Obiano and the Burden of Victory

Obiano and the Burden of Victory

By Azuka Onwuka

Willie Obiano, Governor, Anambra State

The gubernatorial election that held in Anambra State over the weekend created some tension. The first was the fear that it could be violent. But contrary to the fears expressed by many, the election was not violent and there was no reported case of death arising from clashes by opponents. There was also no clash between the security forces and members of the separatist Indigenous People of Biafra, which had opposed the conduct of the election.

IPOB had insisted that there would be no election in Anambra unless a referendum was held to determine if Biafra should exit from Nigeria or not. It had directed that people sit at home to prove that the residents of Anambra were in support of its demand for a referendum.

Secondly, there was the feeling that the incumbent, Chief Willie Obiano, could be unseated by the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, Mr Oseloka Obaze, backed by Obiano’s predecessor, Mr Peter Obi. Obi had backed Obiano to succeed him in 2014, but Obiano had fallen out with Obi shortly after his inauguration.

Thirdly, there were fears that based on its desire to have a firm foothold in the Southeast, the ruling All Progressives Congress could attempt to unseat Obiano using the instrumentality of the Independent National Electoral Commission, which could create insecurity in the state. The APC has not been popular in the Southeast and the Southsouth, and with underground plans being made over the 2019 national election, there were fears that unseating Obiano was a possibility.

In addition, whether the PDP or the APC had succeeded in unseating Obiano, that would have marked the death of the All Progressives Grand Alliance in Nigeria, just as Labour Party died when it lost Dr Olusegun Mimiko of Ondo State, its sole governor. There is some emotional attachment of many Igbo people to APGA, because it was founded by Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu, who was former head of state of the defunct Republic of Biafra.

However, while a tight race was expected, the surprise was that Obiano won all the 21 local government areas of Anambra State. It raised some question marks about the authenticity of the result. The question was whether Obiano was so hugely popular that he could win election in all the LGAs. Why couldn’t his opponents win even their home LGAs to show that they emerged from somewhere?

There were arguments that perhaps Anambra voters decided that it could be risky trying to split their votes among different candidates to avoid indirectly giving victory to an uncertain candidate. Having seen Obiano’s performance in the last three and half years, they felt that it was safer to stick with him. They could have reasoned that giving Obiano a second tenure would not give him any excuse in future to say that if he was given a second tenure, he would have performed wonders in the state.

However, in spite of the accusations that he has concentrated his projects so much on his Aguleri vicinity with little attention paid to other towns, Obiano has not done badly so far. The problem lies in comparing him with his predecessor, Obi. Obi’s lifestyle and leadership style are different from Obiano’s. Obi faced the same problem after succeeding Dr Chris Ngige in 2006. Ngige was loud and flamboyant and knew how to win the hearts of the common folks. When Obi succeeded Ngige, he was being compared with Ngige and was soon nicknamed “aka gum” (miser). Obi was vilified for many years by Anambra people, many of whom wrote him off as underperforming. While campaigning for reelection in 2010, Obi still faced vilification, even though he won that election.

It was less than one year to the end of his tenure that the totality of his projects in Anambra formed a critical mass that could no longer be denied. People began to change their views about him. By the time he left office in 2014, Obi had become hugely popular both in Anambra and Nigeria that he became a favourite speaker at events and TV programmes.

With the reelection of Obiano, it is another opportunity for him to surpass whatever record Obi had set, for the good of Anambra. Anambra has become one of the exemplary states in Nigeria in terms of governance. The door for result-oriented governance was opened in 2003 when Ngige extricated himself from the clutches of his godfathers. He began to take steps to woo the masses to his side. Even though Anambra has the second smallest land mass in Nigeria after Lagos, it was difficult to move from one town to the other because of the terrible nature of roads. Ngige knew that one thing that the masses would quickly see and appreciate was good road. He embarked on road construction, linking one part of the town to another. Being the first time many parts of Anambra State were getting their roads constructed since the end of the Second Republic in 1983, Ngige became very popular.

When the law court sacked Ngige in 2006, Peter Obi took over and expanded the scope of work. Roads, security, education, health and other sectors were given attention. It is not contestable that Obi surpassed Ngige’s record. But then Ngige spent three years in office while Obi spent eight years.

Obiano’s aim, therefore, should be to beat Obi’s record at the end of his eight years. It will be easy to compare them year by year and sector by sector. A society progresses when there is an effort to beat past records.

Anambra State has the spirit of excellence. It is a state with huge potential in Nigeria. Its strongest endowment is human resources. It is perhaps the state with the most diverse human resources in Nigeria. Unlike other states that may be strong in education but weak in commerce or strong in entertainment but weak in technology, Anambra is strong in most sectors by Nigerian standards. It is not surprising that it usually gets the highest cutoff marks in admission into schools. It is also the only state in Nigeria where the indigenes have been able to create two top commercial-cum-industrial towns that are run by the indigenes: Onitsha and Nnewi. Consequently it was rated number 3 (after Lagos State and Rivers State) by the Central Bank of Nigeria on May 27, 2013 in its listing of the six states controlling the 90 percent cash transactions in Nigeria. Anambra indigenes who live outside the state are also ever willing to invest in the state and return to help develop the state.

Anambra is, therefore, a state that should be the dream of a great administrator to manage. Rated as the state with the best network of roads, Anambra towns have been expanding tremendously. For example, on the road from Onitsha to Nnewi – a distance of 25 kilometres – there is no three hundred metres of land that has no building on it. People now live in one town and go to work in another town because it is easier to move around the state within minutes. Places that were seen as rural neighbourhoods, not suitable for one to buy land and build a house in, are no longer seen as such. Consequently the towns are merging together. In the next 20 years, it is projected that Onitsha will expand and merge with Nnewi, while Ihiala will expand towards Nnewi. By that time, most Anambra towns will have merged into one another to make the state a one-city state.

Obiano has been given the onerous responsibility to set the foundation for the transformation of Anambra into a modern mega city. Wide roads, premium health care, water supply, parks, roundabouts, train network, tourist sites, security, good waste disposal system, etc, are some of the facilities he should work on to make Anambra an enviable mega city.

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