Policy Briefs

Anambra has been hijacked – Ex-SSG, Oseloka Obaze

Former Secretary to the Government of Anambra State, Mr. Oseloka Obaze opens up on the state politics for the first time since June 2015, he left office. He also spoke on the election of Donald Trump and lessons for Nigeria among other issues. South East Editor ODOGWU EMEKA ODOGWU provides excerpts:
On Wednesday, the Amer­icans elected a new presi­dent. Did you have a pre­diction about the outcome and what are the lessons for Nigerian politicians?

The Americans have made history with their unprec­edented presidential choice. It’s a cliché to say the people have spoken; but indeed they have. The underpin­ning ethos of democracies is the holding of periodic and genuine elections that are transparent, credible and universal suffrage is re­spected. The just concluded American presidential elec­tion passed that litmus test. The beauty of American democracy is that after the acerbic politicking and near irrational campaign replete with insults, the country will rally around president-elect Donald Trump. Therein lies a lesson for us all.

You lived and worked in the United States of Ameri­ca for over twenty-five years prior to returning to Ni­geria in 2012 to accept the position of Secretary to the Anambra State Government (SSG) under Gov. Peter Obi. Why did you do so? In ret­rospect, do you regret that decision?

I made a conscious deci­sion to return to Nigeria to serve. The circumstances were right and I knew I could add value even though it was a huge sacrifice in terms of family life and remunera­tions. I took an extremely huge pay cut. As to regrets, I have none. We brought good governance to the fore. It was truly a learning pro­cess; not to take anything for granted, including promises, trust and personalities. But in life if you trip, you pull yourself up and move on.

There are extreme chal­lenges in Nigeria and also at the state and local levels. Many inhabitants of this State – Ndi Anambra – are unhappy with the progress and direction of things in the state. What is your take on this?

In politics, people get the leadership they deserve. Nigeria as a nation is chal­lenged. The states are doubly challenged, and Anambra is no exception. The only difference is that hitherto, Anambra had been set on a solid foundation and tra­jectory to leapfrog ahead of every other Nigerian state, with Lagos perhaps being the only exception. We are not there yet. Anambra State has been hijacked and it is presumptuous to believe that we will leapfrog, if we con­tinue on the present course.

As a indigene of Anam­bra State, a witness and a key player in the past and present state governments, would you say that Ndi Anambra are better off to­day than they were before?

Comparatively, No! How­ever, it is all relative. Broadly, the answer one encounters is that all is not well. HRH Roland Odegbo’s op-ed in the Daily Sun of 8 Novem­ber, underlined the present realities. But there exists a pocket of political apologists and praise singers, who will tell you that Anambra never had it so good. What is their measure? Well, they count themselves among the power brokers because they enjoy some perks denied Anambra masses. When a sovereign is ill-advised, challenges and crisis inevitably ensue. That’s Anambra’s present reality.

A cross-section of Anam­bra population believes that Anambra State would be better served by a new and different leadership. In fact, they seek a new and better leader come 2017, what is your assessment?

Anambra politics is snap­pish. But such views are pervasive in the Anambra market places; in the kekes, buses, pepper soup joints, and indeed, at the grassroots. I recently heard a musi­cal jingle to that effect. The Anambra elite are more nu­anced and only express such views surreptitiously, which is far more dangerous. Those managing Anambra State image in the media continue to sell the public a dummy. Governance via media hype is ultimately defeatist.

Like many Nigerians I have been opportuned to read your numerous informative and insightful articles and commentaries on national issues and public policy; however you seem to avoid commenting on the goings on in Anambra. Why so?

I respect officialdom. Since I left office as SSG in early June 2015, I have refrained from commenting on Anam­bra politics. However, Anam­bra’s political dynamics have changed. Moreover, APGA the ruling party is badly fractured. Not to speak up now is to be complicit in the ongoing retrogression. I am sure this interview will rattle some nerves in some quar­ters and elicit push-backs. But as a member of Anam­bra’s attentive public and a stakeholder, I’m obligated to speak truth to power.

There is an obvious groundswell of private thought and views among the masses as well as the elite in Anambra State about your leadership qual­ities, based on your stellar performance as SSG. Such views reflect a deep desire for you to join the political fray and contest in the 2017 governorship elections. Has any political action group or party approached you?

I remain a private citizen, but I continue to interact with diverse sets of Anambra people and some have been very forthright in express­ing their thoughts and oth­ers understandably nuanced. As you know, freedom of thought is constitution­ally guaranteed. So I sup­pose that there are endless thoughts streaming through peoples’ minds daily, weekly or yearly. Such thoughts are often subliminal. The good thing is that no one is privy to your thought until you express them. Until then, they remain just thoughts. That notwithstanding, it is normal for people to think of and discuss issues ger­mane to their welfare and what they consider best for Anambra State. Who am I to stop them from doing so, or from speculating?
That’s very diplomatic. Pointedly, will you run for governor in 2107?

Certain conditionali­ties could tip the scale af­firmatively. As you know, a bi-partisan group of as­pirants – Chike Obidigbo, Alex Obiogbolu, Nnamdi Ekweogwu, Paul Odenig­bo, Emma Okafor, Emma Anosike, Chinedu Idigo, Pat­rick Obianwu, and I – cam­paigned assiduously and col­lectively in 2013,to bring the governorship to Anambra North. We funded the “Let’s Go North” campaign collec­tively and rallied in support of the eventual candidate from Anambra North. In my book “Here to Serve,” I of­fered the justification, “Why Anambra Has to Go North.” Lest we forget, the process gained traction because some progressives from Anambra South and Central senatorial zones joined Gov. Peter Obi and the North’s Traditional Rulers to support that zonal shift without reservations. When the Traditional Rul­ers of the South and Central zones gave their okay for the process to Gov. Peter Obi, it was witnessed by an Anam­bra legal luminary – an arbi­ter of irreproachable repute. Yet, a few power brokers would ask for a “pound of flesh” and only acquiesced to Anambra North produc­ing a governor after securing a quid pro quo. Such are the vagaries and macabre nature of Anambra politics. Anam­bra North having secured that mandate must be allowed to complete its two terms. But if completing the full tenure is at risk, as many now believe it is, there can be no conscientious objectors to rejoining the fray in order to salvage that Northern mandate and uplift Anambra. We certainly don’t wish Anambra North to suffer from the ‘Mbadinuju Syn­drome.’ Besides, Anambra State is not where it is sup­posed to be in the Nigerian scheme of events. Compara­tively, Anambra State is still lifting below its weight and potentials. Of that, there’s no debate!

Can you explain the quid pro quo? Did that include fi­nancial settlements?

Let the dead bury the dead. The undertaker always knows where the corpses are buried.

You recently published two books. In your book, “Here to Serve,” you hinted on a forth­coming memoir. When do we expect the memoir or another book?

The memoir will come in the fullness of time. How­ever, I have just sent off the manuscript for my next book, “Prime Witness,” to my pub­lishers. The book focuses on policy challenges in Nigeria.

You write frequently and presumably read voraciously. What have you been reading lately?

On serious works, I have just finished John Paden’s bi­ography of President Buhari titled, the Challenges of Lead­ership in Nigeria; and pres­ently reading Chudi Ofodile’s The Politics of Biafra and the Future of Nigeria. For lei­sure, I am also reading John Grisham’s latest book, The Whistler; the novel is awe­some and vintage Grisham. I read to stay informed of contemporary issues and to pass time.

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.

Leave a Comment