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Chinwoke Mbadinuju was Governor of Anambra State in Nigeria from 29 May 1999 to 29 May 2003, elected on the People’s Democratic Party platform. As the first civilian Governor of Anambra state after the military era of the early 90s, his period in office was noted for internal party disputes resulting in the gross failure of effective government. The era of Mbadinuju also witnessed a lot of intrigue and power play among the Godfathers in the State.
Well known as one of the examples of early Godfatherism in politics, Governor Chinwoke Mbadinuju was always portrayed in a bad light for his corrupt dealings and fraudulent deals with Anambra elites who used him as a political puppet all through his four years in office. One of these well-known Godfathers is Emeka Offor.
All through his reign, Chinwoke Mbadinuju was not able to, figuratively ‘drink water and put the cup down’ without the express approval of the Julius Berger driver-turned-contractor, Emeka Offor. He called the shots in the state and Chinwoke Mbadinuju followed suit.
Projects never left the planning stages, and civil servants were owed arrears of salaries up to two years. Extra-judicial killings were also the order of the day which led to the brutal butchering of a harsh critic of his administration. Barrister Igwe and his pregnant wife were brutally murdered by unknown killers who were suspected to be members of the dreaded Bakassi Boys; since the method of the killing was same as adopted in killing their victims who were alleged to be criminals. To make matters worse, neither his party nor the central government, controlled by his party came to his aid. All his complains went unheeded, and the state languished.
In the meantime, the tussle for control of the state between Emeka Offor and another illiterate moneybag, Chris Uba, was reaching its zenith. This culminated in the break up of the state’s party structure.
In numerous interviews after he was woefully failed in a bid to seek re-election, he claimed that these Godfathers were the ones who influenced his bad Government and thus the reason why Anambra indigenes don’t trust him anymore.
In one of his interviews, he had quoted:
‘The main reason why I didn’t pick any form and why I didn’t go into the contest is because already, most of the PDP members in Anambra were my boys, I brought them up. Some of them were my Special Advisers. Others were Special Assistants and Secretary to the State Government or one thing or the other.’
‘If I had gone into the contest with such people, the so-called Godfathers will back them to try to disgrace me and win the election at all costs. Then, you would see money bags throwing their weight and money around and I might find myself alone. If I lost, it won’t augur well for me and my supporters.’
‘A Godfather has many connotations. You could have positive Godfathers and negative ones. The good ones work towards making things work and succeed but if you have a Godfather that is always challenging, he wants to make appointments, if you have 10 commissioners, he would want to have three or four. After you have given him two commissioners, he will say he wants Special Advisers, Special Assistants and he will even want to choose their portfolios.’
‘Godfather or no Godfather, in my own case, they were negative even in the case of those who came after me, they had it rough with Godfathers. The person who started Godfatherism in Anambra State was former President Obasanjo because he wanted his boys to be Governor. In my own case, he wanted his boy Andy Uba to rule Anambra and indeed his nominee became Governor for a few weeks. Anambra State is not an easy state where you can go and do two terms, it’s tough.’
The next governor Dr Chris Ngige ruled from the 29th of May 2003 to the 17th of March 2006 under the PDP platform
Senator Ngige built his political fortune out of a combination of factors. First of all, he came to the scene following a disastrous tenure of his predecessor, Governor Chinwoke ‘Odera’ Mbadinuju. It was during the Mbadinuju’s administration that the state was left utterly paralysed. Teachers were being owed salaries culminating in the teacher’s strike that sent school children home for about a year. Government workers are being owed arrears of salaries and pensioners were being owed their pensions while let to series of demonstrations in the Government House.
It was in the midst of that madness that Ngige was rigged into office by a powerful cabal, The Uba Brothers, during the 2003 Governorship election. However, many Anambra people were ready to move on and gave him the benefit of the doubt. Imagine everyone’s surprise when Ngige fell out with Uba, primarily, over the attempted stoppage of ₦10m monthly contract payments to Uba, drawn at source from Anambra states monthly federal allocations.
This marked the beginning of the end of Ngige as Governor of Anambra state. Two incidents early in the administration predicted the later outcome of Ngige’s tenure; the wait for Uba’s arrival, before the swearing-in ceremony (when everyone else was already seated), and the slapping of the Governor at a meeting of the party powerbrokers. From then on, things began to fall apart for Ngige,
After he was sworn in, he went into a drawn battle with his own Godfather, Chief Chris Uba (Eselu Uga) over who would pick Commissioners and Special Advisers; and who would control the state. He was said to have called Chief Uba’s bluff which led to his kidnap.
Ngige battled back and painted the Uba Brothers as the villain. He was able to galvanize the Igbo nationalism by making the case that he was fighting a bully, President Olusegun Obasanjo, who was believed by many to be anti-Igbo and was believed by every Anambrarian that OBJ was fighting a proxy war against the Igbos using the Ubas.
He tapped into that disenchantment against Obasanjo as an Igbo-hater. He went to work and appeared to have started using Anambra state’s money to solve Anambra problems.
He was also able to make the case that it was because he refused to let the cabals continue to plunder the scarce resources of the state that they were at his neck. He made the case that he stopped the perpetual haemorrhaging of Anambra’s money. People were very sympathetic to his plight and were ready to stand by him to fight off the bullies. Normally people support the underdogs in every fight, especially where the opponent is seen as a powerful person with immense authority. People love fighters and he appeared to be a champion of the masses.
Teachers were paid their arrears of salaries, pensioners received their pensions and roads were being constructed in some areas of the state. The people were elated that even though he didn’t win the election, at least he was doing the work that the Governor that people had chosen for themselves would have done. After all, they reasoned, Governors are elected to provide the basic needs of the state. Under his tenure, Anambra state saw a lot of infrastructural developments.
His tenure as Governor was terminated by the Appeal Tribunal in 2006 orchestrated by the General Olusegun Obasanjo.
Then came Peter Obi’s tenure
In 2003, Peter Obi contested for Anambra State Governorship election under the platform of All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA). At the end of the election, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) declared his opponent, Chris Ngige of People’s Democratic Party winner.
Peter Obi contested the result in court for almost three years. Eventually, Ngige’s victory was overturned by the court of appeal on 15 March 2006. Peter Obi then took over on 17 March 2006. After seven months in office, the state house of assembly impeached him, putting Virginia Etiaba, his deputy in his position. The event made Virginia Etiaba the first female Governor in Nigeria’s history.
Virginia Etiaba was Governor of Anambra state from the 3rd of November 2006 to the 9th of February 2007
Her tenure though short-lived was quiet and non-controversial because the spotlight was still on the ousted Governor, Peter Obi and his judicial warfare to reclaim his lost mandate.
Etiaba initially refused the position, saying that the impeached man was still the Governor and her boss. However, she later accepted the position due to what she called the “peculiarity of the situation”.
Then Andy Uba Emerged
Emmanuel Nnamdi Uba (Andy Uba) was elected and sworn in as the Governor of Anambra State on 27 May 2007.
In 2007, the PDP still smarting from losing control of the state, and with Andy Uba, the other of the three Uba Brothers, out of work and looking to remain relevant in the political scheme of things, the battle lines were once more drawn in Anambra state. While Andy was away in Abuja, he posed no threat to his brother, Chris’ control of Anambra politics; but with his declared intention to run for Governor, Chris sensed a challenge to his hold, and was eager to fight him off.
However, in Nigerian regional politics, two things decide your fate; your connections at the center, and your capacity to cause massive violent destruction, in the event of a loss. This time around, Andy’s connections won out, and he was “elected” under the PDP platform.
He was removed by a supreme court decision on 14 June 2007. He governed the State for 14 days. The incumbent, Peter Obi, armed with a complicated interpretation of the meaning, and starting date, of a four-year term, reminiscent of Awolowo’s 12-2/3 interpretation of 19 states, headed back to the courts. Again, to the surprise of many, clear legal minds prevailed. And he kept his office.
Peter Obi after reclaiming his mandate ruled Anambra state from the 9th of February 2007 to the 17th of March 2014.
His tenure was marked as one of the best in the history of Anambra state. His eight years as Governor saw the complete transformation of Anambra State. His achievements were palpable in every facet of life in Anambra State: education, health, infrastructural development, fiscal responsibility, erosion control and security.
Peter Obi’s distinguished performance as Governor was attributable to, among other things, his incorruptibility and fiscal discipline.
The number one problem of the Nigerian society is the corruption of the political class. Not surprising, most former public officials, including Governors are laden with corruption cases. Some have already been jailed, and many others are on bail awaiting trial. Interestingly, after eight years as Governor, Peter Obi has had no corruption case to answer. The other daunting problem of Nigeria is waste in Government. Obi’s tenure as a Governor was marked by fiscal discipline and remarkable reduction in Government profligacy.
Not surprisingly, under Obi’s watch, the Nigerian Senate rated Anambra State as the most financially stable state in the country. Secondly, at the time many other state Governors were leaving huge debts for their states, as he left office, Peter Obi had paid all the state’s outstanding debts, and left the equivalent of $500 million in investment, including $156million in dollar-denominated bonds.
After Peter Obi’s first term, he contested again in the 2010 gubernatorial election and won. He defeated his opponent, Professor Charles Soludo, the former CBN Governor. He remained the Governor of Anambra for another four years and later handed over to Willie Obiano in 2014 after his second term elapsed.
There is a saying that goes that the best is always saved for last, but unfortunately, Governor Willie Obiano who makes the last Governor on the list is currently the worst Governor Anambra state has ever encountered. He has ruled Anambra state from the 17th March 2014 under the APGA platform.
From brazen lootings of the Internally Generated accounts to domestic spates between him and other Anambra elites such as Arthur Eze, Obiano’s tenure has been riddled with a lot of controversies. With the help of his wife, Obiano is slowly milking the state dry.
Civil service workers are being owed salaries spanning months in Anambra state, there are projects still waiting to be attended to, there are contractors being owed and there is a state account bleeding heavily from past debts under Governor Obiano’s tenure.
The last debt readings in Anambra state showed that retirees are being owed pensions and gratuities summed up to ₦5 billion with much more being accumulated by his administration and the last time he released funds for pensions and gratuities was late 2016 and that was for the newly registered batch of retirees who registered in the same year.
Before he left his office, Governor Peter Obi kept his promise to Anambra state civil servants and cleared close to ₦40 billion arrears of pension and gratuities owed retirees since 1990. He made sure all retirees under him were paid their gratuities within two months.
This is a far cry from what is going on under the present administration of Governor Willie Obiano. Mismanagement of state funds to suit personal interest, nomination, and promotion of completely incapable individuals and neglect of state infrastructural development. Most of the appointment in his government are tilted towards his Aguleri constituency. The same applies to projects. Some projects started by his predecessor have also been abandoned, and example is the Agulu Lake hotel.
There is little or any known agriculture policy started by his administration that has worked. In fact, some projects like the Coscharis Farms projects and some others started in partnership with some private firms, have collapsed or are on the verge of collapse.
It has also come to light how Governor Obiano mismanaged and squandered the 75billion naira left in the state’s coffers which he inherited on assuming office. When asked about his spending expenditure, he talked about how he spent it in developing state infrastructure. Developments that haven’t even been seen in the state.
History will judge Governor Willie Obiano as a barbarian who doesn’t hearken to the cries of his people. Ndi-Anambra would do themselves a lot of good if they take advantage of the 2021 elections to set Anambra on the right path again.
THE EASTERN UPDATES