Friday, 5 August 2016

Will Obiano’s Olive Branch Finally Bring Peace?


As I write this piece, I wonder if it has occurred to anyone that the world now has a new television. Mark Zukerberg has given us a new television and its name is Facebook.

This television trumps the encumbrances of weight and the rules of professionalism, good taste and a myriad of interests. It is the ultimate theatre of possibilities. A big stage where the sublime clashes with the ridiculous and explodes in a thousand meaningless splinters!
The tide of emotions that swept through the South Eastern social media sphere in the past two days following the olive branch extended by governor Willie Obiano of Anambra State to his predecessor during the funeral mass of their former principal in Onitsha offers a great insight into the colour and sublime power of this new television called Facebook.
But it also showed its weaknesses – the melange of voices, the whirlwind of confusion, the echo in the wind and the usual sound and fury signifying nothing. From the side lines, it was easy to hear voices roll on top of voices, growing in decibels, drowning each other in turns and petering out into meaninglessness. Not once did one hear an attempt to situate the incident within a context and frame it up in a mirror of history that would enable succeeding generations to extract the intrinsic values it offers in abundance. Not once!


Now, for those who may be surprisingly unfamiliar with the history of the bitter war between former governor Obi and his successor, governor Obiano, here is what happened. The two gentlemen were moulded by Fr. Nicholas Tagbo, the great principal of Christ the King College, Onitsha, whose funeral they attended on Tuesday, August 3rd, 2016. The two have been friends for decades. One started a great tradition of purposeful governance under the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) and handed over power to the other in a historic moment that drew tears from the people. He left the stage in a plume of glory and assured that he would not meddle in the affairs of his successor. The other made a solemn pledge to continue the tradition he had inherited and surpass what his brother had handed him in a manner that would justify the former’s choice of him as a worthy replacement.
On that day, March 17, 2014, in the tumult of the high ceremonies that marked the shift of power from Agulu to Aguleri, hope rose to a lofty height in Anambra State. Sadly, as it turned out, when the last sound of jubilant drums echoed through the gathering dusk, it marked the beginning of an edgy relationship between the predecessor and his successor. A lot has happened since then. But what cannot be gainsaid in the dominant narrative by either party is that if the wish of any good leader is to produce a great successor, Peter Obi has produced one in Willie Obiano. Truth is inviolable! Anambra has improved since Obi handed over power and it is to his credit, not the other way!
Now, if we patiently cut through the clutter and take a close look at the scenario before us, we would see that Anambra should in fact have made greater progress if there had not been a rupture in the ties that bind these two great sons of the state. We would see that their bitter squabble had lasted for two long years and now stands as a record on its own. And perhaps more pointedly, we would see that had Obi spoken up in support of his successor in the early days of the Obiano administration Anambra would perhaps have known more progress. Instead, there was a long interminable silence that finally gave way to speculations and eventually, vicious rumours of rift. The rest, as they say, is history. Now, this is just a niggling hunch!
And so, rather than a blissful friendship that would have elevated the poetry of the war cry of “from Obi to Obiano” and from “Agulu to Aguleri,” we were all enshrouded in a plume of smoke, stoked by irritants who should not truly have a say in Nnamdi Azikiwe’s home state; who should not speak in the same cultural atmosphere that gave the world Chinua Achebe. And as I write this, they are crawling all over the crevices of Facebook, spewing dirt and slime and globs of indecency all over the place, defending imaginary territories where there should be only one. These are people who have no understanding of the meaning of reputation and what it takes to build one. They are down, and so, have no fear of falling. They are the Facebook equivalent of suicide bombers; what inimitable Achebe would have referred to as the “excreta of the clan.” It is infuriating to accept that these are the people who are currently moderating the conversation and shaping the discourse in Kenneth Dike’s home state.
As would be expected, in the past two years, these characters have sown elephant grass in the political garden of Anambra State, hawking scurrilous lies and immoral untruths; vending cruel stories that announce the death of their perceived enemies and sounding false alarms on the buoyant treasury of the state. Their repugnant effusions have often rendered several efforts by prominent citizens to reconcile the duo ineffective because of the confusion and doubts it sows in the minds of the people and even the peace-makers themselves. I remember that in the heat of the campaign for the last general elections, the Obi of Onitsha had made a great effort to reconcile them in his palace in the presence of former President Jonathan. There have also been repeated efforts by the clergy that came to nought. I also remember that at some point, governor Obiano had publicly ordered his media team to desist from publishing unflattering stories on former governor Obi. However, successive efforts to resolve the quarrel have often crashed under the onslaught of these Facebook denizens who see the continuation of the rivalry as their only means of livelihood. Egged on by the graveyard silence from one side of the divide, they mutate like rodents and attack everything on sight, from bishops to traditional rulers down to their own demented images in the mirror!
The medley of acerbic commentaries that have dominated Facebook since Obiano’s symbolic Olive Branch in Onitsha gives a grave cause for concern. It is worrisome that rather than induce a change in the tenor of their flagrant voices, the Olive Branch it has ignited a dark desire somewhere. Mistaking it for weakness, their voices have grown trenchant…even triumphant. At best, they dismiss it as Obiano’s attempt to win Obi’s support for his second term. At worst, they see it as the final surrender. They have no depth to see the moral strength that sired that act and its signification. They lack the capacity to see Obiano’s gesture as a close equivalent of President Jonathan’s symbolic phone call to Muhammadu Buhari that saved the nation a huge cost in blood and emotion during the last general elections. They forget that Obiano has been overwhelmingly endorsed by Nigerians across the entire spectrum and by the larger majority of Ndi Anambra who bear witness to his sterling performance. That even leading opposition figures have given him high praises for a dogged pursuit of excellence. And quite tragically, they lack the discernment to see that by extending the Olive Branch, Willie Obiano has fully and totally validated the judgement of all the institutions that have given him one prize or the other for excellent leadership. Indeed, considering the rarity of the gesture the various institutions would be nodding their heads in self-satisfaction while the many distinguished citizens who have voiced their support would be turning to their friends with a glint in their eyes that says “I told you so!”
The truth is, in our national political history, we have seen rivalries between estranged godfathers and their sons and I can’t recall any godfather whose quest for space after exiting office did not end in ignominy.
Happily, Anambra has set yet another example with Obi and his brother Obiano. As it has turned out, Willie Obiano has shown a sparkling example. It is now up to the elders and political leaders of the state to water this tender acorn of restitution and forgiveness and nurture it into a mighty oak of hope for the general good of the state. Fr Tagbo has offered his feuding sons his greatest parting gift...a common ground for peace. The two great men have accepted it. Let's up all help them preserve it.

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