Barr. Joe Martins Uzodike was a former PDP governorship candidate in Anambra State, and a Commissioner for Information under Peter Obi administration. He was Director General of Willie Obiano campagne organisation and also Special Adviser under Obiano before he was unceremoniously removed. In this interview with select journalists, he talked about his removal, the relationship between Obiano and his predecessor, Obi, the fate of Anambra State under Obiano, among so many other things.
How would you describe your removal as Obiano’s Special Adviser
Since I was removed from office as the Special Adviser on Politics to Gov. Willie Obiano, I decided to keep quiet, waiting for an appropriate time to tell my own story. I am not the only one affected, because the same ingratitude, which led to my being removed from office, has continued. It has now become inevitable for me to break my silence and let the world know what is happening.
Before now, Chief Obiano had requested me to resign, simply because I was telling him the bitter truth he hates to hear.
Would you let us know about the particulars of this ingratitude?
I think the person that is suffering more is Peter Obi, (Ex-Governor of the state) so permit me to use his example to demonstrate what I mean.
Mr. Peter Obi started his political career and pitched tent with the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA). It is on record that he paid for the party’s first offices in Anambra State and its 21 Local Governments. He made a house available in Abuja, which became the abode of APGA leadership. It is also on record that the first overseas trip by APGA leadership was fully paid for by Mr. Peter Obi. Obi paid for all his campaign and for the court cases that he prosecuted when his mandate was stolen. He always told us that he was ready to spend his last kobo to rebuild Anambra State. Throughout his days in office, amidst trials and tribulations, he remained focused and committed to the welfare and progress of Anambra State. He strived for every penny of the state to be properly applied or saved for the future. As a Governor, he ensured equity and fairness in the State.
Throughout his governorship, he travelled mostly economy class, carried his bags and abolished all sort of revenue loss and unnecessary offices. He never had fleet of cars and bulletproof vehicles. He lived his life and tried to rebuild the State. This brought him into conflict with those who saw politics as business.
It is on record that all we are witnessing in Anambra today, whether in education where the state is now the number one; in health where Obi for the first time built a teaching hospital for the state; in governance, where he built the first secretariat, among others were all as a result of his plans.
Uniquely for the first time in the history of Nigeria, he established a savings culture, which made it possible for him to save N75 billion for the state in investment, cash, local currency and foreign currency.
Due to his spirit of fairness and Justice, Obi decided that the governorship should go to the North that has not governed for a day. This stance brought to him all sort of hatred, including the fight that ensued between him and Chief Victor Umeh, who had expressed the desire to take over from him, after the completion of his tenure. This led to the removal of Umeh and the legal battle that followed.
After the legal battle, which the Appeal Court decided in favour of Umeh, all those around Mr. Peter Obi, including myself, decided that it was time for him to leave APGA alone and move on. Relying on the promise to Ojukwu that he will never abandon him throughout his life and to hand over to APGA Government, Obi decided to remain in APGA and ensured it won the election. He advised us to support those contesting election on APGA platform- Oselloka Obaze, Chinedu Idigo, Paul Odenigbo and Chike Obidigbo. He appealed to us that all should support any of them that emerged. However, after his reconciliation with Umeh, who voluntarily, but with sinister motive came to apologize to Obi and insisted that all the people contesting election should be dropped for a neutral person.
After several days of prolonged meetings and intervention of the elders, it was agreed that Obi should nominate other neutral persons. At this stage, he brought in Chief Willie Obiano and Tony Nnaecheta. Both were not members of APGA.
After retirement from Fidelity Bank , Chief Willie Obiano relocated to the USA. His ambition, which he pleaded with Obi to help him realise was to be made a Board member of Orient Petroleum. Obi paid for his trip back to Nigeria, and asked Mr. Lawrence Chinweuba, his former Special Adviser, to register him as an APGA member in his village. Obi also got Arc. Callistus Ilozumba to go to Abuja and purchase forms for Governorship election for him. He did exactly the same for Tony Nnaecheta.
On his arrival to Nigeria, Mr. Peter Obi brought him and Tony Nnaecheta to the Party.
Eventually, as campaigns started, I was made the Director-General. So if there is anybody that knows about the campaign, it is me. I know how it was prosecuted and can affirm as follows that between the time Obiano came back from the USA and the day he was elected, he did not put 1 kobo into the election. Until he was brought back by Obi, he hardly knew anybody in APGA. On the day of the primaries, which everybody knew would have been won by Hon. Uche Ekwunife, it was Obi and his wife that were on their knees pleading with Uche Ekwunife to allow Obiano, who eventually emerged. Throughout the campaign, as to ensure accountability, Mr. Obi requested Chief Willie Obiano to appoint somebody to be able to manage the resources he would make available. He nominated his Deputy, Dr. Nkem Okeke who, with Mr. Dubem Obaze, signed all the money that were released. Obiano also authorized all expenditure.
Apart from Obi, who else funded the campaign?
During campaign, Obi did not receive funds from donors, rather all those that wanted to donate were asked to do so through Obiano. Obiano did not spend any money he received from donors, but rather continued to collect daily feeding allowance from the campaign funds provided by Obi. The truth is that Obi
single-handed earned him the governorship.
But he says it every day that he was voted in by Anambra people due to his records in the corporate world. How would you react to this?
It is clear to everybody that nobody voted for Chief Willie Obiano. Anambra people, in voting for APGA, said it clearly that they were voting for Obi’s third tenure. They hoped that anybody brought by Obi would be, like him, totally committed, humble and simple. Obi went ahead to charge his Exco members to ensure they worked hard enough to deliver Obiano. To this end, almost all of them worked relentlessly to achieve this and even committed huge sums of money to energize the campaign and win grass roots support in their respective localities. This was in the spirit of continuity for which the EXCO members were expected to work with Obiano for at least two years to stabilize his government. However, on assumption of office after swearing in, the Governor sacked the commissioners after two weeks despite my advice.
As the DG of the campaign that brought Obiano into office, at which time would you say he fell apart with Obi?
Immediately after the elections were fought and won, Obiano started to show signs of unprecedented ingratitude. First, he said he was travelling to the USA to rest.
He took ingratitude to another level on the day of handover. Not even Obiano, his wife or relations thought it necessary to see Obi off to the airport. Shocking still was that one-week after the handover; he did not call Obi on phone, because as a DG of his Campaign Organization, I reminded him how important that was. When I later reminded him of the need to call Obi, he merely told me that he was too busy with a number of issues and that he wanted to move on quickly with appointments and other matters in other not to lose track.
Eventually, he appointed me his Special Adviser on Politics. In my first meeting with him (later I was never able to meet him again despite all my efforts through texts, emails and the Chief of Staff and other eminent emissaries), he told me that his one aim is to become the greatest Igbo man/politician. He said he was sure to achieve that since his becoming the Governor was an act of God, he interpreted it that God wants to use him to re-build Nigeria. He said I should help him to work to diminish Obi’s popularity. He laid his game plan bare: to make sure Obi got no federal appointment and by replicating everything Obi did.