For the Igbo resident in Lagos, Friday, February 19, 2016 will remain memorable for quite some time; not so much for what it was but for the hope it represents. As they trickled into the Shell Hall of the MUSON Centre to share an evening with Chief Willie Obiano, the Governor of Anambra State, it is doubtful whether most of the members of the Aka Ikenga, League of Anambra Professionals (LAP), Ndigbo Lagos and other Igbo groups who came colourfully dressed knew what to expect. It was a special evening, made more so by Obiano’s two-year account of stewardship which he came to share.
But Obiano did not waste time in setting the agenda. With his eyes firmly set on the crescendo, he began by pointing out that the event was a home-coming of sorts to him. “. I bagged both my first and second degrees from the University of Lagos and for over twenty five years, I lived among you here; pursuing my career from the oil and gas sector to banking.
Over the years, I made friends here; evolved into a man here, got married and ended my career on a glorious note here. And when I answered the call to serve our beloved State as governor, I got the highest support, encouragement and prayers from you people here.” After establishing his rootedness in the Lagos community, Obiano made a bold admission of his own humanity with an appeal for forgiveness by so many friends and well-wishers who “felt neglected or disrespected by their inability to reach me since I took on the full weight of my office.” Quoting Archbishop Desmond Tutu that “forgiveness says you are given a chance to make a new beginning,” the governor expressed his sincerest regrets and pleaded for a chance to make things right with anyone who felt done in by the bureaucracy of his office. It was a classic mea culpa that is rare among Nigerian leaders. But it proved very effective for its purpose, soothing frayed nerves and setting the stage for a very lively evening.
Before he plunged into the full range of his two-year Account of Stewardship, Obiano showed enough presence of mind to recall a cardinal vow from his inaugural address. Modulating his voice to meet the occasion, he quoted the passage that “the time has come to prove to ourselves that the entrepreneurial spirit for which our people are known all over the world can take firm roots at home; that together as one, we can be masters of our own house!” He also recalled that he had assured the people that “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!” He therefore submitted that his achievements in the past 23 months had sufficiently “answered the question of whose children we are.”
From this premise, the governor launched out a detailed account of his achievements that covered his economic blueprint known as the Four Pillars of Development with its thirteen Enablers. He deliberately spiced up his account with verbal queues that were carefully laced with Igbo language to elicit reactions from the audience and sustain interest in his narration. His effort drew intermittent applause that bloomed to a crescendo when in conclusion he appealed to Ndi Anambra from across the world to lend a hand in building the state.
Pointing out that Anambra had become the safest state in Nigeria, Governor Obiano declared that “the future is looking brighter and brighter but with your assistance and belief in the government of Anambra State, we can take possession of our tomorrow from today.” The applause that followed reverberated in the huge hall and set the stage for the documentary that offered a graphic account of his stewardship, aptly titled, “Two Years of Excellence.” The documentary is the Obiano story, told from multi-perspectives including his commissioners, key industrialists, farmers, helicopter pilots down to ordinary citizens who bore witness to the change that the governor had wrought in the state in two years. It was the documentary that tellingly drove home the fact of Obiano’s high achievements and erased all doubts about his administrative competence.
Consequently, when the documentary ended, what was originally designed as a Question and Answer session to enable the governor get a first-hand feedback from the people became a one-sided flow of praises and encomiums for him. The feedback was understandably much but the most remarkable came from the former Secretary General of the Commonwealth, Chief Emeka Anyaoku. For one who is not known to make easy comments on Nigerian leaders, Anyaoku’s comment on the night was possibly the greatest endorsement Governor Obiano has received from Anambra’s numerous distinguished citizens. Said he –
“Whenever I visit home I see evidence of Governor Willie Obiano’s activities. Driving from Enugu to Onitsha and Obosi, the evidence stares me in the face. In my last trip I was passing through Awka and there was His Excellency, Chief Willie Obiano commissioning one of the bridges. And this evening, what we have all seen struck me deep because what we have all seen in the documentary confirms my view that in Governor Obiano we have a governor with a vision for the state and much more important than that; with a strategy. There are many leaders who have visions. But there are very few leaders, the world over, and when I say the world over, I’m sure you know that I have had interaction with many countries around the world. There are very few leaders who have strategic capacity. And there we have in Anambra State, a leader who has strategic capacity.
“I am always pained that Anambra State, endowed as it is with human resources, people who have attained great heights not just in Nigeria but all over the world, but if I may talk about Nigeria, it was very striking that when Nigeria celebrated its 50th Independence Anniversary and the federal government decided to recognise 50 people who were deemed to have made outstanding contributions to the development of the country that Anambra State had 5 of the 50. And yet Anambra State, until very recently, didn’t have much to write home about. Until very recently, Anambrarians had 80% of their assets invested outside Anambra State. For me, that’s a very embarrassing situation. But you couldn’t blame them because in Anambra State, they didn’t have the grounds for bringing back their investments. But that is changing and changing very fast under governor Willie Obiano. He is creating the basis for investment in Anambra State. He is creating the basis for attracting Anambrarians to come home and play some role and they are feeling very safe. That is something we should broadcast to our people all over the world.
“And for that I must say that he encapsulated in the documentary that we saw the different aspects of the development plans. Really, not just plans but activities, because Nigeria is sometimes very good at drawing plans but not very good at implementing them. But here we have a situation where the plans are clear and the implementation is getting on actively as we pray it does. And as was said earlier, I would say jidekwa k ‘iji! I suspect that when you say to somebody that he should hold on to what he or she is doing, it means that he or she is doing very well. So I say jidekwa k’iji. And finally, on behalf of the aging group that I represent here, I want to thank you, Your Excellency for the excellent work you are doing in our state and indeed when I go to other states you have given me the reason not only to be proud but also to boast.”
As would be expected, Anyaoku’s vote of confidence drew a very loud applause. But Anyaoku was not alone. Mr. Ifeanyi Ubah, the Chairman of Capital Oil and proprietor of Premiership Club, Ifeanyi Ubah FC who also ran against Obiano in the last gubernatorial race was full of praises for him. Thanking the governor for an excellent performance, Mr. Ubah declared – “Tonight, we have all seen from the documentary that we watched, why governor Obiano is The Sun Governor of the Year. I contested the gubernatorial seat with him and it was a keen contest. But what we want is the progress of Anambra State. I am not a sycophant. I have seen that Governor Obiano is not a greedy governor. He is a contented man. Contentment is the key word. Let’s move the state forward. We have so many great men in Anambra State. The time has come for all these great people to rally round the governor so that we can build our state. It is time that we all remember that Anambra is our own and a journey of a million miles starts with a step and a step in the right direction is supporting the government to move the state forward. So, Akpokue, I congratulate you for the award you will be given tomorrow. Don’t be afraid. God is with you. I will support your second term bid.”
Following the same line of appraisal, famous Nollywood actor, Pete Edochie wondered whether there would still be some work left for Obiano’s successor to do after he had served two terms in office if he maintained the same work rate throughout his years. In specific terms, Edochie told Obiano – “Many people have ruled Anambra State but it was only you that made Awka look like a state capital. We are immensely proud of you.
In the history of Anambra State, no governor has ever called on the people and they responded in full as they did tonight. You are the only one who has achieved this degree of respect among our people. I watched the documentary that we were shown this evening with awe when I realised that you had only spent two years in office. In two years, you have covered almost every part of Anambra State. When you have done 8 years in office, would there still be some challenges left for your predecessor to handle? We are standing firmly behind you,” he declared in a guttural voice.
–Eze wrote from Awka (email@example.com).