By Emeka Ozumba

Unlike the creepy images conveyed by the Victorian realist, novelist and poet, Thomas Hardy in his 1901 epic -The Homecoming or the crucial plot points in the same author?s sixth published work, The Return of The Native; the return of Chief Willie Obiano gubernatorial candidate of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) for November 16, 2013 governorship elections in Anambra State to 11 Ajasa Street his roots and home in Onitsha-Ado on Friday October 26, 2013 was a triumphant return of a homeboy who had excelled in education and conquered his world, specifically in the art of managing human and natural resources but still had the humble disposition to pay homage to his roots as he offers himself for the service of the Anambra people.

Although Chief Willie Obiano hails from Aguleri in Anambra North Senatorial District of Anambra State; this son of a Headmaster had his early education at the Holy Trinity Primary School and Christ the King College, all prominent schools in Onitsha.? Thus it was a home coming suffused with pomp and ceremony and shouts of ?Willie! Willie!!? as the APGA campaign rally stormed major markets in Onitsha metropolis including Ose-Okwodu, Bright Street, and Main Market, Ochanja, Fegge as well as the Bridge Head markets. The traders had shut the markets to grace the rallies which are coming on the heels of the earlier successful Campaign Flag-Off held by APGA in the commercial city.

The Ajasa stop-over was undoubtedly an emotional one for Willie Obiano as he briefly recalled his childhood days in the neighborhood. It was also a source of pride to some elderly neighbours who couldn?t hold back their joy. In fact as Chief Willie Obiano told the excited crowd that his ambition was to continue to develop Anambra after Governor Peter Obi?s tenure, a woman of about 65 years sitting in front of a nearby stall, Iyom Magareth Okwuosa, spoke up ?Ezigbo nwa, Nne Willie Chukwugozie gi o.? Iyom Okwuosa, confirmed later during a brief chat, ?Okwa Willie! Yes I know him. I am a friend of his parents. He is well trained and he will make Anambra proud.?

Another rousing reception greeted the campaign train at the next stop at Ose-Okwodu market where Chief Willie Obiano reminded the crowd that his mother was ?nne Willie? and that he is Willie! His speech was greeted with shouts of ?Willie! Willie!!? He told the traders that one of his programmes would ensure that the markets would wear a new look with trading carried out in decent and neat environment equipped with modern facilities. He also assured that he would complete and surpass the achievements of Governor Peter Obi.

The Chairman of Ose-Okwodu Market Association, Mr. Vincent Ewulu, expressed happiness that APGA chose a worthy successor to Governor Peter Obi in Willie Obiano who is seen by all as a source of joy and inspiration by those who live and trade in the markets especially Ose-Okwodu where his mother still trades. In the same vein, the Grand Patron of Bright Street Traders, Chief Joe Okeke, said; ?Governor Peter Obi has rebuilt Anambra and the traders are happy to receive APGA and Willie Obiano today and we are assuring them that we are mobilizing support for APGA on November 16, 2013.?

Arriving at the Main Market White House, the administrative sit of Onitsha Amalgamated Traders Association (OMATA), the APGA campaign train was greeted by a jubilant crowd akin to what Late Nnamdi Azikiwe, often referred to as a ?sea of heads? which stretched from the New Market road end as far as the eyes could see to the fringes of the Niger towards Fegge. Various dance troupes and drummers made it a campaign carnival with some youths running and shoving amidst tight space shouting ?Willie! Willie! Willie?; ?Obi kerere nke? and ?o mpa? o mpa,? a common refrain at every stop referring to the popular Hero brand of beer sited in Onitsha by SABMiller Breweries.

Speaking at each stop, Governor Peter Obi told the traders that Anambra State was on the march again and that he could only tell them the verifiable truth. He reeled-out various projects executed in the area by his administration followed by resounding ovations and shouts of ?nke bu ezi-okwu? from the crowd. These include Marine Road, Waterside Hospital, Old and New Market Road, Bright Street amongst many others. He assured that the traders complaint about poor power supply would be tackled with dispatch with the installation of a transformer in two weeks.

To the delight of the people, Governor Obi also demonstrated his commitment to continuous work by flagging-off the reconstruction of Okwei street Onitsha, with a promise to commence the nearby Sanniez soon.? ?He called on Onitsha traders to vote for APGA and Willie Obiano to sustain the giant strides Anambra State made under his watch.

Earlier the National Chairman of APGA, Chief Victor Umeh, told the traders ?ignore the antics of politicians who are not sure of their identity, APGA represents and carries the aspirations of the Igbos and will never disappoint you. We have come to reassure Onitsha traders that the development strides of Governor Peter Obi will continue under Chief Willie Obiano. So vote for him.?

Chief Obiano also thanked Onitsha traders for the warm reception, assuring them that the APGA campaign of ?Continuity? was driven by the record of achievements by Governor Peter Obi, and that his Blueprint for Anambra would take development to greater heights based on four Pillars: Agriculture, Oil and Gas, Trade and Commerce, and Industrialization, which would lead to massive economic activity, industries and jobs! Jobs! Jobs! for the people. Equally, the announcement of plans to make education free at primary and secondary school levels with scholarship for gifted students received spontaneous applause from the crowd, even as he reiterated commitment to providing security for lives and property.

 

All told, the outpouring of support and warmth exhibited by the Onitsha business community towards Willie Obiano and the APGA team was a sharp contrast to what took place some days earlier at Nkpor during the celebration organized by the Nzuko Imeobi, Idemili under the theme, ?Ogu ide, maka odi mma Idemili,? where the APC candidate Dr. Chris Ngige was shut out by his own people from the activities marking this year?s celebration of the Idemili Day; while the APGA candidate, Chief Willie Obiano and his campaign train lighted up the event with colour and fanfare. Even an attempt by the opposition to put a dampner on the Onitsha rally with a spurious report? that APGA team were pelted with pure water sachet, did not go un challenged.

 

 

The Executive Director of Media Ethics and Rights Initiative, an Onitsha based media critic and responsible journalism advocacy group, Prince Ezekiel Amanambu, had condemned that as wanton peddling of falsehood and distortion of facts to further political advantage, ?We note with dismay the spurious claim in some media reports that the APGA Campaign team was pelted with pure water sachet in Onitsha. I live in Onitsha and also observed the overwhelming support and displays by traders who shut the various markets to appreciate Governor Obi and Willie Obiano. Infact, when I saw the report I had no doubt the fellow must have cooked it up in his bedroom because the mammoth crowd at the rallies could not have allowed such mischief.?

 

No doubt, Willie Obiano?s successful home-coming campaign to Onitsha is a clear indication of APGA?s support base and renascent mass following. But as the gubernatorial campaign heads to the home stretch, it is imperative that the candidates stick to the selling of their manifestos with a measure of control on the actions of their supports to ensure that peace which currently reigns in Anambra State is not torpedoed by vaulting ambition.

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Emeka Ozumba is Deputy Head, Communications/Strategy, Willie Obiano Media Team

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