Poet James Eze on the trouble with those underrating the stellar performance of Willie Obiano as Governor of Anambra State.

It is hard to believe but true that Governor Willie Obiano of Anambra State is one of the most terribly underrated and wrongly vilified political leaders in the South East. This may not sound strange to anyone who is aware that much of Obiano’s eight years in office have been spent fending off brutal attacks from his predecessor.

The last of these cruel attacks was a vacuous story planted in a national daily, alleging that he was on the watch-list of an anti-graft agency. The story has been proven to be a piece of poorly couched propaganda fueled by vendetta. Indeed, the campaign to distract Obiano and expose him to hate and ridicule has been consistent, far ranging and vicious.

It was therefore not surprising to hear Dr. Sam Amadi wailing on Facebook about Obiano’s final unveiling. In a post entitled “So surprising that Obiano has a legacy project,” and shared on December 8, 2021, Amadi, a former gubernatorial aspirant in Imo State wailed thusly:

“I am traumatized that somewhere in the future, Obiano could even be considered more consequential than my much beloved Peter Obi. Hard to bear.”

Such audacity!

Amadi was writing about the wave making Anambra International Cargo and Passenger Airport and the gravitas it has given Obiano as a visionary leader. He is deeply pained that Obiano had accomplished what his hero could not even dream of. It is somewhat surprising that Amadi who prides himself as a thinker and strategist had allowed himself to be swept away by the fiendish efforts of the former governor to make his successor look like a poor waxwork.

It would be unfair to blame Amadi though. Obiano is a victim of vindictive campaign. No other governor in Nigeria has had an influential revenge-seeking enemy breath down his neck for eight years like him. We are not talking about an ordinary enemy here. We are talking about a man who enjoys the adulation of many Nigerians.

Something had to give. And it did. Many otherwise smart people whom you would have expected to take certain stories with a pinch of salt also believe the calumny campaign against Obiano. If only they knew better.

Their own moment of awakening is sure to come.

James Eze: The Trouble with Underrating Obiano

There is a simple explanation for that though. For one, it is far easier to swallow a blatant falsehood about a Nigerian political leader than to believe their innocence. For another, Nigerians hold their political leaders in acute suspicion. It takes a lot of mind bending to convince them that a governor is not a spineless wimp whose sole mission in office is to steal public funds. This perception is often hardened if there is a deliberate and sustained campaign to strengthen it.

And that is why they have continued to underrate Obiano in spite of his array of glittering legacies that dot the Anambra landscape. That is why they have refused to acknowledge his stellar achievements. It would be too much kindness to accept that someone so viciously maligned had actually done better than their hero. The pain of this admission is clearly embedded in Sam Amadi’s voice and it shone when he wrote “I have always believed that Obiano was a mistake. The brutal criminality of the leadership of APGA on the Imo Governorship Primary in 2018 added to this dislike.” Amadi believed everything the former governor’s spin doctors spewed out about Obiano without question, without second thoughts.

Nevertheless, we would be naïve to assume that Amadi is alone in this. In fact, Amadi deserves our respect for having the courage to admit his error of judgement; to finally wash the voodoo off his face and come to full wakefulness. Many others who were struck blind by the former governor’s voodoo men have yet to regain their sight. Not even the eventual commencement of commercial flights in the Anambra International Airport can jolt them out of that spell.

Obiano’s achievements speak for him.

The Awka International Convention Center was designed to look like America’s iconic B52 Bomber. The 10,000 capacity center speaks of the huge aspirations of Anambra State in its symbolic design and immense capacity. The Awka City Stadium is an eye-catchy sporting facility that meets FIFA standards. The Anambra International Airport is a monument to the king-size ambition of Anambra State. The three flyovers in Awka and Amawbia are landmarks of greatness. The mechanized rice farms in Ayamelum, the ultramodern rice mill in Igbariam, the largest poultry farm in the South East, the longest bridge in the South East and the eventual acceptance of Anambra State as an oil-bearing state are all immeasurable legacies of Willie Obiano.

Sadly, those who are willfully in the firm grip of the false atmosphere induced by the former governor have chosen to live in absolute denial of these facts. It is their choice. But the question is; why is it impossible to accept that Anambra did not descend into the abyss of bad governance after the former governor?

Why is it difficult to accept that Willie Obiano has not only proven, against popular belief, to be an effective political leader but also a smart politician who has outfoxed his greatest political enemy and handed him three defeats in a row? Why is it so easy to underrate Willie Obiano? How many times must a hunter slay a lion before he is addressed as ogbu agu!

And just a few months to handover, the verdict of history is out. The beloved predecessor pales in stature when placed beside his successor. Pound for pound, the difference is clear. The former has illusions of greatness. The later stands on hard surface of greatness.

James Eze: The Trouble with Underrating Obiano