Obi: The Risen Sun @ 50 - By Valentine Obienyem
On the 16 th of March, 2006, through a piece entitled Obi: the Rising Sun, I joined other Nigerians, especially the people of Anambra State in celebrating what I called the epochal liberation of Anambra State from the jaws of election riggers. At that time, Mr.
Peter Obi was pronounced the winner of the Anambra State 2003 gubernatorial election. Part of that article reads: 'The week before the judgement of the Court of Appeal on the gubernatorial case between Mr. Peter Obi and Dr. Chris Ngige, all the newspapers carried the news of the impending judgement. In our circle, we discussed that up till the 13 th of March, when one Mr. Paulinus Adike wrote a rejoinder to my article. Reacting to my friends who called my attention to the article, I said: Ngige's sun is setting, let us focus on the rising sun.'
I went on, by way of advice, to tell Mr. Peter Obi what awaited him thus: 'The rising sun, Mr. Peter Obi, has a Herculean task ahead. Now is not the time for this or that article, it is not even a time to be carried away in the euphoria of victory, but the time calls for deep reflection, especially on the part of Mr. Peter Obi. Though he has long articulated a programme of action, now is the time for soul searching and re-dedication of oneself to the task ahead.' Worried that he might not have enough time to prove himself, when his full tenure of four years was still a moot point, I wrote: 'As Obi takes over the mantle of leadership in Anambra, he has an onerous task of surpassing Ngige's achievements. In fact, when people were asking him to rest his ambition till the year 2007, I was one of those that disagreed, on the reason that he should prove himself not to be distracted by the clamour of some calling on him to give up. Some people got annoyed and even transferred their support to Ngige. A good lesson that may be drawn from the entire thing is that eternal vigilance and commitment are the prices to be paid for justice. A man should be able to stand for something. As for Obi, he is faithful to the practice of honour and virtue according to the dictates of his inmost voice which is, in some mystic sense, the word of God in the hearts of men; he kept faith with the people of Anambra state.'
Always generous to Ngige, I continued: 'I particularly commend the passing words from the former Governor, Dr. Chris Ngige, who pledged to support him. Beyond this, Obi should quickly come to terms with the fact that Ngige has set a kind of high jump for him, which also is a challenge. The only way he can prove to the people of Anambra that Ngige actually stole his programme of action is to strive to perform better than he did. Thus, besides repairs and construction of roads, he should look at other areas that Ngige neglected and do something about them. A good case is the issue of an airport for the state. Do not tell me that Enugu and Imo have airports that can service Anambra. Anambra has a lot of distinguished people in business and other areas, who need air transportation to meet their mounting needs.
Another area Obi would have to look at is the issue of some people thinking that Anambra has become their birthright - a version of godfatherism. At the inception of his administration, he should face the task of re-building with his usual puritanical zeal of a Hebrew prophet and the broad calm of the Greek sage. He should choose men of like minds as Commissioners, Special Assistants, and Special Advisers to help him. He should shun the friendship of those that would have eyes on the fortunes of the state. To be steadfast on this would mean making some enemies, but the God that saw your triumph would be with you.'
Not happy with the way Awka looked, I said to him: 'Awka, the capital of our state, is developing but needs a facelift that calls for the review of its Master Plan (as at the time of writing, I did not know that no Anambra city had a master plan, which have been provided by Gov. Obi with the support of UNHABITAT). As a new town, Awka is a new city and developing it is relatively easy from the point of view of architecture. Unlike towns such as Onitsha, what should be done is to build roads, provide electricity and water and behold the people of the state would erect buildings and a modern town is built.'
I had some words for him on APGA: 'Obi has to realise that All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA) remains a party through which he realised his ambition. Unfortunately, crises after crises succeeded in tearing the party apart. While we give kudos to people like Chief Victor Umeh who were steadfast in upholding the principles of APGA, we regret the lack of moral fibre in some that was APGA's undoing. In the spirit of a new beginning, Obi should be concerned with reconciling various APGA factions and returning it to a happy family that it used to be, especially as election season draws nearer.'
On attracting industries I wrote: 'Obi is an international businessman and a lover of education. We expect him to use his international connection to attract one or more serious factories to Anambra state. We commend the refinery being built at Anyamelum Local Government Area by the Orient group. We need more investment of that proportion in Anambra state and the South East. We also need people who can build Universities in the State, especially in this era of private universities. With Madonna as the only private university of big capacity, we are seriously lagging behind.'
On how to keep track with his Government and on a general note, I submitted: 'As Obi settles down to work, we shall follow him closely and, by and by, offer more advice and input for the success of his administration. With time, the travails of Mr. Peter Obi need to be documented for posterity. It exposed the nature of man, to see how those who knew about the truth shamelessly decided to be on the part of falsehood. Though their defences suffered from empty amplifications, deceptive analogies and rhetorical tricks, some of them managed to rationalise, here and there. It is a lesson that with logical minds, even evil can be rationalised on that some may be tempted to accept it. Man's infinite capacity to rationalise made somebody to even condemn forks as contrary to the will of God, who 'could not have given us fingers if He had wanted us to use forks.'
But after everything is said and done, we are glad that the truth has triumphed. Once again we commend those who are not from Anambra, but showed more than a passing concern on the travails of the state. Their actions remind one of Terrence's Self Tormentor, where a father forbade his son from marrying his choice girl. When the son persisted, the father disowned and banished him. A neighbour wanted to mediate; the father asks why he takes so kindly an interest in the troubles of others. He replies - Homo sum; humani nihil a me alienum ( I am human and nothing human is alien to men). The rationalists tried to warm some non- Anambrarians to keep off, but they commendably acted like characters in Self-Tormentor.
Beyond all this, as it is now, the new reality has overcome everything. This reality calls for all of us to rally round Obi and move Anambra forward, I mean rationalists, idealists, realists and even utopists.'
Now in the 6 th year of his tenure as the Governor and in the 50 th year that he burst into the world, how shall we describe him?
At fifty, he is in the July of his life. We can no longer call him the rising sun for his sun is risen. What he needs now is to keep the sun aglow as fire keeps water simmering and I am quite sure he is determined to do it.
Today, he is not a member of the PDP, but the chieftains of the PDP prefer to deal with him on matters of values and integrity. He represents the zingiest , what the Germans call the 'spirit of the time.' He is bravely championing those things the times require for Nigeria to move on, including cutting the cost of governance, respect for the sacredness of elections, using public funds for what they are meant for, respect for the rights of man and many more. Due to his commitment, he is poised to leave one of the best legacies in governance in Nigeria through his work. Shall we recapitulate them?
On assumption of office, the Governor adopted the Millennium Development Goals as the vision of Anambra State and went on to adopt the Anambra State Integrated Development Strategy (ANIDS) as a vehicle through which the vision will be achieved. Today, he is passionate about the MDGS and is doing everything possible to achieve it by the year 2015. With ANIDS, he is working on all sectors, developing them simultaneously.
Thus, through ANIDS of Peter Obi, Anambra has made a significant leap on development. Today, among other states, Anambra is regarded as a State of many firsts, because it has a governor who has done many things that ought to have been done in the State a long time ago. It will be difficult capturing all he has done in Anambra State; nevertheless, here we go even if only to clear the doubts intentionally created in the minds of those genuinely looking for what the Governor has been able to do.
Gov. Obi has completed the construction of the 1st and 2nd phases of the Ultra modern State Secretariat - the first Secretariat in the State since creation. He built the Onitsha Business Park adjudged as the first of its kind in the country. He has started another one, now nearing completion because 75% of the cost of the first one realized from rent fees, was ploughed into the second. He has constructed the Faculties of Law, Engineering, Mass Communications and Social Science buildings at the State University. He has started the development of the permanent site of the University's campus at Igbariam: a 7-km perimeter fence has been completed; three giant buildings are rising up to the sky - faculties of Management Sciences, Agriculture as well as the Administrative/Senate buildings.
Obi has rebuilt all the structures burnt down in the State during the mayhem of November, 2004, when reactionary forces set the State on fire. He started and completed from the scratch, the burnt Umueri General Hospital, and over 20 different buildings in our Hospitals and Medical Institutions. Examples are: Heart Centre (Onitsha General Hospital), Kidney Dialysis Centre (Onitsha General Hospital), An Administrative Block (School of Nursing and Midwifery, Nkpor), Classroom Blocks (School of Nursing and Midwifery, Nkpor), Resident Doctors' Quarters (Onitsha General Hospital), Medical and Pharmaceutical Stores (Amaku General Hospital), Maternity Complex (Onitsha General Hospital), Special Medical Ward (Amaku General Hospital), Hostel Block (School of Nursing and Midwifery, Nkpor), New Auditorium (School of Nursing, Nkpor), Classroom Blocks (School of Health Technology, Obosi), etc. As a result of this, Anambra State which did not have any accredited hospital and health institution as at 2006, now has Onitsha General Hospital and some health institutions accredited, while the accreditation of Amaku and Ekwulobia are being pursued.
Gov. Obi started the dredging of Nwangene, the first time this is being done since Independence. He also facilitated the on-going dredging of Sacamori. He provided over 40 new buses for the State Transport Corporation (TRACAS) and bought 90 vehicles for ANIDS Transport, which has, through plough back of profit, risen to 185 vehicles. He started and completed two mini-stadia at Onitsha North and South LG Councils.
Gov Obi was the first to start the planned equipping of all Secondary Schools in Anambra State with complete laboratories and computers. He has so far covered about 200 schools. He has also bought over 120 brand new buses for Secondary Schools in the State, the first of such a gesture since the state's creation in 1991. He is systematically providing computers to schools in Anambra State, apart from providing them with INTERNET connectivity and water.
When he came, no Water Scheme was functional in the State. He has revived the Amawbia Water Scheme; presently he is working on 17 water schemes some of which are: Obizi Water Scheme, Agulu-Aguinyi, Dunukofia, Nibo, Nimo, Ukpor and Azigbo Water Schemes.
Pre-Obi, no international or donor agency operated in the State. Having restored confidence and integrity in Government business, they are all coming back: European Union, World Bank, UNDP, UN-Habitat, USAID, DFID, among others.
Through deft diplomacy, he has attracted Federal Agencies to open shops in the State, such as the Corporate Affairs Commission, Central Bank, Standards Organization of Nigeria, among others. He st arted and completed the Prof. Kenneth Dike Central Library, the first library in the State since 1966. The Obi administration is committed to the building of human infrastructure and is championing training and retraining of civil servants and value re-orientation.
He has asphalted over 500kms of roads, the highest by any administration since the creation of the State. He is also building about 15 bridges in different parts of the State, some completed, others on going. He has also distributed over 300 transformers as part of the measures to tackle energy problem. He has completed the Ministry of Justice Building and Judges' Quarters in Onitsha and Awka.
Gov Obi is tackling the menace of erosion in the State with the seriousness it deserves; working on over 27 erosion sites, he recently commissioned the Nkpor (Agulu Avenue) and Ebenebe erosion sites.
In his desire to open up the State to foreign investors, he has attracted two fortune 500 companies to Anambra State, one of them SABmiller of South Africa is already building its facility in the State. But rather than appreciate these, some people have vowed to hound them out of the State. But how can we explain this?
Apart from prompt payment of salaries and pensions, he paid all the arrears owed during Dr. Mbadinuju's Government. He has paid all gratuities up to 2010 to retirees, with promise that gratuities will be paid within three months of retirement.
Obi remains the only Governor to visit schools in the State, including primary and secondary schools. He has sustained the routine grant-in-aid to institutions owned by voluntary agencies that serve the interest of the people of the state such as hospitals and schools.
He has donated communication gadgets, over 200 patrol vehicles and some Armoured Personnel Carriers to security agencies in the State as well as offering them logistics support. Recently, he inaugurated the State Security Trust Fund for the security of the people of the State. He has provided Government Functionaries, Ministries, Agencies, Commissions, etc with official and operational vehicles.
Above all, the State Government does not owe any financial institution, a feat possible only in Anambra State under the man Thisday newspaper acknowledged as the most financially prudent, Peter Obi.
The result of all these and more is that Obi is silently re-branding Anambra State through good deeds that have made the State to be gradually shedding the toga of war for the toga of peace and development.
In private business before becoming a governor, he proved himself in the corporate world chairing many companies, including being the Chairman of Fidelity Bank plc.
With all the foregoing, one can say that it has been 50 quality years. Those that gaze at crystal balls, like our own Igirigi Achusim, will tell us that his future is still greater than his past. Those of us without crystal balls agree with him when we see him through his work. What more dues can history demand from him that he has not paid? We wish him many happy returns.