Anambra: A Little Class Won’t Hurt Governance
When it became known about the middle of 2013 that Chief Willie Obiano was the heir apparent to the governorship of Anambra State, his Aguleri country home naturally became an integral part of the pre – election activities. On beholding Obiano's country home, most first time visitors had this question for the thoughtful – looking candidate: Did you ever know that you would one day be stepping into the shoes of governor? The recurring question was spurred by the breathtaking sight of Obiano's sprawling mansion. It is a palatial edifice which charm spoke as much from its outstanding architectural design as the rustic background scenery. Aside the stately ambience of the expansive structures, the management of the uneven terrain left you in no doubt that whoever had commissioned the ambitious project was someone with a sense of style and class.
That first impression signaled the prospect of a government of loud statements under the watch of Chief Willie Obiano. But somehow, this hint was lost to some in the din of campaigns. As first impressions often go, this reading of Obiano seems to be crystallizing with the emerging outline of the regime. To be sure, this incipient trend is generating concern in some circles about possible misreading of demands of the time. Questions have been raised about the presumed large size of political appointees and the economic importance of the governor's use of two outriders in his motorcade. Coming on the heels of the somewhat Spartan - style of the preceding government, the reservations on the generally perceived robust outing of the Obiano administration is understandable.
There is often a tendency to compare preceding and successor regimes. Within months of its inception in 2006, the Peter Obi administration was written off by many for not sustaining the tempo of the Chris Ngige regime. By tempo, the critics meant confrontations with then President Olusegun Obasanjo or his proxy, Chris Uba and the deployment of nearly all state funds to roads construction. I had intervened at the heat of the controversy with an essay entitled 'Anambra: Development versus populism' published in Sunday Independent (September 17, 2006) and Vanguard (September 29 ) in which I submitted that unlike Ngige who was faced with a legitimacy crisis, Obi had no survivalist motive for courting populism with both hands. And it was also partly on the basis of comparison with the preceding Mbadiniju administration which owed six months workers' salaries at some point that Ngige was hailed as an achiever when he came in and started paying current workers' wages.
While circumstances usually throw up issues for government's attention in the short term, priority scale and leadership bent influence the medium and long term programmes as well as the emphasis placed on these. This defining element is often lost sight of in the analysis of our critics. The impression of a bloated support staff of Governor Obiano is relative. We are neither availed the numbers nor enlightened on the indices for determining what constitutes normal and extended size of appointees. In terms of cost implication, personnel emolument exerts an insignificant weight on national and state treasuries compared to corruption. Similarly, the demurring on the use of outriders is neither here nor there considering for instance that the convoy of vehicles or other appurtenances may have been reduced to accommodate this element. A chartered auditor himself, it is doubtful that anyone would be more sensitive to the cost benefit analysis of government spending than the governor.
There seems as yet no notable misapplication of resources or misplacement of priorities in Anambra. With the regime's four cardinal programmes of oil and gas; agriculture; industrialization; trade and commerce as well as the enablers such as security; public utilities; values reorientation all gradually coming on stream, it cannot be disputed that Obiano has remained focused. What has happened in the five months old administration is that we are beginning to witness the personality factor in leadership. As any perceptive observer will discover, Chief Willie Obiano is not a man of half measures or a man to back out of a worthy mission because of the accompanying odds. It is not enough for Obiano that he has set his eyes on landmark programmes; he cannot help actualizing the laudable targets with a bang! In style, if you please.
As reported on page 4 of Daily Independent (August 12, 2014), work has begun on the first of three flyovers the Obiano – led government is building in Awka. The project is high priority given the safety and decongestion value it will usher in at the various points on the Enugu – Onitsha expressway which traverses Awka, the state capital. As desirable as this utility is, its capital intensive demand had for long been considered a drawback. It required a leader with Obiano's spirit to embark on it
The regime's emphasis on security of lives and property in the State is by now well known. It is a quest that borders on obsession. In tackling security headlong, Obiano is not doing anything new. Peter Obi had through empowerment of community vigilantes and provision of logistics to the security agencies worked hard to contain crime in the State. The Ngige regime had opted for a negotiated approach in tackling insecurity. Even the much discredited Mbadinuju regime deployed the Bakassi force ironically unleashing on the society the very violence it sought to stamp out. But what stands out Obiano's security measures is the scientific approach underlining it. A security summit with the participation of international professionals was one of the Governor's first acts in office. Collaboration with the famed Israeli expertise underscores a readiness to develop a broad blueprint for combating insecurity. However, the recent acquisition and test run of a drone in the State is unprecedented and classy, signaling a resolve to make intelligence gathering the centre piece of crime fighting efforts.
Obiano's penchant for putting out the best foot was again manifest at the marking of his 100 days in office in June this year. In the course of preparations for the event, the planning committee had submitted a shortlist of three notable names to deliver the anniversary lecture for the Governor's final selection. An alert Obiano looked up from the list and said words to the following effect. Good names you have here. But we have an international figure; young and brilliant whose exploits will inspire the youth. Let's go for Chimamada. The rest as they say is history.
More revelations on the robust mission of the government followed at the function. Updating the assembly on the activities of the government, the chief executive stated that he had kick – started the steps for transforming Awka to the befitting status of state capital with the inauguration of the capital territory development board. He announced to the amazement of the audience that he had instructed, in fact, warned the board not to compromise quality through cost considerations but to recommend the best facilities. The board, he emphasized, was not to rack its brain about meeting the cost implications; that would be his own headache.
Given the bold steps already taken in the execution of some high profile policies, there can be no doubt that the Aguleri chief has set a high tone in governance. To what extent this trend will be sustainable is a different matter. The days ahead should be interesting.
Afuba wrote from Nimo, Anambra State. 08026088863.