2015: Why All Eyes are on Governor Obiano

By Ngwu Nweze

Looking at rising profile of Governor Willie Obiano of Anambra State, one cannot but marvel at the aptness of the Igbo saying that when a child washes his hands clean, he joins his elders at the dinner table. It is very much in evidence that in less than nine months, Chief Obiano has made a fast job of washing his hands and now sits comfortably at dinner with the elders of the clan.

What may never stop fascinating most people might be perhaps, how someone who was dismissed as a political jellyfish, a stooge of the erstwhile governor he succeeded and a free-falling rookie barely a year ago could have made such a swift transition to substance and reckoning. Nothing perhaps reminds us of the aphorism – never judge a book by its cover, as compellingly as this.

In what seems to be the race of his life, Chief Willie Obiano practically raced through his first nine months in office and left naysayers gasping on his trail with astounding results. It is not certain whether, he felt stung into action by the condescension from some people who thought he would be submerged by the enormity of his office or not, but from his very first day in office, Obiano had cut the image of a man who had set a performance test for himself. It was so easy for people to see that he was hell-bent on making his own myth from the priorities he set for himself. His single-minded pursuit of a secure and safe Anambra began as an obsession and then blossomed into an article of faith. Anyone who is familiar with South Eastern Nigeria would know that if there was ever a challenge that had defied all solutions across the ages, it was the menace of criminals in Onitsha and its surrounding towns and villages. Until recently, crime in Onitsha had grown like a tumour over time; absorbing the nourishment of its environment and gaining the absolute surrender of its victim. It was as though any administration could build roads, schools, hospitals and even factories but turn a blind eye to the rampant kidnapping and violent armed robbery in the state and still win the applause of the people.

It speaks of his remarkable courage that once he took over the reins of leadership, Willie Obiano decided to go head-on against the deep-seated criminal syndicates in Anambra State. I remember a brief conversation I had with Nwa Jesus, a dreaded kidnapper who was picked up by Obiano's Operation Kpochapu in the early days of the crackdown against criminals in Anambra State. The self-confessed kidnapper told me that he and his gang members regarded their illicit operations as a full blown business and ran their organization like a firm. Members made equity contributions to the business, bought official vehicles and always kept faith with their code of conduct. Nwa Jesus offers a ray of insight into how well organized the underworld community was in Anambra State and the potent threat they presented to the society. But Obiano made a meal of this threat and wrenched freedom off the grip of these ghouls for Ndi Anambra.

So, when on Christmas Eve, the fireworks sent a thousand splendid suns flying into the night skies of Upper Iweka, Obiano was simply demonstrating his conquest of the underworld in South Eastern Nigeria. After subduing crime in the State, Obiano took a triumphant ride in the night to Upper Iweka to hoist the flag of freedom, symbolized by the spiraling lights of the fireworks. Indeed, his conquest is total. In winning the war against crime, he also won over the affection and trust of the investment community who saw in his passionate drive the possibilities of finally exploiting the huge markets in South East Nigeria. The immediate evidence is the torrent of MoUs signed by the government and investors in the last few months.

With the arrival of the New Year, Obiano's first nine months ended on a high, with the rising flyovers in Arroma, Kwata and Amawbia Junctions in Awka and the emerging six-lane stretch of road that slices through the capital. Interestingly, it may not be totally out of place to say that for the first time in history we have a governor who seems to have left a legacy in less than one year in office.

As the New Year spreads itself out before us, what seems as clear as daylight is the fact that this may well be Governor Willie Obiano's defining year; his finest hour. Having established himself as his own man in so short a time and earned the respect and adulation of Ndi Anambra, all eyes are on him to break fresh grounds this year. Being an election year, 2015 provides Obiano his greatest test as a politician. After winning the confidence of the party leadership, culminating in his emergence as the BoT Chair and National Leader, Governor Obiano is expected to show that he is indeed in charge. He is expected to galvanize APGA into a formidable political force and sweep a reasonable number of the elective posts in the coming elections. Thankfully, his leadership has continued to inspire hope in the ranks of the party. APGA has grown exponentially since he took over, attracting quality Nigerians and showing an extraordinary appetite for a territorial spread.

This is also the year when Obiano must prove that his exploits in securing the lives and property of Ndi Anambra were not happenstance. Happily, he gave a glimpse into his intentions in this regard when in his New Year Message, he assured that – “Our investment in security shall be more robust this year as we intend to re-invigorate and refocus the security network in the state to ensure a rapid transition to crime detection and prevention. We shall continue to maintain a zero tolerance of crime in Anambra State.” Obiano is also mindful of the imperatives of moving the avalanche of MoUs signed last year from mere documents to physical investments. He most certainly had that in mind when he again declared in his New Year address that his intention was to increase current capacity in all sectors and ensure that all MoUs are fully implemented.

Being a financial expert, Governor Obiano has already pre-figured what ought to be done in response to falling oil prices. His New Year message makes a case for a robust Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) as an alternative income window that must be fully exploited to offer the state enough fiscal headroom in the New Year. The erstwhile banker could see the enormous combined promises of Onitsha, Nnewi, Awka, Ekwulobia, Umunze, Nkpor and Ogbunike among others as revenue generating centers. It is his call to figure out creative ways to boost his revenue drive while maintaining an endearing presence in the hearts of the people.

For some people though, one of the greatest efforts that Governor Obiano must make in the New Year is in the aspect of pulling the levers of ethical re-orientation and establishing a new socio-cultural order in Anambra State. This is not only imperative; it is what the people expect of him. The general belief is that if Obiano could “wipe” out violent crime in Anambra State, he can also reasonably redirect the people's attention to the values that once made them great. Engaging novelist and newspaper columnist, Okey Ndibe took a telling stab at this when at his first ever reading in Anambra, his home state, he stoutly challenged the flawed but popular maxim that onye ji igu ka ewu n'eso; loosely translated as “the man of means is the ultimate leader,” and argued that the right philosophy should actually emphasize “the man of knowledge” as the ultimate leader. Ndibe's argument is that it is foolish to heap praises on the consumer who has amassed the means to acquire the luxuries of life and ignore the genius that produced the luxuries in the first place.

And this is the new way of seeing, the radical re-ordering of realities that Governor Obiano must engineer in Anambra State in 2015 to give deeper roots to the reforms that he has brought.

Ngwu Nweze ([email protected]) (Nzogbu-Nzogbu) writes from Alor

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