WRITTEN BY IFEANYI AFUBA
On his sixty-second birthday anniversary on August 8 2017, Anambra State Governor, Chief Willie Obiano, is seven months away to the end of a four-year-mandate to steer the affairs of the state.
How has Obiano fared and what does his handling of this complex assignment yell us of his philosophy of life?
The popular view is captured in the cumulative assessment of Anambra’s fortunes by Chief John Nnia Nwodo, President–General of Ohaneze Ndi Igbo, who said, quote: “Today, Anambra has the lowest poverty index in Nigeria. Today, Anambra has the highest growth rate of manufacturing outfits in Nigeria. Today, Anambra has the highest growth of import substitute endeavours in rice and vegetable production in Nigeria. Today, Anambra is the state with the lowest loan exposure in Nigeria with the capacity to meet its monthly obligation to workers timeously. Today, Anambra and Lagos are the only states involved in the building of new cities planned to meet the standard of any modern city in the world.” End of quote.
It is common knowledge that the progressive advance Anambra has made under the watch of Governor Willie Obiano rests on a multiplier foundation of state security. Anambra State was not an island unto itself and her wellbeing was tied up with the fortunes of neighbouring states. The result was that on August 22, 2015, Anambra hosted the first ever southeast–Delta states security summit in furtherance of regional stability and cohesion.
There is a subtle statement in the fact that the state’s agro export scheme was launched with a local plant, onugbu. The export of bitter leaf to Europe in 2015 signposted the dawn of an economic civilization at once indigenous and universal. Hauling onugbu abroad rather than say, rice, potato, groundnut or any other global crop represented a cultural message that the Igbo nationality at home or in the Diaspora would easily connect to.
And shortly after, Governor Obiano announced a project for reviving husbandry of efi igbo, the local cow species that some of us saw last in the village in our childhood days. Armed with a package of incentives, the state government is currently searching for cattle rearers and interested persons who will key into the plan to restore a heritage and boost meat production.
A keen sense of the Igbo mission led to the ozoemezina memorial held in honour of the Igbo victims of the 1966 pogrom and subsequent civil war. Observed on the significant date of January 12 in 2015, the rite of passage was an Obiano initiative for pacification of a brutal past and coming to terms with its memory. Delivering his speech richly punctuated with compliments of umu nnem, Chief Obiano said, quote: ‘We shall continue our bold efforts to ensure that we are not only united in times of adversity and grief but in times of victory and peace. With this ceremony, I urge you to mourn no more but rather celebrate the bravery of these great spirits who lost their lives yesterday that we may find peace today.’ End of quote
Governor Obiano equally extended a monthly welfare package to former Rangers club players. In the same vein, the regime sponsored a musical fiesta featuring pop stars of the post-civil war decade in Awka in April 2017. The concert served the multipurpose of honouring the artistes, soothing the hunger of nostalgia, fostering fellowship beyond state boundaries and drawing the youth away from crime through inspiration to realize themselves.
This sense of Igbo civilization was obviously what motivated the Anambra chief executive to inspect a police guard of honour adorned in chieftaincy regalia sometime in late 2014. Perhaps, it is important to remember that the Akpokuedike of Aguleri is a traditional, not Honourary red cap chief. Obiano is another country boy; a native immersed in his roots; a Kunta Kinte for whom westernization cannot erase the allure of his heritage.
In the count down to the election that brought him to power, a columnist had described Obiano as ‘a man given to ceremoniousness.’ What the writer was trying to say, rather vaguely, was that here was a fellow for whom expression of the Igbo culture comes naturally to him. There is of course the APGA question. With a south – east connection, APGA is on a mission to widen and deepen the democratic space; be a voice for the marginalized, broker the realization of alternative models of social reconstruction.
Obiano has kept faith with the APGA legacy, leading the party to extend its frontiers and gaining more electoral ground. Nevertheless, he is realistic enough to realize that the south – east’s political destiny should be collectively explored. Consequently, at the 2016 World Igbo Congress in USA, Obiano invited Ndigbo to come together and draw up a political plan that they should all agree to invest in and pursue with the resolve of martyrs.
Here then is a toast to a life of service, cultural identity and generational mission. It is our prayer that God will bless William Maduaburochukwu Obiano to do more in the years ahead.