By James Eze
Governor Willie Obiano has continued to shine the light on the dark paths to show how we can do right what we have been doing wrong in leadership. Since leadership is a solemn exercise in symbolisms, effective leadership consists of those little actions and words that can serve as primers to the people; showing how things should be, urging them towards a morally sound direction and building the right attitudes.
This was exactly what Governor Willie Obiano did when brought together all the commissioners and special advisers who worked with him in his first term but didn’t make the return journey to the second and gave them a memorable farewell. The former cabinet members turned up for their last Executive Council Meeting at the EXCO chambers and were decorated with a medal of honour and the Anambra crest. They were also given a certificate of merit and a cheque containing their severance package from the service of the state.
The event took place shortly before the new commissioners were sworn in. Through this subtly sequenced arrangement, Governor Obiano simply passed a symbolic message to his team; a message that would encourage the right attitude in them. He didn’t say much since the gesture carried all the words in one fell swoop. Obiano merely observed that the ex-commissioners and special advisers had distinguished themselves in their service to the state and had “merited the state’s honour. So, I will decorate them with medals so that they can be proud that they served their state.” But the implied message was clear. And the meaning was not lost on his new team.
Obiano’s fulsome appreciation of the efforts of his former team members stands him out as a leader who places a lot of value on little things. For once in a long time, we saw some former political appointees leaving office without feeling used and dumped or diminished in any conceivable way or as though they had lost out in a power game. Time and time again, it has been proven that effective leadership is not only determined by how well a leader handles the big issues but how nicely he smiles through a storm. So, sometimes, something as simple as remembering to call the carpenter down the road by his name or saying a mere ‘happy birthday’ to a domestic staff may just be enough. The validation of the humanity of people left out of the circle of power, wealth and influence is also an important act of leadership. The response that follows such actions is usually warm, sincere and straight from the heart.
It was pretty much the response Obiano received from his erstwhile cabinet members and the former Commissioner for Mineral Resources, Science and Technology, Prince Chinedu Emeka who spoke on behalf of his former colleagues made sure that his message was deeply felt. Speaking in a measured tone, he said ‘I am happy and proud that I was part of the team under your able leadership that worked and delivered 21/21. My pride knows no bounds. I will wear this medal and cherish it for the rest of my life. I have been in government before, so I have a point of reference to compare this administration. The people of Anambra State are proud of you. It has been an honour and privilege working with you.’
After his brief remarks, Prince Emeka and his former colleagues filed out of the chamber with their heads held high. They walked out of the hall with dignity and honour. But perhaps more important than that, they realized that whatever sacrifices they made to serve Anambra State were noted and appreciated by their beloved state and that their exit was not a verdict on their competence but a search for a better Anambra State.
I am not aware of what may have happened in other states but Governor Obiano has certainly shown a worthy example in the way that he handled the disengagement of his former team members without the usual bitterness and rancour but with dignity and honour. I think we should not lose sight of this.