Tuesday, 20 September 2016

Defending Anambra’s Light

By Chuks Iloegbunam


Anambra State marked its silver jubilee on August 27, 2016, emitting rays of brilliant colours that emphasize the uniqueness of its people as wonderfully crafted by God, continuously demonstrating to the entire world that they are endowed with the dominant infrastructures of greatness, unsurpassed pacesetters in all noble walks of life – the arts, entrepreneurship, leadership, scholarship, the sciences, sports, statesmanship, etc. How apposite that this land of a blessed people has as its slogan the revealing title of Light of the Nation! There isn’t any aspect of national life in which Ndi Anambra do not excel. Little wonder that Jubilee Governor Willie Obiano waxed prophetically lyrical in,Please, let’s do it together, his speech to mark the anniversary: “Anambra state will be the food basket of Africa in the next 25 years. In the next 25 years, Anambra will not depend on federal allocation. It will be known as a state that transited to become the Taiwan of Africa. We are number one among states that were created 25 years ago. We pay salaries as and when due. We are the safest state, and we have attracted billions of dollars in investment to the state.” (adsbygoogle = window.adsbygoogle || []).push({}); Yet, Anambra State’s great future, and the fact that its affairs are currently under the controls of a pair of capable hands, belies the palpable dangers that lie ahead. The situation evokes the sort of apprehension that informed the late great poet, Christopher Okigbo’s writing of his 1966 poem entitled “Come Thunder”, the first four lines of which go thus: Now that the triumphant march has entered the last street corners, Remember, O dancers, the thunder among the clouds… Now that laughter, broken in two, hangs tremulous between the teeth, Remember, O dancers, the lightning beyond the earth… The smell of blood already floats in the lavender-mist of the afternoon. What seeks Anambra’s negation? What strives to dim its brilliance and turn the people’s joys into one long, dark night of bewitched recrimination and retrogression? The answer is FALSEHOOD. Deliberately manufactured falsehood! Let’s illustrate. I recently took a telephone call from an educated friend domiciled in the United States since the 1970s. To my astonishment, he exhibited a rage uncharacteristic of his calm and urbane nature. “Obiano will never have a second term of office,” he bawled, swearing that I had made a fatal mistake by recently accepting appointment as the Anambra State Governor’s Media Director. On and on he railed, his voice rising to a crescendo. When I managed to put in a word edgewise, I reminded him that our friendship mustn’t be confused with the relationship between a cane-wielding village headmaster and a recalcitrant truant. We were basically friends. Could he possibly hold his peace and take a listen? He agreed, having screamed three principal complaints: (1) He had heard that Governor Obiano ordered soldiers to gun down peaceful IPOB demonstrators. (2) He had read from a Nigerian-owned, UK-based online newspaper a July 25, 2016 story entitled How Governor Obiano embezzled N75b in two years. (3) He was despondent at another newspaper report that widows had been “forced from their stalls” and consequently rioted in Onitsha. I proceeded to provide him with the correct version of things. Although a national daily had so claimed, there never was a women’s riot anywhere in Anambra State including Onitsha. Here are the facts: there is a street market on the main road that issues into Onitsha through the Niger Bridge. It stands on a land owned by Nath Okechukwu, the boss of Interbau, the road construction giant. Chief Okechukwu had ceded the land to a younger sister for temporary business purposes, pending its conversion into his firm’s headquarters. But the sister had leased it to agents who made an instant vegetable market out of the land, collecting “landing” fees and rents without remitting any taxes to government. Every so often vehicles plowed into the market, causing casualties. The place has no toilets, a veritable eyesore. The Anambra Government constructed an alternative market nearby for the traders that guaranteed dignity, safety, security and conveniences. But the agent provocateurs reaping where they hadn’t sown were indignant. They corralled hapless women by the scores and had them all decked out in black. Dubbing these hired women as “widows”, they had them brandishing empty plastic bottles and waving placards, claiming they had been chased from their sources of daily bread! The agent provocateurs, led by a man nicknamed Super, who isn’t even from Anambra State, went to town, hollering that Obiano was heartless, having “divested poor widows” of their means of livelihood! How could hundreds of women trading in one market be all widows? Yet, a national daily lied that there had been a women’s riot. Nothing had been destroyed during the sponsored demonstration, not even a broomstick had been broken, and no injuries were reported. Yet, a mercantilist journalist filed a patently false story, which my educated friend believed and hastily added to Governor Obiano’s “crimes.” That’s one.

Chuks Iloegbunam sent this piece via iloegbunam@hotmail.com.

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