Sunday, 10 July 2016

ANAMBRA: When Leadership Makes The Difference

 
 
By Ifeanyi Afuba

The importance of the leadership question is underlined by the continued institution of prizes to honour outstanding leadership all over the world. From the Nobel Peace Prize to the Mo Ibrahim Prize for Achievement in Leadership in Africa, we find reputable platforms dedicated to the nurturing of this multi sectoral discipline. These recognition laurels consequently become facilities both for inspiring and reinforcing high standards in leadership.

Sports analysts generally but football analysts in particular are often fixated with the concept of game changer. The game changer is that outstanding player who can be relied upon to make the difference at difficult matches. From Pele to Pogba and Maradonna to Messi, the gamut of resourceful players whose deft moves had at one time or the other altered the course of games, is as interesting as they are varied. Political parties, religious organizations, business enterprises, nations; every organized group and social unit lend themselves to the doctrine of the game changer. The game changer translates to the leader who rallies other members of the group towards the pursuit of shared objectives.

For obvious reasons, the leadership debate assumes a critical bend in the realm of political leadership, especially as it relates to governance of a country or tier of government. The fate of a society is not founded on the resources available to it but on the management of the operative circumstances. In a sense then, history is the account of those who made impact with their ideas and policies. Responsible political leadership seeks to be on the right side of history and is as much concerned with physical structures as with social engineering.

From the framework of history as the map of contending choices navigated by societies at critical junctures, the leadership factor in development seems all too clear. The head of government has the task of weighing the needs, agitations, and options before the constituency against the reality of the environment, with a view to determining priorities and striving to achieve them. For the underdeveloped states of the third world at the rear of modern civilization, this responsibility assumes even greater importance.

According to Salim Ahmed Salim, former OAU Sec Gen and Chairman, award committee, Mo Ibrahim Prize on leadership, the ‘contribution of executive leadership is many ways, far greater in Africa. The continent’s problems are after all, so much more severe and complex…. The continent’s leaders have to meet these problems with far fewer resources than those in wealthier countries have at their disposal. They also lack the institutional support on which their counterparts elsewhere can rely.’[This Day, Tuesday, June 21, 2016]

While not disregarding the role of a resigned follower ship to Nigeria’s development crisis, the poverty of leadership ethics must be seen as a major contributor. With the return of accountable government in 1999, the Zik Prize for Leadership has emerged as a leading national platform for recognition of inspiring performance in public office. This has happened for two principal reasons.

The late Azikiwe’s reputation has rubbed off on the award. Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe was not just Nigeria’s first Senate President and President of the Republic. He was the acclaimed Zik of Africa listed in every encyclopaedia of note. In Penguin’s classic Dictionary of Politics, there is a slot on Zikism. Viewed as one of Nigeria’s greatest statesmen, Azikiwe is regarded for his inclusive national politics. There is presumed in this ‘philosophy’ an overriding concern for the stability of the country; which constructive engagement saw to the historic NPC/NCNC coalition and the NPP/NPN accord.

On the foundation of Zik’s legacy, the prize has been bolstered under the administration of the Public Policy Research and Analysis Centre. The PPRAC stands out for its continental composition and distinguished leadership. Professor Jubril Aminu took over the chairmanship of the body a few years ago from Professor Anya O. Anya. The Zik Prize then is not another prize.

It is no longer news that the 2015 edition of the medal will be invested on Governor Willie Obiano of Anambra State on July 10, 2016. Of course, diverse preferences will always exist even in the consideration of universally acclaimed talents. Given the rich history of the award, there is no reasonable ground to suggest that the committee has deviated from the principle of merit in arriving at its choice. The element of surprise for some analysts however is in the seeming inappropriateness of selecting someone who has been in office for just two years! But timeless wisdom tells us that it not the hours you put in but what you put into the hours! Should we quarrel with or applaud the whiz kid who completes a 24 month doctoral study in 12 months!

It is not surprising that Willie Obiano presently holds the attention of the discerning public. Willie Nwokoye makes the brilliant point that Obiano has ‘raised the bar of governance in Anambra State.’ And I should add, with seeming ease. For as impressive as the scope and pace of the two year old administration’s physical projects have been, it is in the enduring intangible structures; the fidelity to continuity of inherited projects; in the reign of high standards; that we find the regime’s greatest accomplishment. The refusal to discard with any beneficial project or policy of his predecessor at the risk of being denied the accruing political credit is a mark of lofty leadership. This is to be more appreciated when it is realised that some of these contracts were awarded so late in the day and ought to have been left to a succeeding government to decide their merits. Clearly, it takes a great mind to acknowledge, let alone preserving the legacy of a peer – competitor.

The stuff of mature leadership was again demonstrated in Obiano’s handling of the relocation of 47 Boko Haram detainees to Anambra State in July, 2015. A provocative step by every measure, the conspiratorial scheme had the potential of pitting the state against the federal government. It is to his credit that the Governor was able to calm the rising tension in the state and beyond and secure evacuation of the militants few months later.

Today, the state’s economic prospects are brighter than ever. With an over $3.2bn investment inflow and rise in monthly internal revenue from N500m to N1.5bn, Anambra ranks as one of the fastest growing economies in the federation. Obiano’s feat in winning investor confidence in so short a time and on such unprecedented scale can only be the benefit of leadership transformation and experience as an investment banker. It also seems the case that the Governor’s obsession with standards forms the defining stability that has won over investors.

There is a tendency by the Willie Obiano administration to take a holistic rather than isolationist view of issues that bear on the critical needs of society. We find this integrated approach in many sub sectors but notably in security, agriculture, oil and gas. A blue print on agriculture is not just about the growing, processing and export of food crops but also about tractor assembly and storage technology. The inherited refinery project at Aguleri has expanded into a cargo airport at neighboring Umueri. The airport will boast aviation storage facility. With fuel piped from the refinery, the airport will serve as hub for refueling of international flights in West Africa.

The best is yet to come from Obiano.

Written by Ifeanyi Afuba



Hon (Sir) Ifeatu Obi-Okoye
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All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA)
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