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Who is afraid of Peter Odili?

Posted by By Onuoha Ukeh (e-mail - on 2006/06/24 | Views: 1988 |

Who is afraid of Peter Odili?

Ever since the plot to elongate the tenure of President Olusegun Obasanjo failed and the talk about his successor started, Rivers State governor, Dr. Peter Odili, could be said to be in the eye of the storm...

Ever since the plot to elongate the tenure of President Olusegun Obasanjo failed and the talk about his successor started, Rivers State governor, Dr. Peter Odili, could be said to be in the eye of the storm. The governor has been a target of pernicious verbal and media attacks.

However, one has observed that most of the criticisms have not been based on his performance as Rivers State chief executive. The attacks have been more of threats and based on what could pass for fallacies. These attacks, no doubt, are based on the suspicion that the Rivers governor may join the 2007 presidential race and perhaps, get the blessing of his party men, especially at a time the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) is said to be considering zoning the Presidency to the South South.

This avalanche of criticisms against Odili started, more or less, when Niger State governor, Engr. Abdulkadir Kure, had, in trying to modify his “Satanic Verses” that the South South geopolitical zones did not have any qualified and suitable person to succeed Obasanjo, directly attacked Odili. He questioned the medical doctor’s influence in the larger national politics. Again, a group, which called itself Niger Delta Coastal Guerillas, in a newspaper advertisement, entitled “Red Alert,” had viciously attacked Governor Odili and threatened that if he eventually becomes the president of Nigeria in 2007, it would start terrorist actions against oil installations, expatriate oil workers and supporters of the governor.

If one would take Kure’s comments on Odili’s suitability or otherwise for the plum job as sour grape and a position influenced by envy and personality clash, that of the so-called Niger Delta Coastal Guerillas is worrisome. That a group would use threat of violence as a tool to blackmail a politician and perhaps, cause him to chicken out of a political race, is a terrible dimension in the country’s politics. Indeed, that some people, in their desperation, would threaten to wage “war” on individuals and economic nerve centres of a nation, as a mark of their dislike for a politician, is to say the least, going too far. This action, whether it is supposed to be grandstanding or real, is a threat to not only the personal security of Odili but also Nigeria as a nation. It is not something that should be dismissed with a wave of the hand or seen as Odili’s personal problem, which he should strive to solve. This is a national security matter and should be treated as such, especially coming at a time militants in the Niger Delta are taking hostages at the snap of the finger in the oil-rich region.

Having said this and taking everything together, the pertinent question here is: Who is afraid of Peter Odili? To be sure, going by the magnitude of the attacks targeted at the Rivers State governor and the efforts as well as resources those behind them are putting into what has become a campaign, it is becoming obvious that some people are really afraid of Odili. One dares say that some people have concluded that Odili stands a chance in the race for the 2007 Presidency. Inasmuch as one does not have the to question what some people believe or their dislike for a particular person, one is disturbed that our politicians and political groups have not inculcated the attitude of addressing issues and ideas during electioneering. Indeed, it is painful that Nigerian politicians devote more time to character assassination than articulating a superior argument against the candidacy of some people.

This has left one with no other choice than to conclude that the majority of the country’s so-called politicians cannot engage in issue-oriented politics. Since they can’t, they therefore, rely on one tool: Character assassination.

Interestingly, one has studied the tirades against Odili, as they concern his interest or otherwise in the race for the 2007 Presidency and one has been disappointed that those who are attacking him are appealing to sentiment rather using fact to back their opposition. One had expected that these people would take up issues against Odili, like his performance in office in the last seven years, his conduct in office or tangible weaknesses, which make him unsuitable for the office. Surprisingly, we have only heard such arguments, as: He does not have the required clout; he is not from Rivers State; he sends his children to school, while talking about skill acquisition for other people’s kids; he cannot pass for a South-southern, since he answers an Igbo name and he makes donations to groups, as proffered by the Kures and Niger Delta Coastal Guerillas of this world. This does not make much sense. What have these things got to do with somebody’s qualification or capability to occupy a higher political office?

Those who are not comfortable with Odili’s alleged quest to be the country’s number one citizen could have helped their case if they proved, with fact and evidences, that Governor Odili is a total failure as Rivers chief executive and, therefore, may not be a good president. I expected these people to tell Nigerians that the projects Odili claimed he completed are a fluke. Why have they not told us that Odili did not build a new Government House? Why are they not saying that he did not build a new House of Assembly complex? Why have they not said that he did not build housing estates across the state? Why have they not said that Odili never constructed or rehabilitated roads? Why are they not saying that he did not embark on poverty alleviation programme? Why have they not said that he never bought vehicles, aircraft and boats/ferries to enhance transportation in the state? Why have they not said that he did not build hospitals or improve health care delivery system in the state? Why have they not said that he never embarked on rural electrification?

Why have they not said that he did not do anything in the area of independent power project? Why have they not said that he has not empowered the state’s football team, Dolphin FC, to become a force to be reckoned with in the country’s national league and African football? Why have they not said that he never increased workers’ salaries? These are issues I expect his critics to dwell on.

I have not heard Odili say that he would contest the 2007 Presidency. Neither has he said that he is not interested, any way. However, the point is that he is qualified to aspire to the office. He is a Nigerian by birth. He has surpassed the educational qualification to aspire to the office as stipulated by the constitution. He’s a medical doctor, while the constitution says that for somebody to become president, he should have attempted school certificate examination. He belongs to a political party. All these qualify Odili to aspire to the office of president, if not for any other thing. I do not think it is right for anybody to threaten violence because a particular citizen is expressing himself and exercising his fundamental human rights. The choice of the presidential candidate of the PDP, to which Odili belongs, is that of the party. The choice of who eventually becomes president of the federal republic in 2007 is that of the Nigerian electorate.

Whatever anybody thinks, I believe that it is no longer politics if people leave out influence, connection, political favour, horse-trading, lobbying, negotiation, concession, among others, as tools for acquiring power and condescend to the use of violence, intimidation and coercion. The latter tactics would sure make our politics bloody as well as scare away credible people who have something to offer the nation but do not believe that the quest to serve should be a do- or-die affair.

As the process for the emergence of the next president of the country kicks off, I am looking forward to politics and campaign based on issues. I am looking forward to the time when one’s ethnic background would not be the yardstick to measure his qualification and capability to occupy a particular political office. I am looking forward to a time our political parties would be formed on the basis of political ideology and philosophy and people join them based on this and not just because a particular party is the easiest route to power.

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