Can Anambra Reinvent Itself?

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By Stanley Nkwazema

It is not always easy to be at the helm of affairs in some states in this country, particularly those in the South-east. The situation is worse in Anambra State, when viewed against the background that the state has witnessed several upheavals since the dawn of democracy in 1999. It becomes more difficult to understand when you realise that in the last nine and half years, the state has had the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) as the party in power while others are leaning towards the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

It is no longer news that Mr. Willy Obiano, a former Executive Director of Fidelity Bank, took over from Mr. Peter Obi as Governor of the state, and has served as the governor of the state in the last two and half years.

Interestingly, even as Willy Obiano still has about a year and half to complete his tenure as governor, many feel that the score card he delivered in Lagos and Abuja, before the people of the state resident in the South-west and the North-central was enough body language to ask for a second tenure. He failed to speak out in clear terms when he addressed the large crowd at the Congress Hall of Transcorp Hilton on what he called “Eyes on the Prize – On the Threshold of Excellence.”

When the governor walked in with his wife Ebele, he went round the hall with his traditional regalia, exchanging greetings with the crowd, including the Obi of Onitsha, Alfred Achebe, past and present members of the National Assembly, former ministers, including Oby Ezekwesili and businessmen from the North-central zone.

Obiano, who took some quotes from Jawal Nehru’s famous sayings that  “a moment comes, which comes but rarely in history, when we step out from the old to the new; when an age ends; and when the soul of a nation long suppressed finds utterance.”

He said further: “In the past two years, we have been very busy with the challenge of moving the state from the “old to a whole new Anambra State. We are very resolute in our desire to build a prosperous state and leave a legacy of good governance for our people. It has been a tough challenge but we were prepared for it. About two years and three months after, I am proud to stand before you to give account of my stewardship.”

In a bid to underscore the importance of diversifying the economy and  attracting more industries to Anambra State, Obiano confirmed that the  concise economic blueprint, made up of The Four Pillars of Development – agriculture, industrialisation, trade and commerce and Oil and Gas – which he developed on assumption of office has started yielding dividends. He stated that the state was now a socially stable, business-friendly environment, attracting both indigenes and foreigners to seek wealth-creating opportunities.

Funny enough, while other states are thinking about how to redirect energies towards food sufficiency and real time agriculture, the state governor claimed that in January this year, Anambra made headlines when it became the first state in Nigeria to export vegetables (Ugu and Onugbu) valued at $5m to Europe.

Obiano said: “At the same time, our locally produced brand of rice known as Anambra Rice recently emerged the Best Rice in Africa at an African Products Forum in Lagos. Anambra Rice was adjudged better and more wholesome than other competing brands from South Africa, Egypt, Ghana, Morocco, Namibia and Cameroun. “The agricultural sector of the state has also attracted investments from seven companies valued at $1.011bn, while the large industrial farms in our beloved state have pushed our local rice production from 90,000 metric tons to 210,000 metric tons. At this rate, we shall soon surpass the 320,000 metric tons we consume in Anambra State yearly.

On how he has been able to achieve the feat of making the state safer than he met it, Obiano told the gathering how he was able to “redraft the operational manual of the entire security apparatchik of Anambra State” to ensure a lightning-quick response by launching what he called Operation Kpochapu and organised an International Security Summit that attracted a top Israeli security expert, Moshe Keinan as the key facilitator.

He then proceeded to launch an all-out war against crime and criminality in the state, pulling down the warehouses where kidnappers kept their human cargoes and running them out of town. Indeed the operation has been clinical that the operators did not only detect and cut off the weapons supply lines, but also tracked a notorious kidnapper to Lagos and picked him up inside a South African bound aircraft.

Obiano said: “That sounded a loud warning to the underworld. We turned our efforts into a regional campaign when in August last year we successfully hosted a Regional Security Summit for the five South Eastern states and the Delta. We figured that Anambra would be safer if other surrounding states were safe enough. In December last year, we raised the game in our security campaign when we donated 25 Smart Cars to the Nigerian Police. These cars are Command & Control Centres with ultra-modern crime-bursting gadgets. We donated a Gunboat to the Nigerian Navy to ensure a regular patrol across the water channels and seal off all the routes used by criminals.”

In December last year, the state also launched an aerial surveillance with a Police Helicopter throughout the Yuletide Season. This was seen as the last effort made to effectively cover the ground, waters and the skies.

With that effort, Anambra became safe and won the psychological war of running out the criminals as people now feel safe to move around the state at whatever time of day or night.

Obiano explained that the objective of his administration was to become one of the top three industrialised states in Nigeria. “We are pursuing this in four key areas – Creation of modern industrial parks and small-to-medium enterprise clusters, improved drive for investment and better access to financing and strategic capacity building.”

The move has so far attracted over $140 million investment to the manufacturing sector which he is vigorously pursuing by rehabilitating existing markets and building new ones alongside ultramodern shopping malls across the state; having commissioned the ultramodern Onitsha Shopping Mall in April as one of the continuity projects he inherited from his predecessor Peter Obi. It is also confirmed that work is progressing smoothly on the two other malls in Nnewi and Awka.

“We have flagged off the construction of a $350 million wholesale shopping complex in Ogbunike in Oyi LGA. This commercial and lifestyle complex will be the first of its kind in Africa. The retail outlets will be operated by leading brands from across the world.  Similarly, the first Phase of the 20,000-unit International Market at Oba in Idemili South Local Government Area, valued at $75 million, is nearing completion while Expression of Interest has been concluded on the Umunze International Market.

“To solve the problem of power which is the bane of industrialisation in the state like other parts of the country, Zolt Energy has signed the agreement to commence the  building of a 40 megawatts Embedded Power Generating Plant in Ogbaru. The beauty of this project is that all the power generated from it will be distributed mainly in Anambra State.”

Before now, the commercial city of Onitsha used to be the dirtiest but he said: “We have mounted a serious campaign to retrieve our cities from the menace of filth and dirt. As you may all remember, we demolished a 30-year-old mountain of refuse that was several stories high in Okpoko last year. We have also succeeded in cleaning up the eyesore that used to be the refuse dump on Owerri Road, Onitsha.”

The state is, however, pursuing an aggressive and revolutionary programme in public utilities by rolling out what is called Choose-a-Project-Initiative for the 177 communities in the state. Under this scheme, each community is expected to choose a project worth N20 million. The Government will then execute all these projects. This initiative is not only a novelty but also truly democratic.

On how he intends to finance these projects, the governor said he was pursuing an aggressive oil and gas policy. “Anambra State is blessed with over one billion barrels of oil and 30 trillion cubic feet of gas. Our target is to have a fully developed Oil & Gas sector by 2018. We intend to achieve this through three broad areas of intervention – policy formulation & infrastructure development, private sector participation and re-orientation.

“In the area of policy formulation, we have crafted far-sighted policies to drive the development of this sector. In fact, my bill proposing the establishment of the Anambra State Oil & Gas Development Agency has already been passed into law.  As a follow up, we have also set up the Oil and Gas Advisory Committee headed by Dr.Emmanuel Egboga, the former Special Adviser to the President on Petroleum Matters.

“This committee is charged with drafting a comprehensive Blueprint for the Oil & Gas sector and advising the State on the necessary steps that would ensure the recognition of Anambra as the 10th Oil Producing State in Nigeria. We have opened access to the oil fields by building Anambra’s longest bridge across the Omambala River in Aguleri. This bridge has since been completed. We are also building two other bridges to the oil fields through Umueje in Ayamelum and Umudiora in Anambra West Local Government Areas. The importance of these roads and bridges can only be understood if we remember that there was no access to the oilfields of Aguleri before now from Anambra State. It could only be accessed through Enugu State.”