Willie Effect Takes Hold of Ndi Anambra By

By Emeka Ozumba

There is a palpable sense of expectation in Anambra State. The surreal feeling can be felt in the renewed spring in the stride of Ndi Anambra everywhere you find them in the surface of the earth, irrespective of political affiliations. It is a sense of pride and fulfilment borne out of the people's re-discovery and belief in their state's growth and prospects. In a re-enactment of Charles Dickens' Great Expectations, there is a new found 'can do spirit' enveloping the heartland of the Igbo race. In the street parlance of the yuppies, it is called 'swag'.

The evidence is there to behold by the discerning. How could anyone miss the evolving phenomenon – the gradual return of the exciting times across Anambra State? Though still muted, it literarily hits you once you cross the Niger Bridge approaching Upper Iweka axis. In fact, the feeling is gradually sipping across the state like kerosene flowing on a path paved with gravel. Indeed, a sense of the return of the good times is percolating the state and is set to burst to the surface in due course, all thanks to the Willie effect.

To a certain degree, the Willie effect on Ndi Anambra can be associated with that sense of expectation and new beginning in the United States with the advent of Barack Obama's 'Yes We can!' One never really appreciates the impact of such feeling unless it is experienced. Ndi Anambra's Yes We Can is borne out of the leadership style and inclusive approach to governance of the Governor, Chief Willie Obiano, Akpokuodike. Obiano's administration clocked six months in office on September 17, 2014. Whilst some marvel at the giant strides of the administration and how it can be sustained, others say it has been an eventful period of rejuvenation and rekindling of the spirit of Anambra like never before. That essentially is the hallmark of the Willie effect!

Undoubtedly the groundwork for the Willie effect was laid after former Governor Peter Obi, having steered the ship of state to safe waters after eight years, called on Ndi Anambra to embrace Chief Obiano's governorship candidacy. Even then, some never gave the man a chance. But once he rolled out a well-thought out strategic Economic Blueprint hinged on “Anambra Wheels of Development” that is anchored on four Pillars – Agriculture, Trade and Commerce, Oil and Gas and Industrialisation – he ran a successful issues-based election campaign which permeated the domains of his opponents with the clamour “Willie will…work!” Subsequently as the election date drew closer, Obiano became known as 'Hurricane Willie!' And in response, Anambra voted en mass for “CONTINUITY” thereby endorsing a legacy of excellent service.

Thus coming into office mid-March 2014, Governor Obiano hit the ground running, creating his governorship footprints during his first week in office without breaking stride to the chagrin of those who never gave him a chance, and the delight of others who believed in his credentials as a technocrat and manager of men and resources. No wonder in six months, the Willie effect has moved Anambra forward placing the state on the cusp of greater things in the days and months ahead.

Lest the Willie effect is perceived as mere hot air, it is important that we take a peek into some of the triggers that may have created the virtual effect on Ndi Anambra. Before coming into office, Chief Obiano crafted a vision that underscores his philosophy of a new direction for Anambra: To become the first choice investment destination and a hub for industrial and commercial activities. The vision envisages a quantum leap in the state's economic status through the Four Pillars of Development. However, on realising that achieving the vision and economic objectives is contingent on having a secure and stable state; Governor Obiano fast forwarded his security initiatives leading to the birth of “Operation Kpochapu.” Today, sanity that has long eluded Onitsha with long spells of security challenges has disappeared; the Upper Iweka axis is now secure and serene beckoning on all who cross the eastern gateway to see more.

Governor Obiano is obviously an advocate of John Quincy Adams who said, “If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.” As a path-way to inspire and re-awaken the latent spirit of enterprise and industry of Ndi Anambra, Governor Obiano decided to tap into the cultural base of the people to create a new symbol that would hold aloft the spirit of Anambra. Enter the new Coat of Arms, a Flag and an Anthem aptly titled, 'The Spirit of Anambra' which was unveiled on June 25, 2014 to great applause and appreciation of many on the commemoration of his first 100 days in office. Any wonder then why there has been a gradual upswing in self-esteem and belief in the state's potentials.

It is no longer news that Anambra State has one of the best internal road networks, thanks to Governor Obi's stewardship. What is new however is that Obiano is expanding the road networks based on economic needs. Roads leading to agricultural and industrial belts of Anambra are receiving priority attention. In the same vein, Awka, the state capital, is getting due attention with legacy projects like the Three-Arms zone and three fly-over bridges expected on completion to improve traffic flow and change the face of the capital city by the second quarter of 2015.

Gradually, various institutions of governance are coming on stream. If the setting up of the Awka Capital Development Authority (ACDA) is a statement of the intent by Governor Obiano for the capital city, the Anambra Investment Promotion and Protection Agency (ANSIPPA) is an affirmation of his determination and drive to improve the state's Internally Generated Revenue (IGR). It is also to boost the confidence and reassure many core-investors waiting on the wings with ANSIPPA's armada of incentives that Anambra is ready for business. How can one forget the recent moves by Governor Obiano to revamp the state's information dissemination machinery with the appointment of young dynamic managing directors for the Anambra Broadcasting Service (ABS) and the state newspaper the National Light, and the digitisation programmes and equipment of ABS? Some of these initiatives have tended to increase the perception of Governor Obiano as a man of action and has unwittingly re-energised the waning worker confidence in the state public sector.

You cannot successfully discuss the Willie effect on Ndi Anambra in six months without looking at his programme for the youths. In fact, one of Governor Obiano's major headaches is on how to effectively engage this active segment of the populace. You do not come to him with a programme without clearly defining the youth component. Already, he is building a database of unengaged youths in all Local Government Areas, implementation of skills acquisition programmes is under-way in the three senatorial districts, while the state's mechanised agricultural programme is targeting a good number from the pool of youthful talents. Of course, a greater number of Governor Obiano's aides are youths with vibrant ideas. But most importantly, ideas expounded by the aides are complemented by the Governor's capacity to follow-up on delegated responsibility and ensure that deadlines are met. Many aides and contractors attest to his ability to recall aspects of assignments at critical stages thereby assuring performance.

Perhaps one way to appreciate the Willie effect on Ndi Anambra in just six months is the fact that, whereas the CONTINUITY train is running on full throttle, the apprehension over the sustenance of the immediate past Governor's performance has disappeared without a trace. As he promised, Governor Obiano is undoubtedly expanding the frontiers of excellence in Anambra by building superstructures on Obi's structures. Though governance race is a marathon, Ndi Anambra is enthusiastic about the future judging from the open display of affection for the Obiano administration in comments and actions by the people.

It is clear that the pervasive impact of the Willie effect in six months is surely a confirmation that the future is indeed bright. Obiano's case for a new Anambra is working.

No wonder, the mantra across Anambra state and beyond is Willie is…working!

Ozumba writes from Enugwu-Ukwu

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