Sunday, 10 July 2016

A New Philosophy Of Governance


Leadership; simple but complex act of taking charthatge of the affairs of another! That whiff of human capacity to re-order the realities of a people and leave them clothed with dignity. That priceless fibre of greatness that has eluded Nigeria for decades; is the heart of the matter here!

Seventeen years after the return of democracy, there subtle types and shadows that suggest, to the relief of many, that Nigeria may finally get it right with her leadership. It may not be easy to see, but all around us, there are little oases of excellence that lend weight to this belief. Donald Duke, the former governor of Cross River State, easily comes to mind. So does Babatunde Raji Fashola of Lagos State and now, Chief Willie Obiano, governor of Anambra State. These three are joined by a common thread of excellence – they have vision, they have cold resolve and they have faith. To my mind, these three qualities are some of the attributes that make for great leadership.

From ages to ages, humanity has never been in doubt about the importance of VISION to the way that a society is organised and run with a degree of efficiency that approximates the happiness of the greater majority of the people. In fact, vison is the lifeblood of leadership. Purposeful leadership should not leave any rooms for uncertainty and only a clear and concise vision can guarantee that. Thus, a good leader should have a clear vision which is like a two-faced mirror reflecting the future without losing sight of the past. To acquire this rare capability, a leader must have a new set of eyes. Marcel Proust, a great French novelist and essayist once observed that “the real voyage of discovery consists of not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.” Like his two contemporaries before him, Governor Willie Obiano paradoxically came with new eyes to survey Anambra’s old challenges and hewed out a vision which, very much like Duke and Fashola again, mirrored the innate capacities of his people. And here are the similarities.

After making history as the youngest governor in modern Nigeria at 36 in 1999, Donald Duke soon realised that he must do something different to set himself apart from his fellow governors and justify the confidence of his people in him. He scaled down his vision to eco-tourism and agriculture. Duke looked inwards and saw in the hospitable nature of his people and the eco-diversity of the Cross River landscape a goldmine waiting for exploration. Tapping into these, his vision manifested through the vehicle of the Calabar Carnival which draws thousands of visitors to the state every year with a turnover of over N2bn. It also manifested in the swift progression of Cross River from the position of the sixth largest producer of cocoa in Nigeria to the second position in his first term in office. But perhaps more remarkably, it showed in the extraordinary beauty of the Obudu Cattle Ranch which suddenly became the nation’s number one tourism destination and of course in Tinapa, Duke’s greatest demonstration of foresight which adumbrated the eventual arrival of Shoprite, the South African retail giants and others after it. That’s vision!

Like Duke, Babatunde Raji Fashola, former governor of Lagos State also worried about the day after. He knew that the only way to preserve a good name is to etch it on a stone. And he strove to mirror the ambitions of the average Lagosian in his plan, to reflect their dreams of a prosperous and big city that could compare to leading cities around the globe. And what did Oga Fashola do? He gave a hint of his taste in aesthetics with the Ikoyi – Lekki Link Bridge, he announced his Lagos mega-city idea with the dazzling multi-lane Lekki Freeway and finally, he laid the foundation for the economic future of Lagos with the Lekki Free Trade Zone, an ambitious project that encompass an airport, a seaport and has a capacity to accommodate 100,000 residents in one location. This is the stuff of dreams! But Fashola was not done yet. Not until he had subdued the usually uproarious Bar Beach and founded a 21st century avant-garde, Eko Atlantic City on top of the ocean to demonstrate his final conquest of Lagos. Vision! For Fashola’s Lagos, the future is already here! It is a practical heeding of the counsel by Abraham Lincoln that “the best way to predict your future is to create it!”

Happily in Anambra State today, Governor Willie Obiano is also deeply immersed in the business of creating the future. Happily too, like Duke and Fashola, Obiano started with an even clearer vision and hoisted himself firmly on the leadership saddle with a mission statement as well. Obiano also took the same trajectory of mirroring the essence of his people in his vision which is to make Anambra State the first choice investment destination and a hub f or industrialization and commercial activities. His mission is also to make Anambra State a socially stable, business-friendly environment that would attract both indigens and foreigners to seek wealth creating opportunities. There is a common thread that runs through the reflexes of the three leaders. Great minds, they say work alike. However, history may be kinder to Obiano on account of the fact that he assumed office in a period of great economic recession while Duke and Fashola had enough economic freedom to bring their dreams to fruition with abundant funds. And this is the first difference.

However, casting a beam of light on the capacity of a true leader to adapt to the harshest possible condition with great ease, John Calvin Maxwell, the charismatic American author and preacher once observed that “the pessimist complains about the wind. The optimist expects it to change. The leader adjusts the sails.” This is exactly what Willie Obiano has done in Anambra State. He did not sit back to complain that oil prices had fallen. He proved that he is the leader when he spied the sky brooding in the horizon and quickly prepared for the storm. He sensed the imminent crash of oil price in the international market and quickly retooled his processes; sealed all leakages in the government machinery, adjusted his revenue generation mechanism and rolled out the mantra – “doing more with less” to animate the workforce to his chosen direction. This is leadership!

Obiano’s farsightedness is succinctly captured in his vison and mission statements. This must have been what former Commonwealth Secretary General, Emeka Anyaoku saw as the “strategic thinker” in him. He knew that the best thing he could ever do for Ndi Anambra was to open the door of freedom and allow the air of liberty awaken their entrepreneurial gift and restore their deep pride in their roots. And what did he do? He picked up the challenge of security and cleansed the state of all criminal elements and established an agency that would speed up the process of investing in the state. And what happened? Anambra attracted over $4bn investments in two years; most of them from wealthy indigenes who are natural born entrepreneurs. It had never been done before in Anambra State. Obiano may have been guided by the wisdom of Ralph Waldo Emerson who counselled “do not follow where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.”

Again, he sought adroitly to rev up the pride of Ndi Anambra, most of who could no longer tolerate the ceremonial emptiness of Awka, the state capital. So, he rolled out an ambitious plan for a new capital city, set up the Awka Capital Development Authority and carried out a comprehensive aerial mapping of the entire state. He also sent a team of architects to study model city designs in Dubai, Seol and Kigali with the plan of building a 21st Century city with harmonious undertones of African architectural motif. While the proposed city is still in the works, he moved quickly to give the people a preview of coming attractions by building three iconic flyovers that announced his sense of aesthetics and altered the landscape of Awka in just two years. The impact of these flyovers in the psych of the people has been phenomenal. This is leadership. This is impact. A good leader must have an impact. Like a knife-edge, he must be felt without a touch!

Again, like Duke who moved Cross River from the sixth largest producer of cocoa in Nigeria to the number two position, Obiano’s agricultural revolution has put Anambra on the agricultural map. In specific terms, Anambra has become Nigeria’s leading exporter of vegetables to Europe and Anambra Rice, a brand of rice created by Obiano’s influence on the sector was recently adjudged the Best Rice brand out of Africa, beating major brands from South Africa, Egypt, Morocco, Cameroun, Namibia and Ghana. Large industrial farms are springing up in the state and such exotic crops as wheat and sorghum are currently being produced in commercial quantities in Igbariam, Anambra East council area.

In all sincerity, it is still too early in the day to look at Obiano’s two years in office in terms of legacies but should that need ever arise, a surprise awaits chroniclers of history. Truth is, at this moment, Willie Obiano’s greatest impact in Anambra State does not actually consist of bridges and monuments, even though we can all see them, but in his masterful administration of the software of governance; the little touches that humanise a leader. In my thinking, true greatness does not consist of performing acts of greatness but in carrying out every day acts with a touch of greatness! And this may well be the dividing line between Obiano and Duke and Fashola. Obiano’s philosophy of ana alu olu, ana alu mmadu (while we are fixing the basic foundations of society we must also remember to attend to the immediate survival needs of the people), offers a rare window into his empathy as a leader. He has a deep love for his people. A strong belief in their future which shines through his twinkling eyes whenever he sings the Anambra Anthem. His deep connection with the people makes it difficult for him to stay away from the state more than one week since he assumed office. He strives to deepen this connection with brilliant anecdotes which he generously injects into his speeches, infusing words like umu nnem (my brethren), Ndi b’anyi (my people) Ndi Anambra mfulu n’anya (my beloved Anambra people). These carefully chosen words enhance kinship and brotherhood. This is inspirational!

All things considered, it is indeed fascinating that in just two years, Obiano is beginning to look like a charismatic leader with an invisible halo above his head. At least that was the picture he cut at the Christmas Eve in Upper Iweka when he staged a carol of Nine Lessons to demonstrate the conquest of the former den of robbers. There, in the chill of the harmattan night, Obiano’s big voice wafted sonorously into the dark as he sang Qui sera sera (whatever will be will be) the classic Doris Day song and asked the audience to join him. They responded warmly and the effect was awe inspiring. Ndi Anambra freely touched base with their governor who showed a rare fatalistic side on the night. In that epic moment, it seemed as though Obiano had succeeded in stamping his vision in the hearts of his people. And why not? Rosabeth Moss Kanter, a professor of Business Studies in Harvard University once said that “a vision is not just a picture of what could be; it is an appeal to our better selves, a call to become something more.” There is no doubt that Ndi Anambra have heeded Obiano’s call to become more. Slowly but steadily, a new philosophy of governance is on its way to be born!

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