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Recently, Anambra State has been thrust into the spotlight, owing to the recent series of spats between Governor Willie Obiano and Chief Arthur Eze, in what looks like a battle for supremacy between the flamboyant governor and the businessman.
This is reminiscent of the supremacy battles between Sir Emeka Offor and Governor Chinwoke Mbadinuju sometime in 1999 which strangulated the process of governance in the state and possibly caused some distraction to Mbadinuju who could not find his footing in the course of these battles, lost out as he failed to land a second term in office.
However, the present battle between Governor Obiano and Arthur Eze is not about control of any party structures as was witnessed in the Mbadinuju/ Offor fight. Both antagonists are not in the same political party, matter of fact, Arthur Eze is not a known card-carrying member of any political party. Yes, it may be about the 2021 race, where both parties are much likely to be interested in who takes over the helm of affairs of the state and are now entrenched in a war using proxies and the media to undo each other.
The first signs of an impending war occurred when the Nigerian Police Force unveiled the creation a new Zonal Headquarters in Ukpo, Eze’s hometown much to the chagrin of Governor Obiano who had in his policy of ‘Agulerisation’ sought to locate the Zonal Headquarters to his hometown of Aguleri as against the after-claims by his handlers that Obiano in his “ new” found altruism was seeking to locate the headquarters in Awka the state’s capital.
Then again, in another open onslaught, Prince Arthur Eze called out the Governor on how he has been secretly looting Local Government funds meant for Anambra state. At this point, it did seem that the renowned philanthropist had stirred the hornet’s nest causing Governor Willie Obiano to unleash his umbrage via the media, rather than adequately respond to the accusations of gross mismanagement of funds meant for the development of the third tier of government in the state running into billions of Naira.
The state government went berserk by accusing the philanthropist of possessing wealth not useful to the citizenry of the state and as well as went on to suspend the Igwe of Ukwulu, Igwe Peter Uyanwa for one year citing various petitions and the need to forestall a crisis in that domain, but what should interest readers is the fact that these petitions against Igwe Uyanwa were only resurrected and speedily looked into because it was at his palace that the allegations of the fraud perpetrated by the Obiano administration against the local governments was made.
Arthur Eze had also threatened to take Obiano to court over the non-conduct of local government elections and had even expressed the opinion that President Buhari stop the monthly disbursements of the funds meant for local governments to the state until local government elections were held in the state.
Whether it was to spark acrimony between the governor and the traditional rulers, things got to a head last week when Prince Eze led a delegation of traditional rulers to the Presidential Villa to commend the Muhammadu Buhari administration for its gestures towards the Southeast, and notably, for the inauguration of the police zonal headquarters.
Whatever, words soon spread that Prince Eze had taken the monarchs to solicit Buhari’s intervention to remove Obiano.
The Obiano administration moved with dispatch and clamped a one-year suspension on the 13 traditional rulers in the entourage.
Anyone who has followed the appalling drama playing out in Anambra State at the moment will not miss the underlying message – a show of power. This battle for superiority has already torn Anambra state in half over who supports who.
The face-off between the Governor and the oil magnate took a new turn at the weekend when Prince Eze spoke from his Ukpo country home. The big man sounded dismissive of the Governor calling him a “small fry”! He had these to say arrogantly:
“I’m not afraid of anybody. I have installed three African presidents. One of them gave me oil blocks in his country. I have assisted in enthroning many governors in Nigeria”
“I have given a governorship candidate ₦10bn to assist him prosecute his election. I didn’t know the candidate from Adam”.
A man who claims to install Presidents and dole out billions to poor candidates to prosecute elections is a dangerous godfather who should be taken very seriously. Perhaps the Prince wants to have a big say on who succeeds Obiano come next year using his huge fortunes as intimidating instruments. The Governor may not recognise his importance but with his immense wealth and connections, he remains a critical stakeholder in the present and future gubernatorial dispensation in the state.
Prince Arthur Eze is a natural special breed given his rare physical attribute. He appears to be the only godfather still left standing in Anambra politics after the notorious Uba brothers. Unlike Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, the invincible godfather of Lagos politics, Prince Eze is getting a rude and crude challenge from the executive man from Aguleri for whatever it is worth.
In a means to ‘settle’ the suspended Traditional rulers, Prince Arthur Eze procured and presented 12 Lexus 570 SUVs to them. Enraged and embittered, Governor Willie Obiano retaliated by presenting 130 brand new Ikenga IVM SUV vehicles made by the Nigerian vehicle manufacturer, Innoson Vehicle Manufacturing (IVM) to the remaining 130 traditional rulers in the state. Where Obiano got it wrong in this act was that he used borrowed funds meant for other purposes for this.
The funds which were borrowed from the state’s Internally Generated Revenue coffers were meant to be used for other Government parastatals including closing payment arrears for state Judges and other Government workers, including Projects waiting to be funded.
It has also been reported that the vehicles procured from Innoson Vehicle Manufacturing (IVM) haven’t been fully paid for. The contract agreement with Innoson and the Anambra State Government allowed for payments to be made in monthly instalments, but as it stands, insider sources have revealed that the Anambra State Government has defaulted on multiple months payments.
This act scores an obvious point for Prince Arthur Eze in this battle for supremacy. While Governor Obiano had accused the traditional rulers of being lured to Abuja by the billionaire on a chest-thumping mission to demonstrate his ambition to turn Anambra State into his private fiefdom, Prince Arthur Eze may have had other plans.
However, beyond Governor Obiano and Prince Eze’s egomaniacal superiority clash what matters most to Ndi-Anambra is producing a man capable of delivering democracy dividends to the people post-Obiano and changing the infrastructural architecture of the state for better. A lot still needs to be done to reposition Anambra state. So the Obiano/Eze feud could be seen, therefore, as a complete, unnecessary distraction. Anambra indigenes should be given an opportunity to choose a good candidate to govern them beyond the second tenure of Obiano. Holding out on this clash would only pose more wreckage to the already unbalanced structure of Anambra state.
AFRICA DAILY NEWS, NEW YORK