When PDP's Obaze proved his unbending integrity By Chima George

It was Martin Luther King Jr. who said that “the ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversies.” This is not only true but has become a welcome benchmark to examine the integrity of leaders globally. 

Come November 18, Ndi Anambra will go to the polls to make an all important decision. Armed with their Permanent Voters' Card (PVC), they will collectively decide on the future of the state. Several candidates are running to secure the mandate of the people, but one man distinguishes himself from the rest. That man is the candidate of the People's Democratic Party (PDP), Mr. Oseloka H. Obaze. Having served four Presidents of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and four Secretaries-General of the United Nations, you won't expect less from the astute gentlemen who is currently wooing Anambra electorate on his campaign trail.

For many people, different things stand Obaze out, but his blunt refusal to be compromised in 2013 still shocks some till date. It was during the build up to the primaries of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) and Obaze had just resigned as the Secretary to the State Government (SSG) to become one of the aspirants. He was going to succeed Mr. Peter Obi, the chief reason for begging him to return from the United Nations. Peter Obi, who was the governor then, had just reconciled with the National Chairman of the party, Chief Victor Umeh but there were still issues largely bothering on personal interests which saw Umeh vehemently reject Obaze’s candidature. Obaze was viewed by Umeh as Peter Obi’s candidate. Moreso, Obaze was seen as someone who will be more frugal with the state's resources than the man he was to succeed - a major turn off for those who approach governance with an entirely different mindset.

It was all left for the party primaries to decide who will fly their party's flag. Obaze was the overwhelming favourite. Umeh, the then National Chiarman of the party, looked for every trick in the box to disqualify the public policy expert but drew empty. The party's screening of aspirants had been scheduled for Monday and Tuesday in the National Headquarters of the party at Abuja. Obaze went for the screening and expectedly dotted all the I’s and not leaving the T’s uncrossed, except the ones that were not in his powers to do. For instance, since Obaze’s return to Nigeria in 2012, there has been no voters' registration exercise until that 2013 Anambra governorship election. Moreso, Independent National Electoral Commision (INEC) had postponed the registration exercise by two weeks implying that the earliest Obaze could have obtained his card is on the second day of the screening.

Umeh had got a wind that Obaze’s new Voters' Card, usually not a requirement for party primaries, will be ready for collection on Tuesday. In a bid to ensure that Obaze doesn't get a chance to submit his Voters' Card, Umeh, cruising on his influence as the National Chiarman of the party, got the screening exercise originally scheduled to hold for two days to now sit for a day. Umeh didn't need to lift more than a finger to get the handpicked screening panel to disqualify Obaze based on flimsy Voters' Card issue.

Obaze had been briefed on the plan to scuttle his aspiration using the Voters' Card ploy. Staunch supporters ran around to see that he gets the card on Monday to beat Umeh to his plan. Obaze was in his house on the Sunday before the primaries when one of his supporters knocked on the door and had a Voters Card for him. It was unclear whether they had designed an exact replica of Voters' Card or whether they obtained his before the INEC official release date, but one thing is sure - accepting to present that card would have changed the outcome. But then came vantage Obaze. He shocked all the well wishers who thought they meant well for him. He rejected the presumably fake Voters' Card and chased the man that delivered same out of his house. In his words, “this is not a do or die affair. I have had over thirty enviable years at the highest level in the Diplomatic community and have established a well revered character as a global citizen, I can't compromise that because I want to serve as a state governor. Never!”

The shocked supporters retreated but, unknown to Obaze, failed to surrender. The former SSG then headed to Abuja the next morning for the screening process. Arriving at the airport, he was met with another messenger who was waiting with another Voters' Card for him. Obaze again rejected the Voters' Card insisting that he will only collect his card from INEC which will be available the next day. The messenger pleaded and wailed that Obaze just accepts to present the Card even if its just for a day to avoid being disqualified, then collect the INEC-issued one the next day. Others at the airport joined in the plea but it all fell on deaf ears. Obaze again, when no one was looking, proved his mettle as an unrepentant due process person. His integrity is unflinching, not a surprise knowing his background and career but also the fact that revered novelist and black icon, Late Prof. Chinua Achebe trusted his friendship with Obaze so much that he allowed him the honour to do the final review and sign off on his last book, “There Was A Country”, speaks volume of the character of this rare gift to Anambra State.

Had Obaze accepted that Voters' Card, he could have been the Governor of Anambra State. His blunt refusal to compromise in a power-intoxicating country like Nigeria affirms the fact that he is a rare breed who stands so firmly on the right path even at the peak of challenges and discomfort. This is a man to trust and bank on. As he fondly says “I have only two things in this world, my name and my words. I fight hard to protect them.”

I have been silently praying that Obaze doesn't get too annoyed by the kind of politics we play here to wake up one day and quit the campaign. Unlike most politicians, Obaze is capable of doing that. He is genuinely interested in service delivery to the people. Nigeria will learn again from Anambra with PDP's Obaze on the saddle of leadership. The present regress in the state can be firmly arrested before Anambra returns to the pre Peter Obi days.

The cards are on the table, it is over to the Anambra electorate to play it right. 

Chima George,  a Public Affairs Analyst and Freelance Journalist writes from Awka.

When PDP's Obaze proved his unbending integrity By Chima George When PDP's Obaze proved his unbending integrity By Chima George Reviewed by Unknown on Thursday, November 09, 2017 Rating: 5

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