By James Eze
In five successive years, Anambra State has come under a dazzling shower of light. You may take this literally or figuratively. It means the same. Yes; in five years, Anambra’s motto –‘Light of the Nation’ has moved from a wishful slogan to a lived experience. You are Light of the Nation if you sent five secondary school girls to a technovation contest at the Silicon Valley in the US and they shoved aside countries like the US, Spain, China, Turkey and Uzbekistan to clinch the Gold Medal. Fact!
You are Light of the Nation if you are the home state of the Great Zik, the Great Achebe, the Great Ekwueme and of course the Great Ikemba. Another fact!
And well…you are Light of the Nation if almost all the nooks and crannies of your state are properly lit up at night with shiny LED streetlights.
So, when Governor Willie Obiano assumed office on March 17, 2014, he accepted full responsibility to ensure that the Light of Anambra State would shine even brighter under his watch. And so far, he has kept his promise. And this is how he did it. He began by selecting specific focus areas where his impact was needed most. The first and the most important of these areas is security. Governor Obiano understood quite clearly that as governor, he is the chief security officer of the state.
However, before Willie Obiano assumed leadership as governor, Anambra was a place nobody travelled to in a hurry. In fact, it was a place where most people travelled at their own risk. Kidnapping, violent armed robbery, child trafficking, ritual murders and all manner of crime was rife in the state. But Governor Obiano served them a memo when he organized a security summit and got a top Israeli security expert to facilitate it. What emerged from the summit is the famous Obiano security blueprint which has become a milestone in the evolution of the New Anambra State. A passionate implementation of the Blueprint led to the formation of Operation Kpochapu, a joint task force on security, the building of security tents, donation of hundreds of security trucks, the seizure and demolition of buildings used by kidnappers as holding cells for their victims, donation of a gunboat to the Nigerian Navy and the occasional aerial surveillance by police helicopters. The immediate outcome of this is that Anambra State has become Nigeria’s safest state and a fascinating haven for investors.
Governor Obiano also showed his brilliance in his interpretation of what matters to the people of Anambra State. Since the state came into existence twenty eight years ago, its capital had looked like a local government headquarters. Unlike the capitals of other states that were created the same year, Awka didn’t seem to be in a hurry to shrug off its dour rural looks. Successive administrations didn’t consider the building of a befitting capital a priority. For a famously proud people, Awka was a regrettable chink in the armour of Ndi Anambra. Then came Obiano and the story changed. Awka has since assumed the status of one of the fastest developing state capitals with a 24 hour lifestyle and dazzling street lights that never blink through the night. And what’s more, Anambra’s many billionaires now look at Awka as a highly attractive destination for investment and leisure.
The story is not different in agriculture. No one who is familiar with Anambra State before Obiano would ever have thought that the state could rise to a position of recognition and honour in agriculture. For although there were pockets of subsistence farming in parts of Ayamelum Local Government Area, agriculture never seemed the likely sector for a serious investment. That was until Obiano came along. He made Agriculture a top priority of his administration and signed some important MoUs with some quality investors. Today, rice production in Anambra State has climbed from 80, 000 metric tons to 345,000 metric tons. The state is also doing well in cassava, yam and maize production. Mechanized farming is in full swing in Anambra as big investors swoop down to take full advantage of the state’s fertile land and the conducive environment for investment. But even more important is that Anambra has become one of the leading agricultural states in the country today.
And by the way, even Obiano’s fiercest critic will find it hard to fault some of his out- of-the-box thinking which has added a new meaning to our understanding of democracy. For instance, Obiano’s Community Choose-your-Project initiative which allows every community in the state to select a project that is close to its heart for the government to build for it at the cost of N20m is a new concept in governance. Development scholars have widely described it as a revolutionary model of participatory democracy that brings government closer to the grassroots. By choosing what is best for them, the people are given a sense of direct involvement in what matters to them. This model eliminates the scenario of the all-knowing-government which sits at the headquarters and whimsically decides what the rural folks want. It also removes the chances of wasting money on expensive projects which the intended beneficiaries have no need for. This initiative has been adapted by many state governments across Nigeria.
Obiano’s passionate interest in education calls for a serious inquiry. It is interesting how public schools in Anambra State have become models of excellence under his watch, producing school children who have held their ground in international competitions across the world. Five years under his spell, Anambra school children have represented Nigeria twice in World School Debate Championships and won the Bronze Medal, Anambra has won the Best Teacher of the Year back to back and has maintained a consistent position among the top-three states in external examinations in the country. But the biggest achievement in education remains the Gold Medal won by the girls from Regina Celi Secondary School Onitsha at the World Technovation Fair in San Francisco, USA in August 2018. It was a historic moment that drew attention to the untapped possibilities in this part of the world which a visionary funding of education can uncover.
In the end, what we encounter in Obiano’s five years of brilliance is multi-faceted. Yes, we see the roads and bridges, the sprawling rice farms and giant rice mills and of course the air-tight security arrangement that has attracted commendation from far and near. But we also see a visionary investment in education and a creative bottom-up development model that is fast transforming the landscape. And quite frankly, it is hard to deny that Governor Willie has had an impact these past five years!
For a better society