By Gab Ndu Okpalaeze
Late Dr Clement Chinwoke Mbadinuju, former governor of Anambra state of Nigeria, aged 77, is being laid to rest today, 24th November 2023. Mbadinuju, popularly known as Odera, was at the helm of affairs at the government house, Agu-Awka from 1999 to 2003.
William Shakespeare, in one of his books, Julius Caesar, writes that when beggars die, there are no comets seen, but the heavens themselves blaze forth the death of princes.
This is even truer in typical African and some other societies, where slaves were often buried alongside their lords. But are we seeing the comets in the Anambra firmament today?
Speak no ill of the dead, is an admonition well taken across the globe. It buttresses the fact that the dead is no longer there to speak for himself or herself.
But are all these long established fair treatment and tributes due to the dead coming the way of Dr Chinwoke Mbadinuju, being a high profile personality by academic, societal and political accomplishments?
The answer may be in the negative because a typical Anambra society is wont to remember his administration with a not-so-kind nostalgia. Very many of the people still make reference to the months of strike by labour unions, culminating in closure of public schools for the period. This unfavourable assessment is fueled by the bad press unleashed on the administration by its numerous adversaries
It was a common- place talk that he did not “do anything in his four years at Agu- Awka”. This sweeping statement though, cannot stand the test of time if only we could pause to ponder, or “go and verify”.
One is therefore cut at a cross road with the idea of a differing opinion from the people’s, that being like a lone voice in wilderness of already made up minds. But at the risk of sounding unpopular, it has to be said that former governor Chinwoke Mbadinuju whose remains are being interred today, was a fine gentleman and statesman, full of ideas and with great passion to move his state forward.
The idea of an Anambra state university of science and technology, with main campus at Uli, the great trek to an oil producing status for Anambra, the Women Development Centre, Awka, Ekwueme Square, Awka, Joint Action on Development, JAD, and Anambra state Vigilante Services ( Bakassi Boys) were indeed no mean feats, and they were all original to him. He initiated more ingenious projects and programmes, but some were unrealized under his tenure, ostensibly due to the stranglehold of his political God fathers.
As a journalist who plied my trade in Anambra and covered the state house from inception of the state in 1991, I feel a sense of duty to recall the atmosphere under which Dr Cee Cee Mbadinuju served as governor.
Few weeks into his administration, and days to the inauguration of the state house of assembly, rumours were rife that a certain god father from Ekwusigo axis of Anambra state had quartered the would-be law makers at a hotel outside the state, with a view to getting them to form a permanent threat of impeachment to the just sworn in state chief executive. The rumour became real as Gov Mbadinuju had to cry to high heavens himself, before some of the legislators left the other rank and returned to Awka, even though in the minority.
And so from day one of the inauguration of the house, there were divisions and fights engineered by men who believed they were more powerful than government. Under such chaotic atmosphere, not much could be achieved as so much mental and fiscal resources were going in to wrestle power from the jaws of the tigers and jackals.
Close watchers believe this battle was just half won by the governor as another group of god- fathers emerged from Aguata axis, using their “connection to the presidency” to force very many infamous fiscal policies down the throat of the administration. One of the most infamous agreements is the Irrevocable Standing Order of Payment, devised by the evil genius. Under such order, humongous percentage of Anambra allocation from the federation account is deducted from source on monthly basis, for some phantom projects they claim to be executing for government. The bottom line is that few millions trickle in for both capital and recurrent expenditure, as the contractor would have fleeced the state treasury at source. This is not an attempt to defend the Odera administration but a modest contribution towards fair assessment of his administration.
Apart from financial hermorrhage that characterized that administration, the man Odera was a man with heart of gold, identifying with the poor and most vulnerable. In all he did, he feared his creator and made attempts to remain at peace with God by promoting justice and fairness. This writer benefitted from his fairness when barely three months into his tenure, he reviewed the sack by executive fiat of six journalists under the employ of the state by a predecessor military administration. Here was a man who was down to earth and initiated poverty alleviation policies and programmes, though the hawks and sharks around the corridors of power could not allow them to fruition.
As Dr Cee Cee Mbadinuju is laid to rest twenty years after he left office, it is gratifying to note that a Daniel has come to his judgement, in the person of the incumbent governor, Prof Cee Cee Soludo.
During the Commendation ceremony held yesterday, 23/11/23, at the International Convention Centre, ICC, Awka, as part of the weeklong state burial programme for the late former governor, Prof Soludo appreciated the numerous initiatives taken by Odera upon which the state is standing today.
In a most striking way, he made a vow, on behalf of all of us, that “we will not forget.”