Date Published: 11/22/09
Anambra State Needs Liberation By Jideofor Adibe email@example.com
Anambra state has been in the news, often for the wrong reason, for much of the 4th Republic. It has in many ways become a microcosm of all that is wrong and right with the Igbo nation, even the Nigerian state. While the state has continued to produce new talents that excel to dizzying heights – the Philip Emeagwalis, Ngozi Chimamanda Adichies and the Onitsha entrepreneurs that reinvented home videos into Nollywood – it simultaneously appears to have reached a new level of notoriety by its apparent inability to organise itself or enthrone order and civility in the conduct of its affairs. Practices – for good or evil- that are prevalent in other states, once copied by elements from the state, get taken to a new level. Godfatherism and kidnapping here readily come to mind. Though neither of these originated from the state, today these two evils appear to have become the defining features of the state.
How did things get this bad?
Shortly after the inception of the 4th Republic in 1999, the ‘godfather’ of the time, ‘Sir’ Emeka Offor, reportedly handpicked and installed Dr Chinwoke Mbadinuju as the Governor of the state. But the ‘godfather’ quickly fell out with his ‘godson’, and for nearly one year, schools were closed because the state couldn’t pay staff salaries after deploying much of its resources in fighting off Offor’s antics. Mbadinuju was rightly denied a re-election. But rather than being an opportunity for a new beginning, a new ‘godfather’ Chris Uba, then still in his 30s, was thrown up, and was even more uncompromising in his insistence on total control of both the party and the government apparatuses in the state. Oaths of allegiance were allegedly sworn to him at the Okija shrine and when he felt his ‘godson’ Dr Chris Ngige was beginning to assert himself, he allegedly masterminded his kidnapping. Uba was later to confess that he rigged the election that brought Dr Ngige to power – a confession that was aimed more at ensuring that Ngige was pushed out of power than any genuine act of contrition.
Rather than punish a felon that openly confessed to rigging elections and allegedly masterminded the kidnapping of a state governor, Chris Uba was rewarded with oil blocks, made a member of the party’s Board of Trustees and handed over the party’s structures in Anambra state. To this extent, the PDP - and by extension the federal government - cannot exculpate itself from the political chaos that Anambra has become. Is it coincidental that the urchins that have been elevated as godfathers in the state are usually of the same stock – limited education, no aversion to the use violence to achieve their aims, and no qualms in operating from the other side of the moral divide? Each godfather was also rewarded with oil blocks.
The recently botched PDP ward congress in the state was a chance for the party to redeem itself. It was alleged that more than half of the over 40 candidates who picked the nomination forms were sponsored by Chris Uba. In the ward congress to elect people that would in turn choose the party’s gubernatorial candidate, the same Chris Uba was alleged to have sponsored and secured the loyalty of at least 600 of the over 900 delegates - ensuring that despite his inglorious past, only his anointed would emerge the party’s flag bearer, and perhaps the Governor of the state. One would want to know why people would be made to pay N10,000 just to qualify to become electors of the party’s governorship candidate? What was the subtext in this? Uba himself boasted of how much he had spent for the party in the state, including N800,000 in buying “brand new” Peugeot 406 cars for the party’s executives in each of the 21 local government areas in the state. It may be germane to ask what a person who spends so much for a party in the state expects in return, and the implications of such for the democratic process.
For sure, federal government-created godfathers are not the only problems facing Anambra state. With ragamuffins who are elevated into godfathers deified by even the most educated, personalisation of politics and community life, a key feature of godfatherism, appears to have percolated into towns and villages in Igboland, but more especially in Anambra state. Thus in almost every town and village in the state, you find individuals who have suddenly come into wealth, and want to be treated as King Kongs. Like the federal government-backed godfathers in the state, the local ‘godfathers’ and godfather-wannabes brook no opposition, foment divisions and often engineer the ostracisation of those they consider enemies. Though these local champions may shower benevolence on needy families, such ‘generosity’ is often geared more to buy admiration and create a culture of dependence than any genuine act of charity. For an extremely republican people, ‘selling’ their support or admiration could be tactical, a rational, even if unacceptable, way of getting their own piece of the national cake. Often as soon as a local godfather stops ‘topping up’ his benevolence, (in a pay-as-you-go fashion) or a potentially new godfather with deeper pocket shows up, allegiances are readily switched. As happens at the state level where the godfather usually battles it out in a proxy war with other wealthy and powerful individuals, a sort of turf war also goes on in many towns and villages in the state among the local godfathers. In essence money and godfatherism appear to have corrupted the republicanist nature of many ordinary Anambra citizens. I believe there is a link between the current high crime rate in the state, including kidnapping, and a burning desire by some youths to cut corners to get loads of money and be deified as ‘godfathers’ either at the state level or in their towns or villages.
Anambra state appears to be a living paradox – genius and madness agreeing to co-exist in an ill-defined arrangement. While the people’s republicanism ought to have been a bulwark against godfatherism and the politics it spurns, the people’s love of money, (especially in a condition of extreme deprivation) on the other hand means that they ‘tactically’ accommodate and even encourage godfathers. As this plays out, the republicanism of the Igbos, expressed in their famed village democracy, mutates into a ‘cash-and-carry politics’ while loyalty becomes mostly based on ‘pay-as-you-go’. Anambra state needs liberation from this brand of machine politics to be positioned for sustainable progress.
Jideofor Adibe, PhD, LLM, is editor of the multidisciplinary journal African Renaissance, and publisher of the London-based Adonis & Abbey Publishers Ltd (www.adonis-abbey.com). He is also the CEO of Holler Africa! (www.hollerafrica.com), a public relations and image management firm. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org