Saturday comment 2
Uche Amunike argues that there can be no better choice for the vice- presidential slot than Peter Obi
Choosing Peter Obi as the Vice-Presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) was a great delight to Nigerians all over the world. He had indeed been tested and trusted in the area of governance with particular reference to saving a sinking economy and fighting corruption while as governor of Anambra State.
Atiku Abubakar couldn’t have asked for a better partner, having been in those shoes before.
Obi, as governor of Anambra State simply came in and turned the state around by literally pulling her out of the debris of stagnation to economic recovery, growth, sustainability and safety. Indeed, people have short memories but it can only be fair to cast our minds back to what Anambra State was like before Obi came on board.
This piece will serve as a reminder, not just to Anambrarians, but to all Nigerians all over the world reading this.
Before Obi became governor of Anambra State, Ambassadors and High Commissioners of notable countries never had any reasons to visit the state. It was a state literally written off by the diplomatic corps and development partners. During his tenure, however, he attracted ambassadors of various countries who not only visited the state, but maintained relations with her. The UNDP, UNICEF, the World Bank, DFID and others, then partnered with the state at different levels and indeed confirmed Anambra under Obi as one of the best states in development partnership and commitment to reforms for good governance.
Little wonder, the Millennium Developmental Goals office and the UNDP honoured him as the Best Governor for effectively implementing their programmes in Nigeria.
In the health sector, he added true value when he entered into partnership with the churches. This gave rise to an impressive boost in healthcare because of the services offered by health institutions owned by voluntary agencies. The state also restored grants to these agencies and availed them above N50m dollars in various kinds of support.
Through this same partnership with churches in the health sector, Obi’s government transformed Iyienu Hospital, Ogidi; Our Lady of Lourdes, Ihiala; St Charles’ Borromeo Hospital, Onitsha; Holy Rosary Hospital, Waterside, Onitsha and St Joseph’s Hospital, Adazi Nnukwu. His government also built the Joseph Nwilo Heart Centre at St Joseph’s Adazi Nnukwu, where heart operations are now being carried out. It is also very important to note that Anambra State never had a single accredited health institution before Obi came on board. It was during his tenure that he built the Onitsha General Hospital and Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Teaching Hospital and saw to their accreditation as well as that of over 10 health institutions too.
Peter Obi took the health sector very seriously and was relentless in his efforts to raise the standards from what he met when he took over the reins of leadership from his predecessor. He truly believed in the school of thought that a healthy nation is a wealthy nation.
The education sector is another sector which Obi had an unrivalled passion for. When he presented his blueprint in 2006 after he came on board, he promised to restore quality and functional education in the state. Indeed, he took Anambra State to enviable heights academically and set a high standard for the children of the state.
His government returned schools to their original owners which were voluntary agencies like the Church, on Jan 1, 2009, after which the government partnered with the agencies. It was this move that catapulted Anambra State from the 24th position out of 36 states to the 1st position in the National Examinations Council (NECO) and West African Examinations Council (WAEC) for three consecutive years. This elevation led the World Bank to commission a study led by renowned Prof Paul Collier of Oxford University on this revolutionary partnership and phenomenal achievement.
Again, Obi’s government was the first to provide over 30,000 HP computers to secondary schools. When this happened, the Managing Director for Personal Systems Group HP Inc., Mr FabriceCampoy, described such deployment as the biggest of such projects in the Middle East and Africa. Obi’s government also provided Microsoft Academies to over 500 secondary schools, internet access to over 500 secondary schools, 700 buses to different secondary schools in the state, sank boreholes in schools all over the state and numerous classrooms in all the 177 communities in the state.
The economy of Anambra State had a turn around when Obi came on board. He did promise that he would massively improve the state’s IGR when he reeled out his economic blueprint as he came on board. He did this by attracting certain companies to come to Anambra and set up their facilities. SABmiller is a perfect case study. They are the second largest brewery in the world which built their first Green Field facility in Anambra State. Today, it remains one of the most successful facilities they operate globally.
Some other companies followed in their footsteps like INNOSON Motor Manufacturing Company from which Obi’s government bought over 1,000 vehicles. So many detractors of Obi accused him of monopolizing the wealth of the state for his industrial ventures but the people of Anambra State who felt that value was added to their lives because of the turnaround of the activities of the state, expressed joy at his governing style which he applied by using his business skills to grow the economy of the state.
Peter Obi did a great job in the area of security. For the first time, the state started close collaboration with recognized government security agencies like the Police, Army, Navy, DSS, NSCDC, etc. He equipped and supported them totally by giving them over 500 security vehicles and gave at least one security vehicle to each of the 177 communities in the state. This led to a great improvement in security, such that the former IG of police, Alhaji Abubakar Mohammed, expressed his joy that the state did not witness any bank robbery in his last three years in office.
Obi’s government was the first to do poverty mapping in Nigeria, as a guide to the effective implementation of poverty alleviation strategies in the state. His government, for the first time, undertook the aerial mapping of Awka and the production of structure plans for Awka Capital Territory, Onitsha and Nnewi. During Obi’s time Anambra became an oil producing state. Obi built the first secretariat complex in the state to accommodate all the ministries scattered around the state.
Obi was the first governor to undergo national peer review which scrutinized state government for good governance through the State Peer Review Mechanism (SPRM), an initiative of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum in collaboration with the DFID.
Peter Obi came to Anambra State as an unassuming fella. By the time he was done, Anambrarians knew that a Colossus of some sorts, passed through the state and left indelible marks to remember him by. He is a capitalist with a one way approach to governance. This has made many describe him as stingy and brutal.
However, the characteristics that are typical of him served as a catalyst to rebuild the state, fight corruption, raise the bar in sectors like education, health, security and very importantly, the economy.
Mrs Amunike wrote from Awka