Anambra.
The unfortunate assumption that Igbo republicanism is the same as social anarchy is as silly as it is absurd. The concept of “Igbo enwe eze” (Igbo has no king) simply means that no single feudal authority can visit tyranny on the people unchallenged. They do not mean any disrespect for constituted authority, the way some people try to misrepresent it today. They are simply saying that the collective right of the people should be invoked to remind anyone with tyrannical aspirations that a hero is always a people’s hero. That is also why Ndigbo say that “A masquerade that flogs its drummers and followers ceases to dance, because it then walks alone”. It is from the foregoing that we should see that the Igbo concept of power and authority rest more on respect for the laws of the land, than personal whims. The true Igbo concept of success is always linked with respect for Omenani (the laws of the land). It is the people and the laws of the land that determine the difference between right and wrong.
When the Anambra man therefore says: “A time comes when someone must cover his face with a basket and tell the king the truth to his face” (Asokalie eze anya ekpuchie nkata na ihu gwakaa ya okwu ahu). The idea of covering the face with a basket is not a sign of fear for the life of the person who decides to speak out. No one has the right to walk up to the community leader and insult him, or any reason. It is just not done. To dare such a thing, you must either be part of a select group sent to admonish the leader, or you are stepping forward as the messenger of the community – sent by the community. If you are sent in this way, then you no longer represent yourself; just as a man is presumed to have transcended to the spirit world once he is dressed up as a masquerade. The covering of your face as you confront the king upholds the dignity of the office of Eze and affirms that no one may insult the office as a mere mortal. But a mysterious being from the beyond, speaking for the gods and men (but using the voice of a man) may do so to any unworthy occupant of an office – hence the covered face.
It is against the background of the foregoing that Ndi Anambra must now make a distinction between heroes and charlatans among the clowns in town. An Igbo hero is not a violator of the laws of the land, nor an oppressor of the people. Sometimes he is even unpopular, precisely because he refuses to follow the majority when the latter are wrong. That is why the concept of akalogeli, ofogeli, (the useless and worthless) ndi obata osu (those whose arrival immediately spells trouble of disquiet) etc. exist to contrast with truly genuine leaders and heroes.
The person who boldly rigs elections, kidnaps a governor, confiscates the money allocated to a state is not a leader. He is a rascal who has demonstrated courage and taken the type of risk armed robbers take during an operation. Such a person will commit all manner of abominations in the process, contravene the laws of the land and do everything forbidden by the gods. This is villainy, nothing more. Only the ignorant and the wayward are impressed by such people; because they all on the fringes of social and spiritual morality. They contribute nothing to sustainable development, or a healthy communal, religious or Family life. They are dangerous to social morality and the economic life of the people; because of their “acquire and instantly consume” (Okpata otitaa) approach to on life. Those who will do everything possible to turn our values upside down should please not take over from Mr. Peter Obi. Lest we all perish.
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