By Roland Odegbo
Since he emerged from the confines of retirement to assume leadership at the helm, Governor Willie Obiano has been a subject of public discourse. This is not unexpected, given the peculiar nature of politics in Anambra state. Elsewhere, perhaps, the passion of discourse would not be as intense. But because Anambra has a long history of fractious politics not much in terms of conservative reaction to issues is expected. Consequently, profiling of public figures, often hastily done, becomes a constant feature of her politics.
I have on occasion run myself ragged, trying to understand why politics in the state is almost always intractable. Each time I drew a blank. Nonetheless, the problem appears to be the individualism of the Igbo man, buoyed up by the I- can-do-it-spirit of the Anambra person. There is also the issue of godfathers who insist on managing the strings where every government in the state must dance a puppet. Regrettably, the Anambra godfather thinks of performance only as it affects his interest. He is not interested in how well the state is run.
Whether the government is responsive to the needs of the people whose mandate it holds in trust or it has become a curse on the people? All of these, it appears, form the belt that stretches politics in the state beyond the limit of decency and excoriates governments accordingly.
It is important for critics as well as naysayers to understand that running a government is no cinch at all. Since very few bear the responsibility of elected office and the burden thereof, those who do not should hasten slowly to criticize.
This way the chances of derailing the process of governance and pitching the state into a complex web of political infighting would be minimized. Criticism is important when done constructively. No government in history was known to have succeeded amidst spiteful criticism.
Given the performance of the Obiano government and the change it has brought to the state, it is expected that it should be spared the nuisance of rabid criticism. Not that those before it were luckier. Far from it. But unlike the previous governments, criticism of the Obiano government appears to come from its support base. It may be fair to assume that attacks on the government are stoked by two things. One is the simple politics of the Omambala man. Two, and perhaps the worse, is the comportment of some of them serving in government. I have watched as the people continue to take for granted the government they should nurture well to the admiration of all.
It can be said with some confidence that no government has impacted more positively on the lives of ndi Anambra than Obiano’s, at least in the context of time and space. Within three months of being, the government was able to reorganize and strengthen security apparatus in such a way that the rising wave of criminality in the state was stemmed.
Today, Anambra is among the safest states in Nigeria. The uptick in her reputation as an unsafe state has gradually eased off, giving rise to prodigious investment in virtually all the sectors of the economy namely agriculture, trade and commerce, oil and gas, health, housing, entertainment etc. Investors who had earlier closed shop as a result of insecurity and sundry distractions have all returned. Within a year and half of the administration, the investment profile of the state now hovers in the region of $2.4 billion/ $2.5 billion.
The story is no less palatable in other areas. The revenue base of the state has, within the period, improved from N500 million to N1.3 billion with a promise to do better in the intervening years. This has given impetus to the development of human capital. Workers are being trained and retrained even as their salaries were handsomely increased early in the year. It bears telling the story that Anambra workers are among the few who still receive their salaries in the face of stifling economic situation in the country.
The administration also has reach. Evidence of this could be gleaned from the manner in which the First Lady of the state, Chief Mrs. Ebelechukwu Obiano has touched the lives of the common man. Before now it was fashionable for First Ladies to take interest only in widows. But Mrs. Obiano has done this and more. Her Caring Family Enhancement Initiative (CAFÉ) has gone a step further. The dregs of society, among them the mentally challenged, the deformed, and the homeless, are being evacuated from the streets and rehabilitated at Nteje.
The number of souls saved from this uncommon effort is enormous. A good number of them have returned to their trade while others were engaged in sundry businesses, including various skill acquisition programs of the government. This prodigy of governance – never bettered in the history of the state – can only happen on account of the governor’s managerial acumen, honed over the years in the oil and banking industries. I sometimes read where the governor is accused of intemperance. The question is: how has this affected his performance? It is not in my place to defend this cheap allegation, but it appears the hospitality of the Omambala man is clearly mistaken. This accusation might have been designed to stoke, if unchecked, an ember of distrust between the government and the people.
But this may likely fail as ndi Anambra do not doubt their Governor, and will not indulge the peddlers of the negative stories with a hearing. It is hypocritical when the accuser, himself overly indulgent, wants to sit in judgment over another. Notwithstanding, it is unnecessary to continue to dissipate energy over such issues when there are tasks to be done.
The development of Anambra should be the collective responsibility of all and we must strive to make it better by supporting the government to continue in its good work. We should do better to do away with our inherent desire to criticize unfairly. Let us criticize less and support the effort of the government in transforming the state.
.Odegbo, Abogu II of Nteje, wrote from Nteje