Tuesday, August 15, 2017

The Ozubulu Catastrophe And Governor Obiano’s Deft Hand

By Chuks Iloegbunam 
When news of the terrible development hit the Awka seat of power early that morning, many scenarios taxed the imagination. Nothing of the sort had previously happened in Igbo history. There was a bizarre angle to it, of course, that was of tremendous import: Anambra State, reputed to be an oasis of safety and security, peace and placidity in tumultuous Nigeria had taken a vicious bang on the jugular. 
*Gov Willie Obiano
Who had done the violent action? To what end? Since it is often the case that “when it hits, it reverberates,” was the impunity set to spread? These were some of the questions Governor Willie Obiano tried to think through while, at the same time, receiving Security and Intelligence debriefing. Taking little time, the Governor’s convoy negotiated the 48 kilometres from Awka to Ozubulu, and hit the scene of the bloodbath. 

Armed with both the truth of what had happened and the spins sprouting in the social media, Governor Obiano inspected the carnage inside the St. Philips Catholic Church, Amakwa, Ozubulu. Twelve congregants whose only “offence” was attending the 6am mass to worship their God had been brutally massacred in an orgy of gunfire. Eighteen others sustained gunshot wounds, some of them life threatening. 

Governor Obiano, sure of the proper course of action, addressed the disheartened inside the church premises, dousing the insidious apprehension that was creping in. Social media upstarts had falsely seen the hand of Boko Haram or Fulani herdsmen or else separatist agitators in the mayhem. Had there been any truth in this narrative, it would simply have meant that “water don pass gari.” But the Governor knew better. So, citing the outcome of preliminary investigation, he stated that the debacle was the work of feuding drug kingpins from the town domiciled outside Nigeria. Expectedly, he condemned the unspeakable crime, promising comeuppance for its perpetrators. 

Next, the Governor visited the wounded in hospital, comforting them and announcing that his government would shoulder the financial responsibility for their treatment. He ordered 50 doctors, radiographers and ancillary medical personnel deployed to augment the efforts of their colleagues on the ground. This is trademark Willie Obiano. It will be recalled that on February 15, a petrol tanker had rammed into a gas station at Zik’s Roundabout in Onitsha, spilling fuel and setting off a conflagration that reduced a vast area of the commercial city to smoldering debris. 

On the night of the fire outbreak, Governor Obiano had just arrived Abuja for a meeting of the National Council of State. But, the next morning, he caught the first available flight and made a beeline for home. Before noon he was at the disaster scene, inspecting the charred remains of buildings and vehicles, consoling the victims and speaking compassion to his people. He visited those hospitalized for burns. He axed the situation of petrol stations in densely populated areas. He deployed N8.5 million into compensation, hospital bills and temporary accommodation for the affected. He imported three state-of-the art fire trucks for the State Fire Service and enlarged its workforce.  

The key point here is that Governor Obiano’s compassionate solidarity with Ndi Anambra is nothing to do with polishing media image. It is his nature. During June I had emphasized this attribute in an article entitled Governor Willie Obiano – Fit To Continue. My point then and now remains that Governor Obiano has fixed Anambra’s security, improved its infrastructure and resuscitated the investment climate. He has in addition improved agriculture, education and health care delivery. But beyond these solid achievements, he has also made a mark in the intangible sector.  

This sector refers to Governor Obiano foregoing salary and emoluments for the upkeep of society’s less privileged. It refers to the sanatorium he built to give a meaning to the lives of the sick and wretched of the earth. It pertains to scores of prisoners who, on completion of their terms, receive N1 million each to start life on a fresh, clean slate. It has to do with the disabled who are automatically employed in the State’s Civil Service. It is connected to limbless folks issued with prosthetics. In short, it is all about exercising political authority with a human face. 

These are the “intangibles” that situate Governor Obiano in the ranks of genuine leaders. In every condition, he epitomizes visionary leadership. He knew that jarred nerves had been soothed by his first-day intervention on Ozubulu. Nonetheless he consolidated that achievement with a statewide broadcast 24 hours later, declaring Monday August 7, 2017 a day of mourning for the slain, and calling for a noontime minute’s silence in their memory.  

Unfettered by the distractions of conspiracy theorists, and disdainful of partisan opponents intent on riding on Anambra’s dead to score cheap political points, he declared: “We have chosen to stay awake that Anambra may find sleep!... All shadowy characters behind this crime shall account for it. This is the first and last of this appalling crime. Fellow citizens, I call on you today, to join hands with me to rid our society of crime and criminality.” 
 * Iloegbunam is the Chairman of Governor Obiano’s Media Team.


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