Sunday, 19 March 2017

PROUD TO COME FROM ANAMBRA  By ECHEZONA OKECHI


Hon. Humphrey C. Nsofor’s treatise on Anambra State’s resurgence (back
page of The Sun, Tuesday, March 7, 2017) is an honest reflection of
what has been going on in our dear state since the Chris Ngige years
as governor. All facets of the state are looking up. Onitsha, which
used to be synonymous with disorder and garbage heaps, has changed
tremendously. Entering Onitsha from neighbouring Asaba in Delta State
is almost like moving from Nyanya, a suburb of the Federal Capital
Territory known for shacks and poor infrastructure, to Maitama or
Asokoro in Abuja famous for excellent facilities.

It is a mystery why the Delta State government, from the time of James
Ibori as governor, has not felt challenged by the new Onitsha look to
make Asaba look like the capital of an oil-rich state.

Whereas Onitsha has well maintained eight lanes built by the state
government and looks beautiful at night, Asaba, with only four poorly
maintained lanes built by the Federal Government, is increasingly
looking like a township with derelict infrastructure.

A few years ago, Onitsha-based businessmen and women were moving in
droves to Asaba to build residences because Onitsha was chaotic and
unsafe. People are now building magnificent houses in towns and
villages around Onitsha because security has improved dramatically in
Anambra State and the quality of life has increased.

Any person who has not been to Awka in the last three years is likely
to miss his way, all the more so at night when neon lights on the
three new beautiful bridges on the Enugu-Onitsha Expressway are on;
the skyline has changed

Anambra State is a good example that investments flow to places where
the government provides the enabling environment for business,
starting with security. Who could have known a few years ago that
$4bilion investments would come into the state in two years, with much
going into agric?

Who could have known that Anambra could earn millions of dollars from
exporting bitter leaf and pumpkin to the United Kingdom, with at least
one million tubers of yam now ordered from the United States? This
export drive is interesting because it is growing at a time the
European Union has banned exports of foodstuffs like beans from
Nigeria for failure to meet international standards. Anambra is doing
things differently and creatively.

I am enamoured of what Governor Willie Obiano has done security-wise.
In less than one year in office, he turned the state from being the
den of kidnappers and violent robbers in Nigeria into the safest place
in West Africa.

I have experienced firsthand what an atmosphere of insecurity and
general lawlessness can lead to. In November 2004, when the Federal
Government under General Obasanjo unleashed mayhem on Anambra people,
which saw a very large number of thugs burn the state House of
Assembly, the judicial complex, Government House, the state
broadcasting service and others so that Ngige would be removed as
governor through a state of emergency, I was a prime target.

The hoodlums came to my residence to assassinate me for supporting
Ngige against political elements, who wanted to milk the state dry.
How I managed to escape from the rampaging thugs is a mystery to this
day.

Anambra people are delighted Obiano promotes not just security but
also a rancour-free atmosphere. I was pleasantly surprised to see in
the media photographs of himself and his wife at the wedding last
December of the daughter of Joe-Martins Uzodike, his former Special
Adviser on Political Affairs, who became a harsh critic of his
administration after his removal. Immediately the governor saw his
estranged predecessor at the wedding, he walked up to him and greeted
him so warmly that you would never think there have been differences
between them.

The crowd cheered and cheered. The crowd cheered Obiano previously at
the burial of the famous principal of Christ the King College (CKC),
Onitsha, Reverend Father Nicholas Tagbo, last August 3, when he
openly apologised to his predecessor even though he said he did not
know how and when he wronged Chief Peter Obi. Thus Obiano is an
example of both servant and authentic leadership styles.

The ordinary people want their leaders to work in an atmosphere of
peace and harmony, no matter their political differences. Decent
leaders like Obiano have made us forget almost completely the days in
Anambra State when a person like the chairman of the Nigerian Bar
Association in Onitsha, Barnabas Igwe, his wife, Abigail, and their
unborn baby could be assassinated for holding a dissenting political
opinion. Thank God Anambra State is today reputed for peace, stability
and development.

Not even trade unions are at war with the government. In fact, the
workers and pensioners are probably the government’s greatest
cheerleaders because the administration not only pays workers and
pensioners before any other state does, Anambra is also the only state
in Nigeria to have increased salaries in the last four years. Obiano
absorbed all five thousand workers hired by his predecessor on the eve
of his departure. To this day, people are still recruited into the
public service.

They include all doctors, who graduated from the state teaching
hospital, which could not secure accreditation from the Nigerian
Medical and Dental Registration Council for 10 years until Obiano did
the needful in the last two years. The school is now about starting
specialist courses. This is leadership.

Nsofor has in his article mentioned people like ex-Vice President Alex
Ekwueme, former Commonwealth Secretary General, Emeka Anyaoku,
ex-Governor Chukwuemeka Ezeife, ex-Women Affairs Minister, Josephine
Anenih, ex-World Bank Vice President, Oby Ezekwesili, erstwhile Police
Service Commission Chairman, Simon Okeke, and erstwhile Central Bank
Governor, Chukwuma Soludo, as among prominent Anambra persons happy
with Obiano.

Non-Anambra persons like Professor Pat Utomi have also commended his
leadership. Senator Ben Bruce from Bayelsa State explained at the
annual Silverbird awards night that Obiano was chosen as the Man of
the Year for 2016 by Nigerians from all parts of the country who voted
for him.

People in a section of my own Orumba South Constituency know him as
the governor connecting them to the rest of the state by constructing
the difficult Ezira-Umuomaku-Enugwu Umuonyiba-Onne-Agbudu Road linking
the five towns. Two weeks ago, he commissioned a 47-kilometre
electricity project connecting communities in Orumba to the national
grid. This is the first time the communities are enjoying public power
supply.

Like Hon. Nsofor, I am an APC member but most of us in the APC will
work for Obiano’s reelection next November in the overriding interest
of our people.

In presidential democracy, party loyalty is not as important as
loyalty to one’s conscience and one’s primary constituency. Like
Nsofor, I am from the southern senatorial zone whereas Obiano is from
the North. Like Nsofor, I am Protestant whereas Obiano is Catholic.

And like Nsofor, I have never met Obiano. Nigerians need leaders like
Obiano. Imagine for a second an Obiano in, say, Bayelsa State as
governor. As the great Dr. Ekwueme has stated, Nigeria is a miracle
waiting to happen.

I am proud to come from Anambra State.

•Okechi was chairman of the Anambra State House of Assembly Committee
on Public Petitions.

No comments: