For Obiano, A Garland Of Honour!
Standing on the podium to receive the flag that marked him out as the standard bearer of APGA in the race for the 2013 gubernatorial election in Anambra State, Chief Willie Maduaburochukwu Obiano fervently quoted England statesman, Winston Churchill, saying “History will be kind to me for I intend to write it.” Then after pausing for a few minutes to allow it all sink in, he began again. “My fellow party faithful, friends and brothers, in accepting the flag of our great party today, I have chosen to write our history. And I will be kind to myself. I am bound to serve!”
Two years after this historic speech, it is no longer in doubt that Governor Willie Obiano meant every word in his declaration. Almost every day of his short stay in office, Obiano adds one glorious chapter to The History of the New Anambra that he is obviously writing.
Recently, he added one remarkable chapter to the narrative of the New Anambra with the export of vegetables valued at $5m to the UK and other European countries. Coming at a time when Nigeria’s economy is on its knees, Governor Willie Obiano is not only clearly showing why history will be kind to him but validating the statement by Eric Hoffer, American moral and social philosopher who once reasoned that “the only way to predict the future is to have the power to shape it.” Without a doubt, Obiano is shaping the future with his sterling achievements. Indeed while other governors are wringing their hands and wondering where the depleted federal finances had left them, Obiano has carved out several revenue pathways that would keep Anambra grinding on for a while.
Penultimate week, Anambra State held a highly successful Summit on Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) in partnership with Fidelity Bank Plc. Among the star cast of facilitators was Ben Akabueze who has just been appointed as Special Adviser on Planning by President Buhari. The Summit was part of Obiano’s efforts to figure out how to raise the state’s IGR to N2.2bn per month this fiscal year without increasing taxes. In June last year, the state had also organised a Special Retreat for EXCO members which, was facilitated by renowned economic analysts, Bismark Rewane and Eileen Shaiyen among others to seek ways of creating new revenue sources. The result of Obiano’s farsighted search for solutions to the realities of running a complex state as Anambra in a dwindling economy is that he has shored up IGR from half a billion naira to N1.3bn in less than two years without raising taxes. The direct consequence is that while some states groan under the indignity of prowling around Abuja with begging bowls, Anambra is increasing salaries and executing legacy projects.
While it may not be clear whether Obiano is a student of Michelangelo, the Italian painter, sculptor, poet and engineer of High Renaissance who once warned that “the greatest danger for most of us is not that our aim is too high and we miss it but that it is too low and we reach it,” it can no longer be gainsaid that Willie Obiano has exerted enormous influence on political leadership in Nigeria in the last two years. For instance, at a time when violent crimes made most parts of the country inhabitable, Obiano swept Anambra clean with a combination of decisive strategies that transformed it into Nigeria’s safest state. Before him, all efforts by previous regimes to reclaim the state from the clutches of the underworld had proved unsuccessful. In fact, Onitsha, the very epicentre of commerce and entrepreneurship in the South East had assumed the unenviable status of the crime capital of the region. Upper Iweka had become the axis of vicious crime and the symbol of a state off kilter with the promise of protecting its citizens. But under Obiano, Anambra has learned how to exhale. The donation of 25 Smart cars to the Police in December last year and the zigzagging fight of surveillance helicopters across Anambra skies throughout the Yuletide season are firm confirmations of how secure the state has become.
American inventor, Thomas Edison once observed that “vision without execution is hallucination.” Governor Willie Obiano seems to have been feeding on this inspirational diet from Edison. How else would one explain his tenacious execution of his Vision to make Anambra state the first Choice Investment Destination and a hub for industrialization and commercial activities or his Mission to make Anambra State a socially stable, business-friendly environment that would attract both indigenes and foreigners to seek wealth-creating opportunities? His painstaking execution of the various strategies that would lead to the realisation of his Vision has been richly rewarded by the soaring investment profile of the state. Anambra has become the new investment destination in West Africa, attracting about $3.2bn investments in less than two years. To underscore the confidence of the diplomatic community in Obiano’s regime, the British Commonwealth Office in London recently sent a delegation to Awka to seek strategic alliances with Anambra State. Before them, the UK Trade Delegation had also visited in November last year. There had also been trade delegations from Ireland and Thailand in addition to the visit by the US and South Korean Ambassadors. In fact the US Ambassador to Nigeria was one of the earliest visitors, storming the Governor’s Lodge in Amawbia on the day the governor marked his First 100 Days in Office. The flurry of visits by top diplomats and trade delegations once again re-confirms the aphorism that when a man makes the best mouse trap, the world would make a beaten path to his door.
Again, Werner Ehard, thinker and author of transformational models and applications must have had Obiano’s ambitious dream of a new Awka Capital City project in mind when he admonished that we should strive to “create your future from your future, not your past.” This is because since its twenty five years of existence Anambra State has stolidly borne the indignity of not having a befitting capital. This is in spite of the enormity of talent of the average onye Anambra and the state’s pioneering role in nearly every aspect of Nigerian life. At a time, the situation was so bad that a first time visitor could drive through Awka without realising that he had driven past the capital of one of Nigeria’s leading states. But in less than two years of Obiano’s leadership, Awka has almost shed its pastoral garb as the three avante-garde bridges springing up on various locations in the city have altered its landscape for good. Obiano did not allow his plans for Awka to be weighed down by the town’s total neglect in the past nor the paucity of resources in the coffers of the state. He chose to create the future Awka from the city’s rosy promise. A comprehensive aerial mapping of the city has been completed and the entire geography is fully ripe for modernity and development.
It is the same principle of creating the future from the future that is at work in the school system of Anambra State where revolutionary policies have turned children from rural schools into world beaters. Indeed, Anambra State has invested so much in public schools that Anambra children have since gone international with their exploits; astonishing the world in school debates after dominating the local scene in NECO and WAEC examinations as well as national debating contests.
All things considered, it may well be that Obiano has made a swift transition from being a politician to a statesman. According to James Freeman Clarke, American theologian, “a politician thinks of the next election. A statesman, of the next generation.” Obiano has evidently devoted a lot of time contemplating the future of the next generation of Ndi Anambra and arming them with quality education that would enable them to engage the world on their own terms.
And for this and so many other great achievements, The Sun Newspapers has chosen him as The Governor of the Year, 2015. An honour well deserved!
Eze is the Senior Special Assistant on Media to Governor Obiano