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23.02.2009 Africa

2010 Poll: Where Obi Got It Wrong

By thisdayonline

Before I proceed, let me place on record that I am one of those who admire the incumbent governor of Anambra State, Mr. Peter Obi. He is a practical Christian of the Catholic denomination. I have a very positive impression of him as an honest, humble and God-fearing leader. He is very modest and austere in his carriage and style. Some of the good attributes of Obi which I have just listed are in short supply among Nigerian politicians today. But I also acknowledge that Obi is not and can't be a saint.

According to newspaper reports, Obi played host to some reporters at the Governor's Lodge in Awka, the state capital last week. During the parley, he advocated that Ghanaian electoral officials should be imported to conduct the next governorship election in the state which is due in the first quarter of next year, 2010. He was quoted to have said concerning the 2010 election in the state: "Let us hire Ghanaian electoral officials to come and be the umpire in Anambra State and let us see who will win." The governor voiced his lack of confidence in the ability of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to conduct a free and fair governorship election in the state.

I consider Obi's invitation of the Ghanaian umpires pitiable and out of sync. The truth is that we, Nigerians can't really run away from our shadow. Obi should realise that a people get the type of democracy they deserve at any given time. For now, we are having the type of democracy we deserve and not even the Americans can change that.

In matters of election or business, I consider the environment as the main issue. Other factors come after that. Our political environment is not and has never been the same with that of Ghana. The Nigerian scenario for obvious reasons presents far greater challenges than that of Ghana.

A critical ingredient worth underlining here is the mindset question. The realities within Nigeria and Ghana contrast markedly. By this I am referring to the attitudinal traits of typical Nigerian politicians, the political parties, the candidates or contestants, the electoral officials and the electorate.

Late last year, I was privileged to conduct an exclusive interview with the Chairman of Electoral Commission of Ghana, Dr. Kwadwo Afari Gyan, the man Obi has invited to conduct next year's election in Anambra State. The date of our encounter was Wednesday, 11th December, 2008 in Accra, shortly after he announced the result of the first leg of Ghana's presidential election held four days earlier on Sunday 7th December.

Before the commencement of the interview, Dr. Afari-Gyan, who told me he had previously worked in Nigeria as a university lecturer, counselled me against the mistake of equating Nigeria with Ghana as the two scenarios are different. He cleverly wanted me to focus on Ghana where he has been in charge as the chief electoral officer since 1993. The point he tried to drive home was that Nigeria has its peculiar challenges. That is not to say that our own officials have no lessons to learn from Ghana. However, the point should be made that it does not necessarily follow that the Ghanaian umpires would replicate the same measure of success they achieved in Ghana were they to conduct similar elections in Nigeria.

Thus by his comment, Obi has shown that he has not learnt the rope of Nigeria's politics. As the saying goes, those who can't stand the heat should have no business with the kitchen. I am not saying that Obi is not a good leader. What I am saying is that he should be pragmatic and realistic enough as a major political player on Nigeria's extraordinarily challenging political turf.

The political reality in Obi's Anambra State is particularly complex and demanding. Anambra holds the record of being the only state where a sitting governor was kidnapped and held hostage for days. It can be said that the state harbours the best and worst of Nigerian politics. But Obi has been in the saddle there long enough to have mastered the dynamics of not just the state but Nigerian national politics.

Obi's problems in Anambra State go beyond the conduct of elections as he confessed during his recent interview. He acknowledged that he has a lot of problems with the powerful elite of the state. He does not enjoy their support and he says they have turned against him because he has refused to open the state treasury for them to plunder.

Obi can change the face of politics in Anambra State if he wants. He can do this by mobilising and enlightening them on how to vote and police their vote. He should also be able to build a strong political base for his party, APGA. He can do this through effective membership drive. He needs more calibre members as well as grassroots mobilizers right down from village, town, ward, local government, constituency, district up to state level. He should do more to nurture and entrench his party, APGA through all these levels. He needs to engage in massive mobilization and enlightenment of his supporters not just to vote but also to be vigilante by safe-guarding their votes and possibly escorting them (votes) to the collation centres where results are announced.

Obi has the wherewithal and occupies a vantage to mobilize and re-orientate his people. That task must be accomplished by Anambrarians and not even neighbouring Deltans or Abians not to contemplate going beyond our sovereign boundaries to import Ghanaians as he heretically suggested. Obi should also come to practical grips with the fact that prayer, lamentations and complaints alone can never win the elections for him and APGA in the state.

Unfortunately, Obi has so far found it difficult to win influential personalities in the state to his party APGA. He has failed to utilise the opportunity of the internal crisis ravaging the state chapter of PDP to poach political heavyweights from that party to his party, APGA. It is partly due to the problems within APGA that Obi has not been able to conduct local government election in the state long after the tenure of the former elected officers had expired.

Also, the truth is that he would be entering the ring next year on shaky foundations. For instance, APGA is still embroiled in serious crisis with the Victor Umeh and Chekwas Okorie factions fighting dirty. In the same vein, the Anambra chapter of the party does not seem to be cohesive enough. A signal of this situation is the fact that Obi's deputy, Dame Virgy Etiaba, appears to be contesting the governorship election against him through her son, Mr. Emeka Etiaba. That is an indication that the APGA house in the state is not in order.

It is time Obi realises that winning elections requires more than building roads, hospitals, schools and recording other achievements. He should quickly begin to mobilise his support base, strengthen his party and build a solid political structure in the state, if he desires to return to the Government House, Awka after next year's election.

Discourse By Nosike,Email:[email protected],Tel: 08033205236