The political atmosphere in Anambra state has been charged since the the state governor, Chief Willie Obiano denied that his administration did not inherit any N75billion as claimed by his immediate predecessor and benefactor, Mr. Peter Obi. Governor Obiano in a press conference addressed in Awka on his behalf by the Secretary to the State Government (SSG), Professor Solo Chukwudobelu had shocked the people of the state and, indeed, most informed Nigerians, especially close watchers of Anambra state politics.
The governor maintained that contrary to the claim by former Governor Obi that his administration left a whooping N75billion for the incoming Obiano government, what his administration actually found in the coffers of the state government after he was sworn in was the sum of N9billion in the state government accounts in some banks and “near N26billion”.
Obiano stated that his former boss went ahead to add up the value of the state’s various investments before he became governor, including the state’s share of investments made during the late Chief M.I. Okpara administration of the Eastern Region, as well as the value of the state’s land his administration donated to investment firms, to arrive at the N75billion.
Interestingly, Obiano said except the N3.5billion state investment in Intafact Beverages Limited as contained in the former Governor Obi hand-over note which Obiano which was not correct, what was actually found in the official records was N1.9billion. He stated that he was forced to go public with what he inherited from Obi because of the misrepresentations in the social and traditional media that his administration was bequeathed “N75billion cash” by his predecessor.
Apparently to underscore the importance the administration attach to the issue at stake, virtually all members of the state executive council (EXCO), including commissioners and special advisers attended the news-briefing.
But former Governor Obi’s media aide, Mr. Valentine Obienyem promptly dismissed Obiano’s denials. Obienyem insisted that as at March 17, 2014, his boss handed over to Obiano, what the administration bequeathed to the incoming government in “cash and investment” was N75billion.
He stated that his boss left the sum of N37billion in local currency and N26.5billion in foreign currency. He further stated that this figures are verifiable with the various commercial banks, and, suggested that a committee should be set up to verify the claims. Obienyem added that Obiano is probably making the denials either to deliberately blackmail his erstwhile boss or doing so out of ignorance.
Obienyem said he was shocked over the whole controversy. He pointed out for instance that the reason Obiano gave for divesting the $155million state’s investment in Eurobonds and other foreign denominated securities made by Obi as fixed deposit was a clear falsehood.
Obiano had noted that he was forced to divest the state’s foreign currency fixed in some commercial banks, including Access, Fidelity and Diamond and appointed a banking firm, Afrinvest West Africa Limited to manage because he discovered that the foreign currency was recording losses in value to the extent that it had already recorded $32m loss.
But Obienyem hit the roof, saying the governor lied. He stated that the foreign currency fixed deposit has already appreciated in value to the sum of $178m. As at Friday, the money, originally $156m is now $ 176m dollars. “This means it has gained $20m dollars (over 8 billion Naira). This is not guess work but financial exactitude any expert can figure out”, Obienyem said.
In fact, for any close watcher of the political atmosphere in Anambra state, it is clear that Obiano and his former boss have had never been like cat and mouse. Those who are close to the two will certainly testify that the reason for the estranged relationship between them is not essentially about how much Obi left in state coffers but essentially about who controls the ruling All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA).
Shortly after Obiano emerged Governor, some powerful forces in the party advised him that for him to succeed, he should wrestle the soul of the party from Obi and give the party a different image from that which it had under Obi. And because Obi was tight-fisted, Obiano was advised to be freer spending money so as to attract more followership into the party.
And for governor to achieve this, everything should be done to decimate Obi’s influence not only in the party but in the state at large. It was this game plan that forced Obi out of the party after the ratification of his earlier appointment as the APGA Board of Trustee (BOT) Chairman was truncated. He eventually defected to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
It would also be recalled that less than two weeks after Obi handed over to Obiano, an unknown pressure group with headquarters at Anam in Obiano’s Anambra East local government area, Anambra Concerned Professionals which has one Dr. Manaka as its leader in advertorial advised Obiano to disown the N75billion Obi legacy to him. Indeed, not only a few political watchers had then viewed the publication as the biblical hand of “Easu but the voice of Jacob”.
But what some informed persons in the state have been asking since last week’s denial by Obiano of the money he inherited from his former boss has been since the governor knew that he did not inherit so much money, why did he allow about N600million to be spent just on decoration of some strategic centres in the state during last year’s Christmas and New Year celebrations? Why should he make over 300 political appointees if he did not have so much money to maintain them?
Some others also queried why he has been spending extravagantly, like when he marked his birth-day. Those who are not happy with the huge expenditure that went down the drain when he marked his last birth day, including goodwill messages placed in his honour in national newspapers and Television and Radio were actually funded by the state government.
There is a strong suspicion among many observers in the state that the state is currently in serious financial difficulty, and as such has been finding it difficult to meet her financial obligations, especially payments for various contracts, and therefore wants to justify why it wants to apply for loans.
It is even being rumoured that funding of the three fly-over projects currently under construction in Awka, the state capital along the Enugu-Onitsha expressway has been causing the governor sleepless nights due to the state’s current lean financial status. And that, determined to meet the government’s target of having about two of them completed to be ready for use during the Christmas and New Year festive periods, the government must obtain loan to fund them.
Sources said that the governor’s political foot-soldiers advised him that since it is obvious that Obi may not support his second term bid, it is better for him to start now to do everything to reduce his popularity so that any candidate he might support in the election would not enjoy so much popularity. Even few hours before making the denial, Obiano had during his inspection of the rescue construction job he ordered at the collapsing Nkpor fly-over along the Onitsha – Enugu expressway made it clear to the crowd that gathered at the area that his administration would last for eight years.
Meanwhile, it is clear that Obi would not support Obiano’s re-election which election will be due to be conducted in the last quarter of 2017.Obiano is currently 20 months into his first tenure. The state government is said to have currently applied for a N10billion loan facilities to a financial firm but the application later hit the wall because the governor did not get the approval of the state Assembly before making the application.
Though the SSG denied the allegation during the news-briefing, he however admitted that the government has plans to apply for a N10billion Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) loan facility approved for all states of the federation by the federal government. He that the state merely decided to apply for the loan because it is a federal government offer. He however stated that when obtained, a committee would be constituted to determine what the loan would be used for to ensure that it would be invested in a profitable venture that would be able to effectively service the interest and add further value to the state economy.
Interestingly, for most dispassionate observers, the reason for the controversy between Obiano and his erstwhile benefactor over the funds the latter’s left in office is perhaps, a struggle for political popularity between the two than any other issue.