Anambra:A Celebration Of Mediocrity By Chudi Offodile

My attempt to contextualise the true state of affairs in my home state, in the article, Anambra: The limits of propaganda, triggered a deployment of the vast propaganda machine of Anambra State government, in a futile attempt to obscure the facts and scare me into submission. To those this may concern, please note, that while I am prepared to take insults, I am not prepared to abandon the pursuit of truth and justice.

There is no need to drag the name of President Goodluck Jonathan into the fray by suggesting, rather arrogantly, that I am involved in a conspiracy to pit Governor Obi against the President. Someone who gave his name as Joseph Anarado but who I identify as Valentine Obienyem, Governor Obi’s media assistant called it the Offodile syndrome on the back page of Thisday Newspaper of July 2, 2012.  Obienyem had earlier signed and circulated the same piece with minor changes online.

What manner of conspiracy? Apparently, Governor Obi considers himself a high value target. Maybe because, true to type, he is negotiating to be Vice President in a party [PDP] he doesn’t even belong to. In the process, he has plunged his own party [APGA] into crisis. Anyway, the issues I address are purely local and as former United States, House of Representatives, Speaker, Tip O’ Neill, rightly observed; ‘all politics is local’.

The same fellow made some other allegations against me, including a bizarre allegation that I was part of Peter Obi’s impeachment. He proceeded to list Governor Obi’s numerous awards. Let me just mention that I was nominated by Thisday newspaper in 2004 as one of the best legislators in Nigeria. Much as I appreciate that, I do not believe that public officers should consider awards a validation of their contribution to society. That is the role of posterity.

Again, I do find it very difficult to establish a nexus between his impeachment and the issues at stake.  Nevertheless, I make bold to say, that no matter the merits of Governor Peter Obi’s case, the eminent jurists who voided his impeachment very early into his first term, ended up foisting on Anambra State what has clearly become, a debilitating gubernatorial malady.

On the whole, despite the knocks I received from the Governor’s media assistant, he confirmed my earlier position that Governor Obi did not build any new school in the state but built five classroom blocks in each town, a contract awarded to the 177 town unions in Anambra State. In the light of this admission, Thisday editors may wish to review the ranking of Governor Obi in the performance chart of Nigeria’s 36 Governors.

He was silent on the cost of the Phantom 600 kilometers of asphalted roads, the ‘best network of roads’ that lead to nowhere. He was also silent on how much exactly of state funds are ‘quarantined’ in the banks, while the infrastructure deficits multiply. On the tax returns of the businessman-governor, mum is the word.

A detailed rebuttal of my position was also released by the Anambra State Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice, Mr. Peter Afuba.  On the issue of transparency and due process in the award of contracts, Afuba wrote; “As the former chairman of the state tenders board, I can, with due modesty vouch that due process has always been observed in the award of contracts in the state. Again in compliance with due process, all contracts which required executive council approval were religiously presented to the council for its consideration.  Indeed, even  after obtaining the councils approval, the Governor in some cases was able to prevail on some contractors to further reduce the cost of projects before the contract documents were signed”.

This clearly unveils the Governor as the ultimate sovereign who can alter executive council decisions so that all the talk of due process and transparency is nothing but hogwash.

He continues: “On the particular case of Onitsha hotel and convention centre, the contract was awarded to Costain (WA) PLC for the sum of N5,599,625,670.12.  At the time the contract award was approved, the state executive council directed that the project be scaled down by removing one floor in the hotel and reducing the sitting capacity of the convention centre from 800 to 700 so as to further reduce the cost of the project.   Costain insisted on its own bid price which the government rejected.  At the end of a fresh tender process, the contract was now awarded to another company at the cost of N1,9809,000,000.00.”

The name hotel and convention centre is misleading. Sitting capacity of 700? May I inform the Governor that the sitting capacity of Nibo civic centre is 2500.  Even in my own village, Umuayom, the hall has a sitting capacity of 800. If we did not engage in this debate, most people would have believed the Governors propaganda that a major convention centre was being built in Onitsha. This has been the bane of the Peter Obi administration. No grand vision, nothing big. A super-market approach to governance that has failed woefully. The tragedy is the celebration of this mediocre performance with gusto.

I accept the correction from the Attorney General that what the UN HABITAT helped the state to produce were structure plans not base maps as I mentioned in my article. It was concluded two years ago and its implementation has commenced. I apologise for the mix up. But let us consider what the Attorney General says has been done so far. “At Onitsha the structure plan makes provision for the slum upgrading of Onitsha.  The state government has since engaged a consultant who has completed the generation of adequate current and reliable baseline survey of the socio – economic characteristics of Okpoko slum residents and submitted the report in two volumes.  Proposals have also been received for the development of an implementable and sustainable action plan for the slum area.  This is being processed”.   I dey laugh oh.

On Awka he said; “the structure plan for Awka prescribes the removal of Awka Industrial layout from Awka city as heavy Industries should not be located in the heart of the state capital.  In compliance with the prescription, government dezoned the Industrial layout into a residential/commercial layout now named greenwood city, Awka. The new government house, legislative and judiciary headquarters are all provided for in the master plan for greenwood city.”  I was in Awka a few days ago and I searched in vain to locate the city within a city until I realised that this too is still being processed.

On SabMiller brewery Onitsha, the Attorney General wrote; “it is elementary that the share ownership of every company is public information domiciled with the corporate affairs commission, which can be obtained by any person, on request.  I am aware that due process and utmost transparency was observed in setting up the ownership structure of the company.  All the shareholders are known corporate entities and no shares are held in an assumed name.”

Rather than provide full information about Sabmiller brewery, the government of Peter Obi has opted for subterfuge.  I recall that when Dele Belgore (SAN) in an interview in July 2011, insinuated that former Governor of Kwara State, now Senator Bukola Saraki had interest in songha farms, the very successful agricultural initiative of Governor Saraki with some white Zimbabwean farmers, the Kwara State government and songha farms limited promptly released the details of the ownership structure and it added up.

Governor Peter Obi is the owner of a trading outfit, Next International Limited. Next has been a distributor of Sabmiller brewery, a South African Company, long before Obi became Governor. As Governor, however, Obi invited Sabmiller to invest in Onitsha in partnership with Anambra state government and other ‘business men.’  The Attorney General says that all the share holders are known corporate entities and that utmost transparency was observed in setting up the ownership structure of the company.

I have a few questions and I hope the appropriate authorities in the state would respond to them. Is Governor Peter Obi, his company, or any member of his family one of those ‘businessmen or corporate entities’ that is in partnership with Anambra State and Sabmiller? If the answer is in the affirmative, then, the Governor would have violated his oath of office. My next piece will focus on the legal and moral implications of the Onitsha Sabmiller enterprise.

It is important, considering the Farouk Lawan experience, that those we think are men of integrity are subjected to closer scrutiny.  Sometime ago, the sum of N250 million of state funds was found in Obi’s business premises in Lagos all the way from Awka. The police investigated the matter and cleared Obi in record time. Was a proper investigation carried out? Questions and more questions.

Chudi Offodile

Former Chairman Public Petitions Committee

House of Representatives