Paper presented by Chief Ralphs Okey Nwosu, Nation Chairman ADC, as the Guest Speaker on the occasion of The Celebration of Excellence by the Anambra Chapter of the National Youth Council of Nigeria (NYCN) as part of Events marking the transition/handover Ceremonies in Anambra state. Presented on 14th March, 2014 at J. Jumac Hotels, Awka.
I would like to start with a short synopsis of Anambra before Mr. Peter Obi, and lead us to reflect on why Anambra state’s handover date for the Chief Executive of the state is different from the rest of the country and takes place in March. Why it takes place one year two months and twelve days short from the Democracy day, May 29th and the usual day for handing over after the constitutionally approved four year term since the democratic journey that started May 29, 1999 across the country. This day would ordinarily fall due in 2015, when President Goodluck Jonathan is expected to take another oath of office. No; more succinctly, Governor Peter Obi would have handed over after serving two terms on May 29th 2011, eight years after his tenures was supposed to have begun, on May 29th 2003. Yes this was the rightful time our people had voted for him to take office, but it was not to be.
In 2003 Anambra was a big jungle, politically speaking. The state government had started off on a wrong footing in 1999. On inception of the democratic government, there was no sense of common purpose between the state’s Executive branch and the Legislature, so much that the National Assembly had to be called in to break the impasse. The schism was not averted completely, rather different interest groups took over the terrain and Anambra state became a big nightmare. Governance was sacrificed, and the state was broken into camps. Small fiefdoms started to rear their heads, Bakassi boys and assassins were on the prowl, Anambra became a euphemism for all that is bad. Irrespective of the very rough terrain, a few committed persons regrouped, determined to change the system. APGA was formed, Anambra people were mobilized and Mr. Peter Obi used the platform to win the election.
However, even after this, the vipers refused to go away. If you can all recall, the INEC result of that election was written in some hide out with fake policemen and military men used to intimidate the people. The vipers swore in their governor to continue business as usual. The tenacity of Mr Peter Obi changed all this; it took almost three years. He challenged the status quo, and changed the system. For the first time in Nigeria he invalidated the regime of a usurping governor. Again in 2007, the incumbent governor fought to stop the wild and inordinate arm-twisting tactics and recklessness of the state legislators. He was sworn in three times for one gubernatorial tenure. Mr. Obi’s dogged tenacity has helped the cause of our democracy; sanitized the system, and given confidence to many others.
Within the eight years of his tenure the signposts of his stewardship are there for everyone to judge; the governor’s works can be better understood by the recent disclosure of the historic and whooping N75billion balance sheet which he bequeaths the state and the incoming administration. He deserves our applause, and the recognition the state chapter of National Youth Council of Nigeria accords him today at the twilight of his eventful stewardship.
Moving forward I will want to state that the most important achievement of the outgoing administration is making the ground fertile for the transformation of Anambra state to begin. The transformation of Anambra starts when people of Anambra especially the youth and people in government come together to agree on what type of state and government they want. This should incorporate their dreams, vision, and a panoramic conception of what we think a great people and a blessed state should be to us Ndi Anambra, the nation Nigeria and the rest of the world. I mean
the big picture of how we can use the resources we have to empower our people, create security and prosperity, and make our state a safe and attractive haven for ourselves and all well-meaning persons of the world. Judging by what we are doing today, a forum put together by the youth leaders of Anambra state, sponsored by government, with leaders of various stakes and most especially the Governor and governor-elect present, it is safe to say that the process has begun. On this note I commend and congratulate Governor Peter Obi, and Congratulate and welcome Dr. William Maduabuchi Obiano and his deputy Dr. Nkem Okeke.
At the centre of any government, leadership and transformational process is the people. For Anambra, we are talking of about 10million persons, indigenes living in the state and Diaspora, and non indigenes who have made the state their abode at the moment. If Anambra were to be a country, its population would be higher than Switzerland, Sweden and Austria in Europe, higher than the population of the United Arab Emirates (UEA), and three times the population of Kuwait or Jamaica. Anambra state’s population is higher than that of over 10 African countries including Liberia, Sierra Leone and Gambia. While we may be a small state within Nigeria, if the 8.2million persons in the UAE could redefine the face of Middle East, one can only imagine how the inspired people of Anambra could reshape their state, reposition Nigeria and create a model for the entire continent of Africa.
It would be nice to look at Anambra as a social system within a larger system. Nigeria’s unemployment rate stands at about 27%, while there is no subsisting figure for Anambra, we know that most of the Anambra graduates, trained hands and entrepreneurs are domiciled outside the state. It is also true that most Nigerians are underemployed and this includes Ndi-Anambra. This naturally means that we have much redundancy amongst our people especially the youths. As a result we have social strife, underdevelopment and lack of progress. Moving forward, Anambra needs to focus on strengthening and inspiring the different generations of its people and inculcating them into its strategic planning initiatives. How do we attend to the different groups of children, teenagers, youths, mid-lifers, retirees and the elderly? How do we empower them, and find a way to choreograph an enamoring social infrastructure that will continuously give meaning to their lives? The right trajectory will be determined when the government and leading elite resolve to make only choices that will enable all the people to think together, dream together, learn together and work together; getting our different people to share knowledge, tell our stories, experiment, innovate, and research and flow along the rhythm of the progressive nations of the world.
Is there any reason we should not take this path? The fact that the Governor elect comes from Anambra North does not matter. When on a real transformational mission, zones do not matter. I do not expect that His Excellency will allow himself to be distracted by the new oil fields within the Anambra rivers districts. Oil could make one lose focus and his/her humanity. Oil is both power and poison; in many nations and Nigeria, it has shown the power only to inflame. Like poison it dulls the head, blurs the vision, and limits constructive engagement and creativity. We all have to be careful of this fact.
The era of the Grandmaster is over, the myth of the superhero who single-handedly built the magical Happy-go-Lucky kingdom is simply what it is, a myth. I doubt any single individual can build anything without other hands, heads, and minds. Every meaningful project and viable organization is a product of high involvement, participation, teamwork, cooperation, and collaboration; it is a product of a well networked system comprising purpose-driven, highly inspired and empowered persons tied together by trust and generosity of the spirit. Singularly, people can invent, initiate or catalyze the process. But if one invents and does not involve others what is the use of the invention? When we initiate and share with people and for people, it makes sense; we catalyze to empower and stimulate others and the process. Although we could smile, dance, and act for ourselves sometimes, if we hide in a
cocoon to perform our dance-drama, how shall we empathize, affect our neighbors, and build and bequeath our universe with legacies? Leaders of organizations, states and nations that will command the future, must bring
together a pool of diverse individuals who together can initiate, invent and catalyze processes that promote the dignity of the human person, create work, enhance peace, security, safety and happiness, and challenge the human spirit towards a robust lifestyle and an egalitarian society. I task us all to follow this trajectory.
Our people are known to be good in trading and commerce, science, technology and medicine, literature and the creative arts, sports and entertainment. We have a very rich historical heritage grounded in all the communities that make up Anambra state. We have to create the endearing infrastructure to nourish these skills and help our people to bring them alive in their finest and most potent forms. Our human development institutions from Crèche, Primary and Secondary schools must be enhanced with relevant curricula. Our Universities must be able to churn out relevant knowledge and skills that can put our graduates on the same platform as their contemporaries in Europe, USA, China, Japan and Canada.
We have good business men, we need to support them with practitioner-oriented business schools with entrepreneurial and leadership departments that promote global trends and best practices. Anambra trained doctors are everywhere. Good doctors get better when they can practice in an hospital with the state of the art equipment and rich protocols. Mr. Peter Obi built Amaku hospital. The architecture is great. Working in collaboration with the Anambra chapter of the Nigeria Medical Association and the Teaching Hospitals board, the hospital can be well set up to become a centre of medical excellence within the African continent. And the same could happen in other fields.
Anambra has to be redefined. Most states in the country are amorphous in nature. Anambra state should not be part of the bunch, considering the rich heritage and potential of the people. When Anambra is mentioned, what impression does that conjure to the outside world, to fellow Nigerians or even to us Ndi Anambra? California, Texas, New York and Florida are mere states like Anambra, yet they stand out and make their country stand taller. Some of their cities/towns are among the first ten wealthiest when equated with top nations of the world. The state of Vermont, ranked 49th in the US in terms of population, with a mere population of 625,000, prides itself as number one in the production of Maple Syrup in the US, and second only to the province of Quebec, Canada in the world. They have clearly distinguishing features and workforce. With the population of just two of Anambra’s local governments, the state has 23 colleges and universities which include one research university, six graduate-level universities, one art school, a culinary school, and a law school. This green mountain state welcomes approximately 13.7 million tourists yearly; has numerous attractions, trade and convention centers/expos, museums and monuments; and hosts the annual Vermont Marathon. The different ministerial departments and agencies of government partner with chambers of commerce, trade associations and community organizations and educational and sporting bodies to create a year-round alluring festival atmosphere. Anambra should be made attractive and inviting to many persons, by hosting events that puts the state on the national calendar and world diary of events. Anambra marathon, festivals and championships are just some of these.
To become all we want to be, who we want to be, and a focal state in Nigeria and the world, we must consider our higher institutions as fundamental to that journey. They are not and should not be treated as mere liabilities, but as collaborating partners and pathfinders. The City of Boston works in collaboration with Harvard University and other institutions within its vicinity to continue to make the city appealing for business and young entrepreneurs, inventors, artists and the tourism industries. The city of Austin in Texas did a ground breaking collaborative work with University of Texas at Austin in the mid 1980s, which led to the establishment of a technological knowledge incubation centre that threw the city up within ten years as an outstanding technology city and home for the biggest IT corporations. The knowledge domiciled in and around any university are so enormous that a cross fertilization process involving the university on one hand, the state, local government and host communities will be of tremendous advantage to all parties.
We have to signpost enough defining features to make our children hunger to come home, and tourists and business consortia be pulled to come to Anambra. Our state has natural potentials, native skills, talents, expertise and strong stories, history and tradition that can hold the world spellbound if well packaged. This is the home state of great men, minds, hearts and spirits. Sir Louis Odimegwu Ojukwu and Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe were global men at their prime, Achebe was a global Icon, Blessed Iwene Tansi’s spirit still looms large even in death; Pius Okigbo and Kenneth Dike were mindful and erudite. We had quintessential men and women whose character defined who we truly were, and whose virtues and valor and ethical compass can shape our work-life and life-world.
We often fail to leverage on what we have. We are predominantly Christians. Everywhere, in Nigeria or abroad, our people are present in any Christian audience. Whether we are Catholics, Anglicans, Methodists, Pentecostals, etc, the denominations does not matter; as Christians it is our place to preach that. Studies show that about 200 million pilgrims go on pilgrimage every year to some Holy sites. Whether poor or rich, they contribute in some ways to the development of the pilgrimage site host communities. As the saying goes, “religion is like opium”, while we may want to question the veracity or the continued relevance of this saying, it is important for us to note that the influence of Vatican City is as strong as any government of the world, so also is its estate. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia with a population of 29 million is projected to host about 15.8million tourists in 2014. Its tourism authority did announce that it aims to attract 88 million tourists by 2020. Religious tourism remains the main reason for overseas visitors to Saudi Arabia, as the majority of its visitors travel to Mecca and Medina. The Synagogue Church of All Nations, of Pastor T. B. Joshua has become a phenomenal case as visitors including leaders of nations and industries troop to Ikotun in Lagos from across the globe for consultations and prayers. The Redeemed Church, the Mountain of Fire and Miracle, and Christ Embassy are among the local churches that lay their red carpet weekly to receive the big and mighty there to worship.
Anambra with a substantial number of Christians, and unarguably the largest number of highly educated clergy, hosts the Basilica of All Saints at Onitsha. With the intercessory powers of our own Blessed Father Iwene Tansi, and my late spiritual father, the Very Reverend Albert Obiefuena the “Patron Saint” of Awka community, I can readily tell you that the old Cathedral at Onitsha and the entire Basilica environment can become a home to many pilgrims, worshippers and persons looking for the face and favor of The Creator. The spiritual and collateral effect will add great value to the ancient city of Onitsha and affect multitude of Ndi Anambra irrespective of their denomination or religious belief. We should not neglect the power of the Basilica because it is now some minutes away, it is the closest Vatican to many faithful in Nigeria and the continent of Africa, and can host over 5million visitors yearly.
Women and the physically challenged amongst us are to all intent and purposes still very vulnerable. As we plot to have all hands on deck, we must create activities to make them part of the development process. While we imaginatively construct an overwhelming infrastructure to get our people working, make our people happy, safe, and prosperous, the truth is that secluding anyone disadvantages all and stunts development. The entire population must be involved for the state to be the best it could ever be.
Your Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen, we can go on and on designing different trajectory to orchestrate a nourishing architecture for the empowerment of the people of Anambra state to lead a worthy, dignified life of happiness and fulfillment, but the central theme remains that government is about vitality of its people. I am aware that the Governor-elect is an astute manager and therefore has quantum ideas, skills and tools in his kitty. Coming highly recommended by Governor Peter Obi, we trust he shall deliver more than we can imagine. I will therefore conclude with these four pieces of advice;
- People in power should think globally. Pigeon-hole mentality and parochialism limits a leader, and invariably affects the judgment. The large picture perspective enhances decision making, and helps the leader to stay authentic.
- Starting with a standing State Vision Committee, it is important to build a robust ecology of leaders to enable transformation accomplishment and generative system going forward. The aim is to involve people of diverse background, and possibly establish an insight centre for knowledge synthesis from different sympathetic stakeholders where empowering ideas for state building will continuously emanate.
- The elected leaders are the master servants, pathfinders and models; as such they must be the change they seek of others.
- We can make our state a global epicenter for commerce, black history and the arts, African heritage and spiritual haven; and we can make our people world beaters and pace-setters. However, the challenge for making our state whatever we want it to be rests on us all, not just one governor. The President and the executives of the National Youth Council of Nigeria, Anambra chapter, I must say you are in the best position to heed this call to action and to broadcast this message to all and sundry. I am confident in your ability to so do. The youths must be active drivers in this process.
As I sign off, I will like to reiterate that there are stockpiles of local knowledge which must be instilled into the roadmap to make the journey truly transformational and sustainable. We must find them and we must harness them, as local knowledge spillover resonates bountifully well with transformation, localized innovation and development. Europe, China and many advanced nations of the world built on what they know, and thus industrialized and created opportunities for their people, they advanced from what they knew through continuous learning and research. Whether we decide to initiate industrial parks, or build theme and recreation centres, name it, let’s not base what we do on too much of foreign expertise as this usually poses a sustainability challenge. Let us start from what we know, build on what we have, and advance from there.
God bless you all. Thank you for listening to me.
Chief Ralphs Okey Nwosu
Ikolo Dike Orabueze Awka; National Chairman, African Democratic Congress (ADC)
– Our task is not to foresee the future, but to enable it. – Antoine de Saint-Exupery
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