OBIANO, ANAMBRA’s LEGACY GOVERNOR
- By Ifeanyichukwu Afuba.
Any discerning student of Anambra State’s recent history will not fail to identify the progression of “motivation” and “standards” playing out in the government and politics of the State since 2003.
The reward for Dr Chinwoke Mbadinuju’s failure in governance was his emphatic rejection in the 2003 governorship election for a second term in office.
However, the denial of the APGA of its governorship mandate won in the April 19, 2003 election had provoked the people’s outrage. It was clear to Dr Chris Ngige, the beneficiary of the manipulation, that his regime could not survive the ensuing crisis of confidence without a pacification of the electorate. And so with zest and haste, he embarked on a daring populist campaign, registering appreciable progress in road construction; spadework for returning schools to mission agencies and also earning credit for pension harmonisation. He was applauded for standing up against puppet government but sanctioned for a misappropriated mandate.
Ngige’s modest achievements rubbed off on the incoming Peter Obi administration. Although Obi earlier sold a beautiful manifesto to the people of Anambra State, the approval rating Ngige received could not be ignored and led Obi to redouble his efforts. After eight years in the saddle, Obi made strong impact in roads, education and health sectors. His leadership was also associated with reduced government spending, return of donor agencies to the State and a ‘demilitarized’ political space.
Although Mr Peter Obi achieved the landmark of N9b cash and N35b investment handover to his successor, the gains were wiped off with a humongous N127b debt he left behind. The scary debt profile included money owed contractors on completed projects; CBN loan; rightful benefits denied some public servants and counterpart fund obligations. Another major plank of the inherited debt was transition – phase contractual obligations. Not least in the handover commitments was the remuneration of 2000 workers employed by the Obi administration barely three months to the end of its tenure.
Consequently, Chief Willie Obiano assumed office with a huge impediment, the biggest financial burden faced by any Governor of the State since the Fourth Republic.
But undeterred by fiscal and psychological disadvantage, Obiano has impacted on the recreation of Anambra State on higher levels not witnessed before. In a word, Obiano’s greatest achievement in governance is in instilling a sense of confidence in the Anambra State community. This is who we are, descendants of leading lights in civilisation, he is wont to tell Ndi Anambra. “Umunnem,” he would invite in that endearing term that never fails to rally, this generation has a duty to push forth the frontiers of development. That insistence on extending the standards of heritage has seen the Obiano administration break many new grounds.
In the six years of Willie Obiano’s management, Anambra State’s economy has grown to become the fourth largest in the country. The State’s GDP has risen from $1000 per capita to over $200 per capita. John Nnia Nwodo, President – General, Ohaneze Ndi Igbo, puts it succinctly: “Today Anambra has the lowest poverty index in Nigeria. Today Anambra has the highest growth rate of manufacturing outfits in Nigeria. Today Anambra has the highest growth of import substitute endeavours in rice and vegetable production in Nigeria.”
Indeed, Anambra has achieved ascent as a major food producing State under Obiano. Through increased funding of the sector, MOUs with reputable firms and incentives to small holder farmers, the rice production story changed from 244,235 metric tons in 2016 to 445,000 metric tons in early 2019. Cassava output shot from a mere 15, 324 metric tons in 2014 to 1, 236, 409 metric tons at the end of 2018. The outstanding features of the agro revolution include the breakthrough in export of vegetables, yam and honey.
Obiano’s governorship is also defined by the operation of strategic public institutions. The State’s Road Maintenance and Capital Territory Agencies were constituted for the first time at the beginning of the Obiano administration – several years after their legal creation. With a sustained system of road rehabilitation reminiscent of the colonial Public Works Department, the agency exemplifies the administration’s policy of doing more with less. At last, Awka has shed its nondescript village look to assume the status of a capital city. Again, we find the culture of functional institutions in the Anambra Small Business Agency which has kept micro businesses, a vital arm of the State’s economy flourishing
In another historic break, Governor Willie Obiano on Thursday, March 12, 2020, commissioned the expansive NYSC Permanent Orientation Camp built by his administration at Mbaukwu/Umuawulu. It is a project with especial significance as the State had become the object of derisive jokes for running an improvised NYSC Camp for 28 years. Obiano said this self relegation was unacceptable while laying the foundation stone, February 10, 2015. The beautiful complex has accommodation spaces for 3000 inmates; a modern auditorium, friendly conveniences and sporting facilities.
In 2016 Obiano introduced a model grassroots development scheme now widely adjudged impactful. The community project venture covers the State’s 181 autonomous towns. Each community received N20m for the execution of its choice project in each phase of the programme. The communities assumed full ownership of the projects, thus, providing safety net for quality work and maintenance. Some communities have advanced to the third phase of the programme.
Long after he leaves office, Obiano will be remembered for his Olympian scale achievements. He takes credit for bringing Anambra State’s security architecture to digital heights. He has the singular recognition of being the southeast state Governor who held a funeral – memorial for the Igbo civil war dead and who launched the efi Igbo [Igbo cow] project. His signature glows on the Awka landscape – changing flyovers; the world class Awka conference centre and Umueri international cargo airport.
In the words of Senator Ben Murray Bruce, “there’s something to be learnt [and celebrated] in Anambra.” That’s why William Maduaburochukwu Obiano is Anambra State’s legacy Governor.
Afuba is editor of Anambra Times.