Dateline was November, 2011. That was when yours truly was fortunate to lead a team of seasoned media practitioners to Anambra state. Our mission was in tandem with investigative journalism-to critically assess the performance of the then Governor Peter Obi, much of which we had read about in the papers. Good enough, the team had members with diverse backgrounds in such vital fields as economics, politics, law and education.
Interestingly, the period coincided with the hue and cry that trailed the controversial 2011 National Honours. Back then, it was characterized by avoidable institutional lapses. Even then, there was still a silver lining in the dark, political horizon. And that is the incontrovertible fact that some of the awardees were eminently deserving of the prestigious laurels. For instance, in my humble estimation and that of all the members of the team Obi deserved the honour of the Commander of the Order of the Niger(CON) conferred on him by the then President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan. And it was all because of what we saw on ground, there in Anambra state as the empirical evidence of his sterling, ground-breaking performance, in virtually all areas of human endeavour . Seeing, they say is believing.
Like the former President Jonathan had admitted at the end of his maiden visit to Anambra State, in 2010 I was equally enthralled and indeed, inspired by the phenomenal projects that have direct, positive impact on the quality of lives of the citizens of Anambra state his administration had embarked on ,most of which were completed before he left office.
But first, it is interesting to note the intriguing manner of his emergence as the governor. After being cheated out of the 2003 gubernatorial elections that was declared in favour of the PDP candidate, Dr Chris Ngige, Obi headed for the law courts and endured the drudgery until the pendulum of political power swung in his favour in March,2006. When he was dealt a cruel blow in November,2006 through an unconstitutional impeachment, Obi again headed for the law courts which eventually reinstated him as the rightful governor.
Similarly, when INEC conducted the gubernatorial election in the state in April 2007, in spite of his protest that he had not spent the constitutionally approved four years in office for a governor, his energy and efforts went again to the law courts until the momentous judgment delivered by the Supreme Court in June 2007 that gave him back his rightful mandate.
The lesson we have to learn from this is the need for Nigerian politicians, and indeed all of us to repose absolute confidence in the judiciary as the bastion of democracy and the last hope of the common man. Also noteworthy is the participatory approach his administration accorded democracy by the involvement of all the communities in both the decision making process of government and the implementation of projects. The success of these has been attributed to the Anambra Integrated Development Strategy(ANIDS) in addition to enthroning accountability in fiscal matters.
The pragmatic strategy are visible in the critical areas of infrastructural development, primary healthcare delivery, education, agriculture and of course, security. The constraint of space would allow a mention of a few of the lot. The government constructed over 400 roads as against 91 by his predecessor. Anambra state government took over the old Enugu Road from the Federal Government and completed it, just as it did the State Emergency Management complex that was started during the military era. Apart from the pedestrian bridge at the Uni-Zik junction, it rebuilt the new bridge at Awka-Mpakwu Road. In addition, it built the Women’s Development Centre as well as the Skills Acquisition Centre and the 38-kilometre Agu-Oka ,Enugu and the Ekweme Square. The Water Corporation we met was working with erosion control mechanisms in place. In the area of Housing, it came up with a unique hydrophone model that uses 95 per cent mud to make it affordable. It is the first of its kind in modern Nigeria.
His administration completed the first and second phases of the state-owned secretariat. Before our visit, over 200 transformers have been bought and shared to several communities across the state. It is to his credit too that the world- renowned LG Electronics, in partnership with the state government had constructed a centre for training, installation, monitoring and repairs, credited as the largest of its kind in the African continent!
When considered against the backdrop of job creation, and the provision of these facilities as the enabling environment for self employment, the efforts are salutary. Equally so are the achievements in the health sector. The Anambra state University Teaching Hospital complex was completed in October 2009, upgraded from the status of a cottage hospital. Now it boasts of modern laboratory facilities, consulting clinics, cold rooms with vaccines. Apart from equipping pharmaceutical stores and hospitals with scans and relevant drugs, the N10 billion Julie Pharmacy complex regarded as the most modern in Africa comparable to what is obtainable in Egypt and South Africa has the support of the state government. The Kidney Dialysis Centre, the Onitsha General Hospital, the School of Health Technology, Obari and the over 70 ambulances given to voluntary agency hospitals are worthy testimonies of the government’s attention to healthcare delivery.
In the field of education 4,000 model primary schools were on course at the rate of 1,000 per year! The Professor Kenneth Dike Public Library is also in place with the support of Bank PHB, even as the State University project at Ibariam was on in earnest. Also, the Universal Basic Education (UBE) and the Post-Primary Education now have their Boards .The monthly subvention to the Anambra State University was increased from N15 million to N50 million while all mission schools have been handed over to their rightful owners.
Not left out is the field of agriculture where support to the rural areas is guaranteed. There is a fertilizer plant established on NTA Road, with roads to food basket villages of Amanasi-Ebwenwbe, Ojoto and a modern Rice Mill with the support of USAID located close to the Anako-Omasi rice farms.
It must be noted that under Obi Anambra State received a federal allocation equivalent to only 10 per cent of what the oil-producing states get on monthly basis. If so much could be achieved with the meager resources available how much more transformative leadership would be on ground if the vast gas resources in Anambra State are made operative? Indeed, Obi has shown that leadership in a democracy is all about being visionary, proactive, people-oriented and all- inclusive.