With the Anambra State governorship campaigns in full gear, David-Chyddy Eleke looks at some of the changing dynamics that could enhance the chances of the incumbent governor, Chief Willie Obiano
Participating political parties in the November 18 governorship election have already commenced strategy for selling their candidates to electorate in the state. This usually starts with the appointment of a campaign Director-General and his team, who now take the burden of fashioning out what the campaigns would look like, the places to visit, the possible ways to woo voters and other such plans.
For the incumbent governor, Chief Willie Obiano, who is also seeking re-election on the platform of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), he has chosen a campaign team to be headed by no other than the former national chairman of his party, who is considered a political tactician and very well aware of the political terrain in the state, Chief Victor Umeh.
THISDAY gathered that all is now set for the formal campaigns for the governorship position, just as various modalities have been mapped out by the campaign team to sell Obiano to the people of the state.
The job of the campaign team may, however, be less unlike those of the other candidates, who have either not held political power before and do not have any antecedents in such area, or have not been in the executive arm of government, and as such would need more vigorous campaigns to convince the people that they can do better than the incumbent.
In the case of the incumbent, the job of members of his campaign organisation is made easier by the fact that he has to point to what he has been able to do in the last three and a half years and also assure the people that more is on the way. As usual, the taste of the pudding is always in the eating, and it is left for the Anambra people to evaluate what they are experiencing today and judge the governor on that basis.
Some of the factors that would determine the victory or otherwise of the governor are the things he has been able to do with the mandate given to him by the people of the state in the last over three years. To this, Umeh recently told Anambra women, who converged on the Dora Akunyili Women’s Development Centre for the Mothers Summit that arrangements were in place for the publishing of the achievements of the Obiano government in all the 187 communities of the state.
He said the APGA train would visit all the communities and also point at them, just as a booklet comprising all the achievements of the government was being published. APGA faithful have already identified a few areas that would help Obiano’s acceptability.
The Payment of Salaries
Nothing best describes the relationship of the Anambra workforce with their governor than the usual chant of ‘Alert Governor’, each time Obiano was in a function with civil servants of the state. This is a code name the civil servants describe the governor with, after observing that since the commencement of his tenure, salaries of workers do not come any time after the 25th of every month. Many have however argued that it is no feat as workers are entitled to their wages, and no government should boast of achieving anything if all it does is pay salaries of workers.
But to Obiano, what is more important to him is the fact that he is happy that workers are happy. He once described it as the highest level of criminality not to pay workers their wages, and to know that in most states, as a result of the previous downturn in the economic growth, workers are owed salary arrears running into months, not minding the Paris Club refund that was meant to help governors meet their obligations. Some states even pay half the salaries of workers each passing month.
It was therefore understandable, when last week, the Anambra State Commissioner for Information and Communications Strategy, Mr. Tony Nnachetta, sent out a press release refuting strongly a report by the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), which included Anambra as one of the states owing workers’ salaries, despite the release of the second batch of the Paris Club refund.
The commissioner said there was no truth in the report as Anambra has been religiously meeting its obligation of paying salaries. He said it was for the feat of paying workers not later than 25th of every month, that workers during the 2017 workers’ day celebration crowned him the most worker-friendly governor. It is expected that civil servants in the state might be swayed to vote for him for this singular feat.
This has been listed among one of the most visible achievements of the Obiano administration. Before Obiano, Anambra was almost sliding into a state notorious for criminal activities like robbery and kidnapping. Obiano, while addressing the cream of Anambra elite at a function in the governor’s lodge, once said Anambra fell so low that its indigenes dreaded coming home, and it got to the extent, where even traditional marriages that are statutorily supposed to be held in the ancestral origin of the lady were held in Lagos and Abuja, because of fear of kidnap.
Obiano said it was for these that his government, upon inauguration swung into action and quickly constituted the Operation Kpochapu, which was a combined team of security agencies in the state, with the mandate to clean up the state of criminal elements. He quickly followed it up with a seminar, which involved an Israeli security expert, Kennan Morshe. When the security strategies started yielding fruits for the state, Obiano felt the need to also help sister states to secure their territories by also expanding the security seminar to include all the South-east states and Delta.
Today, Anambra prides itself as one of the safest in the country, and Obiano takes the credit. With this, it is expected that the governor would most probably remind the people of the security situation in the state before his emergence.
The Choose Your Project Initiative
Through his choose-your-project initiative, Obiano has affected all the communities in the state positively. The project is one contrived in the need for communities to identify their own priority projects and get funding from the state government for its execution to the tune of N20million, using a local contractor from the community. During a ceremony for the inauguration and disbursement of N20million to each community for their own project, Obiano said the initiative will help the communities to identify their own needs, devoid of the usual way government moves into a community and builds a project for them, without recourse to what the real needs of the people are.
The governor also added that the reason for the use of local contractors was to ensure that the community knew who the contractor is and to also task him appropriately for the completion of the project in the case of abandonment. While some communities are building civic centres, others are erecting new blocks in community schools, while some are constructing new stalls in their community markets. The good news is that the initiative has entered its second phase, and communities have started accessing fresh N20million for other projects, and this has helped Obiano to affect the lives of the people in the rural community, and he may not be forgotten for this.
General Infrastructure Development
Since the inauguration of his administration two years ago, Obiano has been working to stamp his foot on the sands of time, through infrastructure development. One of such is the triple flyover bridges in Awka, which has come to be known as Obiano’s signature project. Also, the state governor has maintained that his government has road projects in all the local governments of the state, just as bridges have also been built in some areas to connect communities that were previously not motorable.
Payment of Pensions and Gratuities
Two categories of people that have suffered great neglect in the hands of successive government in Anambra State are retirees of the state’s print and electronic media; National Light and Anambra Broadcasting Service (ABS) and employees of the state water corporation. While the first are usually lucky with salaries, but never smelt anything like pension and gratuities since the creation of the state, the latter got neither salaries nor pension and gratuities for the same period.
Both groups now have a reason to smile, being that Governor Willie Obiano commenced the payment of the salaries of members of staff of the state water corporation and have also cleared all, amounting to N1.9billion. It is also the same for the retirees of the National Light and ABS, where even the pioneer staff of the company, including veteran actor Pete Edochie, who retired from ABS decades ago, were recently invited for the payment of their pension and gratuities, which have eluded them for decades now. All these may come to play as factors that would sway the sympathy of voters towards Obiano, or better still make it easy for his campaign managers to sell him easily to the people.