What Did Arthur Eze Do?

By Aloy Uzoekwe

It is important that I first of all make a clarification of my interest and stand. It is rational to do this to disabuse the conception that I may be writing out of self interest or as a paid agent. The object of this write-up, Chief Dr Arthur Eze (Ozoigbondu) is not known to me. I have never met him or had cause to pay a visit to him, unlike most politicians in Anambra State nay South-East. I do not even know the road to any of his houses either in Ukpo, Enugu or Abuja. All I know about him is the much I gleaned from the media and my associates’ tales about him.

The aim of this piece is solely to align with the truth as it concerns the current state of affairs in Anambra State, most especially the condition of the Local Government Councils in the State which is the subject of the current standoff between Chief Arthur Eze and the Anambra State Government.
For some weeks now the media is awash with the stories of Chief Arthur Eze’s altercations with the Anambra State government on the issue of Local Government administration in the State and the management of the funds accruing to the twenty one Local Government Councils of the State for the past six years. This eyebrow contest between Chief Arthur Eze and the Chief Willie Obiano-led State Government has also produced a sequel – the visit to the Aso Rock by the Anambra thirteen traditional rulers and their ill-advised subsequent suspension by the State Government.

So what did Chief Arthur Eze do that has generated so much furore in the polity and made any person who can hold a pen or press the keypads of an android phone and a laptop come out to shout “Crucify him! Crucify him!”? Arthur called on the Anambra State Government to stop the use of the illegal contraption called “Caretaker Committees” in administering the Local Government Councils in the State. This he said is against the letters of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (1999, as amended), same Constitution from which the State Government derives its legitimacy. Arthur asked the State Government to account for the humongous allocations meant for the Local Governments from the Federation account which the State Government had appropriated to itself for the past six years without corresponding development signs in the Local Government Areas whose funds are so seized. He reminded the State Government of the five percent of Local Government funds meant for the traditional rulers. Ozoigbondu then asked the State Government to, as a matter of urgency, set in motion the machineries and modalities for the conduct of Local Government elections in the State to ensure government is really taken to the grassroots. He thereafter made a solemn pledge, like any conscientious man whose constituency is not aright, that he will continue to engage the State Government until it does the needful with regard to the administration of Local Governments in the State viz; it accounts for all the Local Governments funds it (the State Government) has (mis)appropriated and conducts elections into the Local Governments.

Ordinarily, what should concern all discerning minds are: does the system of Local Government administration in Anambra State conform to the dictates of the Fourth Schedule of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended)? If the answer is no, is Arthur’s stance legitimate and right? Did he speak the minds of the majority of the silent/cowed Anambrarians? Does he then deserve the condemnations he gets based on his stance that the right thing be done?

The answer to these questions are left to our individual consciences. But suffice to say that like all matters Nigerian, we left the substance to go after shadow. We left the message to haunt the messenger. We once again allowed ourselves (willingly) to be beguiled and wheedled by the destructible preferences of our rulers. We decided to follow the “maddening crowd” (apologies to late Chief Gani Fawehinmi).

In an earlier piece titled “Anambra’s Moribund Local Governments and the Conspiracy of the Elites (newsprobeng.com – 16/07/2020), this writer had highlighted the plight of the Anambra State Local Governments in the hands of the present State Government. The piece then challenged the state’s elites to rise up and speak out about the continuous mis-governance, rot and illegality going on in the State as it concerns the State’s Local Government system and administration.

About two weeks after the publication, the State Government in collusion with its boys in the State House of Assembly extended the stay of the illegal Caretaker Committees in the Local Governments and everybody kept quiet. Like the Rotarians will ask “is it beneficial to the society?”

The stance of Chief Arthur Eze is noble and his agitation exemplary. It is only right that someone tell the government the bitter truth. A government which truncated the tenure of elected Local Government officials it inherited on the flimsy reason that they were the “boys” of his predecessor. A government which has stultified and indeed disrupted the Local Government system in the State. A government which has succeeded in ridiculing the revered traditional institutions and made the traditional rulers mere stooges of the State Government with no decisions of their own.
If the Anambra State Government want us to buy their story that Chief Arthur Eze’s call is like that of a “nattering nabob of negativism” (late Dr. Chuba Okadigbo) the onus is on them to prove his position wrong. In eleven months – January 2019 to November 2019, it is reported that Aguata Local Government got a total sum of ₦2.54bn from the Federation Account yet there is no single project to show for the colossal amount. Not even one toilet block. Same for Idemili North Local Government which reportedly got ₦2.6bn and all the rest Local Governments in the State. Let the State Government’s E-rats who are ever ready to attack assumed enemies of the government show the public the projects the funds were tied to or how they were expended.

What the Ozoigbondu did amplifies the correctness of the Igbo proverb; asokata Eze anya, otu ubochi ekpuru nkata n’ihu welu gwa ya okwu (there is an extent to which a King will be feared that one day someone will put on a basket, read mask, and talk to him). It is unfortunate that we are in a season when everyone is playing grand subject loyale and political correctness in order not to incur the wrath of the all powerful Liege. All to the detriment of the larger society. Yet Arthur has shown the requisite spirit for a fair, decent and progressive society. Vilifying him is an antithesis to the system of government we profess to practice. Anambrarians should commend him for being the last man standing who is courageous enough to tell the Emperor the hard truth when everyone is afraid.

For the Anambra State Government, they should remember the Igbo admonition; ohia na aso nkata, ya efuna ero (the forest which forbids baskets should not grow mushrooms). They should do a self performance audit and amend their short comings. It is not too late in the day and the best place to start is the abolition of the Local Government Caretaker Committees and enthronement of real democracy at the third tier of government through the conduct of Local Government elections.

  • Hon. Aloy Uzoekwe wrote via uroyz94@gmail.com

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