Friday, October 13, 2017 10:31 am
By Victor Afam Ogene
The mood at the arena was simply eclectic. Only a sea of heads was discernible, as humans milled around. They came in their numbers, like all such politically conceived gatherings are, consisting of all sorts: party men and women, youths with no clearly defined allegiance, traditional rulers and their spouses, presidents-general of various communities, civil servants directed to report for ‘duty’ at the venue, in spite of the day being a nationally recognized public holiday, and perhaps much more important, a hired crowd of countryside folks, for whom the availability of free ride, and a stipend of three thousand naira was an almost irresistible bargain at these austere times.
The venue was the Alex Ekwueme Square, more renowned for its deplorable conditions, which sharply contrasts with the iconic image of the man whose name it bears.
It was Monday, October 2, 2017 and the Governor of Anambra state, His Excellency, Willie Obiano, had chosen that date to flag-off his quest to rule the state for another term of four years.
Amid the clanging of cymbals, frenzied drumming and general merriment, _ndi_ Anambra everywhere and other persons who were watching the spectacle on live television broadcast waited with anxiety to listen to the Governor reel out not just his scorecards, but also promises of what ‘democracy dividends’ would accrue should providence be gracious enough to gift him another tenure.
Around high noon, the moment came. And to herald his appearance on the podium(as has become customary), Obiano’s Special Assistant, SA on Flute, a craggy middle-aged fellow from his native Aguleri community went to work. From across the mountain of loudspeakers strategically placed around the arena, the shrill echoes of the flutist waltzed forth, extolling the one who had transmuted from *Akpokuedike* Aguleri to *Akpokuedike* Global, conqueror of the Anambra political firmament.
Just as the spirits hearken to the summons of the *surugede* dance, Governor Obiano sprang to his feet, took a few giddy steps, swirled around like an infernal being, before staggering forward like an Abriba war general, leaving the audience pondering if he was merely reacting to the flutist’s call, or some other stimuli.
Finally, he came face to face with a horde of microphones which he had to speak to. The words rang out in staccato: “The chairman of the campaign organization, Her Excellency, the Governor of Anambra state, my wife…”
Pronto, a cold chill descended upon the hitherto boisterous crowd. Did their Governor just cede his executive office to his wife, or could it have been an inadvertent slip? Some more implacable citizens in the crowd rationalized that should the reference to his wife be a mistake, they were certain, however, that naming her chairman of the campaign organization wasn’t. Rather, it seemed like a devious move to downscale the importance of former national chairman of the All Progressives Grand Alliance(APGA), Chief Victor Umeh, who the Governor had earlier named the Director General of the 87-member campaign committee on August 3, 2017.
Yet, while Governor Obiano’s adulation of his wife as “the Executive Governor of Anambra state” might seem preposterous to other Nigerians, _ndi_ Anambra and close watchers of affairs in the state are not in doubt that the governor truly wields and shares power with his spouse.
At many state functions, including the one in review, the state’s deputy governor, the affable Dr. Nkem Okeke, is often not allowed to speak, while Mrs Obiano shares the limelight with her husband.
In deed, besides maintaining an office complex from which she operates, right inside Government House, Mrs Ebelechukwu Veronica Obiano can, to all intents and purposes be said to be the _defacto_ governor of the state, leaving her husband with a _dejure_ status.
For one, she is known to have a convoy which trumps that of the deputy governor, routinely flies on chattered aircraft to her many trips to Abuja, the nation’s capital and other cities, and generally lives off the state, in the costliest and choicest hotels within and outside the country.
For those who worry over the funding for her ostentatious tastes, they may have to make do with the allegation by a member of the Anambra state House of Assembly, Hon. Onyebuchi Offor, that while Governor Obiano pockets a princely sum of N1.45 Billion monthly as security vote, Madam Excellency nets a Queenly N250 million each month for the same purpose. Till date, there has been no official reaction disproving the charge.
But were the Anambra First Family’s ‘sin’ centred around only finances, not many _ndi_ Anambra would have seriously minded. Rather, it is Madam Excellency’s obtrusive conduct that reeks and irks _ndi_ Anambra who pride themselves as “the Light of the Nation.”
As a matter of fact, in her October 2nd speech, instead of focusing on serious matters of state, Mrs Obiano had elected to dwell on banalities, regaling the crowd with how her husband had elevated drinking binges to statecraft.
Her comments, which were in Igbo, is loosely translated thus:”We stayed from 12 midnight to 5am. It was really happening big, people were drinking and I too ordered drinks. The jollification was so much, including life band”.
So distressing were her words that video clips of the couple’s outing on that day has since gone viral on social media.
Added to her intemperate disposition, which has seen her publicly slap drivers and aides, many fear that Her Excellency’s acerbic tongue might in the long run do her husband in, much in the same way as former First Lady, Patience Jonathan’s cantankerous electioneering drove a wedge between her husband and several of his erstwhile admirers.
Consider this. On April 10, 2017, Mrs Obiano had visited Ukpor community, home town of the Speaker of the state’s legislature, and engaged in a shouting match with some indigenes.
Trouble was said to have started after Mrs Obiano claimed that the administration built the *Nkwo* *Oha* market in the community – a lie which an APGA chieftain who hails from Ukpor openly repudiated.
Despite adorning an APGA uniform, Chief Osigwe Aghochukwu had shouted, “Madam, it is a lie”.
Shocked by the seeming impudence, Mrs Obiano had walked up to Aghochukwu and dared him to repeat his assertion, and he promptly did by insisting, ” I said it is a lie”.
Casting executive decorum aside, the governor’s wife upbraided the man, calling him “a devil in APGA uniform”.
Pretty and flamboyant on the outside, Mrs Obiano routinely spills odium on the inside. Her infamous spat with a former female legislator in Poland, while on a visit with Dame Jonathan in August, 2014 is an easy reference point, as it was on that occasion that she infamously retorted, ” my husband drinks champagne, not alcohol.”
And to critics of her husband’s outlandish claim of the state having raked in $5million in vegetable export, Mrs Obiano, according to a Sahara Reporters story, had threatened to slap them. “If you bring your face, it will be slapped. Big time”, she promised in a contribution to a WhatsApp forum, using her personal phone number.
For a woman who largely turned out in long *ankara* gowns, with a Catholic scapular always around her neck back in 2013 during the campaign that brought her husband into office, _Osodieme_Obiano appears to have turned full cycle: from the meek Sister Ebele next door, to Anambra’s Imperial Majesty, before whom all else, including her husband, the Governor must kowtow.
* Hon. Ogene, a former magazine Editor, was deputy chairman, Media and Public Affairs, in the House of Representatives, Abuja.