Friday, March 18, 2022 6:20 pm
By Nehru Odeh
Model, beauty queen and Nigeria’s former Ambassador to Spain Bianca Odumegwu Ojukwu’s name and pedigree precede her.
She may not be the national leader of the All Progressives Grand Alliance, APGA, but she is certainly its face. She may not have occupied any political office under the platform of the party, but the sense of patriotism and loyalty she has displayed not only to her late husband’s legacies but also the interest of the Igbo nation is never in doubt.
She may not boast of the ruggedness and wiles associated with politicking in Nigeria but she sure knows where her interests lie and will do anything to stand up and protect them, especially when she believes those interests are being breached.
Perhaps that slap she gave Ebele Obiano, wife of former Governor of Anamabra State Willy Obiano, is indeed not just a reaction to the verbal insults she had received but also a metaphor for the protection of those interests and, indeed, condemnation of what many believe are Ebele’s excesses.
Welcome to the inside story and the growing discontent that actually led to the melodrama and anti-climax that occurred shortly after Professor Charles Chukwuma Soludo had been sworn in as Governor of Anambra State on 17 March 2022.
According to reports. Bianca gave Ebele a hot slap when the latter walked up to the former who was seated quietly and a heated argument ensued. Though what the duo said to each other is not audible in the viral video, one report has it that on getting to where Bianca was sitting, Ebele whispered to her, saying: “Bianca, so you are here, I thought you said you will never attend any APGA event again.”
That was when Bianca immediately stood up and gave her a slap and pulled off her wig. Obiano’s wife started calling Bianca “ashawo”. One online newspaper also reported that Ebele allegedly mocked Bianca, saying: “I thought you said we would never be governor.” While another said she called her a witch.
Though Ebele’s comments no doubt elicited the resounding slap many have variously described as “valedictory slap”, “send-off slap”, “intercontinental ballistic missile” etc, what actually transpired goes beyond that moment, beyond the immediacy of the swearing-in ceremony. It was the culmination of the pent-up anger, frustrations and sidelining Bianca had suffered over the eight years Obiano was in power as well as Ebele’s excesses.
Throughout those years, Bianca was virtually not in the picture. She was not just abandoned, she was left in the lurch. Not only did Obiano sidelined her, Bianca also believes Obiano deliberately went against the vision and aspirations of the founding father of the party and repudiated Ojukwu’s importance, memory and role as the founder of the party.
“Our people have this saying that a person who was not present when a corpse was buried starts to exhume the corpse from the wrong end. The fact, if one has to be candid, is that Governor Obiano was a stranger to our political party who knew next to nothing about APGA’s founding principles, ideology and history.
“As a result, managing this political movement has proven to be a difficult task for the governor who also doubles as the party leader, especially in his second tenure as he continues to perpetuate the politics of divide and rule whilst exhibiting scant regard for the key political figures and factors in the party that made his emergence possible. The iconic status of Ojukwu as party symbol also happens to be one such casualty.
“I will use a simple example with regards to party branding which exposes the mindset of this current APGA governor to buttress this point. Obiano declared that he had his own ideas regarding re-inventing APGA as a major political force, but I expressed grave reservations concerning his approach and strategy. For starters, there is hardly anybody in Anambra State and beyond, who doesn’t know that APGA, as a political party, is inextricably intertwined with the personality of Ojukwu as its brand. It is a party for which he laboured right to his twilight hours, hence he is generally referred to as APGA’s eternal leader,” Bianca was quoted as saying in an interview.
The wife of the late Igbo leader remonstrated against Obiano’s plan to phase out all APGA party uniforms that displayed Ojukwu’s image and replace them with party uniforms that would be branded solely with his own image or with a cockerel as symbol, “since according to him, Ojukwu was no longer relevant to the party and (I quote him), that he could “no longer continue to tie the fate and fortunes of APGA to the memory of a dead man.”
Asked what Obiano meant by that statement, Bianca said: “Well, whatever he meant by it, I considered the remark to be rather unfortunate and to say the least, laughable. I had no problem with his solo images on our party uniforms – this is every governor’s right – but I thought his reasoning was acutely flawed and I considered his contemptuous reference to Ojukwu, before me, merely as a ‘dead man’ who was no longer relevant to APGA deeply offensive and disrespectful.”
Bianca also referred to the fact that Obiano, “an unknown banker living out his retirement in America”, climbed on the back of Ojukwu’s name and goodwill to become governor.
“It became obvious to me that Obiano (a relatively unknown banker living out his retirement in America) had forgotten so soon how he went about from community to community, pleading with the people of Anambra State who have great sentimental attachment to the Igbo hero, to vote for him in deference to Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu. This raises several questions. Was he now saying that he was not aware of the fact that Ojukwu was deceased when he was using the man’s image to canvass for votes?
Bianca also spoke about Obiano’s consistent refusal to “attend the annual Ojukwu memorial lectures hosted by the Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu University to celebrate this man whose political platform catapulted him from obscurity to the number one position in the state.
“When I raised this issue at the last memorial lecture, he was so offended to the extent that he mandated his media aides to rain an avalanche of abuse on me. He claimed my admonitions were purely a consequence of being upset at having been denied the party’s senatorial ticket during the last primaries.
“Any criticism of his attitude is met with invocations of thunder, a flurry of rebuttals, baseless accusations and outright denials. But I have a sacred obligation to the memory of my husband, and all he stood for in this party, to call a spade a spade, regardless of whose ox is gored.”
That Bianca was fed up with what she regards as Obiano’s recklessness is not an exaggeration. She saw Obiano’s exit as a breath of fresh air, as the beginning of a new dawn, and as liberation. Little wonder on 17 March 2022, the very day Soludo was sworned in as governor, she posted even before attending the swearing-in ceremony, on her Facebook how relieved she was:
“I used to wonder….But Now I Know. Now I know just how those Israelites felt on the day they took those tentative first steps out of the Land of Egypt….Just the sheer excitement and anticipation of liberation , the long awaited return to the promised land must have kept them awake through that night.
“This is the Day the Lord has made…a day that reaffirms the age long truth that no-one holds the stage forever. I thank the Almighty for keeping us all alive to witness this day.
“It was long in coming, but it’s finally here… A more dynamic and progressive Anambra is achievable
“Yes indeed….WE ARE THE BARRACKS!”
Another post on her Facebook that same day reads: “A NEW DAWN….17 MARCH 2022 …It’s liberation day, and today we sing the Redemption Song. Anambra will be better!”
Obiano not only stirred the hornet’s nest but also opened a Pandora box of sad memories and pent-up anger when she walked up to Bianca and engaged her in a heated argument. And in the process earned that slap, which many have also described as tantamount to paying back the former governor’s wife in her own coin.
Indeed, there have been no love lost between Bianca and the Obianos. Many also believe that the genesis of their quarrel dates back to 2019 when Bianca wanted to run for Senate during the General Elections. While the governor backed Bianca at the time, his wife opposed it. The former governor caved in under the weight of his wife’s pressure, and the ticket was given to Nicholas Ukachukwu. And APGA was humiliated at the polls.
It seems Ebele always had the last word. Whatever she says was final. Whatever she wanted she got, except who succeeded her husband. And she has had many spoils. At the launch of a book written by Ike Chioke on Obiano, the highest honour, Grand Commander of Anambra State was bestowed on her among others. Three years ago. She was given an honorary doctorate degree by the state-owned university, which ironically is named after Chukwuemeka Ojukwu.
She was a terror and dreaded throughout the eight years her husband was in power. She believed she influenced her husband husband’s victory at the polls. And so she must have not only her say but also her way. After his re-election, she left no one doubt that she was in charge. She was propping up Ume Orji in place of Soludo on the grounds that Soludo would not be loyal and that APGA would lose. But her husband insisted it must be Soludo.
Ebele has always been melodramatic. The last day to the primary, between 11:30 and 1.am, she insisted Orji should be the candidate but the husband refused, telling her he’s the husband. “”You must listen to me. I am your husband.” She flew into a rage and ran out of the house. It took the combined efforts of men of the Department of State Security, DSS, and police to stop her at their country home in Aguleri. Half-clad, she began to hit people with broken bottles.
It will also be recalled that Obiano’s wife allegedly has a history of doling out slaps and of being high handed. According to reports, on Sunday 16 November, 2014, after the dedication of the child of the Anglican Bishop of Awka, His Lordship Most Rev. Dr. Ibezim at the cathedral of St. Faith, Awka, Oby Okeke, the wife of the former deputy Governor complained to Beatrice Ekweme, Dr. Alex Ekwueme’s wife, that she wasn’t carrying her along.
When Beatrice got audience with Ebele and advised her on the need to carry everybody along, especially the wife of the Deputy Governor, she flared up and claimed that the constitution only recognizes her and not the wife of the Deputy.
And immediately the Deputy Governor’s wife shouted back, she slapped her. It took the intervention of security men to prevent them from engaging in a fisticuff. As they were quarrelling, the wife of the Deputy Governor told her that she cannot kill her the way killed her maid, nor slap her as she usually slaps drivers.
However, the Anambra State government later issued a statement that there was never a time Ebele slapped Oby, adding that those peddling the rumours were only trying to create tension in the state. In the statement, the Special Assistant to the Deputy on Media, Stella Igboka said the two women were enjoying cordial relationship and enjoined the people of the state to ignore the story circulating in social media.
Another report has it that Ebere also engaged in an open quarrel with a member of the House of Representatives from the state, Uche Ekwunife. And if not for the intervention of the then First Lady, Patience Goodluck, Ekwunife would have been attacked by her in faraway Poland, while both women were on her entourage.
Trouble started when on arrival with the First Lady, who was accompanied by Ekwunife, Bola Shagaya and others, Ebele who was among those at the airport to receive the First Lady exchanged greetings with every other person except Ekwunife.
Later in the day, when Ebele came to see Patience, she again ignored Ekwunife after exchanging pleasantries with those present. When asked the reason for snubbing her, she said: “I do not greet prostitutes” to the astonishment of all those around.
When Ebele later told Ekwunife that she will deal with her and make sure she crumbles all her businesses in Awka, Ekwunife, enraged, said: “I will not trade words with you. That you killed your husband’s first wife for him to marry you does not mean you can deal with other women. That you are dealing with your alcoholic husband does not mean you can deal with me.” Ekwunife said to Ebele.
Confused, Ebele said: “My husband drinks champagne not alcohol.” This provided a comic relief that got everybody laughing.
And as the duo were about to engage in physical combat, Patience intervened, joined by other women and lambasted Ebele for lack of manners and morals.
“Instead of you to go to Margaret Obi to teach you how to be a First Lady, I heard you no longer talk to her. This your behaviour today has confirmed all that is said about you. Please, if this is how you behave, never join me on any trip again, both within and outside the country,” Patience Jonathan told her. But, sadly, Ebele never learned how to be a First Lady. She never turned a new leaf.