The 2017 Christmas celebrations in Anambra State, which continued into the new year, may go down in history as the most memorable in the annals of the state. They were held with practically no incidents in all 182 communities and 21 local government areas of the state. The hitch-free celebrations went a long way to deepen Anambra’s reputation as the safest state in Nigeria. This is a quantum leap from only four years ago, when the state was virtually synonymous with violent crime, as kidnappers, hired assassins and armed robbers overran the state. Some traditional rulers like that of Ihembosi in Ekwusigo Local Government Area, who were kidnapped in the heat of the unprecedented wave of criminal activity, have yet to be found. Leading entrepreneurs and professionals were compelled to leave the state in droves, and settle in places like Lagos and Abuja. But in less than four years, Anambra has become an oasis of peace and tranquility. The result is massive inflow of investments totalling about $5 billion since Chief Willie Obiano became the state governor on March 17, 2014.
The investment inflow in question refers to only what has gone into the organised private sector (OPS). There is a considerable amount of money, which comes to Anambra State but is hardly recorded because it goes into the informal sector of the economy. The 2017 Christmas/2018 New Year celebrations provide a good example of what Prof. Charles Soludo, a brilliant economist and former Central Bank governor, has identified as socio-cultural economy. This refers to how the economy of the place is continuously reflated by social and cultural activities, including festivals. Like previous end-of-the- year and new year festivities in the South East geopolitical zone and other Igbo-speaking parts of Nigeria, the 2017 Christmas and 2018 New Year celebrations saw the return of huge numbers of people from different parts of the world to their homeland.
What was special this time around was the unprecedented number of people who returned to or visited Anambra State because of the unparalleled atmosphere of security and safety. The pervasive feeling of safety goes beyond reducing kidnappings and armed robberies as well as contract killings to the minimum. It has to do with a profound sense of peace, law and order as a way of life. There was a gubernatorial election in Anambra State last November 18, and it turned out to be the most peaceful, transparent and orderly election ever conducted by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) anywhere in Nigeria.
Analysts were not really surprised at the fact that the election was extremely peaceful and transparent. The campaigns leading to the election were without incidents of any significance. As the chief security officer of the state, Governor Obiano went beyond the call of duty to ensure that any plan to cause violence was nipped in the bud, regardless of the political leanings of those planning to wreak havoc. Hence, other candidates, politicians, political parties and their supporters had no choice but to follow the governor’s example. The best form of leadership, as the late Prof. Chinua Achebe argued eloquently, is leadership by personal example.
Long before the November 18 governorship election, Obiano had demonstrated similar firmness and fairness in fostering peace and tranquility in Anambra State by getting crop farmers and herdsmen to sign an agreement on peaceful co-existence in various communities. The terms of agreement are strictly enforced and violations swiftly punished, no matter whose ox is gored. Herdsmen who allow their cattle to destroy food crops are penalised immediately and farmers who attack animals are fined accordingly. Because of the fair manner in which the terms of the agreement, drawn up by representatives of different ethnic groups in the state are enforced by the State Security Committee, headed by the Commissioner of Police, clashes between farmers and herdsmen are virtually unheard of in Anambra State even when deadly clashes occur in neighbouring states, as was the case in Nimbo community in Uzo Uwani, Enugu State, in April 2016, which left a number of people dead.
Against this background, it is not surprising that the Hausa-Fulani and Yoruba communities, among other ethnic groups in Anambra State, campaigned vigorously for the re-election of Obiano last November. Obiano won by a landslide in all the 21 LGAs in the state. No sitting governor has been re-elected in such a way in Nigeria’s history. All this shows that all Nigerians, regardless of creed or ethnicity, appreciate fairness, equity, peace, stability and progress, and reward those who genuinely work for their attainment.
The prevailing atmosphere of peace and progress in Anambra State doubtless helped to increase the state’s gross domestic product during the recent Christmas and New Year celebrations. Hoteliers, restaurateurs, caterers, dealers in beverages, event planners and organisers as well as entertainers like musicians, disc jockeys, comedians and masqueraders never had it so good. Faith-based organisations and communities also benefitted from the environment of peace and progress, as they launched various development projects and programmes.
Traditional rulers organised such prestigious events as the annual ofala festivals when, in concert with members of the traditional councils, they entertain their people, in-laws and friends and honour deserving members of society, including non-indigenes. For instance, the people of Aguleri in Anambra East Local Government Area held their own ofala festival on Saturday, January 6, 2018, where they honoured such prominent persons as Ambassador Bianca Ojukwu, who is from Nnewi, and Alhaji Abdullahi Shinkafi, the former national secretary of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), while the people of Ukpo in Ifitedunu LGA conducted theirs on December 23 , 2017. All over Anambra State, a good number of people took titles during last Christmas and New Year celebrations without fear of any sort.
One crucial lesson which Nigerians need to learn from Anambra as the state continues to be on the upswing is the critical need for leaders to radiate optimism. Governor Obiano has not for a moment ceased to encourage his people to dream big dreams, noting that Anambra State could be built into a kind of Dubai in Africa. Various researches by management and leadership scholars have demonstrated that only leaders who produce positive vibes make history. Indeed, if countries like Singapore and Israel could overcome their grave natural challenges to attain first world status within a short period, any part of the world can someday become exemplary. Those who think and act pessimistically argue that they are realistic, but they are in mortal error. Naysayers do not build societies. Great societies are rather built by visionaries who are, of course, optimists. There is a lot the nation can learn from Anambra State.
• Hon Okechi, former chairman of the Anambra State House of Assembly Committee on Information and of Public Petitions, is a founding APC member in the state. He is leading a movement to reform the APC in the state. [email protected]