MasterwebNews 22/10/16 - Obi In Eye Of Storm Over Claims Of Financial Prudence

[ Masterweb Reports: Andrew Essien reports ] - Throughout the eight years of Peter Obi as governor of Anambra State, Chief Ben Obi, also from Agulu, Anaocha local government area of the state and the former governor were close allies. Though Ben was special assistant to the governor on Inter Party Matters; a position assumed not to be so high compared to some other positions in the ex-governor’s cabinet, Ben wielded powers and was considered as one of the closest aides to the former governor. It was even common knowledge that both men knew themselves more than some other aides in the cabinet did.


But since after the former governor appeared on The Platform on Independence Day, where he delivered what was considered by a section of the populace as a populist speech on how governments and indeed the leadership can cut cost and check excesses, using his template when he was in office, not a few people, especially from  Anambra State,  who know the inner workings that have been going on between the former governor and his successor, Chief Willie Obiano, believe that he was not on The Platform to merely express what he thought was a panacea to the country’s teething problem of wastage in governance, but as an opportunity to get at the government of the day.


Consequently, the general belief is that most of his assertions on The Platform were directed at the government of Obiano, who political onlookers say he has had a frosty relationship with, since the present administration came into office.


Former governor, Peter Obi appeared on The Platform, which incidentally coincided with the 56th Independence Anniversary of Nigeria. The Platform, a forum initiated by Pastor Poju Oyemade of the Covenant Christian Centre, has now become an avenue for frank and honest discussions on matters affecting the motherland over the years and it was here that he spoke on the culture of wastefulness by Nigerian leaders, using his 8-year stewardship in Anambra as an example of how to curtail government expenditure. It was no doubt a speech that made several headlines weeks after that.


But no sooner than the conversation had finished that Chief Ben Obi, picked holes in Obi’s presentation, saying they were direct opposites of what the former governor did while serving. During his appearance at The Platform, Peter Obi received huge encomiums, understandably for his performance even as his message resonated within the populace, but no sooner than he had delivered his speech that those who worked closely with him during his stewardship in Anambra began accusing him of hypocrisy.


In a recent interview granted journalists, Ben Obi revealed some of the ways his former boss and brother ruled Anambra which was very different from what he told his audience at The Platform.


Peter Obi, during his appearance at The Platform, had exonerated himself from some of the wasteful spending indulged by most governors in their states, saying throughout his tenure as governor, he never used outriders, bulletproof SUVs, and ensured that he never had more than five cars in his convoy.


He had said that the government house is not a place where people come to make merry and party all night, but a place reserved for the governor to work and tend the state from. He condemned the intake of expensive alcoholic beverages like champagne in most government houses, and the use of private jets by governors all at the expense of the state. He said he flew economy class while he was governor, to save Anambra money but regretted that governors embarked on wasteful and expensive trips which has no bearing with the development of the state.


Ben obi said Chief Peter Obi’s reference to his banning of alcoholic beverages such as Champagne at the government house is laughable. Ben Obi pointed to the Squash Court located inside the government house renovated by the Peter Obi administration and said it was utilised by Peter Obi as a makeshift warehouse for alcoholic beverages such as the drinks his company distributes in Nigeria. He explained that Peter Obi was storing expensive alcoholic beverages purchased with state resources.


Ben Obi expressed worry why Peter Obi utilises every opportunity available to castigate his successor, Governor Willie Obiano who he said has even humbled himself and begged Obi for forgiveness for any offense, known and unknown sin. “Still Peter Obi goes around talking about the Anambra Governor with disdain. Dr Chris Ngige did not vilify him the way he is trying to do to Obiano. It is not fair. Peter Obi should be careful the way he opens his mouth because we can expose him to the public enough to put him behind bars. Obiano does not want to probe him, so he should shut up,” Ben Obi submitted.


Analysts aver that just as Obi still has a huge influence on the people of the state, Obiano is equally very much liked by the people because of his performance at a very short period. Mr Lawrence Nwangwuta, a commercial motorcyclist who though hails from Ebonyi State said, “I have been in Anambra for 10 years now, and I can tell you that Peter Obi did well in Anambra and Obiano is also following his footsteps.” Asked what he thinks of the feud between both men, he said, “Obi has done his work in Anambra, he should let Obiano also do his own. Obiano has even begged him to forgive him, so I think it will be bad for him not to forgive him, especially as people know him as a Christian here.”


The subject has therefore become a controversial issue in and around Anambra, and is discussed freely among citizens in the state. While most people affirmed to the former governor, a very humble personality, others believe that having had the chance to govern the state for eight years, he should move on and let his successor do it best for the state rather than attacking him. Some even point to other former governors in the country who have gone away quietly without interfering with the present governors’ administration as an example for Peter Obi to emulate.


Mr Bartholomew Ejike, a lecturer and a political enthusiast in the state said, “People just want to remain the only superstar in their locality, and I think that is why Obi is distracting Obiano. Anyone who watched Obi’s presentation at the platform will not be in doubt over who he was referring to. It was clear that Obiano is his target, and I think that was bad. No one is saying he should not go anywhere to present papers, but let him do his job without looking for a way to denigrate Anambra governor. He has served us to the best of his ability, and must let Obiano do so too. Except he fears that Obiano may surpass his achievement and become the next superstar in the state.”


Pundits agree that Peter Obi had performed creditably during his eight years in office but stressed his time has come and gone. They also added that he needs to leave the stage for the current governor to do his job as his insistence in interfering in Obiano’s administration lends credence to the rumour that even though he pretends to be otherwise, he personifies the old tradition of wanting to have his hands in the kitty. May be that is the issue or maybe not. But his body language is leading the public to think so”.


Meanwhile, it was gathered that following the failed reconciliation which was earlier brokered in Onitsha months ago, during the burial of Late Rev Fr Nicholas Tagbo, where Obiano had publicly begged Obi for forgiveness of whatever his sins may be, Catholic Bishops are making fresh efforts to reconcile Obi and Obiano once and for all. A source said the Bishops have been speaking with both Obi and Obiano separately, and are seriously working towards bringing both men into a room to lay bare their grouse. Until that is done, the gladiators and their aides will continue to throw darts at themselves at the expense of the state.


In the final analysis, the case in Anambra State now is a case of which of the “Obis” is telling the truth. Just as it is hoped that the leaders and others in the state will put their hands together to work for the common good of the people, the days and months ahead will be truly revealing even as the current governor showcases his achievements.


*Photo Caption - Goodluck Jonathan sandwiched by Willie Obiano & Peter Obi (Right)




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