Policy Briefs

Oseloka H. Obaze  (OHO), speaks exclusively to Fides on Anambra governance issues and 2017 election prospects.

Mr. Oseloka H. Obaze (OHO), MD/CEO Selonnes Consult, diplomat the immediate-past Secretary to the Anambra State Government (SSG) as well as frontline governorship aspirant in this years gubernatorial poll in Anambra speaks with Fides editor in chief Jude Atupuluazi, on his political ambition which has continued to gather momentum. Here are the excerpts.
You supported the incumbent governor the last time, even after you did not realise your own ambition. Why are you not backing him now, especially when he has not completed his full tenure? What has changed? 

OHO: First, the governor has not asked for my support as a stakeholder. But it is importance to follow the correct sequence of events. In 2013, as Anambra North stakeholders, we campaigned and fought hard on a non-partisan basis to bring the governorship to Anambra North. We agreed to present the best candidates from the North and to rally behind anyone who emerged from the North. I believed, like many that I had something tangible to offer and after consultations presented myself as did others. In the end, political permutations and chicanery led to the emergence of a sole candidate from Anambra North, and true to our undertaking we rallied, campaigned and supported the incumbent governor. He won. What changed? The mindset; and the political trajectory deviated. There remains an absence of a full appreciation of the efforts and broad process that brought the governorship to the North, coupled with very poor advice. Those who were not part of the “Go North” campaign took over. The foundation for an integrated development of Anambra to it fullest potentials was abandoned and the democratic dividends accruing to Anambra North was sectionalized. Above all, and irrespective of perceptible progress, Ananmbra is well behind where it ought to be in 2017. We can do better and Anambra deserves better. This is nothing personal. It is all about offering our people the requisite leadership. 

Can your aspiration for Gov. Obiano’s seat be interpreted to mean that you fell out with him during your stint as SSG under him?

OHO: Far from it. My departure from the government was on mutual terms. I had agreed in the first instance to stay for six months but ended up staying fifteen months. Until I left office on 8 June, 2015, my relationship with the governor and my boss remained cordial, correct and without animosities. That relationship remains so, at least from my side. As the SSG and a senior adviser to the governor, I gave timely, honest and unfettered counsel. I served diligently. But there were disparate voices within the government; people who believed they had the ears of the governor and inevitably constituted themselves into a late night “kitchen cabinet”. Those aspirants from the North who really campaigned and worked assiduously for the government house had a clear vision and determination. But those who arrived later scuttled the plan. They succeeded in derailing the course and focus of the government and began attacking anyone who had contrary opinion of how things ought to be done. Inevitably policies suffered; and failings were masked with bravura and sloganeering took the place of constructive engagement and leadership. As I’ve said, “you never tell a sovereign that he is wrong, but you must warn him that he is being ill-advised.” I did my part while in government. Most importantly, however, I’m a firm believer that a second tenure for any elected public official should be predicated on past performance.

 The political platform you will use continues to be a matter of conjecture. Where will you pitch your tent?

OHO: In a true democracy, that ought not be an issue. An incumbent, no matter how popular can expect others with varying political ideas and platform to run. Such processes reflect the true essence of a healthy democracy. Were that the case, the issue of a platform won’t arise. But as the parlance here goes, “there is no vacancy at the Government House” and therefore, no vacancy for an alternative APGA ticket. That leaves one only one option, to look somewhere else. Despite the rush by many political heavyweights, the APC is a no-go area in Anambra, except we are ready to sell our proverbial “birthrights”. But there are other options and possible combination of options. We are consulting and will engage with the correct platform and party, where there is convergence of mission, vision, policy plank and mutual accommodation
What areas do you think the incumbent has fallen short that you want to improve upon?

OHO: There are no absolutes in politics and indeed, in governance. Governance covers a broad spectrum: delivery of services, security, wealth creation, the economy, infrastructure development and tackling unemployment and unmet needs. To predicate good governance on meeting the routine and basic premise of paying salaries, pensions etc is to beg the question. Building hard and strong infrastructure is important, but it is more important to maintain existing infrastructure. Government has to be self-funding and not dependent on federal handouts; it therefore has a responsibility to devise means of funding its programmes and projects while carrying along all segments of the electorate, even areas dominated by the opposition. So in the circumstance, where development plans and deployment are no longer holistic and encompassing, the sense of disenfranchisement and alienation ensues. Similarly, where people at the grassroots who worked assiduously,campaigned and voted to bring a government to power are all but forgotten, something is certainly wrong. We are witnesses to a slew of signed MOUs, but in reality, they are not commensurate to investments on the ground. We lost several investors to Ogun State, including a major multinational because government is not properly engaged. I understand from some prospective investors that some of those charged with handling such matters are engaged in doublespeak and indeed make investment facilitation very difficult, if not prohibitive. We will definitely improve on that. 

 What is the level of consultation that you have made before taking a decision to run for the state’s numero uno seat?

: Broad political consultation is imperative and an ongoing process. Consultations is certainly not a one off event. I have been consulting on a non-partisan basis and I also have some key stakeholders consulting on my behalf. There is a broad consensus at the grassroots and among the elite that Anambra can do better and indeed deserves to do better. We need consistent, credible and purposeful leadership to take Anambra State beyond the economic and developmental mainstream.

Would you say the state is better off now than when you were a part of governance?

: Over the years Anambra has progressed in different facets of its economy, development and politics. In the previous Administration, there were broad consultations on an array of issues including the state budget and infrastructure considered priority to the various communities. As such, no community was left behind. There was an integrated strategy for development. That plan was jettisoned for no reason other than sentiments and partisan politics, but with dire consequences. So, perceptibly, there may be signs of progress, but in quantum, how many kilometers of new roads have we added since 2014; go and look at how many new roads and projects that were abandoned after flag off. Have the existing roads been properly maintained, despite the “zero pothole” mantra? I will let you and the Anambra electorate be the judge. Those who have personally benefitted directly from the present government or whose relatives have been employed are loath to speak out. Such considered enlightened self-interest is understandable, but does not and cannot represent advancement for Anambra State. 

What is your relationship with the immediate past governor of the state, Mr. Peter Obi?

OHO: I subscribe to Waziri Ibrahim’s doctrine of “politics without bitterness”. Such a disposition is in tandem with my Christian and Catholic upbringing of forgiveness and my professional training as a diplomat. Hence, I have a very warm and cordial relationship with my former boss, Gov. Peter Obi, just as I have with all my erstwhile bosses, including for example, Prof. Ibrahim Gambari, my three-time boss at the Foreign Ministry, the Nigerian Mission to the U.N. and at the United Nations Headquarters proper. Similarly, I have very cordial relations with Sir Victor Umeh, the former APGA party chairman, even though he singularly disqualified me as an APGA candidate for governorship election in 2013. 

Having served under both men, what would you say is the major difference in their style of administration?

OHO: I am not in the habit of publicly evaluating my superiors and won’t start now. So suffice it to say that both have very distinct leadership styles. But generally speaking, you must understand that as individuals each person has certain traits, values and idiosyncrasies. As politicians and leaders, each individual must have their dos and don’ts. This also applies to how you handle core issues, your colleagues, subordinates and the general populace. No leader has the exclusive preserve of knowledge or wisdom; hence the need for a hierarchy of formal and informal advisers in a governance bureaucracy. A leader should not be too overly concerned with the amount of information that comes his way, but with how he is able to put them effectively to good use. A leader should also be able to differentiate between what is factual and hard information and what is self-serving, self-promoting and gratuitous fib. 

Oseloka Obaze, MD & CEO

Oseloka Obaze, MD & CEO

Mr. Obaze is the former Secretary to the State Government of Anambra State, Nigeria from 2012 to 2015 - MD & CEO, Oseloka H. Obaze. Mr. Obaze also served as a former United Nations official, from 1991-2012, and as a former member of the Nigerian Diplomatic Service, from 1982-1991.

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