Four Seasons of Excellence
It is as though one is gazing at a sustained stream of images flashing across a big screen in a cinema, showing the big commercial farms that gave us Anambra Rice, the Longest Bridge in the South East, the iconic bridges of Awka and Amawbia, the largest poultry farm in the region, the bewitching gardens of Upper Iweka, the joyous nightlife of Awka, the dazzling network of smooth roads crisscrossing the three zones, the magnificent streetlights across the state, the myriad of projects chosen by each community according to priority, the long mass transit buses sliding out of their garages and the faces of happy workers rejoicing at the increment in their salaries in the midst of recession and so much more. It is an exciting mosaic of images depicting the many sides of excellence and leaving a deep impression of what a society should look like when leadership works.
But we must not fail to look back and recall how Obiano’s bold strides into history began; how he perfected the end from the beginning. We must cast our minds back to his philosophical document in which he invoked the powerful spirit of our ancestors when he said, “Fellow citizens, under my administration, we have no choice than to decide whether we are truly the sons and daughters of our fathers and true heirs to their long history of pioneering excellence!” It is the same document in which he brilliantly declared that “finding a permanent solution to the challenge of offering a secure environment for life and property is paramount to any viable economic blueprint.” These were all embedded in “Expanding the Frontiers of Excellence,” his Inaugural Address which tellingly framed the arteries and veins of his political ideology.
It should not surprise anyone therefore, that Obiano’s first term is tall in imagination and bold in execution of ideas. And as it turned out; a rich narrative in excellence. It is not clear what he did to realize that providing security would solve half of the problems of Anambra State but whatever he did is nothing short of visionary. It is proof of his high intelligence quotient that he accurately diagnosed what had been the biggest impediment to development in Anambra State for several decades and swiftly brought it under his heel. In taming the shrew of insecurity therefore, Obiano had unwittingly flung the doors ajar for everything good to come to Anambra. And they did come. And the result has been phenomenal. Anambra is Nigeria’s safest state. The US Ambassador, the German Ambassador and the UK High Commissioner have all made remarks that support this view. It is hard to dispute this.
And well; if Obiano got his projections right with security, he struck the same success in his decision to make Agriculture a major pillar of his economic blueprint. What makes his achievements in Agriculture such a sweet success is that it came against the run of play. Anambra is famous for many things but farming isn’t one of them. But Obiano had looked at the rich green fields of Ayamelum, Ogbaru, Orumba and Ihiala and saw gold. It was sheer audacity of conviction that drove him into placing agriculture on the forefront of his blueprint. And in just four years, the story has changed. Anambra Rice has emerged a favourite brand in the market. Anambra vegetables have established a presence in the UK market. The largest poultry farm east of the Niger is thriving in Igbariam and thousands of people have found gainful employment in the agricultural sector. In a manner of speaking, Obiano has changed the single story of Anambra as a state known only for buying and selling. This is a fact!
Again, one of the many great ideas that will go down as Obiano’s contribution to participatory democracy is the Community-Choose-your-Project Initiative. This highly acclaimed grassroots development model allows each of the 181 communities in the state to choose any project that it considers of utmost importance for the government to execute with N20m. It is a novelty. It belongs to the realm of innovative governance that is not usually associated with Nigeria. Through it, every community in Anambra State has been effectively connected to the widening circle of development; every community given a sense of belonging. No longer does the government assume that it has extraordinary wisdom and wake up to impose its reading of the people’s needs on the communities. The communities choose what they want. This underscores the accountability of the government to the people on whose behalf it functions. The importance of this new democratic leadership to emerging societies must not be lost on us. And we owe a debt of gratitude to Obiano for this.
In much the same way, Obiano’s decision to run Anambra State through the agency of institutions carries the same spark of novelty as the Choose-your-Project initiative. In an environment where the people themselves clamour for the emergence of strong men, the decision to establish strong institutions will always be a novelty. This is why we must not fail to acknowledge that Obiano was blazing a trail when he set up the Anambra State Investment Promotion and Protection Agency (ANSIPPA), the Anambra Small Business Association (ASBA), Awka Capital Development Authority (ACDA), Anambra State Primary Healthcare Development Agency (ASPHDA) and State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA) among many others. As would be expected, these institutions have not only slashed the executive workload of the governor; they have also proved themselves as incubators of excellence. At a time the world looks on to Africa for an expected shift from strong men to strong institutions, Obiano seems to be leading the charge in the right direction.
Similarly, Governor Obiano’s strategic approach to infrastructural development in Anambra State is interesting in its own right. For instance, right from the start, he had made it clear that his road construction efforts would be essentially focused on building roads that have economic importance. He demonstrated a clear grasp of the burning issues of governance; that no government has all the answers and that to have a desired impact, the leader must choose between many options. It was this understanding that informed his decision to build mostly roads and bridges that lead to economic or strategic locations. This informed the building of the Longest Bridge to the oilfields, the Awka and Amawbia Flyovers, roads to industrial hubs, major markets and agrarian areas. The focus is essentially on impact. The focus should be on impact!
And while it is difficult for anyone to doubt Obiano’s impact on modern Anambra, what the everyday people of Anambra State may remember him for might not be the Longest Bridge or the dazzling streetlights. It may, in fact, be his curiously muted philosophy of “ana alu olu, ana alu mmadu.” This is a benevolent administrative philosophy that places the human being at the centre of the development matrix. It insists that no meaningful development plan can be adjudged successful unless the people are happy. It is the implementation of this concept that has influenced the increment in workers’ salaries in spite of recession, the settlement of disputed salaries, pensions and gratuities that had accumulated for decades under previous regimes, the regular payment of salaries and the bold efforts to develop human capital. Obiano’s silent goal has never wavered from the overall happiness of Ndi Anambra. It is a single-minded focus which derives from his humane-nature; his wish to see happiness in others. This is why for him, it is good to build smooth roads but better to tune them up with appropriate road furniture and splendid streetlights. It is the same reason why he thinks that prompt payment of salaries is wonderful but it is even more awesome to give workers a raise, promotion and bags of rice at Christmas.
These are a few of the many reasons why to the ordinary people, four years of Obiano have been four seasons of magic and beauty. It is also the reason why the electoral monument which saw him defeat all his opponents in their polling booths has become a watershed in Nigeria’s political history!
Yes; 21/21 is a flag of Excellence fluttering in the sky! Who can touch it?