In November, 2011, Professor Chinua Achebe, Africa’s greatest novelist, raconteur, essayist and conscience of the nation, rejected for the second time a high national honour. The man of letters explained that the rejection of the Commander of the Federal Republic (CFR) award arose from the failure of the Nigerian federal government to address the issues he raised in 2004 which caused him to reject a high national honour the first time. “The reasons for rejecting the offer when it was first made have not been addressed, let alone solved. It is inappropriate to offer it again to me”, Achebe stated in a letter addressed to the Nigerian ambassador to the United States where the globally acclaimed writer was living.
When he rejected the offer of Order of the Federal Republic (OFR) seven years earlier, Professor Achebe had given a most moving reason. He wrote: “For some time now, I have watched events in Nigeria with alarm and dismay. I have watched particularly the chaos in my own state of Anambra where a small clique of renegades, openly boasting its connections in high places, seems determined to turn my homeland into a bankrupt and lawless fiefdom”.
One of the strategies the small clique of renegades employed to bankrupt Anambra State was the irrevocable standing payment orders (ISPOs) through which humongous payments were made every month to contractors regardless of the jobs they executed at any point in time. The payments were made straight from the state’s share of the federation allocation every month in Abuja. In other words, the contractors were paid huge sums for doing practically nothing before teachers and civil servants were paid salaries. No wonder public servants were owed salaries for several months, forcing schools to close for almost one academic session in a state which prides itself on education as about its biggest industry. As Dr Pius Okigbo, a proud Anambra son and Africa’s most decorated economist, would say, they educated our dear state to their own level.
It came as no surprise that the Anambra people rejected the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the 2003 general election, but the party got the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to declare it the winner because it used its power of incumbency at the federal level to commit this electoral heist. Good a thing that the court was to correct this fraud in 2006, and the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), which won the election legitimately, came to power. Ever since then, Anambra State has been on a terrific development trajectory.
Anambra is today Nigeria’s most competitive state. For instance, at the celebration of the 2019 World Teachers Day which was held in Nigeria on Saturday, October 5, at Eagle Square in Abuja, Anambra alone won four of the national 24 awards which all 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory contested for. Most states did not get any, and among the few which won awards none received more than one prize. Out of the five vehicles made available for schools and individuals for excellence in education, Anambra State alone took two; no other state got more than one.
Far from being what Professor Achebe described in 2004 as a chaotic and lawless fiefdom when the PDP was at the helm of affairs, Anambra has emerged Nigeria’s safest state, the most peaceful and the most united. Consequently, it has been attracting huge investments, estimated to be between $4 and $5billion. If it were a country, Anambra would have a gross domestic product per capita higher than those of Kenya, Ghana and Tanzania, among many others in Africa.
It is, therefore, worrisome that the same group of politicians whom Achebe called renegades is planning to stage a comeback in the affairs of Anambra State. These politicians have not bothered to apologise for the atrocities they committed against ndi Anambra like the three-day mayhem in November, 2003, which saw them burn, with the assistance of thugs, the Anambra Broadcasting Service and destroyed the Governor’s Lodge in Onitsha GRA, the Government House in Awka, the Judicial Complex and the House of Assembly building in Awka. Nor have they deemed it necessary to atone for the kidnapping of the then sitting governor, Dr Chris Ngige, who is today the Minister of Labour and Productivity.
They have also refused to ask ndi Anambra for forgiveness for owing workers for several months and for closing down schools for close to one academic session. In the same manner, they have bluntly refused to atone for dragging Dr Ngige, when he was officially the governor-elect, to the Okija shrine to swear that he would hold the cow of Anambra State while they milked it. Not to be forgotten is their refusal to apologize for the brazen rigging of several elections in the state, thereby toying with the destiny of ndi Anambra.
All these politicians want is power for its own sake, and not the power to do good. They want power to continue with such schemes as the irrevocable standing payment orders and consequently return Anambra to the days which the former Vice President, the late Dr Alex Ekwueme, famously called the years the locusts consumed. The good news is that ndi Anambra have always rejected these locusts and their shenanigans.
Professor Achebe, the great thinker, seer, prophet, conscience of the nation and a man of his people, must be looking down from above and pleased with ndi Anambra for their unwavering commitment to a better tomorrow, rather than mortgage their future.
God bless Anambra State, the Light of the Nation.
- Nzeribe wrote from Uli, Ihiala Local Government Area, Anambra State.