By James Eze
I would not be speaking too soon if I said that there are many people to whom Governor Willie Obiano represents the true picture of what Nigeria needs in a leader; people who see in him the colour of the future. And the number is increasing as I write this.
So far, everything that has happened these past two months of his second term in office points us to this conclusion. For instance, Obiano’s second term inauguration stands out in all we have seen and heard about the swearing in of governors. It drew a pan-Nigerian crowd with revered traditional rulers from Nigeria’s dominant cultural blocks in full attendance. It made such a spectacle to see turbaned heads making their way to the crowd at the ceremony to complete a circle of representation that already had the Ooni of Ife in the audience. The scene evoked memories of the Bible narrative of pilgrims following a star to Bethlehem. Only that this time, the destination was Awka.
Indeed, no one at the Alex Ekwueme Square venue of the inauguration could have missed the symbolism of the day. The solemn guard of honour mounted by the Nigerian Police after the oath of office compared quite favourably to what happens in presidential inaugurations. Nothing of this nature with all its political significations has ever happened in all of South East Nigeria in living memory. It brought the full weight of what it means to occupy an executive political office, home to the people. And through it all, governor Obiano looked as though he was born into the ceremony. Resplendent in a sparkling white robe with a red cap and long beads encircling his neck, Obiano looked like the Great Zik of Africa come back to life. And even that carried a load of meaning.
Happily, away from his memorable inauguration, Obiano seemed to have drawn strength from the enthusiastic love showered on him by the people. He hit the ground running and in a display of readiness that has often eluded us in these parts, announced his principal officers less than 24 hours after his inauguration. He named his cabinet two days later and quickly moved his new team into a strategic retreat. The retreat was something of a war room where wise strategists and eggheads like Prof Chukwuma Soludo, Prof Osita Ogbu, Prof Solo Chukwulobelu, Mr Macaulay Atasie and finance wonk, Bismark Rewane, dilated Nigeria and global economies and conducted a scenario planning for the next four years. It was the same way that Obiano had started four years earlier; the same tactical visioning that had positioned Anambra comfortably enough to increase salaries and undertake huge projects while other states shrank from the full weight of the recent economic recession. It was the same war game that gave rise to battle cries like ‘doing more with less,’ which helped Obiano and his team to tighten the screws and prevent waste. It is one of the global best practices that have created oases of excellence in the private sector. It will work yet again for Anambra under Obiano!
But long before the strategic retreat though, Governor Obiano had assembled some of Nigeria’s most vibrant minds to a Business Roundtable in the Governor’s Lodge, Amawbia. This event which took place on the eve of his inauguration has started yielding fruits as it was from it that the idea of setting up the Anambra State Creative Economy Agency was hatched. This agency seeks to harness all the creative impulses of Ndi Anambra in diverse areas and give each spark of genius a chance to flower from an identifiable incubator. It may well be the trigger the state needs to unlock the huge reservoir of talent in the Anambra youths. With highly respected new media entrepreneurs like Obi Asika (Dragon Africa) and Kene Nkparu (FilmHouse) and Nicholas Okoye (Anabel) on the board of the Agency, there may be no end to the good news from Anambra yet. Not while Obiano holds sway.
There is also something hopeful about Governor Obiano’s mature and respectable handling of the disengagement of former members of his team who could not make it back to his current cabinet. Quite unlike the all-too-familiar bitter parting of ways between political appointees and their bosses, Ndi Anambra witnessed a dignified exit of former cabinet members who had served their state with merit. Obiano scored huge marks with that civilised gesture which saw him decorating the erstwhile commissioners and special advisers with medals of honour and the state’s crest to cement the appreciation of their service to their home State.
Speaking just before the outgoing cabinet members were honoured, Governor Obiano had explained that ‘these ladies and gentlemen that I am about to honour today distinguished themselves in their service to Anambra State and have merited the state’s honour. So, I will decorate them with medals so that they can be proud that they served their state.’ It was a solemn ceremony that symbolized a departure from acrimonious disengagement that has always been the lot of the Nigerian public sector. Predictably, it was well reciprocated by the exiting team members. Speaking on behalf of his erstwhile colleagues, Prince Chinedu Emeka, former commissioner for mineral resources, science and technology intoned, ‘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.’ Little else needs to be added to this.
Nevertheless, the real hope for Ndi Anambra is that just before he took a brief rest, Obiano had shown a remarkable appetite for work that many say is not usually associated with governors in their second term. He swiftly rolled out 40 trucks to various Security Agencies in the state to ensure that Anambra continues to pin down its enviable position as Nigeria’s safest state. He set his sights on the completion of 40 roads before the rains begin to chase construction worker out of sight. He personally supervised the placing of beams on the Umueje Bridge and ordered the decongestion of roads and thoroughfares in the cities, thereby wiping out the menace of street trading. He also revealed his plans to tap the huge tourism potentials of Anambra State that his predecessors had all ignored.
And so, in a handful of weeks of his second term in office, Governor Willie Obiano has shown all the great signs that made English polemicist, John Milton declare that ‘morning shows the day.’
By James Eze