At 60, Obiano Bespeaks Live And Let Live
What equips or stands one in good stead for the arduous task of governance? The self initiative to serve? Aptitude cum personality constitution? Or the will to succeed? Among the many theories thrown up in the efforts at unraveling Nigeria’s tragic condition is the perception that the country has had the misfortune of being led largely by persons who were reluctant to assume authority when they did. With just three exceptions, other Nigerian heads of government are considered to either have been drafted or persuaded to assume the mantle of office. Thus, shorn of a sense of mission, they were soon overwhelmed by the burden of managing the Nigerian estate.
If this construct of ambition – great leadership correlation is to be regarded as valid, then as rules go, it is also subject to exceptions. For David of the ancient kingdom of Israel and for Willie Obiano of Anambra State who clocks the round age of 60 August 8, 2015, good governance need not be driven by political ambition.
There is a purpose to life and we are found out by our definition, interpretation and expression of the essence of life. We find merit in the Shakespearean wit that there is no art to find the mind’s construction in the face because there is a measure to character that transcends appearance. But while character is a significant actor in the theatre of life, it is not sufficient unto itself. Affirmation of a man’s worth takes place at the meeting point of personality and destiny; an actualization no degree of rival positioning or self – projection can avert.
David who was disregarded by his father as the young herd boy undeserving of consideration for kingship was not only chosen above the other preferred sons but rated as the greatest king of olden Israel. In striking similarity, Chief Willie Obiano was not even into politics at the time let alone an aspirant for the office of Governor of Anambra State in early 2013. His star sought him out. And while it is only sixteen months into a four year tenure, there is no doubt that Obiano is started on the road of becoming Anambra State’s outstanding and accomplished governor.
The portrait that emerges from Governor Willie Obiano’s strides in private life and public service is that of an actor with such natural confidence as to be described as his own man. It cannot be disputed that Obiano has registered bold imprint on the socio – political life of Anambra State in so short a time. Drawing from the typical succession syndrome that has significantly attended the fourth republic experience, some had nursed the fear before and after the 2013/2014 governorship election, that Obiano would be Mr Peter Obi’s proxy in office. This mindset was somewhat fed on the notion that as a political ‘neophyte’, [as an embittered sacked aide chose to rate him], Obiano would be dependent on his battle – hardened predecessor to survive the turbulence of Anambra’s politics.
As it were, Governor Obiano’s stable influence on the fortunes of the state’s polity in less than one and half years as an independent – minded leader has left many an analyst gasping with surprise. It is a measure of Chief Willie Obiano’s leadership qualities that without leaning on anybody, he was able to calm the stormy waters of the state’s politics as well as violent crime in a matter of months. Interestingly, Obiano the political ‘neophyte’ has breathed new life into the APGA. He takes the credit for giving the party expanded national presence reflected in the legislative seats won in Bayelsa and Taraba states in the 2015 poll as well as presentation of governorship candidates for the first time in Oyo, Nassarawa and Katsina states. Today, APGA candidates are in strong contention for the governorship of Abia and Nassarawa states at the election tribunals.
There is a message of a clear – sighted and independent mind in the fact that the Aguleri – born first citizen of Anambra State had chosen to retire from the boardroom at the very active age of 55 whereas his track record of achievements could have opened more doors in the corporate world. A priest had related to this writer how shortly after the governor’s inauguration, he the clergy man sent the subject a text message advising him not to treat the election petitions challenging his victory with levity. The Governor’s response was short and telling: ‘I trust in God!’
Prior to the election that brought Obiano to power, those who knew the chartered auditor and investment banker as a private citizen described him as a large – hearted man who finds joy in giving. Naturally then, expectations trailed the new leader’s arrival irrespective of the fundamental difference and choices available in personal lifestyle and public management. Consistent with a natural disposition, we saw Obiano embark on a systematic continuation of all the projects inherited from the preceding government. A rare feature on the pages of our competitive government and politics, the policy was a gracious act of acknowledgment as well as continuity. He could have chosen to find reasons discrediting and abandoning most of the projects and simply initiated those he will take full credit for.
Spurred by a spirit of concern for others he could neither ignore nor suppress but only respond to, Willie’s sense of generosity began to find expression within the permissible limits of officialdom. First, his monthly salary to the end of his tenure was dedicated to upkeep of the poor and needy. In the fourth month of his governorship he granted the state’s workforce a fifteen percent pay raise.
Three months later in October 2014, he ordered the distribution of a full bag of rice to every civil servant, teacher and pensioner. And just about a week to his 60 th birthday, on the state’s civil service day, he announced another round of rice donation to public servants. Reaching out to the generality of citizens, the Governor launched a fleet of luxurious buses operated at subsidized cost to ease public transportation. Snacks are soon to be introduced as part of the bus ride package.
The mass transit vehicles are of course separate from the buses earlier deployed to ferry civil servants to and from work along important link routes. Obiano finds the time to compliment staff and aides on work well done; this same character trait has seen him upgrade some political appointees who went the extra mile in the discharge of their briefs.
But Obiano the humanist is also a man of standards who insists that defining rules must be followed; that global parameters of engagement are applied in the conduct of government business. On the occasion of the first 100 days of the administration in July 2014, the Governor had put citizens on notice that the policies on road worthiness of vehicles and environmental sanitation would be vigorously enforced in the interest of public safety.
Today, residents are learning to live with the responsibility the regulations demand of them. In further manifestation of a disposition for standards, Governor Obiano is resolved to give Anambra state better quality of roads. It is considered profitable in the long run to build durable roads at higher cost than constructing sub – standard roads at reduced cost only to spend more money on remedial work a couple of months later. On the trail of his inauguration, renovation of government establishments is still ongoing to give the departments the befitting status they deserve. Modern bus shelters are springing up in the state’s urban centres; locations previously starved of street lights as a strategy for saving funds gradually being illuminated.
You could say that the Anambra State chief executive is also a man of taste. You have only to see his breath – taking, palatial country home constructed years back as a private citizen to appreciate the point. This is a sprawling edifice which charm spoke as much from the 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 commissioned the ambitious project was someone with a sense of class and style.
At first impression, the temptation to call the chairman, BOT of APGA, a metropolitan man would be strong. The people’s governor strikes a debonair air with his carriage; trendy safari suit; cool sunglasses; and fedora hat that sometimes reveal a stylish hair parting that evokes memories of the 1960 Nelson Mandela.
Ordinarily, decades of service with corporate organizations at the highest levels plus the mighty influence of globalization would have left many vulnerable to the tide of cultural imperialism. But not the Willie working to weld the state’s talents and wealth to a wholesome new brand. Obiano is another country boy; a native immersed in his roots; a Kunta Kinte for whom westernization cannot erase the allure of his heritage. In the count down to the election that brought him to power, a columnist had described Obiano as ‘a man given to ceremoniousness.’ What the writer was trying to say rather vaguely was that here was a fellow for whom expression of the Igbo culture comes naturally to him.
The Akpokuedike of Aguleri who speaks his dialect fluently is a traditional, not an honorary red cap chief. Even as Governor, as he savoured the blend of traditional drumming and flute notes, he has occasionally risen to the call of the rhythms, executing dexterous pre - dance steps to the delight of the audience. It was the same Obiano who a few months back inspected a police guard of honour in full native regalia.
We thank God for the gift of William Maduabuchi Obiano to Anambra State and to humanity. Notwithstanding his shortcomings as a mortal, Obiano like King David has become a source of strength for Anambra state. It is heart – warming to find that a man who lived the Christian virtue of reaching out to your neighbor as a private citizen has not allowed the palace mentality of Nigeria’s public office to devalue his spirit of regard for others. May he find greater fulfillment in the years ahead.