Anambra 2014: Money bags hijack process

| March 1, 2013 | 0 Comments

By DAIVD ONWUCHEKWA, Nnewi

As the Anambra State governorship election draws closer, a two-time chairman of South Council Area, Dr. Richard Ndubisi Okechukwu, has raised the alarm that the state is at the verge of being hijacked by moneybags. He condemned a situation whereby aspirants and candidates alike engaged in heavy spending to buy the conscience of the electorate.

He also frowned at the non conduct of council election in the state, which he described as a negation of democratic spirit. Okechukwu also talked about zoning, his party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), what the next governor should do, among other issues.

Past positions I was twice elected as chairman of Nnewi South Local Government Council, firstly between 1991 and 1993, then 1997 and 1998. Legacies I think posterity will judge whether I did well or not but I remember that during the time I was the chairman, Nigeria Union of Local Government Employees (NULGE) and some other organisations gave me award as the best performing chairman of Anambra State council chairmen.

I cannot articulate all I did as a council chairman and in the effort to develop Nnewi South. We did a lot of road constructions; we did a lot of work on health and we built a couple of health centres round the local government area. I also made sure that the council was not in debt when I left office. We engaged in a lot of financial prudence and I think that if you add all these together, that could possibly be the reason I was given those awards.

The non conduct of local government election in Anambra State? Well, it is unfortunate that since 1998, there has been no other local government election in Anambra State. The last elected council executive was dissolved in 2002 and since then there has been no election and the new habit now is to appoint caretaker committee members or transition committees as they are called.

I think that in itself is a setback in democratic rule in the country because if you remember a few months ago, sometime last year, the National Assembly members held different town hall meetings at different constituencies and one thing that was recurring and popular opinion gathered from different constituencies across the country was that there should be a high level of autonomy for the local governments and that there should be elected councils and not caretaker committees.

One of the things I have observed, having been a council chairman before, is that even though the Anambra State Government under Governor Peter Obi has performed well in certain areas, I think the biggest drawback is there has not been an elected local government executive. Admittedly, this did not start with Obi’s administration.

So, the implication is that the council chairmen will go cap in hand to the Government House to ask for money to develop their individual areas. They can’t even embark on little projects like construction of culverts, drainages and other things; they can’t embark on such projects. They have to get permission from the Government House before they can do that. I think it is a negation of the democratic spirit at the grass roots.

If the chairman and his council members spot what to do in the council area and there will be disbursement of funds for them to do that, I think development will be faster at the grassroots. So, I don’t particularly like this idea of appointed caretaker committee.

I think there should be elected council. I am in support of the constitutional review and the popular opinion that the councils should be relatively autonomous and draw their funding from the Federation Account. Some people may say it will not check corruption at the state and federal levels.

There will be enough checks and balances to monitor the activities of every tier of government. So there should be election into the councils and financial autonomy for them. Since this constitutes the popular opinion in the on-going Constitution Review, it has to be granted for the interest of democracy and good governance.

Anambra governorship election? There are so many people. There are many political parties and we don’t really know who will eventually emerge as candidates. Until when the party primaries are conducted, we will know who the real candidates are and will be able to assess them. But that aside, there is something I see as a certain tendency in Anambra State. Without fear or favour, I know I can sit back and name ten people from all over the state, including myself, of course, who, if given the opportunity, can perform even better than Governor Obi or what Senator Chris Nwabueze Ngige did and so on. Politics is all about opportunity.

The fact that somebody is an incumbent doesn’t necessarily mean he has the best brain or that he is more sagacious than others. I believe that anybody who should be the Governor should have enough administrative acumen. He should be sound intellectually with enough physical disposition. There are a lot of people, throwing money around and trivialising this issue of creating foundation. Foundations are meant for philanthropy.

But people are trivialising them in Anambra by politicising them. People are building churches, building schools and the next day you see their posters here and there that they are running for elections. Infact, it is not a very palatable scenario.

A good candidate doesn’t have to be a multi-millionaire. You don’t have to be a money bag. If you look at other examples in Anambra State, former governor, Chinwoke Mbadinuju, wasn’t a wealthy man. He was just a professional, a lawyer but he was sponsored by people, who felt that he would make a good governor. In the same way, when former governor, Chukwuemeka Ezeife was there, he came in as a retired permanent secretary. He wasn’t a millionaire or anything like that. He was sponsored and supported by people, who felt he was a good candidate.

And even the incumbent Governor Obi, it was somebody like the late Ikemba Nnewi, Chief Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, who gave him the backing. You see, the current trend of money politics has sent a wrong signal in Anambra politics. The US President, Barak Obama, was not rated as a very rich man in America before he was elected president. Americans saw the quality in him. You can go on and on and count people, who were elected either governors or presidents not because they were rich.

So what I’m saying in effect is money is currently being overemphasized in Anambra politics and if proper caution is not applied a wrong person is going to be elected Governor of Anambra State since politics of the state is being high jacked by money bags. Anambra North senatorial zone has continued to fan sympathy for it to be allowed to produce the next Governor of Anambra.

How do you look at that? Well, if you look at it from the point of equity and fairness, there could be a point there in the sense that that area in the present Anambra State has never produced any Governor.

But some other people will argue, too, that in the First Republic and then during Yakubu Gowon’s administration, late Rt Hon Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe and Dr Ukpabi Asika were the first Nigerian President and former administrator of the Eastern Region, respectively who come from Anambra North.

But in terms of fairness, why not, if we all agree that the next Governor will come from there. If it is agreed by Anambra state as a unit including the elders and political parties, so be it. In Ihiala Local Government Council, for instance if a council chairman finishes his tenure the next chairman will automatically emerge from a zone whose turn it is because the council area uses a perfect zoning system.

If such a system could be replicated at the state level it would minimize the problem of where the candidate will emerge at any given election period. But in the case of Anambra North, it has my sympathy but what it is asking for has not been an enshrined principle in the state. By the last count up to 42 guber aspirants have emerged in Anambra.

What does that signify? It is part of democracy. People should aspire. I don’t really have anything against anybody who wants to come out if he or she feels qualified to contest. However, that number kind of trivializes or makes mockery of the whole thing where every Tom, Dick and Harry wants to become a Governor. With due respect I’m not saying they should not come out but I think that number is unmanageable.

As a member of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) do you think your party is battle-ready for the forthcoming guber election given the leadership tussle still rocking the party? In the first place, I’m of the view, and I know a lot of people will buy that view, that under normal circumstance Anambra State is basically a PDP State.

The problem we had in the past is this issue of factionalization and that had made us somewhat disorganized, made us lose ground in some of the elections that had been conducted. But somewhere I believe and I have faith that the national body of the party has been working towards having a formidable candidate who will match people from other political parties.

And I think, if my calculation is right, no matter the odds PDP will produce the successor of Mr Peter Obi. What area of development do you think the next Governor of Anambra should focus on? With due respect, I think the incumbent Governor of Anambra State has done quite a good job. I know there are lots infrastructural developments in Anambra State. And a lot of people have said, and I think that is true that he is a shrewd manager of resources.

May be that comes from his ethic as a true businessman. Now, I think what the next Governor has to do is to put Anambra on a different level. It is already a basic fact that there should be roads, water, electricity and things like that. But I think Anambra needs to go to a higher level in terms of reorganization. There has to be a local government election, as I have already pointed out. It doesn’t really matter who wins but let it be free and fair.

The state should think about other areas of development. Cross River State is becoming a hob for tourism, Akwa Ibom State too is becoming a hob for tourism and there are many international investors coming to those states. If you look at Delta State, our neighbour, they now have an international airport.

You see, Anambra people have versatile businessmen and women, I would have thought Oba airport should have been revisited or some other site for a kind of cargo airport to reduce the excessive trailers on the roads. If we have a cargo airport in Anambra State it will generate a lot of money to the state and also be benefited by our neighbouring states. Go to Previous message | Go to Next message | Back to Messages | Full Headers Reply Reply All Forward Forward Mail Search

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