The voice of Dr. Sam Egwu, former governor of Ebonyi State, was hearty and vibrant as he answered his phone last Saturday. After the exchange of pleasantries, I congratulated him on his new assignment. He said: “Hia, Okey you have come again this early morning, what assignment are you talking about?” I answered: “The Anyim/Obi project, which the papers say that you are taking very seriously.” Then Egwu asked what the Anyim/Obi meant and where it was taking place. In fact, he wondered whether it was in Anambra, Ebonyi or in Abuja. When I told him it had to do with his (Egwu’s) onerous national assignment of working with the former governor of Anambra State Peter Obi to unseat the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Anyim Pius Anyim, for the latter to take his job, Egwu roared with laughter, he was convinced that I was joking and said that I should also please tell him if someone was looking for shoe shiners and plate washers to keep his idle hands busy.
He then went on to ask about the family, having no doubt in his mind that I had just shared a joke before proceeding to the main reason for my call. Then I told him about a very elaborate story in the New Telegraph newspaper of that morning, detailing how he was at the head of a thickening plot to unseat Anyim. I read out part of the story detailing how he, Egwu, the former Governor of Ebonyi State, was said to be the chief campaigner for the aspirant to Anyim’s office. Some equally powerful person were also said to be working to ensure that Anyim is not removed from office, while Chief Tony Anenih was somewhat undecided on whom to support.
Egwu’s voice was no longer so cheerful after he listened to the detailed report. Then he said: “When will people stop these acts of mischief and wickedness? That I would be involved in such a thing? In any case, any sensible person should know that this is not true, but we live in a distorted society where people can easily believe anything. To begin with, Anyim is my friend, so this sort of mischief could only have been designed by people who wish to knock heads together. Well, Okey I can assure you that those behind this nonsense will be bitterly disappointed”. Egwu went on to talk about the need for leaders in the South-east to be on their guard, especially at this time of dangerous political permutations, so that they are not inadvertently put on the war path with each other for reasons they may not be able to explain after the ‘war’ is over and a lot of damage has been done.
He argued that no reasonable person in the South-east would think of such a thing, least of all Obi who is not known for desperation in seeking any office. Egwu was at pains to explain that Anyim is one of the strongest pillars of the government, who has proven himself to be very reliable and resourceful these past years. Concerning Obi, he said that people like him who support the president would not want to distract anyone at a time all efforts are being put into consolidating the gains of the Transformation Agenda. “Of course the entire story is untrue”, he said, arguing that “A Peter Obi will not be so foolish as to try to distract a government he wants to continue in office. I don’t see him seeking, of all things, Anyim’s position: for what? This is just irresponsible journalism, if we must call this sort of thing journalism at all.”
Last Sunday, a day after this conversation with Egwu, his press statement denying any knowledge of, or involvement in, plans to unseat Anyim, was in several national dailies. More than that, he reached out to many people to de-escalate any possible misreading that may arise, despite his belief that ‘no reasonable person’ would believe the story that Obi, on whose behalf the said plot was allegedly being contrived, could not be reached immediately, as he was airborne and on his way to Houston, to attend the World Igbo Congress. He has also since dissociated himself from the said plot and everything connected to it. The reaction of Senator Ken Nnamani to the story when I called him last Saturday was one of outright dismissal. After listening to the details, he said: “Look Okey, I am really glad you are calling and warning everybody, but I can assure you that the story is not true at all. In fact, you just said so yourself. The entire thing is too immature to be the sort of thing any of the serious names mentioned would be involved in. There are things our people of the South-east simply can no longer do, especially after our quiet efforts of these few years to get everyone to start thinking of Igbo progress. Tell me Okey, does it make sense to you to hear that Peter Obi and Sam Egwu are planning to remove Anyim?”
For the record, Egwu is not and has never been a desperate man. Not too long ago, he distanced himself from alleged aspirations to lead Ohaneze Ndigbo. Incidentally, he was also the South-east governor who resolved a cataclysmic leadership crisis rocking the group by hosting them in Ebonyi and getting everyone to see each other’s point of view. But for that meeting, it is open to argument whether Ohaneze will be in existence today. As governor he was clear-headed and sustained a free education programme throughout his tenure in Ebonyi State, among other things.
Obi, on his part, has a rather peculiar, and sometimes embarrassing reputation of not lobbying for anything or cutting corners. He won an election in Anambra State but his mandate was stolen. He rejected all offers of both money and position, on the simple premise that Anambra people have a right to be governed by the person they actually voted for. More than one year later, and after most of his lawyers and friends had distanced themselves from his court battles following ‘his refusal to play ball’, Obi took back his stolen mandate in Anambra State. He adopted the same approach when he was unlawfully impeached. Long after everyone had given up and advised him to ‘be of good behaviour’, Obi won his case against the unlawful impeachment and was reinstated as governor by a court of competent jurisdiction.
Regarding his recent mention for the office of Aviation Minister, Presidency sources narrated how, at the peak of the lobby and anti-Obi coalition, some politicians approached the former governor for what they called ‘a safe landing truce’. He was told that all he needed to do in order to get the job was simply for him to go in company with some prominent politicians and apologise to Chief Arthur Eze, Ozo Igbo Ndu, whom he had allegedly offended. Obi was reported to have replied the confounded supporters that although he was not aware that he had offended the respected elder, he was willing and ready to apologise to him. Then came the clincher: his apology was not to be tied to any appointments, or favours, from the president.
Obi was reported to have argued that if the apology were to come before the president chose an Aviation Minister, it would mean that he was desperate for the job; and that a man who is desperate for a position is likely to make all manner of compromises if he is given the job. He was also reported to have said that the president must be allowed to have a clear head in an election period, so that he does not take decisions with unacceptable political costs. The distinction he made between his support for the president and the question of whether or not the president gives him an appointment rested on his belief that an appointment obtained on such the platform of desperation is the best proof of disloyalty and a mercenary approach to solidarity. He was said to have then pleaded with some of his disturbed friends not to mix up his belief that Nigeria will fare better if President Jonathan continues in office with the question of his holding or not holding public office.
The foregoing aside, there is a plot against Anyim. Its major focus is to undermine Anyim by emotionally isolating him from most of the people with whom he can form a strong alliance and create an impregnable power platform for the South-east. The bad news is that those behind the plan, and the aforementioned ‘media intervention’ will not stop. The good news, however is that they are dealing with a man who, as Senate President, said that he knew where they kept the banana peels that brought down his predecessors and that he was going to avoid them. He did avoid all the banana peels!