Willie Obiano and Anambra’s Expanding Frontiers of Excellence
Two months after the inauguration of Chief Willie Obiano as the governor of Anambra State, the word on the street is that a wind of change is blowing across the state. From the sprawling commercial city of Onitsha to the industrial hum in Nnewi and from the rich agricultural belt of Ayamelum and Anam to the increasingly ambitious spread of Awka, the frenzy is the same; Anambra is on the rise! It is fascinating how a state that was once a resting place for dying dreams has suddenly emerged as Eastern Nigeria’s new garden of hope. We shall examine all that but first; the hard truth!
Until former governor Peter Greg Obi wrestled victory away from the talons of power mongers in 2006, Anambra State dominated national and international headlines for the wrong reasons. For a state that has produced some of the best storytellers on the continent, Anambra corporate narrative found expression between the bizarre and the grotesque.
For some strange reasons, the state that produced the great Zik of Africa (Right Honourable Nnamdi Azikiwe) and some of black Africa’s most iconic figures seemed not to know what to do with itself. Of course there were occasional sparkles of individual excellence here and there as Anambra’s many gifted sons and daughters never cease to astonish the world, but group aspirations and cohesive pursuit of common goals were non-existent. The absence of a strong and purposeful leadership at the center for almost 20 years of the existence of the state was glaring. In the aftermath, Anambra began to wear the sordid looks of a dysfunctional sphere where kidnappers, armed robbers and all people of duplicitous inclinations plied their trade without restraint. Lawlessness grew in scope and variance in Onitsha and environs as visitors dreaded finding themselves in the ancient commercial city for whatever reason. As a result, the state took a plunge from the socio-economic ladder. Trade and commerce which once boomed alongside promising industrial clusters began to shrink. A climate of fear hung in the air! There was a collective wringing of hands in utter exasperation as Ndi Anambra wondered where the rain began to beat them.
But with the emergence of Peter Obi, Okwute Ndigbo, as governor, Anambra State began a bold climb out of the abyss. In a rather poignant way, Obi’s landmark struggle to retrieve his electoral mandate from the courts redirected the attention of Ndi Anambra to the importance of seeking redress through the right organs of state. Remarkably, the former governor was to follow up this trail-blazing effort with a solid achievement in laying the institutional and structural foundations for the emergence of a new Anambra State. Of all his legacies, however, the one that posterity will probably never forget Governor Obi for will be his role in ensuring a peaceful handover of power in the state and also in restoring the missing sense of equity and balance by working for the emergence of a governor from the hitherto neglected Anambra North senatorial constituency. But if morning tells the day, Ndi Anambra will most likely thank Governor Obi for choosing Chief Willie Obiano as his successor.
The reason for this is simple. Since he took the statutory oath of office on Monday, March 17, 2014, Chief Willie Obiano has left no one in doubt that he was not only in office but in power. His surefooted strides as the 4th governor of democratic Anambra have restored the confidence of the people in the ability of government to play its overriding role as the protector of its citizenry and the father of all, regardless of political and ideological leanings. Obiano showed immediate signs of a competent leader who had been mulling over the task on his hands long before he assumed power when he named a cast of competent Anambrarians as his principal staff. Among them are the former Secretary to the State Government, Mr. Oseloka Obaze, Howard University professor, Joe Asike and mercurial banker and economist, Mr. Willie Nwokoye who were named as Secretary to the state government, chief of staff and principal secretary, respectively. With the trio, Obiano took up the gauntlet of drawing a new paradigm for his fast-paced campaign to reposition Anambra State for the leadership of the south East region that had waited for it all this while.
Obiano’s first week in office was full of extensive consultations and consensus building as he met with the security chiefs, members of the legislature, members of the judiciary, traditional rulers, the council of elders, the leaders of town unions, representatives of donor agencies, leaders of the church, principals and proprietors of schools, leaders of vigilante groups, leaders of the healthcare sector, Anambra State delegates to the National Conference, the Labour Union and of course Anambra’s long list of industrialists and entrepreneurs who he figured had a role to play in his plan to industrialize the state. It was a masterful beginning, comparable to an auspicious opening sequence in a beautiful orchestra. But it was also one beginning that would turn the attention of Ndi Anambra to the melody of change that is playing in the State House, Awka!
Again, Willie Obiano showed his uncanny ability to read the temperature of society when he divined that for his administration to have any chance at success at all, he would have to confront the monster of age old insecurity in the state head-on. And he did not only do it, he left no one in doubt that Anambra was due for cleansing. The setting up of a Joint Task Force to weed out criminals from the state and the organizing of an international summit on security with Moshe Keinan, world famous Israeli security expert as the facilitator two weeks after his inauguration has proved the ultimate game changer. Anambra rose from the two-day summit with a hunger for a new and enduring rebirth. The ensuing crackdown on criminals, codenamed Operation Kpochapu, (wipe out) that followed these two events has not been experienced in Eastern Nigeria before. In the ceaseless blitzkrieg, notorious arms dealers and the men they arm to rob and kidnap Ndi Anambra have been rounded up for prosecution. Drug barons and child traffickers that once reigned supreme in parts of Obosi town have been arrested and brought face to face with the law. Parts of the state that had hitherto served as hideaways and havens for kidnappers have been detected and busted. In what seems like a loud statement of intent, three houses built by kidnappers and used as holding cells for their captives in the governor’s home town of Aguleri were pulled down last Friday, on Chief Obiano’s command. Having begun the cleansing from his own compound, the governor is subtly telling Ndi Anambra not to allow their own houses to be overgrown by weeds.
It is fascinating how in two months of Obiano, Anambra’s tale of woes has become a piece of lovely fragment out of a beautiful symphony. Upper Iweka, the postcard of a dysfunctional Onitsha has now become an idyllic landmark in the emerging tapestry of a new Onitsha; a city that is fast shrugging off its old sordid rags and increasingly becoming a city of assorted tastes and aesthetics. Many thanks to Obiano’s successive urban renewal campaigns like Operation Keep Anambra Clean, Operation Zero-tolerance of Potholes and the latest operation to decongest all roads, alleyways and streets of dead and broken down vehicles which he launched in partnership with the Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC), Onitsha is shedding its rancid rags for colourful garments that will ease its admission into the list of Nigeria’s picturesque cities. Obiano is determined to recapture the city of his childhood from the filth and squalor that have submerged it. But even more important is his avowed commitment to ensure that the city’s long suffering residents would sleep with both eyes closed and that their nights would no longer be pierced by the ratatat of gunfire.
It is heart-warming to see that Obiano’s campaign has succeeded so far. Criminals have fled Onitsha. Those who could not flee are either in detention or waiting to be picked up by the law. Obiano’s campaign has also found resonance with the people. Mythmakers have since woven a new narrative that reminds one of the tales from the once popular Onitsha Market Literature. All over Anambra, stories are told of how Obiano has cleaned up Upper Iweka so much that if one mistakenly dropped a wad of naira on the street, one would come back the next day to see the money lying on the same spot, waiting for one. This might just be one way of measuring success! Resonance!
Of course, one of the things that never ceases to impress Ndi Anambra is how in spite of the concerted efforts by the opposition to distract him with a string of litigations, Chief Willie Obiano has continued to raise the bar of governance in Anambra State. In fulfilment of his campaign promise of continuing the great legacies of the Obi administration, completing the projects that Obi initiated, commissioning them and commencing a fresh set of his own projects, governor Obiano has proved to be a man of his words. He has embarked on an extensive tour to inspect the uncompleted road and other architectural projects begun by his predecessor and extracted concrete commitments from the contractors handling those projects to deliver on schedule. The Agulu Lake Hotel Resort as well as the roads in Awka North, Ekwusigo and Ogbaru/Atani are great examples. He has also flagged of the construction of new road projects in Anam, Ayamelum, Nando and Nteje to open up access to the agricultural belt of the state in readiness for the revolution his government ignited with the symbolic flag off of the 2014 Farming Season in a colourful ceremony in Nteje, Oyi Local Government, on Thursday last week.
Beyond that, Chief Obiano has also set up the necessary institutions that would guarantee the success of his administration. Just the other day, he inaugurated three Boards including the ones for land acquisition, the one for investment promotion and perhaps most important of all, the Awka Capital Territory which, charged with the responsibility of turning Awka into a capital city that reflects the genius and industry of Ndi Anambra.
Of all his public outings since he became the governor of Anambra State, the Flag off of this year’s Farming Season at Nteje remains Chief Obiano’s finest hour. Dressed in a straw hat and knee-length boots, the governor wooed a huge crowd of farmers and agriculturalists that turned up with diverse farm produce and livestock to demonstrate their readiness to support the government’s revolutionary bent towards agriculture. The event had all the trappings of a huge political rally as farmers chanted his praise from all corners. Fast becoming adept in the rhetoric of leadership, governor Obiano reminded the farmers that “from time immemorial, our ancestors judged a man by the strength of his arm. A man who could not feed his family was regarded as an efulefu! A failure! That tells us how important farming and agriculture in general was and will always be to our people…this year, we light up the fire of our revolution in Agriculture in Anambra state…this year, we shall force the doors of agricultural productivity open in Anambra State.” With such carefully chosen words, Obiano successfully ignited the fire of his new revolution in the hearts of Anambra farmers. But he also raised the hope for a better day; the hope for a new Anambra! And if as Napoleon Bonarpate once said, “a leader is a dealer in hope,” Chief Willie Obiano has truly proved himself one by dispensing hope to Ndi Anambra as he has done so far.
In all this, the warmth and overwhelming acceptance of Ndi Anambra must be acknowledged. From the effusive outpour of affection, commendations and commentaries in the media from well-known hardliners, Ndi Anambra have shown their resolve to make the Obiano administration succeed. They have heeded the battle cry he sounded on the day of his inauguration; his call for healing and love. “Ndi Anambra, where is the love that once led our people through the extreme adversities of war? Foremost French philosopher, Victor Hugo reminds us that, “to love another person is to see the face of God,” he had declared, March 17 after taking his oath of office, moving the crowd to the brink of tears. Now, Ndi Anambra have answered him with their warmth and support. Every notable son and daughter of Anambra have declared their support from the venerable Francis Cardinal Arinze and female politician, Uche Ekwunife, to famous industrialists like Cosmas Maduka of Coscharis Limited down to wealthy opposition figures like Chief Arthur Ezeh.
What Governor Obiano has done in the last 60 days of his administration is simple but complex. In proving that governance can work in the state, he has restored the pride and self-belief of Ndi Anambra. Like all inspiring figures, Obiano has said to his people, “you too, can be great again.” And they believe him! Now, from all indications, it is morning yet on creation day for Chief Willie Obiano and his love for Ndi Anambra!
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