Anambra: If It’s Not Broken, Don’t Mend It – By Alex Otti

By Alex Otti;

Credit for the title of today’s piece goes to the erudite and brilliant scholar and former Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria, Professor Charles Chukwuma Soludo, who reechoed the old maxim. Before I get into the business of this intervention, I must admit a few issues in the spirit of full disclosure.

The first is that I am not only a card carrying member of the All Progressive Grand Alliance, APGA, I am also a member of the Board of Trustees of the party, which is in power in Anambra State. Secondly, Willie Obiano is a longtime friend and brother and has been, in the last few decades. Thirdly, Willie was a professional colleague, as both of us worked in the banking industry about the same time in the last two decades and a half. While acknowledging these possible areas of conflict, I must quickly add that in the tradition of this column, we are going to deal with the subject matter devoid of bias.
History records that there is hardly any successful leader without a vision. In fact, the bible says that people perish for lack of vision. Leaders in the past century like Winston Churchill, John F. Kennedy, and Martin Luther King Jr, and modern day leaders like Lin Kwan Yew, Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum and Nelson Mandela, had one thing in common. They were or are all visionary leaders. They knew where they were going, even if it was not clear to their followers from day one. They set targets for themselves and had clear ideas of how to know when they got there. This is not necessarily the case with Nigeria. Most of our leaders come into governance, unprepared, clueless and without set deliverables, except may be to amass wealth for themselves and their cronies. There is this saying that “if you don’t know where you are going, any road takes you there”.
I can confidently say that Anambra state falls into the class of exceptions to this rule. This was taken to a new level with the assumption of office of Chief Willie Maduaburochukwu Obiano as the Executive Governor of the State on March 17, 2014. Obiano comes with excellent antecedents. Amongst several other educational qualifications, he holds a degree in Accounting, an MBA and the Fellowship of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria. After a short stint at First Bank of Nigeria PLC, he joined Texaco Nigeria PLC as Accountant. After four promotions in eight years, he became the Chief Internal Auditor of the Company. He was so adept at his job that Fidelity Bank poached him in 1991 to head her Audit department. He received promotions virtually every year culminating in his appointment to the board as Executive Director in 2003. Having attained the retirement age of 55, he bowed out from Fidelity Bank in 2012. As the tenure of Peter Obi was ending, he contested election for the position of the Executive Governor of Anambra State in November 2013, and won.
Like Obiano himself would say, he came to the job well prepared. Beyond his education, experience and past performances, he had a clear strategic vision. He articulated his vision in a statement thus “to make Anambra State the first choice investment destination and most preferred location to site new industries”. He followed up with a mission statement as follows “to make Anambra State a socially stable, business friendly environment that would attract both indigenes and foreigners to seek wealth-creating opportunities”. As if these were not enough, he proceeded to set up an economic blue print known as the “Anambra Wheel of Development”. This blue print had four pillars as follows:
Trade and Commerce and
Oil and Gas
Having established the pillars, he went further to identify 12 enablers upon which the pillars would rest. These enablers speak to the legs upon which to anchor the 4 pillars. According to him, the enablers include Security, Education, Healthcare, Finance, Environment, Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, Power generation, Civil and Social infrastructure, Water and Sanitation, Hospitality and tourism, Judiciary, Youth and Sports and Information Technology.
By setting out with a strategic direction, it became easier to measure the performance of the administration. I must add that Vision and Strategy formulation are amongst the most important responsibility of leadership. It is something that cannot be done without an in-depth study and understanding of the environment. Once you have your strategy figured out and documented, it becomes easy to steer your team in the direction you want them to go and also measure performance. This sets Obiano apart from a lot of his peers. One more thing: Strategy should be specific to the environment and therefore, fit for purpose. Flowing from these, it is clear that a strategy that works for one state, may not necessarily work for another because all states are not the same. They don’t have the same demographics. I listened to a state governor do a poor imitation of Obiano’s strategy a few years ago. From the way the state is going today, it is clear the whole thing has fallen apart and little mention is made of the strategy in the recent times.
Having set the framework, it would not be out of place to look at how far the Obiano administration has gone in implementing the goals it has set for itself in its strategy document in the last 42 months. In the area of agriculture, the government has taken the bull by the horn. Agriculture alone has created close to 400,000 direct jobs and has attracted over $1.2 billion in private investments within the period under review. The government declared a rice revolution which led to the increase in rice production from about 80,000 metric tonnes per annum in 2014 to 322,000 metric tonnes presently. This means that the state is now self-sufficient in rice production as statistics shows that the annual consumption of rice in the state is 300,000 metric tonnes. In the last one year, Anambra has been exporting local vegetables to the UK. Readers will agree that this is not a mean feat, considering the very high standards that must be met before one can export food to the UK. This was done because the state showed more than a passing interest in the production and packaging of the product to ensure that international standards were met. Still on Agriculture, the world renowned SAB Miller that has a brewery in Onitsha would, henceforth, not buy sorghum, a major input for its products, from outside Anambra. At the instance of the government of Obiano, SAB Miller has entered into agreement with Delfarms, a local sorghum producer, to supply all the Sorghum that it requires for its 2.7 hectolitres brewery in Onitsha. To encourage more people to either go into farming or expand their capacity, Obiano has disbursed about N640m in agricultural loan to over 15,000 farmers in the state.
The administration knows very well that the agricultural value chain is not complete if it does not dovetail into industrialisation. So, the government does not just want to encourage primary products, but processing and packaging as added value. It has, therefore, created an enabling environment for local industrial production. In addition, it has also created incentives, concessions and financial support for small and medium scale enterprises and startups to cushion the effect of the harsh economy on genuine entrepreneurs. In response to this, hundreds of millions of private sector investments have found their way into Anambra State for industrial production. Nnewi and Onitsha have been the major beneficiaries of industrial investments. An industrial park is also being built by the government in Nnewi to take advantage of the traditional manufacturing capacity of the town.
Trade and Commerce are the natural turf of Anambra people. I doubt if there is any part of Nigeria that an Anambra trader would not be found doing business. The government has also given this sector, a boost as one of its pillars for economic development. To ensure that there is order and deliberate expansion, the government created the Anambra State Market Agency (ASMA), whose primary brief is to construct, rehabilitate and regulate commercial activities in the state. A lot of new markets are springing up and existing ones are receiving face lift.
On the Oil and gas pillar, prior to this time, Anambra had not been known as an oil producing state, inspite of the huge proven hydrocarbon deposits in the state. Exploration activities have been on in the state and companies like Orient Petroleum, which started producing oil before the inception of Obiano’s administration are receiving support by way of creating access to the communities where they operate. It is actually the bid to create access to the oil bearing communities that led to the construction of the longest bridge in the South East across the Omambala River. The government has also completed the mapping of identified oil and gas assets in the state for purposes of ease of concessioning. It has also initiated serious engagements with experts to produce electricity from the gas deposits in these communities.
Having assessed the state of the 4 pillars, we now turn to the enablers. Considering that there are many of them, we shall discuss just a few. Education is taken quite seriously in Anambra state. Starting from the last administration, the state became one of the best in education. The Obiano government has not only sustained this performance but has improved on it. Taking the NECO for instance, Anambra has continued to improve in its performance each passing year. It recorded 65% success rate in the 2015 academic year. Success here means students who made 5 credits including English Language and Mathematics. In 2016, the rate improved to 72% and this year, it further improved to 75%. In WAEC also, the state has continued to do very well. Anambra’s performance is not unrelated to the government’s holistic approach to education which emphasizes, student’s welfare, teacher’s motivation and welfare and conducive learning environment. Teachers are particularly key and in Anambra, no one is ever owed salaries unlike some states that I know.
Attention has also been paid to healthcare delivery for the state. Renovation and construction of primary health care facilities have been on the front burner of the administration. Several general hospitals have also been modernized while the Teaching Hospital at Odumegwu Ojukwu University, Amaku has benefitted from major structural and infrastructural upgrade. Several roads have been built and commissioned and Awka, the state capital has benefitted from several state of the art well-lit bridges. Anambra has been lucky to have the best road network in the South East and Obiano has ensured that hundreds of kilometres of new roads are added to the stable.
Perhaps, one of the greatest feats of the Obiano government is the Anambra Airport City project. The $5b project is being funded and constructed by the Chinese. It is a PPP initiative on the basis of Build-Operate and Transfer (BOT). The investors who are funding the project completely have given a timeline of 3 years for completion and commissioning. This would open Anambra up for further business.
For those who know Anambra well, you would agree that a major problem that the state had battled with, over a period of time is security. Violent crimes, armed robbery and kidnapping were synonymous with the state. In fact, some areas in Onitsha were abandoned as criminal gangs took them over. On resumption of office in 2014, Obiano took on security concerns headlong. Areas that were captured by criminals came under heavy bombardment by the security operatives who were empowered with equipment, vehicles, helicopters, and gunboats. Criminals got the message: that there was no safe abode for them in Anambra State. They all fled and today Anambra is reputed to be the safest state in the country.
On the management of the Anambra economy, Obiano has demonstrated that he understands how the economy works. Readers would recall that on several occasions in this column, we had advocated that the way out of the recession was to stimulate the economy by massive spending. The Obiano government rolled out a comprehensive stimulus package for the state. While other states were owing salaries, Obiano did not only pay workers, he actually increased salaries and gave workers tax breaks. This helped in empowering consumers which in turn helped in jump-starting production. Anambra is one of the few states that do not owe salaries and probably the only state that increased salaries during recession.
From the above assessment, there is no doubt that Governor Obiano has done very well. The first is that he is clear about his vision in the state. He was able to articulate them into measurable parameters. He established a template that would help achieve the objectives. He also has combined skills and experience to ensure flawless execution. The first phase of execution has been excellent in spite of the challenges of the economy which was not envisaged at the formulation stage. Given this kind of scorecard, and given that Anambra people are very discerning, my expectation is that they would renew the mandate of this fine and urbane gentleman to enable him complete the job he started close to four years ago. Like the saying goes, one does not need to change a winning team. All I can say is that all well-meaning citizens of the state should join hands now with their indefatigable Governor, Willie Obiano to lay the foundation for Anambra State of the future. Over to you Anambrarians!