By Emeka Ozumba
Governor Willie Obiano’s belief in practical humanism and the dignity of man is evident in his usual refrain: an’alu olu an’ alu mmadu; implying that human comfort counts as much as work itself. His philosophical and ethical stance combines with demonstrable political will in his exercise of executive powers. This has undoubtedly endeared him to many beyond the confines of Anambra State. Since mounting the saddle as governor on 17th March 2014, Chief Obiano has excelled on many fronts, especially by fulfilling the fundamental obligation of the security of lives and property and the welfare of Ndi Anambra. He has embarked on a number of initiatives that genuinely portray him as a humane leader. One of such caring actions is the settlement of arrears of long abandoned gratuities and pensions of different categories of civil servants and staff of government parastatals. When governor Obiano lifted a nine year old burden off the shoulders of the staff of the State Water Corporation and 108 former Anambra Sanitation and Environment Protection Agency (ANSEPA) staff, by clearing outstanding arrears and allowances owed the two parastatals by previous administrations to the tune of N1,863,197,452.76k (approximately N1.92 billion) many thought it impossible. Again without prompting in 2015, Obiano felt that the salaries of workers could hardly take them home, and increased it across board by 15 per cent at a time when many states were looking for bailouts. In fact, the last three years of Obiano administration has seen many of such payoffs aimed at healing old wounds and sealing possible cracks and disenchantments that may stand in the way of his efforts towards building a new Anambra State.’ He has sustained this compassionate tradition by ensuring salaries and allowances are paid as at and when due, hence civil servants aptly named him ‘the Alert Governor,’ in reference to his promptness in payment of salaries.” Those who might still be in doubt about governor Obiano’s caring nature will have to contend with the staff of two state media agencies: Anambra Broadcasting Service (ABS) and the Anambra State Printing Corporation, publishers of National Light Newspapers, whose thirty years of accumulated debt of pension and gratuity worth about N700million have been sorted for payment beginning from June 2017. The old men and women from these media agencies, who daily defy the odds struggling to ascend the steep stairs of the State Ministry of Information’s wing of the Secretariat complex in Awka just to make their case, have now heaved sighs of relief having been spared the unfriendly climb. Briefing the Press on the latest development recently, the State Commissioner for Information and Communication Strategy, Ogbuefi Nnachetta, who worked hard to carry through the governor’s humane directive, said that the gesture was in line with Governor Obiano’s policy of catering for the welfare of the people and reducing their pains, especially in this time of economic recession. Ogbuefi Nnachetta regretted that National Light Newspapers and ABS had suffered severely without pension and gratuities since creation of the state. It is trite repeating the unsavoury experiences of these pensioners over the years. Alas! Many have died waiting for the payment, and their survivors have been subjected to unwarranted hardships in search of their predecessor’s benefits. Thankfully, Governor Obiano believes that a labourer is deserving of his wages and his record of caring speaks volumes: In July 2014 barely two months after he was sworn-in he disbursed N950million to clear backlog of pension arrears of Local Government Staff. He also recalled over 200 staff of the state radio who were wrongly dismissed by previous administration. The following year 2015, he bequeathed his salary for the upkeep of the mentally challenged inmates at a home in Nteje which is managed by the NGO, CAFÉ; granted scholarship to the surviving children of the Mubi-12 families from Adazi Nnukwu, and gave N1million to each of the 25 prisoners he granted amnesty after a post rehabilitation Skills training at Umueri, just to mention a few. Whereas some leaders concentrate on ‘politically correct projects’ that draw popular acclaim and political prestige than goodwill from the disempowered pensioners, Obiano has cast his lot with the people by ensuring that many families feel the impact of his governance. This is where Akpokuodike stands out with his humane disposition and exemplary political will.
Ozumba writes from Enugwu-Ukwu (firstname.lastname@example.org)