Incumbent Anambra State governor, Willie Obiano has emerged his party, All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA’s) sole candidate ahead of the governorship election slated for November by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). In this interview with newsmen at the party national secretariat in Abuja, Governor Obiano justifies his aspiration for a fresh mandate.
HOW will you describe your party’s screening process ahead of its primary?
I have just passed through a very rigorous screening exercise in line with APGA constitution. The exercise was very thorough and I am happy that every step in APGA constitution is being followed to ensure that everything we are doing is consistent with the constitution which is the supreme thing that we are doing. The party is supreme and every party runs on constitution that is appropriately approved. So, I am very happy that it concludes one aspect of the process. What is left is the convention on the 15th and other meetings by the secretariat of the National Working Committee before we roll out the drums for the election.
I want to thank the chairman of the screening committee and all the members of the screening committee, the national chairman and the NWC members for the warm welcome that I have been accorded in my three days here. Of course, we are our brothers and sisters’ keepers and we want to make sure we continue to do so.
I am confident that after my election the subsequent elections will bring many more APGA governors from Zamfara, Nasarawa, Abia, Imo amongst many other places and APGA family will grow from strength to strength. So, once more I want to thank everybody for this great opportunity and I thank God for passing through a very rigorous process. God bless our great party.
We want you to react to what happened in Owerri, Imo state at the weekend where a faction of the APGA held a meeting to elect national officers.
I don’t have information on what you are telling me all I know is that there was nothing that happened in Owerri. If something had happened, the police and INEC would be present and I am aware that it didn’t happen and therefore nothing happened and that is the best I can tell you.
We want to know your plans for women in line with affirmative action to enhance their participation in your government?
If you look at my present cabinet, women constitute 27 per cent and I am coming up to 36 per cent. So, in the things we are doing, women are given priority. By the way, the N1.5 billion that we gave to farmers in Anambra State, women farmers got 60 per cent of the money. So we are paying attention to women generally and improving their health. We are trying to reduce the maternal rate in Anambra. How are we doing that under my administration is that we got accreditation for the school of nursing and graduated about 300 midwives and these 300 midwives will be sent to the primary health centres in the state.
Now, we are going to ask those old women in the villages who didn’t go to school but help in child delivery that we pay them what the government would have paid them so that they can refer them to the proper midwives so that those people can have good ante-natal. If we do that, you will see a very considerable reduction in the death rate of children and their mothers. So, we are doing a lot of things for women.
You have been in office almost three and half years and could you tell us the milestones that you have achieved and also the most challenging aspect of governance that your administration has had to face?
The last two years has been tough. Nigeria went into a recession and only four states could pay salaries and Anambra is one of them out of 36 states and we have consistently paid salaries, pension and gratuities in the state as and when due.
We are also working on other infrastructure and other things that are required in a recession. So, being able to navigate the challenges of a recession and keeping my state afloat very well was a key challenge and I had to bring to practise all my banking experience to keep the ship afloat.
Awka modern city is one of the cardinal projects you promised the people of the state and we haven’t seen much done in that aspect. How optimistic are you that you would be able to execute this in your second term?
I don’t know when last you came to Anambra State. You would have seen that Awka has transformed rapidly from a glorified village to a proper modern city. Are you aware of the three fly-overs? Are you aware of the street lighting at night that stretches all through the length and breadth of Awka? You are aware of the shops that are opened that brought Shoprite? Are you aware of the 24 hours filling station there? Are you aware of the night life that has come to stay in Awka? Are you aware of the massive security that has been there? More importantly, have you heard that someone has been kidnapped in Awka since I assumed office as governor?
We have been doing area mapping in the whole of Anambra and we have started with Awka. Area mapping is very useful when you want to do GPRS and GIS. GPRS is for direction that is why we are labeling the streets so that when you come into Anambra state all you need to ask anybody is about the street, you will be directed accordingly. You just key in where you are going to and the taxi will carry you to where you are going to and the GIS is very useful for land and erosion sight monitoring. And we are doing so much more because we have development authority headed by a renowned American architect who is a Nigerian in Anambra.
So, we are doing more, in the second term we are going to deal with the inner roads of Awka and we have a plan to do another linkage to address the weekend traffic jam. A lot of vehicles come into Anambra state during the weekends because of the night life, security and what have you and because of that we have plenty of vehicles on the road and sometimes you have some traffic jam here and there. So, we want to do some road intersection that will fly across one or two towns so that people will be able to get their destinations faster. So, we are working hard. We are doing an event centre that will sit 6,000 people which is going to be the best event centre in the South East. When you come in there you will think you are somewhere in Dubai. So, we are doing so much not only in Awka but in other cities in Anambra state.
We are currently modernising the roundabouts and that is what we want to do in the next one month and we are trying to retouch all the roundabouts so that we can put things that depict what those people from the areas are known for. Take for example, in an area like Aguleri we show bronze and fishes because that is what they are known for and that brings tourism into the state. By God’s grace we are going to win the election and that will enable us to actualise the vision we have for Anambra and that will make the state to be the first choice in investment destination for economic and commercial activities and the mission when we go to work is to create a socially stable and business environment where indigenes and non-indigenes can have the opportunity to create wealth. That’s our vision. If you check my mission and vision so far, you will see that substantially we have achieved that.
My dream is that when I finish my eight years as governor is that Anambra will be self-sufficient in their revenue sources and will not be dependent on Abuja. I have achieved that 65% already and in the coming years. I will be able to fully do that and that’s the only way to move the process; making everybody productive, getting people to generate economic activities and creating wealth. Apart from securing lives and property, that’s the core business of the governor.
How will you appraise the continuous voter registration by INEC in your state ahead of the election?
We have challenges yesterday in a few communities so it is too early for me to give you that answer but I get a daily report. We could ask for extension because Anambra is the state that is having its own election this year. So, we shouldn’t just be given one week. It will be too small, too short a time to be able to do anything meaningful. So, we are going to request for an extension, at least for one month . That will be good.