Monday, 18 January 2016

Obiano: A year so phenomenal!

Oluchukwu Godfrey, a Primary School pupil with amazing oratory at a reception after winning  the world School Debate Championship  

By James Eze

AS I watched the Twin Towers of the new iconic Aroma Bridge sparkle to life; spraying its daz­zling rays into the dusk skies, I knew that Awka would never be the same again. Yes; Awka has been touched by Midas.
It is a beauty to behold. There is nothing in the experience of the residents with which they could compare the luminous towers jutting into the gathering night. I stood in the middle of the awestricken crowd, gazing in wonder. I recalled the shambolic look of the old Aroma Roundabout which was cleared to make way for the majes­tic flyover on which the twin Towers stood and nodded my head at the transformative power of leadership. It occurred to me just then that no one entrusted with power should leave his environ­ment worse than he met it. In less than two years, Governor Willie Obiano has given Anambra its first home grown landmark!
Barely sixteen months ago, Aroma was a tacky roundabout that embodied the ragged dreams of a town’s slow slouch to modernity. But to­day, Governor Willie Obiano has turned it into a clear statement of intent that points a finger to the Anambra of his dream. As it were, Aroma has become a metaphor for all that Awka should have been in 24 years and a symbol of what Awka will be in the coming years. Not only that, Aroma is also perhaps, the clearest approximation of what it means to build a signature project; some­thing close to Chukwuma Soludo’s idea in his monumental article that swayed the tide against President Jonathan’s second term bid. Aroma is Anambra’s new landmark; heaving with all the possibilities and weight of abundant talents.
Needless to say; 2015 has been a phenomenal year for Willie Obiano. Ironically, it is a year like no other for Nigeria. The massive dip in revenue and the huge spend on the last general elections left the nation bleeding on all pores. When the tide of the elections blew over, what Nigeria had left as an economy was nothing less than a cadav­er. Interestingly, 2015 had started for Obiano on a heavily optimistic note. In his New Year address, he had assured Ndi Anambra that their dreams would not crash with the dwindling oil prices. In a voice booming with confidence, Obiano had declared, “with our enormous human and mate­rial resources, we shall not surrender our ambi­tions to dwindling oil prices in the international markets.” In a clear demonstration of his resolve to ensure that the expectations of his people were not cut short by the declining economy, he had followed his assurances up with the announce­ment of a 15 percent raise in salary for workers. While the applause trailing the salary increase was still ringing, he followed it up with Ozo­mezina, the hugely symbolic memorial for Igbos who died in the Biafran War. Ozoemezina, Never Again, was the first attempt by any government to bring closure to the war that claimed an esti­mated two million lives, by according the victims a dignifying burial. In a fitting eulogy to wrap up the memorial, Obiano had intoned; “Today, we honour them in words and deeds. We offer them a final resting place; a sanctuary where their memory will forever ruffle the leaves of time.” Ozoemezina resonated with the Igbo world in its entirety and drew a serious attention to Obiano’s emergence as a conscientious leader.
His grand start to the year received a huge boost in March when the Federation Accounts Sub-Committee on International Public Sector Accounting System (IPSAS) ranked Anambra as the highest in Transparency in governance. This firmly established his open, accountable and transparent approach to governance. But it also gave him the assurance that he was on the right track; that his efforts to run a process-driven government were being noticed somewhere. It also lent him the courage to break out more de­cisively into unchartered territories. He imposed his full weight on APGA and ran a very impres­sive election that took even his admirers by sur­prise. He earned his name – Akpokuedike in gold when he staged a fearsome comeback after the PDP gang-up had manipulated victory off the de­served winners of the National Assembly Elec­tions. Pained by what seemed an obvious rape of the people’s will, Obiano had declared in a state broadcast that “the dubious victory of the PDP in the National Assembly Elections of last Saturday shall not stand!” Consequently, he rose to his feet in the state assembly elections and swept the ma­jority of the seats from the gloating PDP, leaving only crumbs to demonstrate that there should be grace to winning that leaves all parties happy.
Interestingly, while he showed grit and valour as a strong leader, Governor Obiano also revealed a soft and humane side to his person. He was the first to arrive the scene of the petrol tanker acci­dent in Upper Iweka. He was moved to tears just as he was moved to tears on arriving at the Fino­tel Junction in Awka where a truck had crushed Okechukwu Odenigwe and half of his family as well as the scene of the carnage that claimed several lives in Umuchu. He was never wanting in instances that required firmness or the ones that called for compassion and genuine grief. Perhaps nothing demonstrates his connectedness to the people better than his wholesale donation of his salaries to the underprivileged in March, 2015. He did that long before President Buhari and his Vice had enough presence of mind to ac­cept a slash in their salaries as a necessary sacri­fice to reflect the slide in the nation’s economic fortunes. Obiano however outpaced his peers in compassionate leadership when he granted am­nesty to 25 prisoners to mark Nigeria’s Indepen­dence and handed each ex-convict N1m cheque to help them regain a foothold in the society. It was a gesture that dripped with kindness and a deep understanding of the fact that sometimes some journeys do not end the way we plan them. It was also a gesture that showed him as having a good grasp of the software of governance; those little things that humanize leadership.
Obiano’s skills in certain aspects of the intri­cacies of statecraft were seriously tested by the nocturnal transfer of 47 dreaded inmates of Boko Haram to Ekwulobia Prisons in the last week of June this year. The presence of these agents of instantaneous death in Igbo land and a few ki­lometres away from Adazi Nnukwu where 12 of their victims were freshly buried had all the ingredients that would make an inferno. But Obiano deftly deployed unusual craft and tact in handling the matter; working mostly behind the scene and making guarded statements until the storm blew away. It was a harrowing period when a less astute leader would have buckled under the weight of emotional pressure from his people who saw the transfer of the murderers of their kit and kin to their domain as the very height of provocation.
Obiano also turned his back on being ordinary when he took his most rabid adversaries by sur­prise and urged an audience made up of the most distinguished citizens of the state to give a stand­ing ovation to his predecessor, former governor Peter Obi. He did this at the Interactive Forum and at a time when the ego war between the two great sons of the state was at its bitterest stage. It was a time when a less restrained personage would never have thought of anything like that, sweating as he was under a barrage of virulent attacks on his person and his family, ostensibly orchestrated by the man he had set out to lionize. Beyond the symbolism of little acts, 2015 has also been phenomenal to Obiano in the area of concrete achievements. He tightened the noose on security with a hugely successful Regional Security Summit and launched 25 American style patrol cars for the police. For the first time in the history of the state and its neighbours, this Christmas season, a police helicopter hovered over Anambra skies, ferreting out crucial intel­ligence for the patrol team on the ground. This strategy made for a comprehensive coverage of the state. Obiano also responded swiftly to emergencies, sealing up huge craters created by erosion on federal highways in the state and partially opening his monumental flyovers in Awka to ease traffic congestion in strategic lo­cations in the Yuletide season.
Expectedly, his efforts were fully noticed. Not only was he repeatedly singled out for special praises at the Federal Executive Coun­cil meetings by former President Jonathan and current President Buhari, Obiano has also been showered with awards. In addition to being named the Governor of the Year by The Sun Publishing Limited, The Association of Primary School Head Teachers of Nigeria (AOPSHON) also named him the Best Primary Education Friendly Governor of the Year, 2015. Before that, the Catholic Laity Council of Nigeria had also honoured him with the outstanding title of Duke.

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