60 HEARTY CHEERS TO A GREAT LEADER
Less than two years after he assumed office as the governor of Anambra State, Chief Willie Obiano has built a throne for himself among the gods. And this is not a hyperbole. Obiano's tenure has been so eventful that one is tempted to assume that he has always been in office. What many people find perplexing is how great deeds and courageous acts seem to come natural to him. Quite naturally, against the backdrop of his 60th birthday, the Obiano mystique has come under an intense scrutiny. Interestingly, the picture that emerges from this exercise is the image of an onion; the more you peel, the more layers reveal themselves.
Obiano swept into the Amawbia Governor's Lodge in a whirlpool of popular votes and raised the expectations of the people with his squeaky clean technocratic background. Among the crowd of politicians jostling to take over from former governor Peter Obi, Obiano cut the picture of an outsider; the one who stirred the most curiosity. Questions were asked by people who felt that leadership should be left in the hands of politicians…questions that carried a tone of derision but which lacked the completeness of vision. But they were also questions which Obiano began to answer long before he took the oath of office.
Running a whirlwind campaign that took him to all the local government areas in the state, Lagos, Abuja, Enugu and the Diaspora, candidate Obiano regaled Ndi Anambra with the story of his economic blueprint which he tagged the Four Pillars of Development. He told them that he would restore Anambra's glory through Agriculture, Industry and Commerce, Industrialization and Oil and Gas. He also spoke eloquently about the Enablers – security, education, health, the environment, social infrastructure, Housing and Urban Development, Tourism, Youth and Sports and Social Welfare among others. He assured the people that after more than twenty five years in the private sector, he had the access code to a prosperous Anambra State. He argued that unlike his rivals in the race, he had spent time to carve out distinct and measurable Vision and Mission Statements of making Anambra State the 1st Choice Investment Destination and a hub for industrialization and commercial activities and a socially stable, business friendly environment that would attract both indigenes and foreigners to seek wealth-creating opportunities.
Truth be told, fifteen months in the crucible has shown Obiano as a man who had devoted a serious time to mulling over the challenges of leadership before he took the oath. His systematic approach to governance as exemplified by his Economic Blueprint and his vision and mission statements marked a dramatic departure from the habitual unpreparedness of most of Nigeria's political leaders for public office. He seemed certain of where he was going and how to get there. His very apt reading of the human condition in Anambra ensured his wise decision to make Security a priority on assumption of office. He subsequently invested enormous energy and resources into the fight against criminality and succeeded in weeding criminals out of the state.
What no one in Anambra State can deny is governor Obiano's drive for excellence. Indeed if there is anything that draws tears to the eyes of Chief Willie Obiano with ease, it is the puzzle over what Anambra has done with the enormous endowments she has in human and material resources. Those close to him can testify that when he talks about his beloved Anambra he leaves one with the impression of an incredibly gifted people who can achieve whatever they set their minds on. Whenever he has the stage to himself in such moments, his face shines like a full-moon and an ethereal smile rests on his lips. To close observers, Obiano's deep seated love for Ndi Anambra could be gleaned from his many acts of compassion towards the ordinary people. For instance, long before President Buhari and Vice President Osinbanjo announced a slash in their salaries in response to the deplorable state of the economy, Willie Obiano had announced a hundred per cent donation of his salary to the under-privileged people in Anambra State. Throwing some light on his decision Obiano had explained that “after spending many fruitful years in leadership positions in the private sector, I earn enough pensions to sustain the needs of my modest family. So, I felt that my salary would be more useful if it puts a smile on the faces of some underprivileged members of society to whom the smallest amount of money would make a huge difference.”
It was this compassion for the people that also informed his decision to give workers a salary raise at a time when oil prices were taking a massive plunge. Same with the clearance of outstanding debts to pensioners as well as the re-absorption of some staff of Anambra State Broadcasting Service that were whimsically laid off by the previous administration. In it, one cannot but see the image of a compassionate leader whose humanity is diminished by any act that nibbles away on the humanity of others.
Indeed, Obiano's love for a better Anambra has continued to drive his actions and inactions. Desirous of a less fractious and more prosperous state, Obiano called a meeting of Anambra's great sons and daughters early last year and feted them on the altar of brotherhood. At the event which was graced by the leading lights of Anambra State, Obiano appealed for their support and direct participation in the efforts to restore glory to Anambra State. He went beyond that threshold to work for a more inclusive administration, reaching out to opposition figures like Prince Engr. Arthur Eze, Sir Emeka Offor, Chief Chris Ubah and other great personages that have catalyzed development everywhere else except their home state. His efforts received a warm response from the people who rallied round him and gave him their solid assurances.
Obiano has also proven himself a man of his word. He has not only kept his promise to continue, complete and commission the projects he inherited from his predecessor, he has also commenced a number of critical interventions in agriculture, power generation from the rich gas reserves and a great number of bridges and roads to open up the food basins of the state. The International Trade Center being built in Ogbunike is yet another revolutionary initiative that will change the commercial landscape of the South East while Orient Petroleum has taken a new life under his watch with a projected production output of 3000bpd in September this year.
In truth, Obiano's rising profile as the new Igbo leader manifested fully with Ozoemezina; the symbolic memorial he organized for Igbos who lost their lives in the Biafran War and other violent conflicts across Nigeria. Ozeoemezina revealed Obiano's deeply reflective side which successive political leaders in the South East never seemed to have. Ozoemezina firmly placed Obiano on a whole new stratosphere from his peers, cloaking him in the spotless robes of a true Igbo leader and a man of the people.
Similarly, Obiano's ascension onto the position of the National Leader and BoT Chairman of APGA seemed to be the tonic the party needed to stir into a new life, making remarkable inroads into new territories while consolidating on its strongholds. He showed his ability to hold his turf during the last elections when he shrugged off the shenanigans off the PDP to sweep the majority seats in the state house of assembly elections.
All things considered, Willie Obiano has proven himself a great leader who the gods had prepared for the exigencies of our times. He comes with the candour, the vision and the compassion that make for a purposeful leadership. As he turns 60, the world stands in awe of this man who has continued to change the paradigm of compassionate leadership in Nigeria.
Happy Birthday Akpokuedike Aguleri!
Written by James Eze.