Chukwudi Nwokoye
Africa

Anambra state on the road to greatness

For months I have been contemplating writing on events happening in Anambra state. Ever since Governor Peter Obi returned as the Chief Executive of the state, there have been claims and counter-claims about his performance in office or lack of it. I have made several phone calls home to the people on the ground to find out the true situation of things. All my calls to my relatives, colleagues, friends and associates were mostly in praise of Governor Obi and most of my contacts were praising God for at last hearing the prayers of the oppressed people of the state. One of my brothers who is an ardent former Governor Ngige supporter and who has lived in Awka for more than 20 years, always discussed issues happening in the state and he had never stopped praising the present administration for turning the state around and continuing from where Ngige stopped.

However, when I read news reports coming out from the state, I have conflicting information about the true state of affairs. Most of the time, the news about the state were negative and some commentaries were mostly highly critical on the negative side and in fact, hostile to Governor Obi’s activities.

But since I was planning to travel to Nigeria, I decided to see for myself and make my independent judgment. I decided to follow the admonition of former President Ronald Reagan of “trust but verify”. As former Governor Chukwuemeka Ezeife would say “eye-mark, not ear-mark”. So on the 13th day of April, 2008, I traveled to Nigeria by direct flight thanks to Delta Airlines. Next day, which was the 14th of April, I arrived early in the morning. Despite entreaties by my relatives in Lagos to come and stay with them for a few days before going down eastwards, as I couldn’t wait to access situation on the ground, I headed immediately to Enugu via Arik Airline but because of delays, I arrived Enugu airport by night and had to pass the night at Enugu. The following day, I left for my hometown, Nri, passing through Awka. As I was entering the state capital, I had the amazing feeling that good tidings were in the offing. My mission started right there. From the permanent site of my alma mater, Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, all the way through the government house, Aroma Junction, Amawbia junction and straight to my hometown, I beheld development in my state!

I have lived in Anambra state for the most part of my adult life, and have lived in Awka for almost 10 years, and visit Nigeria at least every 2 years, so when I see changes in places I know very well, I will notice them immediately. So I know what I am talking about. I write passionately about my beloved state and my whole hobby of writing is mostly channeled to its development. I have seen with my whole eyes that all the ranting about no development or progress in Anambra state under Governor Obi was totally false. Anyone telling you that Anambra state is still groping in the dark and that there is no appreciable progress in the state, that person is either being mischievous, malicious, misinformed, chewing the cord of foolishness, ignorant or totally a bare-faced liar! Yes, a bold-faced and a wicked liar. All the people spreading false rumors against the present administration do not mean well for the state. Some of them stay far away and never visit, neither do they border to ask people on the ground what was going on before rushing to reports falsehood to mislead the unsuspecting Anambrarians scattered all over the globe. Some of them have personal scores to settle with the governor, but should separate personal grudges from objective analysis of what is going on.

It is totally disgusting to see people always trying to thwart whatever good things Governor Obi is doing. In my opinion, if one has nothing good to say about the sterling activities of a governor whom he happens to hold grudges against, why not ignore him? Why would some people go to the extent of raining abuses and distorting the truths just to score political points? As our saying goes, you can only tell a blind man that there is no oil in the soup, but you cannot tell him that there is no salt. He can find out for himself. It is beyond comprehension why people choose to do this. As the saying goes again, you cannot defeat your detractors, but you can get stronger for their sake.

Some Nigerian Newspapers are not without blame for this misinformation. Most of the times, news coming out from Anambra is always negative. It is always about crisis journalism: about imminent break-down of law and order in the state, imminent impeachment of the governor, face-off between Governor Obi and his Deputy, Dame Etiaba; about NARTO crisis, PDP crisis, NURTW crisis, MASSOB, Aguleri-Umuleri massacre, Agulu-Nanka gully erosion menace, Chieftaincy tussles, Imo-Awka riots, Awka people/government face-off, the list goes on and on. While some of the afore-mentioned are or were genuine issues, but some press people fan the embers of those face-offs; some amplify them to fit the pre-conceived stereotypes and fears about some long forgotten crisis. Just last Sunday, 25th May 2008, few days before I left Nigeria, one of the leading newspapers published the assessment of 36 governors of the federation and rated them on the basis of their performance. They were rated on the scale of “Above Average”, “Average” “Below Average” etc. Curiously, Governor Obi face was neither on the newspaper nor was he rated among his peers so that we know what their opinions were about what was going on in our state. That is what I mean when I say that they are more concerned about crisis than development in the state. Constructive criticism is the way to go if there job of informing, educating and entertaining the public is to be achieved.

But does anyone blame the press who are mostly not from our state. In igbo we say “onye kpoo oba ya mkpokolo, agbata obi ewere ya kpoo ahihia-if you call you plate “junk” neighbors will use it to carry trash. Also we say that “onweghi onye ga-asi na ofe nne ya tere ajoka-no one says that her mother’s soup is rubbish. We are the ones that rubbish our own. How do we blame the neighbors? If you do not lick you mouth as they say, doesn’t harmattan lick it for you?

I think that this present administration is the best thing to happen to Igbo land since Michael Iheonukara Okpara. Yes you can take it to the bank. The Anambra Integrated Development Strategy introduced by the government to develop all sectors at the same time, I dare say is working.

I stayed in Nigeria for a whole 6 weeks and 5 of those weeks were in Anambra state. I toured many towns and villages to verify for myself what was going on. I talked to a lot of people, civil servants, traders, market women, peasants, elites, laborers, bus drivers, conductors, “okada riders”,

etc, and the responses I got were amazing. On the first church service I attended, and during the “Prayer of the Faithful”, a whole 5 minutes of prayer was devoted to asking God to guide and protect the governor as he continues to provide the dividends of democracy to the people of the state. Everywhere I went, I could feel the excitement, pride and confidence that the people exude when they talked about the government. Most discussions I had with people, I always zero them down to what was going on with the government. The responses at a time could be anticipated and came out like choruses. I was around during the time of the Budget tussle between the House and the executive. You can imagine what the response was when I asked about the House of Assembly and the 2008 Budget wahala. You will immediately see the countenance of the person changed. Some speak very passionately about how misguided they were to withhold the activities of the government. Some went to the extent of cursing the House members and wishing that now was the time of the prophets of old: “those bastards would have been dead by now”. There was a time I interjected when someone was talking evil against the 21 House Members. I floated the idea to him that the Honorable Members were doing their oversight jobs as representatives of the people. He looked at me suspiciously and stated: “Are you sure that you are not Andy’s (Uba) agent? We are the people that they are representing and we told them to pass the budget so that the governor will continue with the marvelous job he is doing”

A relative of mine who is university student I talked to used a single word to summarize her impression: “miracle”. She told me that it is only a miracle and that God is using Governor Obi to touch His people. She however went comical by saying that the only thing she didn’t like about him is that he speaks like a girl and joked that they nicknamed him “Adaobi”.

I felt very proud as an Anambrarian when I was moving around from place to place. I started with the judiciary which was my natural to me. I visited the Chief Judge’s house and the Judges’ Quarters built at Awka, the Ministry of Justice Building and the Judges’ Quarters both at Onitsha. I also visited the Phase I of the State Secretariat Complex which has been already completed and the Phase II nearing completion, they are beauties to behold. The Government House that was burnt down in 2004 by the haters of former Governor Chris Ngige, has been rebuilt by the present administration. A new Governor’s Lodge was built at Onitsha and another one at Amawbia.

On the side of health sector, the present administration has performed wonderfully well. The Onitsha General Hospital received a big boost from the present administration and necessitated accreditation by the medical Board, an accreditation that was lost a long time ago. Cardiac/Kidney Dialysis center, X-Ray Laboratory, Maternity Complex, Heart Center, Resident Doctors’ Quarters were erected at the Onitsha General Hospital. Amaku-Awka General Hospital is getting the same face-lift in anticipation of accreditation by the Medical Board next month. You need to go and check out the hospital now. If you know that hospital before and see what has become of it now, you will see what I mean. That hospital use to be overgrown with weeds and a haven for snakes; a mere window dressing of a clinic but it’s now a beauty to behold. It was shameful that prior to this administration, Anambra had no accredited general hospital where aspiring doctors could go for their internship, but now Onitsha got it and Awka is on the brink of getting it, same thing will happen in Ekwulobia

and Umueri General Hospital. Now the Onitsha General Hospital is training of doctors in housemanship and has started to attract patients from all over the east. School of Nursing/Midwifery Nkpor is not left out in the resurgence of medical facilities in the state, so is the School of Health technology, Obosi. I saw Rapid Response Ambulances and Fire Trucks that have never been sighted in the state ever since the state’s creation donated by the state government.

On education, many secondary schools I visited were supplied with computers, laboratories were being equipped. Also generators were seen in some schools donated by the government. All girls’ secondary schools in Awka area that I visited were already enjoying boreholes constructed by the present administration, so are with the boys’ schools. On inquiries, I learnt that all girls’ schools were already provided with water bore-holes and that most boys’ schools are currently being provided with same as girls are more vulnerable than girls. Before now, girls used to fetch water in streams and private homes running the risk of being raped by unscrupulous individuals.

I was not able to visit the Anambra State University, Uli and Igbariam campuses, but my relatives that are students of the university spoke glowingly about the massive infrastructural development in the school.

On road construction, you will see that there are lots of roads already constructed and some undergoing construction in the state. Awka, the state capital roads were called “the state carpenter roads” because the roads were not dualized. I have never seen a state capital with a single-lane road network, with no street lights, but that is changing now. Zik’s Avenue from the “Uzu Awka” junction down to the old St. Patrick’s Cathedral down to the NEPA office Awka has been dualized with street lights coming. However, Eke Awka market all the way down to the “Ukwu Oji” and Amawbia Prison, the road is still in bad shape. Asked about the slow pace of the road, the construction workers I spoke with blamed the human traffic and rainy season for the poor state of the road especially at Eke Awka. That market should be moved to another location and those traders blocking the roads should be made to move their stalls otherwise traffic will continue to be an impediment. While I was driving in one of my fact-finding at Arthur Eze Road, my vehicle was dented by a lorry that was driving on a wrong side of the road as I was trying to avoid knocking down a barrow boy. All I got to repair my vehicle from the barrow boy and the lorry driver was ‘ogami sorry o”.

Many roads in the state that I was opportune to visit are delightful to behold. Amansea/Ebenebe/Ugbenu/Ugbene/Awba-Ofemili road spanning about 35 kilometers that was last constructed in 1972 is now fully motorable. These named communities are part of what is called the “food baskets” of the state.

Also Isiagu/Nibo/Nise/Enugwu-Ukwu ring-road has been fully constructed, so is Nibo/Umuawulu/Awgbu/Amaokpala/Oko roads; Agulu-Ezechukwu/Ogboji-Akpu/Ajali roads.

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