By James Eze
Among the Anambra Igbo, it is a common practice to assume a nickname. The name is usually chosen by the bearer to reflect his personal philosophy or his worldview, or his vision of society or his resolve to engage the world on his own terms. Considering that most people had no say in the names given them at birth by their parents, a nickname therefore presents a great chance to make amends and choose a name that one considers perfect for oneself. This practice is so much a part of the Igbo society that it found its way into Chinua Achebe’s 1958 classic; Things Fall Apart, which tragic hero, Okonkwo, is also known as Ebubedike!
However, there are many instances when some of the names are honorary titles conferred with high ceremonies and traditional observances. The easiest to remember are titles like Akpokuedike (Governor Obiano), Ohamadike (Chief Victor Umeh) and Ebubedike (Pete Edochie). These are titles chosen by different communities in appreciation of the contributions of these illustrious personages to the society. More often than not, most men have risen to represent the full essence of their names and titles. A good example is Governor Willie Obiano who is addressed as Akpokuedike. A lose translation within the context would be something like “when the warrior is summoned.” Almost every day, it becomes clearer why the people of Aguleri bestowed that title on him. This is because when we call upon a warrior, he answers. A warrior who fails to answer the distress call of his people is either in captivity or dead or a pretender. A warrior has to always prove himself at the moment of need.
In the past three years, Akpokuedike Aguleri has continued to prove himself to Ndi Anambra. When it seemed like no one could deliver them from the reign of terror and insecurity unleashed by criminals and brigands that had held sway for over 40-years, Akpokuedike appeared on the scene. He took on the enemies of the people and put them to flight. He lived out his name!
For a long time, Anambra State seemed just like a mini Nigeria – so much promise and so little to show in practical terms. It became clear that we needed a “strategic thinker” who would carry out a comprehensive profiling of the state and match its potentials with available opportunities. In came Akpokuedike with his Vision and Mission statements which are his conceptual definitions of the Anambra scenario and his Four Pillars of Development which is akin to his operational definition of it. And less than three years afterwards, Anambra became an important destination for investments and a promising postcard for destination marketing. Living out the description given to him by Chief Emeka Anyaoku as a strategic thinker, Obiano showed foresight in establishing the Anambra State Investment Promotion and Protection Agency (ANSIPPA) which made investing in the state seem like a walk in the park.
Obiano also showed that he has the capacity not only to see the big picture but to carve out a footpath to an island of dreams. He did exactly that when against natural expectations, he made agriculture one of the major pillars of his administration. With only 4,484 square kilometres of land, Obiano has turned Anambra into a pacesetter in agriculture. It is nothing short of greatness; a clear indication that as a leader, Willie Obiano is not content with following global best practices but would rather create one himself. To this moment, many observers are still surprised at how Anambra has suddenly become better known for agriculture than for buying and selling. That is what happens when a leader remembers the name he bears and makes a conscious effort to reflect it in his actions.
Similarly, Governor Obiano also proved that his moniker Akpokuedike is well deserved in the swift manner that he responds to emergences. His decision to add an ambulance to his convoy has proven to be a clear sign of his strategic thinking prowess as many lives have been saved by the speedy response of despatching the ambulance to accident victims and casualties in absolute distress. With an ultra-modern ambulance in his convoy, distress calls are responded to with the speed of sound. This has been copied by other governors across the nation. He has also been quick to respond to save-our-soul messages from the scenes of collapsed buildings, fire outbreaks and multiple accidents. Maybe that is what a leader does when he assumes the name Akpokuedike!
Obiano has also lived out his name in the profound manner he chose to respond to the loud clamour for a befitting capital for Anambra State. Three years ago, a visitor to the state could easily drive through Awka without knowing that he had gone past the capital of Anambra State. There were no landmarks, no monuments and no aesthetics. Awka looked like a benighted village struggling to shrug off its pastoral looks on its way to becoming a city. But Akpokuedike has answered the loud clamour for a befitting capital. Although there is still a lot of work to be done, it is obvious to everyone who knows where we are coming from that the journey has truly begun. No one can drive through Awka now without appreciating the impressive effort that is going on.
On the whole, it cannot be gainsaid that Akpokuedike has lived to the full weight of his name. He has proven that he does not only answer when he is called to handle some difficult tasks but that he often arrives at the point of need, prepared. This is the man Anambra needs at this moment in time!