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Anambra State for sale

October 4, 2009

Image removed.Anambra State is about to relive its reputation as a theater of political perfidy. All over the state, there’s an air of great political excitement (on the part of the vultures also known as politicians) and of foreboding and anxiety (on the part of the indigenes whose lives are being turned topsy-turvy.

Quite simply, Anambra State is being put up for sale to the highest bidder. It’s a cruel, tragic sight.

A few weeks ago, the Peoples Democratic Party set the tone for the auctioning off of the state. The PDP, which boasts the largest collection of depraved men and women in the history of party politics in Africa, set the opening bid at N5 million. That’s just the cost of picking up a registration form to vie for the governorship of the state. Why would any man or woman dole out so much cash for the opportunity to seek an opportunity to become governor?

Well, because it’s not, strictly speaking, about governorship. The N5 million entry fee is to participate in a macabre ritual – the selling of a people’s collective resources to a single man or man, or to the lucky winner and his or her coterie of sponsors.

If PDP members were not daylight robbers, they would have rebuked their party for instituting such a scandalous price for the gubernatorial ticket. Indeed, one of the party’s leaders told me over the phone that the point of the high entry fee was “to discourage any Tom, Dick and Harry from aspiring to contest.”

Well, the party misjudged its membership and the lure of a governorship. Instead of deterring aspirants, the high fee served as magnet. The party had, by the exorbitance of the asking price, reminded every Okeke, Okoye and Okafor that there was a lot of lucre to be looted by the person who occupies the Number One position in the state. A lot of party members heard that message, loud and clear. As if to demonstrate their unwholesome goals, more than forty men and women paid the requisite cash to pick up forms.

Where did these bidders come from? What’s the source of their wealth? Does anybody believe that any of these forty-seven men and women earned the cash they paid in a legitimate way? Or, if some godfather picked up the tab, does anybody think any sponsor would advance a loan of N5 million to a candidate for altruistic, public-spirited reasons?

At any rate, is there anybody so naïve as to think that these million naira-candidates are driven by a passion for selfless, visionary service?

Sadly, the PDP is not the lone colony of loonies. If the other political parties were possessed of superior political wisdom, they might have mounted a withering assault on the PDP’s cash-and-carry approach to political office. Instead, the competition chose the role of imitators. Absurdity being infectious in Nigeria, the other political parties quickly priced their own governorship forms at the PDP level – or even higher. Which all means that, whoever is finally selected by Maurice Iwu’s electoral commission, the people of Anambra can count on one outcome: they will be squeezed and screwed.

As I write, there are reports that the PDP’s statewide congresses to elect the party’s candidate degenerated into an exercise in violence and fraud. Thisday reported that the process “was marred by widespread violence, thuggery, rigging and snatching of ballot boxes and election materials in most of the 21 local government areas of the state where the exercise took place.” It added: “Sporadic guns shots were heard in some areas during the exercise.” And then this sobering bit: “the election took place in only about 10 per cent of the 326 electoral wards.”

Make no mistake: the reign of violence and electoral heist within the PDP is a harbinger of what’s to come in the governorship (so-called) election on February 6, 2010. Anambra has been luckless since the dawn of this nascent – more truly, nasty – democracy. From the look of things, the streak of vapid leadership appears assured.

Clement Chinwoke Mbadinuju combined a knack for biblical declamations with a facility for disastrous statecraft. Chris Ngige established a populist tone by divorcing his grubby sponsors, renouncing former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s iniquitous designs, and making a significant push in road construction; even so, he was a usurper. Peter Obi, who won the 2003 election and worked admirably to reclaim his mandate from Ngige, has squandered his good will through hypocrisy and personal aggrandizement. Some powerful interests in the PDP are reportedly paving the way for Charles Chukwuma Soludo, former Governor of the Central Bank, to emerge as the party’s candidate. But Mr. Soludo, by many accounts a brilliant economist, has yet to explain his silence and inaction while insatiable and irresponsible debtors made a run on Nigerian banks. There’s also the disturbing fact that Mr. Soludo keeps the company of Mr. Tony Anenih, a man who exemplifies some of the basest political attributes.


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