Tuesday, 29 September 2015

How Obiano is re-branding Anambra

If rebranding is the process of giving something a new image, in order to make it more attractive or successful, then Governor Willie Obiano of Anambra State is truly rebranding the state. His actions have involved an extensive rebranding of the state. This is not about the construction of roads, attraction of billion dollars investments, revamping of the agric sector or the prompt payment of salaries and pensions.
 His government has done all these and much more than he has been given credit. My interests are not those traditional responsibilities which his government in so short a time, has been so focused to achieve. My focus is on the “much more”, which has retrieved the state from the sidewalk of pedestrian governance.
It began with his emergence in 2014. He had come into the governorship race with profound academic qualifications, unconsciously preserving the Anambra tradition of not leaving governance in the hands of people who have not been adequately stewed in the fundamentals of hybrid education or very well tested by corporate or technocratic parameters. The curriculum vitae of his predecessors make this clearer. Chukwuemeka Ezeife earned a Bachelor’s degree from the University College Ibadan and a Master’s and Doctorate from Harvard University and rose to become a permanent secretary. Chinwoke Mbadinaju obtained a BA in political science and a doctorate in government. He also gained a law degree and rose to become an Associate Professor and Editor of Times International Magazine.
The next in line is Chris Ngige, a medical doctor who earned his practice from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka and joined the civil service, where he retired as Deputy-Director in the Federal Ministry of Health. The immediate past governor, Chief Peter Obi, earned a BA in Philosophy from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka. He was the chairman of several companies including Next International, Guardian Express Mortgage Bank, Guardian Express Bank, Data Corp and Fidelity Bank.
This tradition came under attack in 2014 by career politicians, who campaigned to govern the state with secondary school certificates. Obiano’s emergence saved the situation and preserved the tradition of high standard. With Bachelors and Masters Degrees from the University of Lagos, Obiano launched out in quest of knowledge and self development. He underwent extensive professional trainings in Harvard and Stanford and also became a fellow and patron of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria (ICAN). This former Chief Internal Auditor of Texaco later became the Executive Director of Business Banking in Fidelity Bank. He began the rebranding of the state from the polls, where he emphatically halted the enthronement of mediocrity.
Before his election, the Anambra State Chapter of the association of Hoodlums, Assassins, Kidnappers and Armed Robbers (HAKA) had domineering presence in the state. They ruled in motor parks and garages and in the company of their foot soldiers, who masquerade as Okada riders, they unleashed terror and mayhem. The state was helpless and in dire need of someone with extra-ordinary execution courage. Obiano was sworn in at a time when the state had become the unofficial headquarters of kidnappers. He quickly reaffirmed that this is not who we are and not how we want our state to be remembered.  The governor rose well to the precarious situation. He banished touts, hoodlums and idlers from the motor parks and garages and in collaboration with the police made the entire state uninhabitable for criminal elements. Kidnappers have since relocated and with the ban of okada on the highways, peace has returned and the state has been reclaimed from marauders.
There are things that should not be but have come to be accepted as normal because of lack of initiative. For instance, the stretch of Enugu-Onitsha Express way, running from Arroma Junction in Awka to Amawbia Junction had become a highway of death. Scores of indigenes and non-indigenes, students, traders, civil servants, hawkers and many others, have died unsung on this highway because someone lacked initiative to take affirmative action. Obiano chose to do things differently. One of the different things he chose to do was to stop the unholy sacrifice of blood on this highway, with the courageous and unprecedented flag-off of 3 fly-overs at the same time across this deadly stretch of express road. When they are completed, the state would heave a deep sigh of relief because adequate care has been taken to protect innocent lives.
Governor Obiano really knows how to do things differently. In August, he turned up in Lagos as guest speaker at the Pan Atlantic University. He spoke on the topic, “Sustaining the Legacy of Growth and Development in Anambra State.” Today is not about what he said in his lecture but about the different strategies he is adopting to make the state attractive and successful. Though his lecture was widely acclaimed as outstanding, what is exceedingly gratifying is that, the state is now governed by a seasoned technocrat who mounts podiums to discuss the science of economic renaissance. This is unprecedented.
In a season, when many of his colleagues are crying for bail out and others very busy mortgaging the future of their states with different kinds of loans, Obiano surfaced on the floor of the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE), not to scout for loans but to engage the attention of quoted companies in the existing investment opportunities in the state. It is noteworthy that in his eighteen months administration, his government has already attracted $2.4bn investments. He continued this investment drive at the Stock Exchange where he exploited his private sector experience to factor the state into the immense capacity of the NSE to restructure the economy of the state and this is by no means pedestrian.
Even in matters of security, things are done differently now. The governor believes that the state will be better secured if its neighbours are also better secured. So, in the actualization of this empirical strategy, he convened a Regional Conference on security for the South East and Delta State. The high profile event which was moderated by the Inspector General of Police was attended by the governors of Delta, Enugu and Abia states while the Ebonyi state governor was represented. The security conference was a call for a regional response against the threat of insecurity because victory over crime in the region would not endure so long as a criminal driven out of one state could find shelter in a neighbouring state. The conference has already boosted momentum in the fight against crime in the region and Anambra has continued to enjoy peace and tranquility.
And just last week, during the Eid-El Kabir celebration, Governor Obiano notched up another first in his determined effort to continue to do things differently. For the first time in the history of the state, the governor hosted our Muslim brothers to a lavish banquet at the governor’s lodge in Amawbia. The event was so novel and unprecedented that the leader of the Muslim Community in the state Alhaji Sule Momoh said, “This is the first time since the creation of the state, that we have been honoured like this”.
Only 18 months into a possible 8 year rebranding, Ndi Anambra see the efforts of the governor as “a validation of their choice of a governor” and a reminder, that their governor has the capacity to muster goodwill from across board to do that, which career politicians would consider outlandish and unworkable.

 Uchem Obi writes from Abuja   

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