By Silas Nwoha
Almost two years since Willie Obiano assumed the mantle of leadership in Anambra State, things are steadily looking up for the 24-year-old state. Created on August 27, 1991, Anambra State looks set to unlock its potential.
When former Gov. Peter Obi handed over to Gov. Obiano some people expressed reservations whether Obiano would sustain Obi’s legacies. Mr Obi had visibly laid some foundations that needed to be sustained for the state to achieve its set goals.
But Obiano, a former top banker has so far, left no one in doubt that he has what it takes to steer Anambra State on course. He has kept hope alive.
Speaking recently on “Sustaining the Legacy of Growth and Development in Anambra State’’ at a forum at the ivy-league Pan-Atlantic University in Ajah, Lagos, Obiano showcased Anambra State as hugely endowed with natural gas, crude oil, bauxite, ceramics and expansive arable land.
He also listed some African path-finders, including Nnamdi Azikiwe, Kenneth Onwuka Dike, Chinua Achebe and Phillip Emeagwali among others, who are of Anambra State extraction.
The governor said that Anambra State had the lowest poverty rate in Nigeria with a Gross Domestic Product of $11.83 billion and a per capita income of $1,615.
Citing the huge human capital in the state, past and present, Obiano announced that the state currently had no fewer than 1,500 billionaires.
He made no mention, however, if any of the Anambra billionaires had made the Forbes list. This may not matter. A billionaire is a billionaire.
According to him, no other state in Nigeria can dwarf Anambra in human capital development, a reason the state prides itself as the “Light of the Nation.’’
Nevertheless, he described politics in the state as fierce, an apparent reference to the cut-throat political conflicts in the state that at one time saw to the abduction of a sitting governor and the massive destruction of state facilities. Nobody was punished after the mayhem.
Gov. Obiano confessed that governing Anambra State is not a walk in the park because “everyone is wise in Anambra State.’’
He revealed, however, that the greatest challenge facing the state was the problem of fostering peace and brotherhood among people of the state.
He lamented that people of the state had yet to evolve the culture of patience and forbearance with the leadership class, advising the elite to realise that only one person can be governor of the state at any particular time.
Obiano was also quick to highlight other challenges of the state, including the nagging problem posed by erosion, currently degrading communities such as Nanka, Okoh, Obosi and many other towns.
The governor has since fashioned out ways to tackle some of the critical problems in the state, drawing from his private sector background.
Using his economic blueprint known as “Four Pillars of Development’’, Obiano identified agriculture, trade and commerce, industrialization, oil and gas as the core areas to stimulate growth in the state.
The government is mobilising people to embark on year-round cropping and also attracting investors, mainly citizens of the state to tap into investment opportunities in the state.
To attract investors, Obiano has sustained the policy of crushing criminals, especially kidnappers, whose houses are often demolished to ensure that such criminals never benefited from the dividends of their criminal activities.
The state government has since set up the Anambra State Investment Promotion and Protection Agency (ANSIPPA), described as a one-stop investment boutique.
According to Obiano, ANSIPPA has attracted investments in excess of $2.4 billion in the past 16 months. The investments cut across real estate, hospitality, power and energy, and of course, agriculture where half a dozen indigenous companies are jostling to have stakes in the huge potential in the agriculture sector.
Obiano attributed the emerging success in the state to the foresight of his young administration’s ability to have analyzed trends in the Nigerian economy to foresee that the price of oil would crash in the global market.
The state had to re-organise its revenue generating structures, a measure that resulted to dramatic improvement in its monthly revenue generation from the N500 million mark at the inception of his administration to a princely N1.3 billion at present.
The feat saw the state increasing workers’ salary by 15 per cent at a season when up to 16 states in the federation are owing workers, some for more than seven months.
The Anambra Government even instituted a policy of giving incentives to teachers posted to rural areas of the state, in a bid to ensure quality education not only in the cities but also in rural areas.
Mr Obiano believes that giving incentives to workers is as important as building physical structures because workers are truly the geese that lay the golden eggs. Giving incentives to workers is a good lesson for states in the federation that offer nothing to workers to encourage them. No wonder workers’ strikes have become rampant in delinquent states.
It is unimaginable that a government can find it impossible to pay workers, despite the revenue flows to such states from various sources. Every state in Nigeria is blessed with various revenue sources. Why can’t workers get their wages as and when due?
The hallmark of Gov. Obiano’s administrative acumen is his foresight to evolve a master plan to attract the private sector to the state, knowing that the private sector has always been the engine of development.
It is heart-warming that many indigenes of Anambra State are now `thinking home’ and taking investments back to the South-East to bring needed development to their places of birth. Who does not know that East or West, home is the best?
The governor summarized his delight with the growing investments in Anambra State with a saying that “the room gets brighter when one candle lights up another.’’ It is because of this that some of us in the private sector feel motivated to be part of any administration that aspires to make the difference in the lives of the people.
Beyond politics, the Anambra example shows that consistency is the name of the game. Former Gov. Peter Obi laid the foundation which his successor is building on. It is pleasing that Governor Obiano did not abandon the structures put in place by his predecessor in the typical Nigerian fashion.
This is what sustainable development is all about. The lesson is that government is a continuum and every administration should build upon the positive legacies of the administration before it.
For Willie Obiano, he may well be on his way to entering the pantheon of great leaders of Anambra State if he sustains the tempo and positive steps he is taking to change lives.
This state, the smallest in Nigeria after Lagos State, still has room to produce more billionaires. As the saying goes, the more the merrier.
History beckons on Willie Obiano to attain greatness so that he will join the league of Anambra children who had made their marks on the world stage. (NANFEATURES)