It was on June 9, 2009 and the venue was the Conference Hall of Maitama Guest House, Maitama, Abuja. We were there for a meeting of the Anambra State Public Officers and Elders Forum. The hall was filled to the brim. Almost all the political office holders of Anambra origin were either there or represented.
Many Anambrarians were kept standing because there were chairs but no space to put them. The crowd was simply unprecedented.
I realized that most of the people attending the meeting were worried over the state of affairs in our dear state. Reports of armed robbery attacks and kidnappings were coming up on daily basis. I read of the number of people killed and maimed on daily basis but they sounded more like figures until I met a colleague at the Federal High Court where I went to file some documents on June 8, 2009.
He asked a question that brought the reality of what is happening in Anambra to me. He wanted to find out if I would be going for the burial of one of our colleagues from Edoji-Uruagu Nnewi, Late Barrister Chidi Obi who was shot in his office at “Bank Road” Nnewi on June 2, 2008 during the Nnewi Robbery attacks.
On receiving the news of the death of Chidi, I made up my mind to attend that meeting of the Anambra State Forum which I had unavoidably failed to attend in the past with the intention of ascertaining what we, as Anambra people could do to bring the security situation under control.
The meeting started with an opening prayer said by one of our prominent ladies in Abuja. We “skipped” the second item on the agenda which was the breaking of kola nuts and quickly rushed through the chairman’s opening remarks.
During his remarks as the Chairman, the former Police Service Commission boss, Chief S.N Okeke informed the forum that the Governor of our beloved State was represented by the Commissioner of Finance, Chief Eze Echesi from Awkuzu who on behalf of the Governor, would brief the forum on the political/security situation in the State.
When it was the turn of the Commissioner to speak to the forum on behalf of the Governor, everybody was happy to hear from the “Governor”. So my people wanted to hear what the state government was doing about the state of security in the state and also more information about stories flying around town suggesting that the governor’s aides were caught with the Governor’s vehicle loaded with Anambra State money at Lagos. A typical case, I heard, of government money in transported to no where inside vehicle in cash.
The Commissioner informed the gathering that the governor on May 31, 2009 was informed that his aides were caught with truck full of dollars, arms and ammunition. The governor had to rush down to Lagos only to discover that it was “just two hundred and fifty five million naira” that was paid CASH to a contractor. The contractor, according to the commissioner, was paid due to the urgency of the contract.
The Commissioner was also quick to add that the explanation as to why the money was found in the governor’s vehicle driving into the governor’s private office would be better explained by the governor himself.
Meanwhile, he launched into what appears to be an “attack” on all Anambrarians. He was of the view that Anambra people were responsible for the security situation in the state. According to Chief Eze, “Anambra would be secured the moment Anambra people decide to have security in Anambra State.”
The Commissioner was hardly finished before almost everybody at the meeting wanted to ask one question or the other. Some asked the Commissioner if, he as the commissioner of Finance in the state approved for the contractor involved in the N255m saga to be paid in cash.
Questions on when the purported contract was advertised. And where the bidding took place? Who were the contractors that participated and so many other questions that former “Madam due process” would have asked as well.
Some wanted to know if the said sum was “secured” from Anambra to Lagos State by the same police men who were meant to provide security in the state. The hall was charged and everybody wanted to speak at the same time until Dr. Chukwuemeka Ezeife, the former governor of Anambra state and the Okwadike Igboukwu stood up to speak.
Okwadike spoke for over half an hour and by the time he finished, all the frayed nerves were calmed and everybody was clapping for the governor of Anambra State.
Okwadike started by reminding the commissioner that blames game would never solve the security problem in Anambra State; That the Anambra people entrusted the security and lives of the people of the state to the government; That he was confident that even if his brother decides tomorrow to “kill or kidnap” him, that the government should protect him from his brother as that is the responsibility of the government.
Okwadike equally thanked the Commissioner for making out time to throw more light on the Security situation and the N255M “scandal. At least, Anambra people now know that what the governor’s aides were caught with was “just N255m” and neither dollars nor arms and ammunitions as the governor’s adversaries would like the world to believe. At that juncture, Okwadike requested we clap for the State government for their magnanimity in explaining the situation in the state for us.
We gave the governor a thunderous clap as instructed by Okwadike. We all clapped for the government for informing us that the young lawyer from Edoji Uruagu, Nnewi who was less than ten years in the Bar before he was violently killed and other victims of the robbery were the cause of their own death.
We clapped for the governor for informing us that the wife and children of my colleague and relations of other victims of armed robbery in Anambra has some questions to answer for their misfortune.
We clapped for Governor Obi for paying for a contract of over N255m by cash to avoid the inconvenience of dealing with his former colleagues in the banking industry.
We clapped for the Governor for the money he saved for our dear state by avoiding COT charged by banks by paying cash to contractors in Anambra State.
We equally clapped for the Governor for making his official vehicles and private office at Lagos available for Anambra State contractors who wish to store CASH paid to them by Anambra State for contracts to be executed for the people of Anambra State.
As I write this piece, I clap for the fact that before March, 2010, all Anambra people will go to the polls to say a very big thank you to the governor as he packs his bags and baggage out of Anambra State government house to his office in Lagos where he will continue with his cash and carry business.
Then, he will have no business nor expected to answer questions on the crime rate in Anambra State. Please, join us in CLAPPING for our ‘Saint Obi’.
Obunike Ohaegbu LLM (London), BL.