Obiano and the possibility of a new job
It was a good thing that Willie Obiano, the former governor of Anambra State, had his baptism of fire early. Obiano was on his way to the United States for a well-deserved holiday when operatives of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) accosted him at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos, and asked him to step aside.
After a few days at the EFCC pen, he was released on bail. He has joined the list of distinguished men and women who have marked their register with the EFCC. What has become the pattern is that after such experience, they usually find themselves in the Senate.
For eight interesting years, Obiano was the governor of Anambra while his vivacious wife, Ebele, was in power. Few minutes after Obiano ceased being the governor, what the ancient Romans would have considered a worrisome omen happened to his wife.
In the glare of television and modern cameras, she received a non-diplomatic slap from Mrs. Bianca Ojukwu, a former ambassador and wife of Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu. Mrs. Ojukwu, a former beauty queen, was also the daughter of a former governor of old Anambra State, Chief Christian Onoh. Though she may not have ample experience in the subject of slapping, she was not a stranger to the uneven temper of power. That slap was ominous, therefore, for Obiano’s new career as a former governor. He should have learnt a lot from the career of Ojukwu as a man out of power.
In 1992, I had gone to see Ojukwu in his Villaska Lodge, Ikoyi, in the company of my friend and colleague, Ademola Oyinlola. After his return from exile in Cote d’Ivoire, Ojukwu discovered that many of his father’s landed properties in Lagos had been appropriated by the government and special interests. The house was later returned to him by the General Ibrahim Babangida’s government after a lot of protest.
By the time we met with Ojukwu in 1992, the era of protest was past. The mistress of the house was now Bianca. While we were with the former Biafran warlord, Bianca came to announce that she was going out. She was dressed in a tight-fitting gown with glittering accessories. Her husband looked at her alluringly, tucking at his luxuriating beard. “Take care!” he said.
Power was never to return to the Ojukwu household, but influence never departed. After Ojukwu’s death, I had gone to Enugu and was pleasantly surprised that Ojukwu’s residence in the town was named VillaBianca, in honour of his young wife. Perhaps, as much as the children, if not more, Bianca considered it her duty to defend and uphold Ojukwu’s legacies. One of his legacy institutions is the phenomenal All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), which Ojukwu founded to engage the Nigerian state.
That institution is now part of the Nigerian power structure and it is on its platform that we have the new governor of Anambra State, Charles Soludo, the former Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria. Soludo was the young man who succeeded Chief Joseph Sanusi at the CBN and continued to carry out the comprehensive reforms of the Nigerian banking sector. That assignment gave Soludo great influence and visibility. Today, he is one of the old Obasanjo boys who has returned to power.
Many of those who served during the Obasanjo era are still consequential in the present dispensation. The new chairman of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), Alhaji Abdullahi Adamu, was then the Governor of Nasarawa State for eight years on the platform of the then formidable Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). The new National Secretary of the APC, Iyiola Omisore, was the Deputy Governor of Osun State on the platform of the opposition Alliance for Democracy (AD), until he was impeached. Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu, now the National Leader of the APC and an aspirant for the office of president, was the governor of Lagos State for eight years until 2007, when he handed over power to his anointed successor, Babatunde Raji Fashola.
The truth is that those leaders who served with Obasanjo between 1999 and 2007 have continued to be largely in charge of our country and our treasury. Many of our people believe there is a nexus between the performance of these people and what has become of our country. They see a connection between terrorists bombing a railway track in a modern country and the performance of their leaders. They feel that effective and competent leadership would not allow this kind of mindless terrorism. Many Nigerians blame corruption for what has become of us and they are confused by the performance of institutions set up to fight this monster.
In addition to the normal powers of the police, President Olusegun Obasanjo, during his years in power, set up two new institutions to fight the monster of corruption. These are the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission (ICPC) and the EFCC. Obasanjo used to say that as he would be leaving for his farm after retirement, many of the governors would be leaving for the prisons over allegations of corruption. Indeed, as he predicted, many governors visited the prisons as a result of corruption allegations. Some of them are still serving terms. However, the majority of them have found their way back into the Nigerian Senate where they also, among other functions, preside over the budget of the EFCC and the ICPC.
It is clear then that despite his travails, Governor Obiano may still consider a new career in the Senate if his wife, whom I understand is interested in the same assignment, would give him a chance. The EFCC too, is used to the game and many of its clients are in the National Assembly and holding many sensitive and high political offices. This showed how wrong President Obasanjo was. Those he said might end up in the prison are sitting pretty in the Senate.
Every state in Nigeria has had its own EFCC scare. After he was impeached in 2006, Governor Ayodele Fayose fled. He was to stay many weeks in detention when he finally showed up. He was later re-elected and after his tenure ended in 2018, he showed up at the EFCC headquarters, daring it to do its worst. Fayose is busy now trying to ensure the victory of his candidate as the next governor of Ekiti State on the platform of the PDP.
Ekiti State has not been a fertile ground for the EFCC despite its familiarity with Fayose. So far, none of the other three elected governors has been a client of EFCC. Otunba Niyi Adebayo, Segun Oni and Dr. Kayode Fayemi have so far, not been invited by the EFCC. The fool-proof formula for evading the EFCC may have been provided by Segun Oni during his first coming as governor.
He was invited to a birthday service in Okemesi, Ekiti State. When the pastor saw him, he decided to do an impromptu fund-raising. Pronto, he was given a microphone to set the ball rolling. Oni said he was donating only N10,000 because he could not afford anything more than that.
“I don’t want to be a customer of the EFCC after being governor, a governor too should live within his means,” Oni had said.
It is time the EFCC asked its clients to explain how they made their wealth and they indeed lived within their income when they were in power. Obiano too may want to explain to the people of Anambra State that, indeed, he lived within his legitimate income. It is not compulsory that he must go to prison before going to the Senate.