By Hon Echezona Okechi
Our dear President and Vice President,
Iam sorry to use a public medium to write to Your Excellencies on a very important national issue. I wish I had an alternative. I am compelled to resort to an open letter because of a lack of time and because of the gravity of the contents of this letter.
This letter is about the gubernatorial election in Anambra State which will on Sunday, Saturday, November 18. This is the first gubernatorial election to hold in the country under your leadership not likely to be won by your own party, the Al Progressives Congress (APC). The rerun governorship vote in Kogi State which was conducted in December, 2015, six months after you assumed office, was won by the APC. And so was the Ondo State governorship election earlier this year.
Therefore, you are required to demonstrate inspiring leadership with the Anambra election. More importantly, your personal reputations are at stake. President Buhari symbolises personal integrity. This was why the international community, led by the United States and United Kingdom as well as France, threw its weight behind him during the 2015 general elections. Of all the numerous presidential candidates in the election, Only Buhari was invited to the British Royal Institute of International Affairs, popularly known as Chatham House, to lay out his vision to the world. Buhari had been military Head of State, Minister of Petroleum Resources and Chairman of the Petroleum (Special) Trust Fund, yet he was leading a most modest lifestyle in his sleepy hometown of Daura in Katsina. He was a simple village livestock farmer, a far cry from Nigerian ex leaders notorious for opulence.
Vice President Yemi Osinbajo’s profile is also impressive. An articulate law professor and senior pastor in a popular Nigerian evangelical church, he has never been associated with greed or any kind of scandal. He shares Buhari’s values of leadership as service to the people, rather than an avenue to amass scandalous wealth and live like a conqueror of his own people.
Against this background, Your Excellencies should be concerned over extensive reports about the spirited determination of APC members to rig the upcoming Anambra election. I am an APC member in the state, but our party has in recent months been swarmed by all manner of characters from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) who still behave very much like PDP members. The PDP is notorious for a culture of impunity. I was in the PDP myself, attracted by men of honour and high intellect like Dr Alex Ekwueme, but when the APC was born in 2014 and promised change in the way we do things in Nigeria, I joined hands with people like ex Governor Chris Ngige who is now the Minister of Labour and Employment to establish the party in the state.
But the party has since been hijacked. We today have as gubernatorial candidate a person none of us can market to ourselves, let alone the people of Anambra State who are now used to good governance. Consequently, I started a movement to reform Anambra APC. The state APC must save itself from its own members. We would not have been in the current mess if someone like Dr Ngige had been our governorship candidate.
Given the reputation of the new APC leaders in Anambra State, it is difficult to dismiss with a cavalier wave of the hand reports about election rigging in Anambra State. Just this morning, the media reported how security agents arrested on November 6, 2017, some party activists with electoral materials at Rooms 3 and 4, Grace Royal Hotel at Okpuno, Awka. Could the agents have had access to the sensitive materials without the cooperation of some officials of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC)? Worse, there are reports that some top security officers may have been compromised in view of the speed with which the party agents with electoral materials were released.
Open collusion between inelegant politicians and security agents in Anambra State is not new. Raphael Ige, Assistant Inspector General of Police in charge of Zone C, was deeply involved in the kidnap of Dr Ngige as our governor in 2003. President Olusegun Obasanjo was to fire him shortly for leading a coup attempt. AIG Ige died not long after in ignominy. Yet, the development did not prevent the commander of the Police Mobile Squad in the state from leading the three-day mayhem which began on November 4, 2004, and resulted in the burning of the Government House, the state House of Assembly, the judiciary, the Anambra State Broadcasting Service, etc. The police mobile commander was assisted by a member of the House of Representatives then who went to address a press conference in Awka daring Governor Ngige to come from Abuja to Awka to see if he would not be eliminated! Needless to add, I was a main target of the arsonists. They had invaded my house in the morning of November 4 in a desperate attempt to assassinate me. I still do not know how God saved me and my family from imminent death that morning.
None of the people who visited mayhem on the government and people of Anambra State for three days was ever punished. The PDP-led Federal Government rather deepened the culture of impunity, as it regarded the criminal activity as “a mere family affair”. Against this background, it is not surprising that when the APC was formed and promised a different trajectory, I had no hesitation leaving the PDP and joining the APC. Now, the same PDP rogue elements have tragically invaded the APC in Anambra State with their terrible values. Anambra APC has become another name for Anambra PDP, easily the most notorious state branch of the party ever.
The great Professor Chinua Achebe memorably wrote about these characters who gave the PDP a horrible reputation: “"I have watched particularly the chaos in my own state of Anambra where a small clique of renegades, openly boasting its connections in high places, seems determined to turn my homeland into a bankrupt and lawless fiefdom. I am appalled by the brazenness of this clique and the silence, if not connivance, of the Presidency”.
May it not be said under the leadership of President Buhari and Vice President Osinbajo that Anambra State or any part of Nigeria was turned into a bankrupt and lawless fiefdom by a cabal of politicians who have no regard for the will of the people expressed through the ballot box. It is alarming to hear them boast regularly in the open, “We must conquer Anambra State by fair or foul means, by faire or by force!” Both President Buhari and Vice President Osinbajo have reputations to protect. They should never allow a bunch of desperate people to take their well earned personal reputations to the dogs by turning a blind eye to sacrilege by fellow party members. Your Excellencies are, please, enjoined to personally look into reports of planned electoral brigandage in Anambra State and cage APC members who are behaving, as Professor Achebe would say, rabid beasts of fanaticism.
Thanks, Your Excellencies.
Assurances of our esteemed regards.
Hon Okechi, former Chairman of the Anambra State House of Assembly Committee on Information and of Public Petitions, is a founding APC member in the state. He is leading a movement to reform the APC in the state and is voting Obiano (not APGA) in the Anambra election. firstname.lastname@example.org. 0803 558 5188.