From Chuks Iloegbunam
Anambra is one of Nigeria’s 36 states. In size, it is the second smallest after Lagos, measuring only 4,844 km2. Lagos State is 3,577 km2. But Kaduna, Kano, Kogi States are 46,053 km2 , 20,131 km2 and 29,833 km2 respectively. Despite its tininess, however, Anambra’s motto of Light Of The Nation is true in many respects. Compared to all other states, Anambra people have shone the brightest in all positive forms of human endeavor – academics, business, politics, sports etc. Olaudah Equiano, the writer and abolitionist came from Esseke, in Anambra State. So did Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, the doyen of Nigerian journalism and the first President of Nigeria who played a pivotal role in the attainment of political independence from Britain in 1960. Chinua Achebe was from Anambra as were countless other notable novelists, including Chukwuemeka Ike, Nkem Nwankwo, Onuorah Nzekwu. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is from Anambra.
Nigeria’s first acclaimed millionaire, Sir Louis-Phillip Odumegwu Ojukwu, whose son led the war to attain a Biafran Republic, was from Anambra. Anambra boasts the Onitsha main market, the largest in all of West Africa. Anambra produced Godwin Achebe, the footballer that captained the national soccer side before the civil war and after it. Emmanuel Ifeajuna, the first Nigerian to win a Commonwealth gold medal was from Anambra. Blessed Cyprian Michael Iwene Tansi was from Anambra. Philip Emeagwali, the computer wizard, is from Anambra. Francis Cardinal Arinze is from Anambra State. Stephen Osita Osadebe, the extraordinary composer and exponent of Highlife music and about the highest selling Nigerian musician of all time, was from Anambra State.
Year in, year out, Anambra students come out in the top brackets in School Certificate examinations. They make about the greatest number of First Classes in the nation’s degree examinations. Anambra’s Godian Ezekwe led the Research and Production Unit that sustained blockaded Biafra during the civil war, of which General Chukwuemeka Odumugwu-Ojukwu sang this song of praise in a speech titled Three Incredible Years Of Biafra:
In the three years of the war necessity gave birth to invention. During those three years of heroic bound, we leapt across the great chasm that separates knowledge from know-how. We built rocket, and we designed and built our own delivery systems. We guided our rockets. We guided them far; we guided them accurately.
For three years, blockaded without hope of import, we maintained all our vehicles. The state extracted and refined petrol, individuals refined petrol in their back gardens. We built and maintained our airports, maintained them under heavy bombardment. Despite the heavy bombardment, we recovered so quickly after each raid that we were able to maintain the record for the busiest airport in the continent of Africa.
We spoke to the world through telecommunication system engineered by local ingenuity; the world heard us and spoke back to us! We built armoured cars and tanks. We modified aircraft from trainer to fighters, from passenger aircraft to bombers. In the three years of freedom we had broken the technological barrier. In the three years we became the most civilised, the most technologically advanced Black people on earth.
We spurn nylon yarn; we developed new seeds for food and medicines…
The reader would expect that Anambra people, a people of this distinction, a nation set apart by God, would be left severely alone to choose their own leaders in what is supposedly a democratic dispensation. You would expect them to always submit the very best candidates to contest their elections. Anambra’s gubernatorial ballot was slated for Saturday November 6, 2021. The All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA) had as its candidate, Professor Chukwuma Charles Soludo, a first-class brain and former Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria. The People’s Democratic Party (PDP) presented Mr. Valentine Ozigbo, the immediate past President and CEO of Transnational Corporation of Nigeria (Transcorp), who took a First Class Accounting/Business Administration degree from the University of Nigeria in 2000, and an MSc in Finance with distinction from the Lancaster University, United Kingdom in 2004.
There were 16 other candidates, a good number of whom had benefited from substantial education. Spectacularly, President Muhammadu Buhari’s All Progressive Congress (APC) presented Mr. Emmanuel Nnamdi Uba (mostly known as Andy Uba) to govern Anambra State!
Anambra people were scandalised. How could anyone deploy the blind to lead the fully sighted? Andy Uba had lived in the United States for over two decades before a chance meeting with Chief Olusegun Obasanjo impelled him to wing his way back to Nigeria. But he hit town without as much as an Ordinary National Diploma (OND) which is, in a manner of speaking, only a halfway house to a first degree. In Anambra and the Igbo country in general, only those not completely together upstairs would abandon the panoply and sumptuous dishes of an Ozo title-taking ceremony for a ritual in propitiation of Agwu – the god of recklessness – that is performed with the sacrificial blind or lame chick. People wondered whether Anambra’s Federally imposed orphanage had hit such a dismal nadir for alien interests to be trumpeting from the rooftops that its next Governor must be a bloke whose School Certificate the West African Examinations Council (WAEC) had pronounced forged, a fella who in the not too distant past flew into America to the charge of currency offences, and a chap whose sole distinction as an upstart federal lawmaker was record-shattering victories in sleeping matches inside the chambers?
Well, as they say, the taste of the pudding is in the eating! President Buhari had, weeks earlier, announced in the presence of his party’s grinning candidate that he couldn’t wait to see him elected as Anambra’s Governor! Anambra people knew differently. They remembered that in 2004, a rogue band had abducted Anambra’s Governor Chris Ngige, razed Government House in Awka, the state capital, to the ground and proceeded to incinerate the offices of the electoral commission, the Anambra Broadcasting Service, the state-owned Ikenga Hotel and many other key buildings. They recalled that the perpetrators of those treasonous acts went scandalously unpunished. It was not lost on them that, on account of that atrocious development, Chinua Achebe had rejected the national honour offered him by President Obasanjo, declaiming thus in an October 15, 2004 letter:
I write this letter with a very heavy heart. For some time now I have watched events in Nigeria with alarm and dismay. I have watched particularly the chaos in my own state of Anambra where a small clique of renegades, openly boasting its connections in high places, seems determined to turn my homeland into a bankrupt and lawless fiefdom. I am appalled by the brazenness of this clique and the silence, if not connivance, of the Presidency.
The people knew that the name of the candidate Abuja was impatient to see inside Government House, Awka, was linked to those described by Achebe as “a small clique of renegades.” Election morning dawned. And polling station after polling station the people resolutely stood their ground. They refused to forfeit their franchise for a mess of porridge. Each rejected every entreaty to sell their vote for filthy lucre worth no more than a carton of noodles. They obstructed those minded to “abduct” ballot boxes and falsify election results. They said an overwhelming NO to Abuja’s candidate. They voted overwhelmingly for Professor Soludo.
In retrospect, Anambra people could not have acted otherwise. Days before the ballot, there had been an election debate by candidates of the APC, the APGA and the PDP, the three leading political parties. Through the hours of that debate, the APC candidate played the conspicuous spectator; he could barely place what all the statistics being churned out was about. The welter of allusions and citations to international examples on good governance, and the dire consequences inherent on clueless political leadership eluded him. He was a mere passenger, riding wearily in a speeding vehicle headed he knew not where.
The people were not impressed by the man’s promise to connect them to the politics of the Centre, as they found repugnant any alignment to a Centre quaking violently in the cesspit of the corruption of nepotism, state application of brute force and bankrupt and rudderless leadership. They had for far too long been subjected to the spite of the Centre, its endless deceit, its treachery and double standards, to now allow themselves to be bamboozled by the voice of political debauchery and its promises of the meretricious. The so-called Centre and its tentacles harboured the most violent examples of terrorist activities, kidnappings, decaying infrastructure, unpaid salaries and pensions, festering social dislocations and the interminable shedding of innocent blood.
Anambra 2021 is a pointer to the presidential ballot of 2023. If this worthy example of repudiating nonsense is replicated, the much-vaunted Federal Might will prove wholly incapable of keeping in place a nightmare that, to begin with, should have been obviated.
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