Several participants in a peace meeting convened by Governor Peter Obi to resolve a dispute rocking the Anambra State Association of the United States of America (ASA-USA) have told SaharaReporters that the initiative failed to achieve any success.
The “peace” meeting from 9 p.m. on Friday evening till 4:30 a.m. Our sources also disclosed that the meeting continued informally on Saturday morning after the governor’s departure.
Last Friday, SaharaReporters broke the news that Governor Obi had invited thirty-one members of the association to a hotel in Newark, New Jersey to address a financial disagreement that has triggered a lawsuit against the group’s president, Allison Anadi, and three of his fellow executives. Governor Obi had promised each invited participant $500 as reimbursement for travel expenses. In addition, the state government picked up the tab for each participant’s one day stay in a hotel as way as feeding expenses.
The ostensible peace parley became controversial as several of the invitees told SaharaReporters that they questioned the wisdom of Governor Obi wasting public funds to host a so-called peace meeting, adding that the cash-strapped state could have invested the funds in other critical areas. SaharaReporters learnt that the main plaintiffs who filed a lawsuit against the association’s officials kept away from the governor’s meeting.
Several sources who attended the meeting told SaharaReporters that Mr. Obi was visibly upset by our report on the meeting and took a swipe at SaharaReporters for breaking the news of his visit. He defended the state’s huge financial expenditure on the meeting, contending that the “Anambra brand is being diminished and I will spend what it takes to stop it.” In addition, a source quoted the governor as arguing that “no amount is too big to ensure that the Anambra brand is not tarnished.”
Deflecting criticism that he had spent a huge sum on his own flight ticket from Nigeria, Mr. Peter Obi said he had accompanied a federal government delegation to Canada, adding that it cost him very little to make the hop from Canada to New Jersey.
Sources who attended the meeting disclosed that Governor Obi appealed to Mr. Anadi, a former professor, and other ASA-USA officials to “beg for mercy.” Mr. Anadi and the three officials have been taken to court for allegedly stealing the association’s funds and falsifying financial records. The other defendants in the lawsuit, filed at a California court, are Victor Nwanso, Jonathan Okafor and Olisa Oraelosi.
Governor Obi reportedly gave a long lecture on humility, telling the four individuals charged to court to get on their knees and start begging the plaintiffs for forgiveness. Mr. Obi told the participants how he had gone to spend the night at the home of an Okija businessman who disliked him, adding that the man ended up donating N50 million to his election campaign.
After giving a meandering speech that had no concrete proposals, the governor reportedly promised that he would be back to continue the “peace” initiative, adding that he was not concerned about the expense of his peace moves. Several sources told SaharaReporters that the governor in fact promised to come with traditional rulers on his next visit to help settle the dispute.
SaharaReporters spoke to three branch leaders of ASA-USA for their reaction. “We’re not looking for Dr. Anadi and company to kneel down and beg,” one of the branch leaders said bluntly. The source, who said he did not attend the meeting, stated: “We’re only demanding that they should give us a full account of what they did with funds that belong to all the members of ASA-USA. If the governor was serious, he should have asked Anadi to go and give account rather than to go and beg.”
Another source, who was at the meeting, added that he was disappointed that Governor Obi had nothing to offer apart from an advice to the Anadi group to “beg for mercy.” According to the source, “Governor Obi could have easily phoned Dr. Anadi from Awka or Canada and advised him to go and plead for mercy. It was not necessary for him to come to the US to offer that advice.”Another branch leader said he was angry to hear about the outcome of the meeting. “My branch already passed a vote of no confidence on the four officers that have been dragged to court. The court case will go on even if the executives beg from today till thy kingdom come,” he said.
One source, a prominent member of the association, told us that the governor’s intervention was “very sad.” He added: “We now believe in the three Rs, meaning Resignation, Restitution and Reformation. There is no way Allison Anadi, Victor Nwanso, Jonathan Okafor and Olisa Oraelosi can remain in office after what we saw as cooked up accounting. Victor Nwanso and Jonathan Okafor presented two apparently falsified accounting reports.” He alleged that Anadi spent over $40,000 that was not properly accounted for. He added that the embattled executives took a donation of $60,000 from Ifeanyi Uba, a controversial businessman and governorship aspirant. “They have to tell the court what happened to all the money, pure and simple,” he said.
The member told SaharaReporters that Governor Obi’s alleged concern with the “Anambra brand” was misplaced. “If the governor wants to protect the Anambra brand, then he should support transparency and accountability,” he said. He added, “To suggest that the accused officials beg means that the governor wants those who took them to court to drop the case and accept a cover up of potential crimes. A culture that believes in covering up scams rather than exposing them is not a brand that many of us from Anambra are prepared to be associated with.”
On the governor’s promise to return with traditional rulers in order to resolve the crisis within the ranks of ASA-USA, several of our sources said it would be a serious mistake and an unpardonable squandering of public funds. “If the governor wants to play an effective role, let him simply order Dr. Anadi and his group to prepare a full account that details what cash the association had and what they spent and on what,” said one respondent.
Another member of ASA-USA called on Governor Obi “not to spend any more of our state’s money on saving these people. This is America, and they must face justice for what they did. We cannot allow the Nigerianization of ASA-USA where trusted leaders act like Nigerian crooks in the PDP and other political parties.”
A member who is resident in Houston, Texas, simply said, “The lawsuit must go on,” adding that “we need to know what Allison Anadi, Victor Nwanso, Jonathan Okafor and Olisa Oraelosi have. Begging and confession alone will not be good enough.”
Several participants at Governor Obi’s New Jersey “peace” parley said they left wondering how the governor expected the alleged misappropriation of an association’s funds to just go away once the four defendants say “We’re sorry.”