Tuesday, 14 June 2016

Why Obiano deserves the Zik Prize for Good Governance

By James Eze (eziokwubundu@gmail.com)

On Sunday, June 19, 2016, the Governor of Anambra State, Chief Willie Obiano will receive the 2015 Zik Prize for Good Governance. Set up in 1994 by the Public Policy Research and Analysis Centre (PPRAC), the Zik Prize has slowly evolved through the years to assume the stature of dependable barometer for measuring quality leadership in Nigeria. In a country where true leadership is alien, it is a big endorsement to honour someone for embodying leadership in a most acceptable way.

While it is true that there’s no leader without blemish, the idea of a Leadership Prize is not necessarily to celebrate flawless personages but to set up a threshold; a bull’s eye which people in leadership positions should aspire to hit. It is something like a dream; a big target to strike at. Over the years, Nigerians who have shown outstanding traits of leadership in different spheres of life have been given a huge encouragement with this prize. At different times, notable leaders like Africa’s richest man, Aliko Dangote, maverick brewer, Festus Odimegwu, quintessential banker, Reginald Ihejiahi leading entrepreneur, Mike Adenuga and Africa’s foremost auto manufacturer, Innocent Chukwuma, have all won the prize. So have former governor of Cross River State, Senator Liyel Imoke, governor of Edo State, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, former governor Kano State, Alhaji Rabiu Kwankwaso, former governor of Ekiti State and Dr. Kayode Fayemi among many others.

Governor Willie Obiano’s emergence as one of the winners of the Prize in the Good Governance category does not come to many Nigerians as a surprise. This is because, since he assumed leadership of Anambra State, Obiano has demonstrated acuity of vision that has been in short supply for decades. Indeed, the importance of vision to leadership is comparable to the importance of a lighthouse to ships. Leadership without vision is doomed. Offering a rare insight into the true genius of the visionary, Malcolm Gladwell, British born Canadian journalist once observed that "the visionary starts with a clean sheet of paper and re-imagines the world." This is almost what Chief Willie Obiano seems to have done in his two years on the saddle in Anambra State. He cheekily picked up a pencil and paper and re-imagined the state.

While it is true that positive change usually takes place in degrees, it is even truer that negative change usually sweeps across the land like a hurricane. That is why it is so easy to see Nigeria’s rapid regression in twelve calendar months. The pace of any enduring legacy is usually slow. Happily, in Anambra State, the pace may be slow but the signs are there; the beacons are visible and the performance indicators announce that hope is finally here. The picturesque new Awka with dazzling motorways and gleaming flyovers announce the birth of hope. The transformation of the once notorious Upper Iweka from a gangsters’ paradise to a garden of peace reminds us that insecurity has ceased to be the endless concern of Anambra State. The demolition of a 30-year old mountain of refuse in Okpoko and the eventual clean-up of the putrid smelling refuse dump along Onitsha-Owerri Road are clear indicators that leadership shows concern about the environment. The influx of investors leading to the attraction of $3.2bn investments so far into the state shows that Obiano has been making bold efforts to fulfil his Vision Statement. Same goes for the increase in workers’ salaries in a most austere time, the impressive growth in Internally Generated Revenue to make up for the drying allocation from the federal government as well as the offer of scholarships to over 200 students at a time when most states can hardly fund education.

Beyond the core issues of governance, Obiano has also devoted a keen ear to history. In what looks like a dramatization of Winston Churchill’s quote that "Kites rise highest against the wind, not with it," Willie Obiano rose against the tide of suspicion and misplaced antagonisms to announce his place in Igbo history with "Ozoemezina," the epic memorial for Igbos who died in the Biafran War. There were pockets of resistance against it but Obiano knew that the reason why no Igbo political leader of note had succeeded in holding a befitting memorial for the victims of the war and the horrors that precipitated the war itself was the fear of being misunderstood in a federation where the Igbo and their peculiar experience had been consigned to the margins of national life. So, he stood resolute against the resistance and brought closure to that dark chapter of the Igbo uexperience. To cap it up, he delivered an epic speech at the ceremony which attracted Igbos from every state in Nigeria. Choosing his words carefully, Obiano had declared; "Today, as we light our candles and whisper our silent prayers to ease their passage to eternity, we cleanse ourselves of the pain of their death and plant the trees of forgiveness in their memory. And in doing this; we open a new page of a brighter history for our people." This is what conscientious leadership means.

Indeed, Obiano’s response to contemporary issues shows him as someone with an uncanny ability to read the mood of his people. For instance, he was the only governor in the five states in the South East to have devoted a full day to pay a condolence visit to the government and people of Enugu State following the murderous attack on Nimbo community by Fulani herdsmen. Although he was holidaying in the US when the incident occurred, Obiano cut short his vacation and rushed home to first ensure that Anambra was safe and then moved over to Enugu to touch base with Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi. On getting to Enugu, he quickly switched on his spontaneous side and persuaded Governor Ugwanyi to accompany him on a visit to Park Lane Hospital where the survivors of the Fulani murderers were recuperating from the attack. This is a clear demonstration of empathy; the ability to understand and share the feelings of another. A great leader must recognise the importance of empathy and use it to maximum effect. Obiano has done exactly that.

Truth be told; Willie Obiano has shown a great leadership promise that deserves our encouragement. Heckled on all sides by a vicious and well-oiled opposition that is bent on making his best efforts seem like the best told lie, Obiano has kept his eyes on the prize; transforming his environment; building three bridges in two years when some of his peers took two terms to build one. He also demonstrated a great vision by aligning his development paradigm to the natural talents and inclination of his people. Obiano’s VISION of making Anambra State the 1st choice investment destination and the most preferred location to site new industries and his MISSION of creating a socially stable, business-friendly environment that will attract both indigenes and foreigners to seek wealth creating opportunities in Anambra State, indicate a perfect assessment of the needs of Ndi Anambra and their capacity to achieve them in an ideal atmosphere. And in keeping with his usual drive for excellence he has moved so swiftly that he has almost achieved both statements in two years. In so doing, Obiano has acted as though he is aware that in the words of Thomas Edison, the American born inventor of the electric light bulb, "vision without execution is hallucination."

And it is because of all these and possibly more that Chief Willie Maduaburochukwu Obiano deserves the Zik Prize for Leadership!


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