Monday, August 05, 2013

The Role of Uba in my Government -- Mbadinuju Interview

Throwback Anambra Politics fom the Archives
Published in Syndication
August 05, 2003

Dr. Chinwoke Mbadinuju was until May 29 this year the Governor of Anambra State. His four-year tenure was turbulent as he had a running battle with political godfathers who did not make things easy for him. With a new government led by Dr. Chris Ngige, the same problem of godfather has arisen again culminating in the abduction of Ngige by a police team led by Assistant Inspector General, Mr. Raphael Ige (rtd). Mbadinuju, who is currently residing in London was sent a questionnaire on latest events in Anambra State as well as how he was able to tackle the same problem. In his answers which he sent to Chukwudi Nwabuko via e-mail from London, Mbadinuju asked Ngige to quit office if he cannot prove duress before signing the controversial resignation letter. He spoke of his relationship with the self-acclaimed political godfather of Anambra State, Chief Chris Uba and the strangle hold Uba has on the state financial allocation.
You are no doubt aware of the current events concerning the abduction of Dr. Chris Ngige, What do you have to say to this?
This is one crisis too many for the state. Government is like a relay race, the incoming one takes over from where the out going stops. It is important that the runners should run forward not backward.
In spite of only 5 months of strike action ( not 12 months as detractors say, and only 3 months ( March, April, and (May which Federal Government withheld) of salary arrears, my administration moved Anambra state forward. For example, within 100 days in office, we completed and moved into the government house with dualized entrance and other facilities of novel importance. Can anybody say that Anambra has moved forward since I handed over to the new administration in May? It is now August ( nearly 100 days). Have we not moved backwards? The runners in the relay race are they running forward or back ward? I don't know. The people will judge.
Many things about the abduction must be condemned, including the events leading to it: the alleged slapping of the governor, the governor at the shrine, the signing of post-dated cheques of N870.0 million, N1.5 billion, and another N1.5billion, knowing at the time of signing there was no money in the bank (this is a criminal offense in itself, to sign a cheque knowing you have no money in the bank), the three resignation letters; and then the abduction. It all sounds like folk tale not to be associated with the serious business of governance.
The most contentious are the resignation letters. The Governor first said he did not sign them, then he went further and said he signed but under duress. Then finally, he admitted signing away his office, and then the oath of allegiance he took for his mentor. If the Governor can prove duress, he should be discharged legally, not morally. If he cannot prove duress, he must perform as he contracted and vacate office. No one should eat his cake and have it. You cannot approbate and reprobate at the same time. Or after a contract of resignation do you punish one party and protect the other? If the agreement is not good in law, it may be accepted in equity because one party had moved to its detriment. It is because of the "agreement" that Uba & co pumped in their money and did their "abracadabra or anwansiology" in "panel-beating" the results announced in Anambra state, and Chris Uba has admitted that he is a businessman not a philanthropist. Who blames hi m, it is a cash and carry business. Let's hope that one day the true result will be known.
In your opinion, was Dr. Ngige in order to have entered into a deal with Chris Uba and the other dramatis personae?
Most people running for election anywhere in the world make deals. They make deals with the electorate, they make deals with financial contributors, they make deals with interest groups like labor union, teachers, traders, businessmen, the military. The aim is "vote for me and I will do this or that for you if I win." What is wrong in it? The only thing wrong is breaking the promise or enforcing the agreement in an unlawful manner. So, Dr. Chris Ngige did no wrong essentially to strike a deal with a financier. Neither did Uba go wrong in accepting to finance a friend's election on terms. What is wrong again is the bad faith and blackmail associated with the whole transaction. Both Chris Ngige and Chris Uba colluded or conspired to edge me out using all sorts of blackmail and propaganda and support from by Abuja. Now nemesis has caught up with them because the Bible in Galatians 6: 7 says that "whatsoever a man soweth, that he shall reap."
What role did Chris Uba play in your government during your tenure?
Chief Uba (Eselu ) was the closest friend I had in government, but he is a man of many parts. You really cannot tell when he is for or against you.
If he had listened to numerous advice given to him, he should not have plotted the downfall of my regime. It is a pity we are talking of a one-man plot, although some have alleged that Abuja gave the Ubas the nod to produce the Anambra governor and fill other positions in the last election. If that is true it means that anybody (even a goat) chosen by the Ubas would have won the election. In that case I was not so chosen, not because I owed salary arrears, which most states plus the Federal Government owed at one time or another; or that workers went on strike, and we know that strike is a national problem. My not going back for second term had nothing to do with such reasons. After all, the President during his State visit to Anambra state commended the level of infrastructural development during my administration; when he said, " I have come, I have seen, I have heard and I have been heard. All in all I am satisfied with what I saw on the ground."
If the President was not impressed with what he saw in the State he would not have said so. Later, I told him that what he said on the stage at Awka during the PDP campaign was plain politics, and he agreed that he came to Awka to campaign and to play politics. So that is the issue. My achievements and contributions to the development of Anambra State will be properly appreciated after other administrations have come and gone. So Chris Uba was the leading contractor in my administration. He kept collecting N10.0million every month from our Federation Account at source from Abuja to execute the projects at the "Zik's Place." My administration tried to stop the payment which was approved by one of the military administrations, but the Central Bank told us that one side cannot annul such a contract. So Uba collected the N10.0million a month for the four years I was in office. This was in addition to other payments we made to him through bank loans. All these were done to carry him along, and Abuja had advised very often that we should carry the Ubas along. My worst headache was what to do with Chris Uba because if he tells you the Presidency has said this and this, you cannot always reach the Presidency to verify the story. For example, the variation we made of the cost of the new Government House and Lodge was made based on alleged approval by the Presidency which we could not verify.
There were insinuations that your government did not meet the pledges made to the godfathers. What was the extent of godfather influence at your time?
Would you agree that Anambra State is under the seige of godfathers and money bags?
If I had any godfather, he was Dr. A.B.C. Orjiako who stood with me financially, and otherwise, from the beginning to the end of the campaigns and election. Sir Emeka Offor who joined my campaign after it was clear to him that I had won the election by defeating Prof. ABC Nwosu at the primaries, claimed he was godfather. If he had been my godfather, he wouldn't have plotted to use the State House to impeach me, my first week in office, and throughout the four years. However, we are now friends because he failed in his plots against my regime. But let me clear this point again. Emeka Offor, Dr. Orjiako, and myself agreed to allow Offor nominate two commissioners-Finance and Works. Contrary to propaganda of my opponents, I accepted his nominees and appointed them only after he stopped plotting for my impeachment. But after he resumed criticizing my government I removed his nominees from office. Nobody can fault me there. It is either you're in Government, or you're in opposition. You cannot be in government and be free to criticize the same regime.
If what we had in Anambra State during my administration and what is going on now in Dr. Chris Ngige's regime is what "godfather" is all about, then there should be a law to proscribe it in the whole country. It should no longer be part of our system.
With the turn of events in Anambra State, would you say you are vindicated?
Nobody should rejoice over what Anambra State is going through. I even had worse problems, but I managed better. My problems came from everywhere: armed robbers and security problems, workers, pensioners, markets, and traders, some religious leaders, and some traditional rulers, Even inside the government there were saboteurs. It is not because of me that there were these problems. Any governor of Anambra State would pass through the same baptism of fire. I am lucky to have lasted four years! No other regime had lasted more than two years. Maybe it is the nature of our people. I believe I lasted long because of prayers. I made prayers my bedrock; praying with workers every Monday morning and starting Sunday fellowship at the governor's lodge every Sunday morning. God took control and kept us till the end. My contract with Anambra State was for four years. I have no regrets handing over, although I am not happy with the turn of events.
There is the belief that witout the presidency, the coupists would not have gone the extent they did, what is your opinion?
This is not an easy question because it is speculative. What is the evidence that the Presidency is involved in the Anambra saga? Every person accusing the Presidency does so on a speculative ground. The first problem is to define the word 'Presidency," and whether the word means the President as many think. Definitely, Presidency is more than the President. Even the special assistants in the Presidency sometimes "use" the President's name. For example, if a special assistant in the Presidency, on his own, had arranged to intervene in the Anambra matter between Ngige and Uba leading to the abduction without prior knowledge of the President, we can talk of the Presidency (meaning the special assistant) but not the President.
Meanwhile, I think the President is reacting well to the crisis. He is not the cause of it. Besides, there is a way he might handle the solution, and it will lead to an escalation of the crisis. I think that there is a huge difference in Mr. President's crisis management this second term in office. If he had handled the problems of Anambra State during my tenure the way he is doing now, there would have been no need for change of regime and we would have been spared of the present crises.
If you had won your re-election bid, how would you have tackled this problem?
"If I had won my re-election" according to the question, again is conjectural because I did not "win" by the declaration of INEC. But by the exercise of the mandate of Anambra people, I know I won the election. It is the injustice meted to me that gave birth to all the repercussions we see in the State. Until my injustice is redressed, that of Governor Ngige will have no place for redress. This is the first time ( and I hope the last time) a sitting Governor is asked not to run for re-election on the platform of the party he helped to build and nurture. There is no doubt that if the party had nominated me I would have won and Anambra State would have been better for it by now. In any case, I still pray and hope for normalcy in the State.
There is also an element of destiny in my not going for a second term. In all the jobs I have held which required re-appointment or re-election, I had not gotten a second chance. That may be my predestination. I have some examples: After I finished first term at the State University of New York at Cortland USA, as Associate Professor and Chairman of the Department, in 1975, problems arose when it came to my re-appointment, and for that reason I left and gained admission to study law at the University of Southampton, England between 1975 and 1977. I came back to Nigeria in 1977, and was employed at the Daily Times between 1977 and 1979. When it was time to renew my appointment in Daily Times, the newly elected Governor Jim Nwobodo gave me a new appointment in his government at Enugu in 1979, and when it was time to review and renew the appointment, there was a problem as usual, and from there I got appointment at the Federal level as Special Assistant (Poli tical/Administration) in the Office of the Vice President Dr. Alex Ekwueme. At the end of the first term, as we were getting ready for a second term in office, the military struck in 1983 and there was no second term. This time around as PDP Governor, when my achievements in office in the first term could have earned me a ticket for second term, confusion set in and I was ousted. However, what is so remarkable in each of the cases described is that after I missed re-appointment(s), I had moved higher from where I was. My going to study law in 1977 was a step higher than lecturing in the University as far as I am concerned. Furthermore, my appointment as General Manager and Chief Executive of Star Printing and Publishing Company Enugu, and later Director of Research/Planning and Publicity in Governor Nwobodo's office was a higher step than my brief stint at the Daily Times as editor of "Times International." My leaving Governor Nwobodo's government for appoint at the Federal level was obviously another step higher. So, I believe that after my first term as Governor of Anambra state, and having missed the second term by predestination, it is by the same predestination that I know that something "big" awaits me somewhere, sometime in future.
Do you think that Dr. Ngige should have resigned as some people have said? What is your advice?
I have answered this question earlier when I said that if Governor Ngige can prove "duress" in signing those letters of resignation, he should be pardoned. If not, he should keep to the terms of the agreement he signed and vacate office. Actually, I think that the Office of the Governor of Anambra State has been desecrated and should need exorcism, cleansing, and fresh anointing.. This can only come through fasting and prayer.
How would you have described Ngige's explanation that he played along with the group rather than cry out initially?
Governor Ngige's explanation that he played along with the other group rather than cry out from the beginning is just an after-thought. It is hard to believe. He was clearly a key player in Chris Uba's camp and he owed his "election" or "selection" to that group. So there was no reason for him to have "cried out" initially. He began complaining only when he started losing ground and losing the support of the group he belonged to. I don't know if the lesson has been learnt.
As a lawyer, how do you view the handling and comments by the NBA on the death of Barrister Igwe and his wife? Secondly, do you think that the NBA has been fair to you?
On the Igwes' case and the position the Nigerian Bar Association, I have recently written a comprehensive letter to the NBA which dealt with all the aspects of the matter and I cannot better the argument I made in the letter. Suffice it to say that NBA to which I belong has not been fair to me because it chose to listen to one man, one Chuka Obele Chuka, chairman of Onitsha branch of the Associa-tion. The chairman is an avowed political opponent of my government even before the Igwes were killed. He should not have been allowed to influence the Bar that much. Finally, I look forward to reconciliation with the NBA so that together we can look for who killed the Igwes.
Finally, those who like to disparage Anambra state and in the habit of recounting prominent men produced by the State like: Zik of Africa, Alex Ekwueme, Ikemba Nnewi, Chuba Okadigbo, Pius Okigbo, Chinua Achebe and so on, my question is: which one of these prominent sons were not rejected by his contemporaries? Was it Zik who was virtually impeached and accused of embezzlement? or Alex Ekwueme who tried to settle Anambra problems during my tenure only to receive doses of insult? Was he not rejected at the gubernatorial primaries before being elevated to the post of Vice President of the country? As Vice President was he supported by Anambra people? Let us also not forget the rejection of Chuba Okadigbo as the Senate President and later as Vice Presidential candidate. Are we also going to forget how Dr. C.P. Ezeife was turned into a "football" kicked around by those opposed to MKO Abiola and the Progressives? Neither can we forget my "current history" of tur bulent governance of Anambra State. It is God alone who will solve the problems of Anambra state. Most of our people are deeply religious but lack the spirit of God, and the character of God. I pray for God's mercy.
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