Obiano And The Power Of A Dream – By Ifeanyi Afuba
The story of William Obiano’s successful banking career is fairly well known and even better known are his good governance and development exploits as Governor of Anambra State. Can we say the same about what drives the man? Reflecting on the significance of birthdays, Nobel laureate Gabriel Garcia Marquez reasoned that ‘it is not true that people stop pursuing dreams because they grow old; they grow old because they stop dreaming.’ For William Maduaburochukwu Obiano who turns 64 on Wednesday, August 8, 2018, the above words of the great Colombian writer would sound like a familiar road. From childhood to date, Obiano’s quest to live out his dreams has been remarkable.
This writer finds two main dreams at the heart of Obiano’s life – the desire to excel in one’s endeavours and the passion to touch lives. And the two are more related than distinct, fusing in the philosophy of living to serve. In the dream of aspiration, we encounter a resilient, fighting spirit that refuses to give up in the face of difficulties but ventures in the search for solutions. It is a trait that manifested early in the life of the Aguleri born Willie.
Had this assertive personality anything to do with the environment under which the young Willie grew up? In the legends of history, the Aguleri had a warriors’ reputation; not infrequently engaging and triumphing in inter clan battles. The town had resisted missionary penetration and would easily fit into the setting of the District Commissioner’s ambitious memoir, Pacification of the Primitive Tribes of the Lower Niger so masterfully evoked by Chinua Achebe in the conclusion of Things Fall Apart. Or was Willie just his adventurous self living out the instincts fashioned in the realm of creation?
Ikenna Aniagboso offers us a useful insight from an elegantly piece of faction titled ‘A Globe’s Worth.’ A boy, Mmadu was sitting by his nne ochie [grandmother] cleaning the globes of elderly folks’ lantern, when a globe slipped from his hand. The physical and emotional distress of this loss for the young boy in the dark, village setting can only be imagined. After much tossing on the night mat, he came to a decision. At the first sunrise, he was at the village bakery where he struck a bargain.
Mmadu took off with his wares [on credit]. He sold the popular mgbadume [buns] off and returned for more; and again and again he went, selling off more before the sun rose. He walked home with a pocketful of pennies and shillings and a brand new globe! And no prize for calling it out: Mmadu was Mmaduaburochukwu Obiano.
It would have been against the natural run of play, if this precocious lad did not grow up into an accomplished individual. There can be no gainsaying that this result – driven trait helped see the boisterous Willie through the competitive and sometimes treacherous world of the boardroom.
And so, although he had no prior ambition to be Governor of Anambra State in 2014, once on the saddle, Willie rode off with a canter that probably sent a few seasoned riders blushing. The clear sense of destination, proven by the consistency maintained with the passing of time, can only be matched by the willingness to achieve the set targets. ‘My number one priority for Anambra State is security.’ ‘Our agricultural programmes will not only give Anambra a level of self – sufficiency in food production but it will also stimulate our domestic growth.’ ‘We shall commence a campaign to retrieve all roads in Anambra State from the increasing threat of potholes.’ As anyone who has even a casual knowledge of events in Anambra State today realises, these are among the areas the present administration has done very well. Obiano’s fidelity to the many tasks he set in 2014 in the fifth year of his governorship offers one more hope for leadership revolution in Nigeria.
The single – mindedness with which the Governor recently supervised road construction had caught the eye of some analysts. By the second month of his second tenure, in April 2018, Obiano had paid visits to over 25 road rehabilitation sites. The inspections were not perfunctory, but time demanding, probing, interactive. A departure, which not a few found interesting, was that this was a Governor who had won his re – election, not one seeking to cajole the electorate to vote for him.
A traditional chief, Obiano’s stickler for high standards, almost precedes him. Those who have had to defend proposals before him know better. For the man, majority of the citizens love to refer to as ‘Willie is working’, an airport for Anambra would not do but an airport city project! A road is not complete without drainage, markings and neon signs. But even that is not enough for Willie. With the mindset that there is nothing to lose in improving security and environment, street lights and shrubs are being brought into the bargain.
In Awka, the landscape transformation takes a silvery hue with the three ‘hanging’ flyovers constructed by the regime in its first tenure. ‘I want Awka to be modelled after Dubai’ Obiano tells you with a gleam in his eyes. An apostle of Creative economy, he is plodding on with plans to position Anambra State as Nigeria’s Hollywood; and for starters, is offering N50m to launch the deserving of the ABS recent Theatre Academy graduates into film production.
The fear that Obiano would be oriented towards an elitist government quickly evaporates. One of his first acts in 2014 was donating his salary for the duration of his reign to charity. His regime is the only one since the State’s creation to operate a subsidized mass transit scheme. Obiano’s Anambra has only partially prohibited motorcycle transportation and commercial operators are having mini buses in exchange. Market and school levies remain banned, with a second salary raise imminent for workers.
How does he manage it all? Perhaps, Obiano agrees with Richard Cumberland that it is better to wear out than to rust out. Best wishes to Akpokuedike at 64.
Afuba is editor of Anambra Times.
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