Obiano Magic – Sealing the Cracks between Churches in Anambra State

Governor Willie Obiano and Anglican Bishop of Afikpo, Rt. Rev Paul Udogu


| By James Eze |

GOVERNOR Willie Obiano has continued to surprise his critics and admirers in a manner that leaves no one in doubt that the hand of God is truly upon him. And this is why. Apart from his seemingly mazy run through all the nebulous litigations that sought to snuff life out of his regime even before it could fully take off, the former banker has continued to win the approval and endorsement of well-known hardliners in Anambra State.

IT WAS to his credit, for instance, that the phenomenal new generation novelist who was recently listed as one of the 100 most influential people in the world by Time magazine, Chimamanda Adichie accepted to deliver the lecture that marked his first 100 Days in office. In the truest tradition of iconoclasts and gifted artists, Adichie has an aversion towards the establishment. She is reputed to have turned down so many efforts by different state governments and the federal government to woo her to their side in the past. In fact, it is rumoured that an attempt by the incoming administration in this regard also hit the brick-wall. But Adichie did not just accept to speak at Obiano’s 100 Days in office but did so with an enthusiasm that turned to a magnetic enchantment that held her audience in a spell.

Similarly, in the past one year, Obiano has broken the walls that alienated most of Anambra’s illustrious sons and daughters from the government of their state. Prominent opposition figures in like Arthur Eze, Emeka Offor, Chris Ubah and Nicholas Ukachukwu who were all opposed to Obiano’s predecessor were happy that finally there was a bold effort by their governor to give them a sense of belonging. Their appreciation of Obiano’s inclusive administration showed itself in so many ways but the most notable was their enthusiastic embrace of the governor’s effort to raise funds to strengthen his war against crime in the state. While Eze was reported to have doled out $1m, Ukachukwu had also made a significant donation to the project while Offor and Ubah choose to identify with the governor in different other ways. In fact, until the recent National Assembly and House of Assembly elections, governor Obiano had enjoyed a mutually respectful relationship with the former “enemies” of the state. Even Senator Chris Ngige was overheard at the traditional wedding ceremony in the Nwandu family in Enugwu-Ukwu late last year whispering to his close friends that Obiano had the carriage of a true governor. Pointing at him, Ngige had told his men that Anambra had finally got a governor that reflected the full glory of his office. It is remarkable that even Ngige who ran a bitter campaign against Obiano in the gubernatorial elections, fighting him to the highest court in the land could pay him glowing tributes even if muffled.

But so far, the most significant incident that shows that Obiano is finally in a good place with Ndi Anambra was the powerful encomium showered on him by the Primate of the Anglican Church in Nigeria, Most Rev Nichola D. Okoh during the recent consecration of three new bishops at the All Saints Cathedral, Onitsha. What makes Okoh’s plaudits particularly pleasant is the fact that barely eight months ago the entire Anglican Church in Anambra State was up in arms against Obiano, organising massive demonstrations in Onitsha with placards that purposely stirred emotion in certain directions. Although it was a clearly premeditated incitement that was intended to feed the embers of the loud disquiet between Catholics and Anglicans, the gale of protests across Onitsha caused needless anxiety in the state. But Governor Obiano had remained unfazed by the antics of people who incited the church against him and had worked silently to earn the confidence and trust of the Anglicans.

Most Rev. Okoh brought this to the fore at a pre-consecration dinner in Amawbia when he told the gathering that “One thing very special which is very dear to my heart is the effort the governor is making to create a cordial relationship between the Roman Catholic Church, the Anglican Church and other religious bodies in the state. Until now there has been a very toxic relationship between the different denominations, but the governor does not believe that if we have one aim, one purpose – to win souls for Christ, we should be fighting ourselves. So, the governor is a crusader and the crusade he has embarked upon is already yielding fruits. For instance, he has gone round all our dioceses and met with the bishops and the clergy and has in the offing meetings with other organizations in the church, not only in the Roman Catholic Church but in Anglican and other groups. So, I think he has come to transform Anambra and take away the acrimony that has been in existence and make everyone friends of one another. We commend this. He is also funding education for churches across denominations and this is something that is going to really unify the people that no section of the state feels marginalized. So, the governor has come to do something here. In the same way, in the medical field, he is supporting our hospitals and the hospital belonging to other missions. We appreciate it.”

Speaking further, the Most Rev. Okoh reasoned that “the Church cannot make progress without peace. It is in this sense that we appreciate the harmony you are trying to bring about between the Anglicans and the Catholics. Sometime ago the tension rose so high and got to a pitch but thank God that wisdom is prevailing and we hope that on both sides, we will work with wisdom to ensure that God is honoured, not man. And that we understand whom we are following and follow him without discrimination. It is very necessary that we work very very hard to break down the barriers and re-orientate ourselves because if we will not live together then we will die together. Injustice will never lead to peace. I call on all of us, to in our own little corners, work for peace and ensure that Anglicans, Pentecostals, Catholics and even the traditionalists are given fair treatment so that all of us can cohabit and promote the wellbeing of our dear country.”

Such weighty comments coming from the leader of the Anglican Church in Nigeria carry a lot of meaning. Given that the church is not given to frivolities, it is evident that everything is gradually turning around for the good of Governor Obiano and for the good of Anambra State; that what his enemies had actually done to wrong-foot him, making him out as a Catholic governor who was rabidly anti-Anglican has turned in his favour. It might also help to know that the governor has worked tirelessly to earn the trust of other denominations in the state. He specifically ensured that no denomination was left out the last time he made donations to mission schools and hospitals, spreading the gestures to Catholics, Anglicans and the Pentecostals.

In all, although it might sound rather too simple, but what is not in doubt about the harmony that is beginning to bloom among the churches in Anambra State is that Willie Obiano has touched everyone with love. And the people are beginning to see themselves in a new light; rediscovering the ties that bind them in a place where what they had always seen were the tall walls of division.


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