Biafra, Anambra election and other stories

Casmir Igbokwe

Last Sunday, Ekwu (full name withheld) approached me at a burial ceremony in my village. He whispered that he would like to see me for an important discussion. I prayed that this discussion would have nothing to do with money. I had already spent a lot just for the two days I visited to accord my maternal uncle, Chief Andrew Onyeguili, a befitting burial.

”Biafra is going to be a reality this March,” Ekwu said when I finally spoke with him. ”United Nations is going to divide six countries this year. Nigeria is one of those countries. And in Nigeria, no other nationality is asking for independence except Biafra.” He wanted me to be part of the Radio Biafra team which, he said, would soon hit the airwaves in Nigeria. I promised to get back to him.

Elsewhere in the town, there were hot debates about the governorship election of Feb. 6 and the candidate that could clinch the seat. In churches, priests urged their faithful to vote wisely and not to mortgage their conscience. Although there were rumours that the Catholic Church endorsed Mr. Peter Obi, there was no official indication to that effect.

For the candidates, it was a potpourri of campaign slogans. The candidate of the Action Congress, Dr. Chris Ngige, said he did it before, he would do it again. According to him, onwa ga-eti ozo (the moon will shine again). The candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, Prof. Chukwuma Soludo, said he would make Anambra the African, Dubai, Taiwan of Nigeria.

The incumbent governor, Peter Obi, flew to the patronage of Dim Chukwuemeka Odimegwu-Ojukwu. And Ojukwu‘s last wish was for the people of the state to vote his beloved son, Obi, again. Progressive Peoples Alliance standard-bearer, Mrs. Uche Ekwunife; Andy Uba of the Labour Party and over 20 others made their own mouth-watering promises. Campaign billboards and posters were all over the state.

One good thing about the campaigns was that people made some money in different ways. Transporters had a field day as politicians hired their buses to take supporters from one campaign trip to the other. Some youths pasted posters for money. Some were hired to disrupt rallies of some candidates.

As you read this, the winner of the election may have emerged. The intrigues, the fighting and the usual manipulations associated with elections in Nigeria may have manifested. We now wait to see how many people the casket the Anambra Revolutionary Movement placed in front of the office of the Independent National Electoral Commission in Awka will deal with. The casket was a warning that danger awaited any INEC official, who would involve themselves in the rigging of the election.

If the casket spares the incoming governor, then Anambrarians await the fulfilment of his promises. He must swear to do away with anything that will bring back the rule of godfathers. During the time of Chinwoke Mbadinuju, Chief Emeka Offor was the king. The then governor owed much allegiance to him. For about one year, he could not pay civil servants. Anambra became a theatre of the absurd.

Ngige came with his own godfather, Chris Uba. Somehow, the relationship between the two turned sour. There were violent but unsuccessful attempts to remove Ngige from office. At a point, he was abducted from his home with the connivance of the police and the tacit support of the then President, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo.

There are many criminal gangs operating in the state. In the last one year or so, the spate of kidnappings in the state became so alarming that citizens of the state started avoiding visiting home. The kidnappers spared nobody. Those who summoned courage to visit home moved with trepidation. I thought the phenomenon has died down because I didn‘t hear much about it during the Christmas celebration.

But a good friend of mine, Dr. Chidi Okpaluba, told me last Friday how the marauders kidnapped his wife‘s uncle during the festivities. For four days, the kidnappers reportedly did not give the man food. Initially, they asked for N300m, but later they collected N10m as ransom. And with confidence, they were said to have told their victim to fear no more as he had paid his own dues and would never be touched again. It behoves the incoming governor to eradicate this problem completely.

Another major issue the new government needs to give adequate attention to is erosion. If something urgent is not done now or in the immediate future, some villages in towns like Nanka, Agulu and Oko may cease to exist. Many buildings have caved in and many people rendered homeless by erosion. The state government will not do it alone. But it needs to constantly pressurise the Federal Government to do something.

There was a time boys from Anambra preferred trading to education. Today, I believe there is an improvement in boy-child education. But the snag now is that there is even no job for those who graduate from higher institutions. That is why some of them have found a niche in agitating for the sovereign state of Biafra. Though government is not a good employer of labour, it must create the enabling environment that will foster the growth of private business.

The administrations of Ngige and Obi did their best to construct and repair roads in the state. But there is need to do more. Some portions of Upper Iweka Road and some other roads in the state are very bad. Such bad spots should have no place in a modern society. And the fact that the people provide boreholes and underground tanks for themselves does not mean that the government should ignore providing potable water for the citizenry.

I congratulate the new governor and wish him well. That is if there is no Biafra to put a stop to his reign. And if the ARM casket does not engender catastrophes in the state.

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