By James Eze (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Don’t expect his opponents to admit it but Governor Willie Obiano has succeeded in making himself the dominant issue in the Anambra gubernatorial election that is scheduled for November 18 this year. From the historically peaceful primary in which no other candidate ran against him to the Olympian heights he achieved with his campaign flag off last Monday, Obiano has kept telling his closest rival “You can’t touch this!”
In every conceivable way, the unusual crowd that gathered at the Alex Ekwueme Square Awka for Obiano’s campaign flag off belongs more to fables than real life. No one that I have come across so far can recall seeing such crowd in living memory anywhere else in Anambra State. The crowd sent a loud warning to candidates who are dressing up for a showdown with Obiano on election day that the impending fight may in fact have ended before they were done putting their gloves on. Indeed, it takes only an incredible optimist to see the gathering of over 300,000 people in one place for one’s opponent in a popularity contest and still muster enough courage to hop into the ring with him. The reasonable question on the minds of Obiano’s challengers would naturally be; if all these people could gather here for him, who is left for me among the people?
To further deepen the anxieties of his opponents, Governor Obiano did not hesitate to mount the moral high horse that the event had handed to him. He quickly seized the moment to set the tone of conversations about the election around himself. Although he spoke mostly in Igbo he picked his words wisely when he addressed his political opponents.
“Umu nnem,” he began in the tone of typical peacemaker. “Although I am a candidate just like you all, I still shoulder the responsibilities of leadership as your governor. So, I say Congratulations to you all and welcome to the fray! But I must quickly remind you all that we are all brothers and this state belongs to all of us. Elections will come and go but Anambra State will be here. We must resist every temptation to make this election a do-or-die affair and turn our dear State into a war zone. We have a responsibility to preserve the peace that we have worked so hard to bring to Anambra State today. I reach out my hand in fellowship to you and I urge you to help keep Anambra State PEACEFUL!” Having established a moral threshold for unity, Obiano moved swiftly to set the agenda for the people. According to him, Ndi Anambra have only two choices on election day – “to consolidate the rapid progress we have made so far or to take a tragic step backwards into the dark days of lawlessness and shame!”
Not done yet with his illumination of the weighty nature of the matter at hand, Governor Obiano argued that all over the world, sustaining excellence did not happen by chance. “It is usually a direct result of a clear vision, smart decisions and a bold resolve to rise above the average. Umu nnem, this is what my team and I have proven in three and a half years,” he submitted. Then resuming the tone of a servant-leader who had come with humility before his people, he pleaded; “give us another chance to turn excellence into a habit in Anambra State!”
Indeed, anyone who is familiar with the changing story of Anambra under Obiano would not have any difficulties connecting his allusion to excellence with the verifiable facts of life in the state in the past three and a half years. It is self-evident that Obiano had ratcheted up a string of successes that could pass for excellence in every sense of the word.
However, the real selling pitch came in the concluding part of his address where he declared himself the Spirit of the New Anambra. “I represent the spirit of equity and fairness that will ensure the peaceful transfer of power from Anambra North to Anambra South,” he announced in a direct appeal for the sustenance of the trifocal equilibrium that makes for peaceful rotation of power between the zones. This strong point is bound to provoke a serious introspection among the political elites from Anambra South. The question is; would Oseloka Obaze or Tony Nwoye be content with just one term in office for equity to reign in the state?
The answer is clear. Giving power to a politician is like handing a cup of water to a monkey. Retrieving the cup its vicious grip is totally impossible. The truth is; neither Obaze nor Nwoye would happily hand-over power to anyone else after four years. So, Obiano had actually hit the bull’s eye with that remark. His declaration that he represents the Spirit of Ozoemezina which celebrates the Igbo sacrifices for the unity of Nigeria and their continued efforts for the peaceful coexistence of all ethnic nationalities also marks him out as a broad minded leader who is fully aware of the history of his people but had enough presence of mind not to become a naïve captive of that history.
And finally, he declared “I am the bridge between your dreams and their fulfilment.” Again, the informed listener could relate with this statement if he had once dreamt of a crime-free Anambra State and now goes to sleep every night with his two eyes closed. It would also resonate with Awka indigenes who had waited for two decades for their home town to assume the complex texture of a true cosmopolitan city but are now beginning to see the faint outline of their hopes. There is a certain level of profundity of thought that Obiano’s comment carries that cannot be waved away by even his must acerbic critic. This advantage combines perfectly with his solid performance to make him the dominant issue in this raging race. For how would any objective citizen of the state who is fully aware of the governor’s laudable community-choose-your-project initiative that has brought governance closer to all the 181 communities in Anambra State fail to remember that singular gesture in his musings over the election?
The truth is that Willie Obiano was always going to be the dominant issue in this election. He made that clear when he stunned Ndi Anambra with an outstanding performance in his First 100 Days in Office. Three and a half years after political realities in the state show that the race to Agu Awka is still about him.