Obiano And The Turns Of Time – By Ifeanyi Afuba
March 17, 2014 was a momentous day in Anambra State. The State’s ruling party, the All Progressives Grand Alliance, had maneuvered its way past the PDP’s rigging machinery to retain power in Anambra State. Thus, a new APGA government was to steer the affairs of the state for the next four years. And as transition ceremonies go, the atmosphere at Ekwueme Square, Awka, was carnival – like. Yet, beyond the pageantry of that outing, a sober, even worrisome mood hung in the air. Would the incoming Governor, Willie Obiano, a lucky beneficiary of APGA’s political clout, an untested hand outside the confines of the corporate world, live up to the expectation of firming Anambra’s tender steps in development?
The doubts were stirred by Mr Peter Obi’s notable record as APGA Governor of Anambra State for two terms of eight years. Although the APGA pathfinder had also veered into politics from the boardroom, his five years of politico – legal activism eventually earned him a larger than life image. To be sure, Obi had turned Anambra around from the fringe of a failing State to the promise of renewal. This salvage operation was executed principally through the framework of Anambra Integrated Development Strategy, a design that brought many moribund departments of Government back to life and kick – started the process of socio – economic construction. To cap it up, the media was awash with the subject of Mr Obi’s fiscal reforms in Government.
No one would understand better than Dr Willie Obiano the widespread concern about the future of the State. If everything else seemed blurred, the fact of being sought out in retirement in the United States; the significance of being the compromise that broke the stalemate in the party’s nomination process; trust in the power of God to make even the impossible happen; a sense of personal conviction on giving back to society in which fortune had smiled on one – all these, as events have shown, were crystal clear and could neither be ignored nor suppressed.
In the event, Obiano stepped out on the road with uncommon sense of responsibility. His adoption of a continuity policy should be seen as a statement of sportsmanship; nay, statesmanship. This disposition put down any prompting for popularity competition with his predecessor and instead emphasised the collective societal interest in the scheme of things. Thus, Governor Obiano retained an appreciable number of the functionaries appointed by Peter Obi and worked harmoniously with them to the end of his first tenure. The re – engagement of such officers had the benefit of stabilising the system quickly and creating a bank of experience to tap from at critical moments.
However, it seems the case that the continuity policy recorded greater impact in the area of uncompleted projects inherited from the previous regime. By undertaking and actually keeping faith to the execution of these contracts, Obiano added value to governance. What would it have taken to neglect and ultimately discard such projects with doubtful political capital to be made out of them? In specific terms, the Obiano government inherited 101 uncompleted roads. The road projects required N127bn for their completion. Of these, the Obiano regime has delivered on 53 of the roads with the performance rate on the balance presently standing at about 75 percent. It is also worth mentioning that the Obiano administration similarly completed the Agulu Lake Resort Hotel and the Onitsha Shopping Mall to achieve good value for public fund.
A man of standards himself, it was no surprise that the new leader would set his sight on ambitious parameters of performance. Anambra State would be among the top three States in agricultural production in Nigeria. She will become a leading player in Nigeria’s oil and gas industry. Trade and commerce will be accorded priority in line with the entrepreneurial drive of Ndi Anambra. There would be no hiding place for kidnappers and armed robbers in the State under his watch. Awka, the State capital would acquire a befitting profile, among other tasks to accomplish.
Expectedly, there are voices, albeit a minority, which argue that these marks are today far from being met. Is it a happenstance then that a significant part of the $5.2bn investments that occurred in the State’s economy in the past four years were in the area of agriculture? At the flag – off of its campaign for the November 18, 2017 governorship poll, the PDP had enough supply of the Anambra Rice, a popular brand from the local production policy with which it wooed prospective voters. Riding on this self sufficiency scheme, the State blazed the trail of exporting pumpkin and bitter leaves to Europe. For the time being, politics has suspended the bid to have Anambra recognised as oil producing State but not the development of private initiatives on crude refining and gas plants.
Time and space will not permit a dissection of each area of the discussion. Suffice it to say that by the account of most non partisan commentators, Governor Willie Obiano has expanded the State’s production base. The State’s economy has been growing and whatever debate there may be on the growth rate, its resilience in the face of national recession was an indication of strong fiscal management. A number of things have changed but there is still some way to go on shoring up the state capital. Without doubt, the State security profile remains about the best in the country.
The Anambra Airport City, the Isiagu modern market for Awka and the three Specialist hospitals to be sited in the three senatorial zones stand out among the unfinished business Obiano is carrying into his second tenure. Completing them will be a great job done but Obiano’s greater legacy is to be located in the establishment of working institutions such as the Anambra Road Maintenance Agency. Another evolving legacy consists in the love for lofty standards. As Willie Nwokoye put it: ‘Obiano has raised the bar of governance high.’
It is not a coincidence that the Anambra State Compendium, which offers an encyclopaedic view of the State’s people, periods and places, is berthing at this time. With the publication, Obiano is inviting attention to the progress and prospects of the State. And it is this statesmanlike focus on the overriding interest of the State that probably explains the spectrum of Anambra’s political elite rallying around him in spite of political differences.
Obiano’s remarkable journey from the nadir of doubt to the plane of approval is instructive. It reminds me of the words of the departed sage, Chinua Achebe, on the Nigerian condition. ‘Telling the truth is the only way. In the long run, you get listened to.’