As Anambra marks silver jubilee
As six states marked their silver jubilee on August 27, 2016, there was none in which there was a genuine demonstration of solidarity by the people with their government as Anambra State. The camaraderie was palpable. For example, whereas local government workers in many states across the federation have long been in arms against their governments for nonpayment of salaries for as long as 12 month, including oil-rich Bayelsa, their counterparts in Anambra were in a friendly gesture asking Governor Willie Obiano to increase their salaries “because you have the Midas touch.” In July, last year, Anambra became the only state to increase workers salaries in four years and the governor who provides free of charge all state employees with foodstuffs like rice produced in the state, has promised to increase them again if the internally generated revenue (IGR) increases from N1.2b to N2.2b monthly. IGR used to be a paltry N400m when Obiano became governor a little over two years ago.
Anambra is experiencing a renaissance. From education to agriculture to industrialisation to electric power generation to trade and commerce to road construction, urban development to security and to political stability, things are upbeat. The state has in the last three years taken the first position in most external examinations involving high schools; hence it has represented Nigeria brilliantly in key global educational contests. The immediate past Inspector General of Police, Mr. Solomon Arase, declared Anambra the safest state in the country.
Yet, this was a place practically overrun by kidnappers just three years ago, forcing industrialists like Sir Elvis Eze Emechata from Abatete in Idemili North Local Government Area to relocate their manufacturing firms to Abuja and Lagos. No one seems to remember that this was the place the great Professor Chinua Achebe described in 2004 as a place where the Federal Government of President Olusegun Obasanjo tried “to turn into a bankrupt and lawless fiefdom” using a clique of renegades “boasting its connections in high places”. No one seems to remember that Anambra was the theatre of a Federal Government-sponsored mayhem in 2005 during which the Governor’s Office, the Judiciary Complex, the House of Assembly and the state radio and television stations were burnt in a two-day orgy of violence. The arsonists were determined to cause a declaration of the state of emergency so that the sitting governor would be removed and then replaced by one of their own number.
No one appears to remember any longer that this was a state where a sitting governor was kidnapped by fellow members of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) over looting of the treasury. The kidnappers were assisted by Ralph Ige, an Assistant Inspector General of Police who is now late. Truly, it is not just at the federal level that the PDP vandalized Nigeria, as President Muhamadu Buhari famously put it, but also all over Nigeria. The PDP years in the state may well be described as the years the locusts consumed in terms of peace and stability as well as squander mania.
One policy which the present Anambra State government has going for it is inclusiveness. Take the awards, which Obiano is bestowing on a group of distinguished indigenes who have contributed in various ways to the development of the state. The recipients include all civilian governors, right from Dr Chukwuemeka Ezeife, who was governor for only 20 months during the period Nigeria experimented with diarchy under General Ibrahim Babangida. Also included is Dr. Chinwoke Mbadinuju, who may not be very popular because of his long running battle with workers and teachers over nonpayment of salaries.
But it takes perceptive leadership to recognize that you do not throw the baby away with the bath water. If nothing else, Mbadinuju ended the Aguleri-Umuleri crisis, which was actually a full-blown war. At a time even ordinary people were afraid to visit the war theatre; the newly elected governor went there physically and got the community leaders to end the fratricide. The armistice has endured from 1999 to this day. In fact, judging from the way people from the two neighbouring communities relate to one another, no one would know that there has even been any kind of crisis between them. It shows Africans have a short memory of hate, as Professor Ali Mazrui, the most published African scholar, once noted.
It should not be forgotten that Mbadinuju’s government played a pivotal role in the establishment of Orient Petroleum Resources Ltd. Though a private sector-led company, headed by the former Commonwealth Secretary General, Chief Emeka Anyaoku; former Vice President Alex Ekwueme and the former Nigerian Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Chief Arthur Mbanefo, it was the Anambra State government which facilitated its emergence. It is already producing and selling crude oil and the refinery arm will soon come on stream.
In their great book published in 2012, Daron Acemoglu, a distinguished economics and government professor at the MIT, and James Robinson, an eminent economics professor at Harvard who has now moved to the University of Chicago, eloquently demonstrate that countries and territories which make the greatest progress are those which include as many people as possible in the economic and political processes. It is not for nothing that inclusiveness is the buzzword of World Bank executives and development officials in both the private and public sectors. Inclusiveness is at the heart of the state government’s policy which has made Anambra become synonymous in recent times with good governance. It is arguably Nigeria’s best governed state.
Dr Ifeatu is an economist and management consultant on Victoria Island, Lagos.
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