PERSPECTIVE: Who’s Afraid Of Anyim Anyim
Democracy would lose its defining egalitarianism if it foreclosed the free expression of viewpoints by its adherents – including often unreasoned perspectives by forces that seek to diminish and divide. Against this backdrop, public commentators who project that delicate, firm balance between researched opinion that informs and leverages contrasting with humdrum viewpoints that diminish and stunt should be appreciated.
While the former is driven by self-discipline and critical thinking, the latter is not. That’s perhaps why the venerable philosopher Carl Jung noted that – “Thinking is difficult; that’s why most people judge.” And it’s within this rather unflattering context that a certain fellow, Chief Charles O. Okeke, comes into this narrative.
Abia State fringe politician and online publisher to boot, Chief Charles O. Okereke, a fellow reputed to have written the Biafran Anthem, All Hail Biafra, recently made a curiously strenuous effort to pigeonhole himself in the second category of commentators. From his Abia perch, Okereke attacked former Senate President and ex Secretary to the Government of the Federation Anyim Pius Anyim’s expressed position on the recent political cross-over of Ebonyi State governor, Engr. Dave Umahi, to the All Progressives Congress, APC.
In part, the Abia chief saw this as Anyim’s “insensitiveness to Igbo pride.” If this move represented the opening stanzas of the scripting of another anthem, it would probably draw scholarly interest. But it was not. It was rather a self-serving dirge over a perceived personal hurt, now dressed up as dodgy Igbo love. There is more.
In Okereke’s words – “Today, it is attack of a performing governor liked by his people, yester-years, it was something else unpatriotic to Ndigbo. I am surprised that Anyim Pius Anyim, GCON, a distinguished Igbo son could mete out public insult on His Excellency David Umahi, one of the best governors in Nigeria and pride of Ndigbo.
“Umahi is not only loved and admired by Ebonyians but also Igbos at home and in the Diaspora. He is one of the talks of every Nigerian. His top-notch infrastructural development of Ebonyi State is outstanding and making rounds in the news all over the country.”
A brief digression here, but relevant to the beef of this article would be useful in bringing more clarity to the discussion. Sequel to the defection of Governor Dave Umahi of Ebonyi State to the APC on November 19, reactions and counter-reactions have continued to trail the governor’s move.
It’s important to stress here that crucial political decisions like defections are legitimate entitlements of stakeholders. These may carry consequences but nevertheless such rights as in the case of Ebonyi’s Umahi must not be abridged.
From the untidy storm spawned by the Ebonyi governor’s defection, it would appear that the art of post-defection management is not Umahi’s forte. Curiously but enthusiastically making a bad job of eating a boiled egg, the governor brought out several conspiracy theories and ‘secrets’ he would have best kept under wraps.
Shortly after his defection to APC Umahi had claimed that the plan was for Anyim Pius Anyim and Ebonyi National Assembly members to join him in APC after two weeks. The governor further alleged that Anyim and others stabbed him in the back by staying put in the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP.
But countering Umahi’s position, Anyim dismissed Umahi as a prisoner of his greed and inordinate ambition and a drowning man looking for whom to drag down with him. More importantly, Anyim had alleged threat to his life, describing Umahi as pitiably delusional.
In an open letter copied to President Muhammadu Buhari and all the heads of security agencies in Nigeria, Anyim alleged that people had died mysteriously in Umahi’s administration and asked the federal government to protect him.
According to Anyim, a far more astute and grounded politician – “Governor Umahi is pitiably delusional. He is a prisoner of his greed and inordinate ambition. Here is a drowning man looking for whom to drag down with him. Governor Umahi has made his worst mistake after his latest misadventure by taking on me and other noble and respectable sons of Ebonyi State who have served and continued to serve our dear state with resolute commitment, dedication and integrity.
“The discerning public knows that he has been on the plan for a long time and when he decided to consummate it, he suddenly concocted an accusation against PDP, that PDP was not willing to zone Presidency to the South East. It is public knowledge that Gov. Umahi had been planning his defection to the All Progressive Congress, APC for a long time.”
Anyim further correctly wondered how a man in his 6th year as governor of a state suddenly realise that “a former president of the senate, a former governor of the state and two-term serving Senator, Dr. Sam Egwu, Senator Obinna Ogba, two term serving Senator, are now cultists and IPOB members. Something is wrong somewhere. It is obvious that either something is pursuing Governor Umahi or that he is pursuing something.”
Umahi simply confirmed Anyim’s allegations when he recently conceded supporting President Muhammdau Buhari during the 2019 general election, even as a member of PDP – at the foundation laying ceremony of a housing project in his home town – Uburu. For good measure, the governor said that his former party should not waste time in accusing him of giving the president 25 per cent votes during the election. “I joined the APC for the president’s love for Ebonyi even if for no other reason.”
In essence, probably bringing arcane engineering wisdom to bear on his quirky political move, Umahi boldly separated Igbo interest from Ebonyi State interest – theoretically upgrading Ebonyi’s political survival or ascendancy over Ndigbo’s – on account of President Buhari’s love.
Whether this naïve, self-survivalist footing, masquerading as love is in sync with core Igbo cosmology is debatable but a subject matter for another discourse. History is a harsh judge.
Anyim’s gentle giant image and mien which hide inner steel and unswerving focus have indeed fooled many. This has also guided his providential trajectory. It could be recalled that his emergence as senate president confounded not a few political watchers. Anyim, who won election into the senate under the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), in 1999, like his two predecessors, was a no match in profile for either Evans Enwerem or Dr. Chuba Okadigbo.
Beyond 1998, when he contested and won senate election under United Nigeria Congress Party (UNCP), which was stillborn due to General Sani Abacha death, little was known of him, politically. But he brought stability to the senate, which was becoming notorious in the power game. He adroitly survived a number of plots to impeach him – ratcheting up his political stature. His later appointment as SGF under former President Jonathan further firmed up his reputation as an important son of Ebonyi, Nidigbo and Nigeria at large.
It is within this seething political conundrum that Chief Okereke injected himself, appointing himself a judge in sad dissonance with the intellectual credentials he claims. What really is Okereke’s beef with Anyim?
The fellow, who claimed he was by no means holding brief for Umahi, alleged that “Most Igbo politicians at the federal level care less for the welfare of their constituents and Ndigbo in general. It is not just external forces that are killing “Igbo Pride” but also Igbos at the helm of affairs in both state and federal levels.”
In grudging respect he acknowledges that “Anyim is a distinguished Igbo son but I find it very difficult where to place him amongst Igbo politicians. Anyim as SGF, skipped on an opportunity to bring national and international pride in the area of artistic excellence to Ndigbo.” What opportunity?
His words: “As a poet, intellectual, entrepreneur and song composer based in the United States of America, I was one of those that contested under Nigeria, in the 2003 African Union Anthem Competition. I overwhelmingly came in first but was recognized and paid the third prize. It is instructive to note that in the event, there was no first nor second prize winners announced till date for that competition.”
To summarise Okereke’s angst, in 2012 when Anyim was SGF, he was approached to right the “international recognition” denied Okereke (and Ndigbo) in 2003 and Anyim didn’t. This formed the basis for Okereke’s dislike for Anyim! Poets and intellectuals can certainly find better grounds to tarnish the image of senior Igbo sons.
As Lady Eleanor Roosevelt put it – “The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.” Anyim, truly a gentle giant, believes in the beauty of his dreams yesterday. That yesterday has become today. The reality this represents has touched Ebonyi State, Ndigbo and Nigeria at large in far more fundamental ways that many are aware of.
– Odefa, politician and social critic, writes from Abakiliki, Ebonyi State.
Disclaimer: This article is entirely the opinion of the writer and does not represent the views of The Whistler.