It could have been just another morning at the Anambra Government House in Awka. A coterie of Lagos-based newspaper editors filtered through a mass of habitués and were eventually ushered into the warm reception by the Fedora hat-sporting Anambra State Governor Willie Obiano, who occupied a seat at the head of a longish table in the dining room.
The hoped-for interview session with the state chief executive followed closely on the heels of a quickly concluded buffet breakfast. The journalists, now huddled around the longish table, were ready to engage the governor, who had clocked his first 100 days in office the previous day, Tuesday, June 25. This Wednesday morning’s meeting was in the spirit of that landmark event and preceded his next appointment at the Women Development Centre in Awka.
Creating an enabling environment for development
That the governor had tackled some the state’s urgent challenges headlong was evident from the recent efforts to wrest the state from the stranglehold of armed robbers, drug barons, extortionists and kidnappers, among others. The hitherto notorious Upper Iweka part of Onitsha has been rendered much safer, thanks to the recent demolishing of the unsightly motor parks and the consequent flushing out of the miscreants who found a safe haven in them.
Attesting to the state’s improved security situation, the award-winning author Chimamanda Ngozi Adicie, in her address later that Wednesday at the Women Development Centre, said: “Most of us know how, for a long time, Onitsha has been a security nightmare. If you are travelling, you do NOT want to be in Upper Iweka after 6 pm because of the fear of armed robbers. But today, because of our new governor’s initiative, people in Onitsha no longer live in fear. True freedom is to be able to live without fear. A relative told me that you can drop your mobile phone on the ground in Upper Iweka and come back hours later and still see it there, which was NOT the case in the past. And which is one of the best ways to measure leadership – by the testimony of the ordinary people. My sincere hope is that, under the leadership of Governor Obiano, Anambra state will continue its journey of progress with strides that are wide and firm and sure.”
Upper Iweka has also shed its unflattering reputation as one of the most traffic-congested areas in the state. Gone is anarchy that welcomes travellers from the other side of the River Niger into the commercial city.
A joint security outfit – known as Operation Kpochapu – was thoughtfully put together by the governor for crime-fighting and prevention. This outfit was credited with the recent bold demolishing of houses known to have been owned by kidnappers in towns like Aguleri, Ihiala and Ogidi. In the state’s close-knit communities, quick ill-gotten wealth would be easily noticed. It is therefore easy to understand how the state security outfit could quickly hunt down armed robbers and illicit drug dealers.
During Governor Obiano’s first 100 days, this “necessary foundation for growth” has been laid for the state’s development. “In the area of security, we have reclaimed our cities and communities from kidnappers and armed robbers,” he revealed. “We have arrested 177 kidnappers out of which 97 are currently undergoing prosecution. We have destroyed their warehouses where they keep their victims and cut off their weapons supply lines and now, my beloved Ndi Anambra can sleep with both eyes closed.”
The governor has not only gone after the criminal elements in the state. He has also agreed with the Inspector General of Police to reassign most of the divisional police officers (DPOs) in the state, who have been tainted by their complicity with the outlaws.
That Governor Obiano is intent on making the state the cleanest in the federation is bolstered by his warning that he would penalise those caught flouting the environmental laws. His administration has thus far successfully tackled both domestic and industrial waste disposal.
Focus has remained his administration’s totem word. “In a football game, what you look at is the ball,” he told his guests. For his administration, the focus is the programme. Governor Obiano hopes to institutionalise some of the achievements of his predecessor, Peter Obi.
To this end, his administration has evolved what it calls the Four Pillars of Development. “The Four Pillars are the vehicle through which accelerated development will be delivered to Ndi Anambra.”
These pillars – namely, Agriculture, Industrialisation, Trade and Commerce as well as Oil and Gas– are in turn supported by what the governor calls “the Enablers”. These include security, education, health, the environment, social infrastructure, housing and urban development, tourism, youth and sports development, security and social welfare and administration and local government, among others.
In Agriculture, a revolution of sorts aimed at increasing food sufficiency and creating massive employment has been flagged off. For instance, estimated 80,000 metric tons of rice are currently being produced in the state, which consumed 320,000 metric tons. “In partnership with the Coscharis Group, we have commissioned the Coched Farms Project to produce 120,000 metric tons of rice per annum and generate 1000 jobs for our youths,” the governor revealed.
The Anaku-based farm project, which it is hoped would gulp N200 million, hopes to reduce the shortfall between the consumption and production rates. It also buoys the state government’s vision to become a net exporter of rice in two years.
Governor Obiano’s administration has lunged into a comprehensive mechanised agriculture, whose chain reaction, he hopes, would lead to the creation of more industries. To this end, a blueprint for this agricultural revolution focussed on cassava, corn and rice production, to be spearheaded by Professor Omaliko, has been mapped out. Farming co-operatives are also expected to support the production of these key crops.
The administration hopes through creating fish farms in all the local government areas of the state to make Anambra a net exporter of fish.
The construction of 14 new roads (totalling up to 167.494 kilometres) have been flagged off in the state. “We have also commenced the construction of three flyovers in Awka and one bridge that leads to the oilfields of Aguleri,” the governor said.
Also, a 10-year Industrial Development Plan has been rolled out by the administration to bolster the trade and commerce sector. The administration has commenced the development of new markets in Ogbunike, Oba, Awka and Umunze. It is expected that the proceeds from agriculture and oil and gas would find outlets through this sector.
Oil and Gas
For obvious reasons, the state wants to be numbered among Nigeria’s oil producing states. This would make it the 10th in the club. It would earn it the much-coveted place among the recipients of the Niger Delta Development Commission largesse. Improving the state’s revenue base would go a long way in giving the administration’s programme a terrific shot in the arm.
Mindful of this, the state government plans to support Orient Petroleum’s 60 barrels per day refinery, which on completion it is hoped would give foreign airlines the reason to stop over in Anambra State for the refuelling of their aircrafts.
Education and Health
In sectors like education and health, the government adopts similar three-pronged approaches. In education, the focus is on the development of infrastructure, students and teachers. The governor promised the upward review of the latter’s welfare packages as soon as the state’s revenue base improves. “ We have upwardly reviewed the staff salaries of Nwafor Orizu College of Education, Nsugbe and approved the payment of N10m to ensure the completion of the NUT House in Awka,” he disclosed in his speech later that day.
Similarly, in the health sector, the government is interested in the improvement of the infrastructure as well as the welfare of patients and healthcare professionals like doctors and nurses. Currently, there are 87 government doctors, most of whom would probably shun posting to remote rural communities. “ We have performed a number of highly successful free surgeries in Umueri General Hospital and established a Maternal and Child Health clinic in Nanka,” he told a gathering of Anambra citizens in the Women Development Centre Hall.
The state government also partners with missionary bodies to provide adequate infrastructures in the health sector. This is in keeping with the administration’s 4Cs concept, which comprises of continuing, completing, commissioning and commencing projects. So far, the frontline missionary hospitals at Adazi-Nnukwu, Ogidi, Ihiala, Onitsha, and Amichi are in stages of completion. Similar methods are also being in education and other core MDG interest sectors.
The state government also has plans to build a “befitting capital city”. Besides the flagging off the construction of three flyovers and a three-Arms Zone in Awka, the administration has “set up the new Awka Capital Territory Development Board with a view to transforming Awka into a super-modern city that we shall all be proud of.”
Governor Obiano revealed that necessary steps have been taken to develop the historic Ogbunike Cave into a world-class tourist destination. Also included in the state government’s development vision are the Owelle-Ezukala Water Falls and the Agulu Lake Tourist Resort.
A appointed new managing director/CEOs has been appointed for the Anambra Broadcasting Service ABS and for the state’s National Light newspaper. “In youths development, we have commenced a comprehensive collection of data on Anambra youths with a view to placing them in gainful employment.”
The governor’s road roadmap to the future of Anambra State is anchored on a vision, which hopes to make the state the first “Choice Investment Destination and a hub for industrialisation and commercial activities” and a mission that hopes “to create a socially stable, business friendly environment that will attract both indigenes and foreigners to seek wealth creating opportunities in Anambra State.”
The governor hopes the roadmap will be sustained by the Spirit of Anambra, which he said, “is the inherent kinetic energy behind the numerous accomplishments of our people in education, commerce and industry, sports, literature & the arts, politics and science and other fields of human endeavour. It is the light we bear to every corner of the world in pursuit of happiness and our readiness to absorb or be absorbed into diverse cultures of the world. The Spirit of Anambra is a high-achieving spirit that finds motivation in itself and fulfilment in the achievement of others.
“It is the spirit of Egbe belu, ugo belu!”
There have in addition been deliberations with the leadership of the Anambra State House of Assembly “for the immediate passage of a parliamentary instrument that will facilitate the adoption of the new symbols of the socio-cultural identity of Anambra State.
“They include a new emblem, a new anthem and a new flag as well as distinctive colours that will be synonymous with Anambra State.”
PICS: Governor waving on arrival for 1st 100days event on his left is Chief Tony Onyima Hon Comm for Information.jpg and Obianos and Chimamanda.