A chieftain of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), Chief Ebenezer Babatope, on Wednesday beat the drum for the party’s erstwhile National Vice-Chairman (South), Chief Olabode George as the national chairman. Babatope told a news conference in Lagos that George was the “best man” that could pilot the affairs of the party “to a new and…
Hon. Humphrey C. Nsofor’s treatise on Anambra State’s resurgence (back page of The Sun, Tuesday, March 7, 2017) is an honest reflection of what has been going on in our dear state since the Chris Ngige years as governor. All facets of the state are looking up. Onitsha, which used to be synonymous with disorder and garbage heaps, has changed tremendously. Entering Onitsha from neighbouring Asaba in Delta State is almost like moving from Nyanya, a suburb of the Federal Capital Territory known for shacks and poor infrastructure, to Maitama or Asokoro in Abuja famous for excellent facilities. It is a mystery why the Delta State government, from the time of James Ibori as governor, has not felt challenged by the new Onitsha look to make Asaba look like the capital of an oil-rich state.
Whereas Onitsha has well maintained eight lanes built by the state government and looks beautiful at night, Asaba, with only four poorly maintained lanes built by the Federal Government, is increasingly looking like a township with derelict infrastructure.
A few years ago, Onitsha-based businessmen and women were moving in droves to Asaba to build residences because Onitsha was chaotic and unsafe. People are now building magnificent houses in towns and villages around Onitsha because security has improved dramatically in Anambra State and the quality of life has increased. Any person who has not been to Awka in the last three years is likely to miss his way, all the more so at night when neon lights on the three new beautiful bridges on the Enugu-Onitsha Expressway are on; the skyline has changed.
Anambra State is a good example that investments flow to places where the government provides the enabling environment for business, starting with security. Who could have known a few years ago that $4bilion investments would come into the state in two years, with much going into agric? Who could have known that Anambra could earn millions of dollars from exporting bitter leaf and pumpkin to the United Kingdom, with at least one million tubers of yam now ordered from the United States? This export drive is interesting because it is growing at a time the European Union has banned exports of foodstuffs like beans from Nigeria for failure to meet international standards. Anambra is doing things differently and creatively.
I am enamoured of what Governor Willie Obiano has done security-wise. In less than one year in office, he turned the state from being the den of kidnappers and violent robbers in Nigeria into the safest place in West Africa. I have experienced firsthand what an atmosphere of insecurity and general lawlessness can lead to. In November 2004, when the Federal Government under General Obasanjo unleashed mayhem on Anambra people, which saw a very large number of thugs burn the state House of Assembly, the judicial complex, Government House, the state broadcasting service and others so that Ngige would be removed as governor through a state of emergency, I was a prime target. The hoodlums came to my residence to assassinate me for supporting Ngige against political elements, who wanted to milk the state dry. How I managed to escape from the rampaging thugs is a mystery to this day.
Anambra people are delighted Obiano promotes not just security but also a rancour-free atmosphere. I was pleasantly surprised to see in the media photographs of himself and his wife at the wedding last December of the daughter of Joe-Martins Uzodike, his former Special Adviser on Political Affairs, who became a harsh critic of his administration after his removal. Immediately the governor saw his estranged predecessor at the wedding, he walked up to him and greeted him so warmly that you would never think there have been differences between them. The crowd cheered and cheered. The crowd cheered Obiano previously at the burial of the famous principal of Christ the King College (CKC), Onitsha, Reverend Father Nicholas Tagbo, last August 3, when he openly apologised to his predecessor even though he said he did not know how and when he wronged Chief Peter Obi. Thus Obiano is an example of both servant and authentic leadership styles.
The ordinary people want their leaders to work in an atmosphere of peace and harmony, no matter their political differences. Decent leaders like Obiano have made us forget almost completely the days in Anambra State when a person like the chairman of the Nigerian Bar Association in Onitsha, Barnabas Igwe, his wife, Abigail, and their unborn baby could be assassinated for holding a dissenting political opinion. Thank God Anambra State is today reputed for peace, stability and development.
Not even trade unions are at war with the government. In fact, the workers and pensioners are probably the government’s greatest cheerleaders because the administration not only pays workers and pensioners before any other state does, Anambra is also the only state in Nigeria to have increased salaries in the last four years. Obiano absorbed all five thousand workers hired by his predecessor on the eve of his departure. To this day, people are still recruited into the public service. They include all doctors, who graduated from the state teaching hospital, which could not secure accreditation from the Nigerian Medical and Dental Registration Council for 10 years until Obiano did the needful in the last two years. The school is now about starting specialist courses. This is leadership.
Nsofor has in his article mentioned people like ex-Vice President Alex Ekwueme, former Commonwealth Secretary General, Emeka Anyaoku, ex-Governor Chukwuemeka Ezeife, ex-Women Affairs Minister, Josephine Anenih, ex-World Bank Vice President, Oby Ezekwesili, erstwhile Police Service Commission Chairman, Simon Okeke, and erstwhile Central Bank Governor, Chukwuma Soludo, as among prominent Anambra persons happy with Obiano. Non-Anambra persons like Professor Pat Utomi have also commended his leadership. Senator Ben Bruce from Bayelsa State explained at the annual Silverbird awards night that Obiano was chosen as the Man of the Year for 2016 by Nigerians from all parts of the country who voted for him. People in a section of my own Orumba South Constituency know him as the governor connecting them to the rest of the state by constructing the difficult Ezira-Umuomaku-Enugwu Umuonyiba-Onne-Agbudu Road linking the five towns. Two weeks ago, he commissioned a 47-kilometre electricity project connecting communities in Orumba to the national grid. This is the first time the communities are enjoying public power supply.
Like Hon. Nsofor, I am an APC member but most of us in the APC will work for Obiano’s reelection next November in the overriding interest of our people. In presidential democracy, party loyalty is not as important as loyalty to one’s conscience and one’s primary constituency. Like Nsofor, I am from the southern senatorial zone whereas Obiano is from the North. Like Nsofor, I am Protestant whereas Obiano is Catholic. And like Nsofor, I have never met Obiano. Nigerians need leaders like Obiano. Imagine for a second an Obiano in, say, Bayelsa State as governor. As the great Dr. Ekwueme has stated, Nigeria is a miracle waiting to happen.
I am proud to come from Anambra State.
•Okechi was chairman of the Anambra State House of Assembly Committee on Public Petitions.