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Despite Odds , Anambra Glides On.

Good governance is a catch phrase just as ‘vision’ is a buzz word among people who discuss government. Yet not many will be able to explain what they mean or how they are achieved in a democracy.

Many assume that once yesterday is noted and today well understood, tomorrow could be foreseen. But it takes more than foresight to envision and lead followers towards the frontiers envisioned.
Even vision is not enough because that alone neither takes a land to the Promised Land nor works and tills the land for the dreamed harvest.

So dreams do not suffice, similarly, skills in the command-and-control art of flock leadership would only do a bit.

Therefore, it takes all, and more. Hence, when Gov. Willie Obiano of Anambra State was honoured with a Good Governance Award by the Public Policy Research and Analysis Centre (PPRAC) at the Zik Prize 2015 held last Sunday night in the Civic Centre, Ozumba Mbadiwe Way, Victoria Island, Lagos, a vital question on the lips of those who know the weight of the expression was: How did it come to be so in Anambra State?

The same question was in the mind of a collective of senior journalists, mostly editors of national dailies, who over lunch, quizzed the governor at Four Point by Sheraton, Victoria Island on Monday.
The gathering of over 30 press men and publishers wanted to know how Dr. Obiano arrived at the fold of the most illustrious in the current class of state governors. They sought his Moses rod and his Midas touch.

They equally wanted to know how he managed not only to remain afloat and row amid the sharks, ice bergs and ship wrecks that have come to characterise the murky political waters in Anambra but also come out clean.

More so, they wanted  to know why in the current era of anomy, anxiety and angst across country, Anambra State appears on a waltz with it’s financial matters, luring investors, engaging in vast constructions, opening up rural arears, sorting out vexed communal clashes without noise, and running a team of close-knit focused people. They were very eager to know the magic behind Obiano’s regular payment of workers’ salaries, “as at when due”, and he even gets to increase his workers’ salary, whereas over 34 other states (of Nigeria’s 36) can neither pay their staff nor attempt to embark on infrastructural development.

The questions and comments came in a deluge. Much like an avalanche hill to a commune on the foot of a valley, the veteran journalists, most of whom are either bald by age or grey haired, hauled their points with gusto.

When the governor spoke, he came across like someone who knew exactly what the newsmen wanted – facts, capsular examples and crisp but apt references.

Like a narrative presented in the inverted pyramid format, Chief Obiano began his account with a short descriptive punch line that captured his rare stride as an envisioner with the trait of innovative leadership.

“I am like a mad man”, he began. “you know that you can be sitting with a mad man but what he is seeing, you cannot see it.
So, you could be laughing at him but he is the one who should be laughing at you or pitying you because you cannot see what he has visualised.

“So, as I sit here with you, my mind is somewhere visualising some other frontiers of opportunity that will make things better today and tomorrow for ndi Anambra…”
As he progressed in his comments, his confidence that “Anambra has got it figured out” spread through the conference room to the extent that at some point, praises, calls of his monika, ‘Akpokuedike’ rang out of the audience. At some time, a lone chuckle among the listeners spread to the vast audience in laughter. Occasionally, there was applause.

Explaining, he said that his four pillars especially, and the 12 Enablers, have formed the bedrock of his administrations drive. On the Pillar, Trade and Commerce, for instance, he said that the goal was to make Anambra the first choice for any investor who comes into Nigeria with a portfolio.

“I want the investors to think first of coming to Anambra State before he or she thinks of any other places.”
Towards this, the state set up such agencies as Anambra State Investment Promotion Protection Agency (ANSIPPA), to not only scout for and bring in investment into the state, but to ensure that the host communities are protected.

According to the governor, while his administration is making frantic effort to drastically ease the process of doing business in the state, it is also ensuring that host communities of the new industries, farms, services that come in via the policy derive at least five per cent dividend in perpetuity from the lands they donate.

Similarly, the people of the ruralities are trained and mobilised to be able to work and earn their daily breads in the new firms.

In agriculture, a similar approach is used. Hence, natives now work in the industrial farms that are springing up in various parts of the state. In that sector too, support service firms and skills are emerging to feed the industries and members of the communities are enjoying opportunities of gainful employment that never existed hitherto. Beyond jobs, in markets within and outside there is now Anambra Rice on sale. Anambra vegetables is now selling beyond the continent. The governor said that it is his dream that some day, soon people will be eating dairy products from the state’s farms. And they will be “okuko Igbo, efi Igbo, ewu Igbo, all home-bred,” he said

Same innovative approach is being used to rejuvenate such areas as education, security, and entire economic sectors of the state. The helmsmen of the press were awed to learn that Anambra State was neither owing anybody nor borrowing from any quarters to finance her projects and pay her wages.
“As a banker,” the governor said “I know that taking loans are not bad. In fact, businesses use loans to grow. But you need to invest your loan in a productive venture that would yield the profits from which you refund the loan you took. So, taking a loan is not bad in itself.

What is silly, however, is to take a loan to pay salaries. That, to me, is funny. Anambra would not do such.”

He further explained the strategy that steers Anambra off the vageries of the current hard times across country.
“What I did when I came in and saw how things were going was to fall back on my experience in accounting and as a banker. What every accountant does when things become difficult and cash flow is low (that is when money is no longer coming as it used to) is to cut down on spending and reduce the running cost. That is what I did. So, we adopted the approach of doing more with less.” And this is working.”

According to him, focus on the job at hand and total commitment to the mandate Anambra people gave him has worked the magic. Hence, he finds no need to get distracted by darts being thrown at him by paid or self – misled commentators, most of whom hide in faceless addresses online. The governor established his belief that good work and good governance are clear paths to people’s heart.

He equally stated his commitment to the youth as the handle to the future. “In  Anambra, we have space for the employment of every youth in the agriculture sector.”
He stated his belief that any leader would either succeed or fail through the benchmark of what he achieved in the transformation of the lives of the young ones.

Deputy Governor, Nkem Okeke, who was in attendance, further, established the subtle human relations skills behind the current success in Anambra State. Dr. Okeke noted that despite challenges, the governor and his team realised that notwithstanding individual strengths and weaknesses, tapping of their best qualities help to achieve a bigger vision for the state. Such dexterity in utilising smart diplomacy is what made Gov. Obiano to quietly achieve the removal of Boko Haram detainees once lodged in Aguata Prison amid protestations across Igbo land without banging heads with the federal government.

A similar   sagacity in negotiation and astuteness in plucking good fruits from sour deals without veering to brinkmanship is evident in how the state sorts out the issue of herdsmen versus host community saga.

“Over a year before this Fulani herdsman thing became a big issue across country, I foresaw it and set up a committee made of traditional rulers of host communities, the leaders of the Fulani herdsmen, the Miyetti Allah, and we resolved on rules of engagement and how to pay for whatever damage anyone incurs.”

The result is that Anambra is spared the throes of the crises that is now spreading across country. By the time the lunch meeting veered into evening and the publishers and editors were ready to leave, it was obvious to all that Anambra has got in Obiano, a leader who like the erstwhile United Kingdom Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, would urge, “can think at a third level” and act strategically with candour and sanity, amid the madness of partisan politics.

Former national Chairman of All Progressive Grand Alliance, APGA, Sir Victor Umeh, who attended the interactive session, described Obiano as a revolutionary leader and “ the only one in Anambra’s history, who is sincerely APGA.” That unwavering party loyalty is one of the unsung bastions of social support for his government

Written By Chuka Nnabuife

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