Willie Obiano: What we don’t often Remember !



I do not know if it is the same everywhere, but if there is anything that Nigerians agree on, it is the mistrust of their political leaders. Yes, Nigerians do not trust their political leaders. And to my mind, it is down to two things – a strong resentment that arose from years of disappointment and broken promises by politicians. And two; the annoying incompetence of many people who have had the rare privilege of wielding executive powers in public trust as elected or selected leaders.

Happily, Nigerians can also tell the leaders who have nothing to offer them from those who have. And though the culture of thorough assessment of candidates seeking for political offices is not fully in place, many Nigerians understand and value the importance of a clear and concise plan that shows a leader’s priorities before he assumes office. Speaking of which, it is difficult not to point out that Governor Willie Obiano of Anambra State came into office with what would probably pass for the most concise plan for governance. In its simplicity, clarity of vision and interpretation of what pegged back the state, Obiano’s blueprint hit the bull’s eye with one clean shot. And what’s more, the plan carries the ambition of the state, its wish list and its self-prophecy. And yes, it also came with a good title; ‘Anambra Wheel of Development.’ Superb!

In simple terms; it took a striking vision to see that insecurity had stood between Anambra and greatness for two and a half decades of its existence as a state. It took a remarkable foresight to figure out that Anambra of all places could be refocused from commerce to agriculture. And perhaps more importantly, it took almost the gift of a fortune-teller to foresee the approach of the last recession and adopt proactive measures to insulate the masses from it. Governor Obiano rates high on all these counts.

Away from the standard practice of rolling out plans for the state, great leadership is also heavily tested by the unexpected. How does the leader respond to a recession for instance? How does he respond to something as unnerving as the sudden transfer of convicted Boko Haram prisoners to the state that he had put in so much effort to change its history from a dreaded place to the preferred destination for leisure and business? How does he react to the sudden misery inflicted on the larger population of the coastal communities who have just been uprooted and their livelihoods washed away by flood? Governor Obiano’s swift response to the recent recession marks him out as a leader who is fast enough to reflect and evolve an effective plan to save the people from misery. He was the only governor in Nigeria to swiftly roll out a realistic Economic Stimulus Package to stave off agony and squalor from the people.

Indeed, Obiano’s competent handling of the midnight transfer of Boko Haram prisoners to Ekwulobia without creating any animosity between Anambra and Abuja is worthy of commendation. But for his adroit handling of the conversations, the federal government could easily have turned a deaf ear to the clamour for the removal of the prisoners and nothing would have happened. In much the same way, Obiano’s reaction to the recent flooding of the riverine communities set him aside as a smart leader who could mobilize a rapid response to prevent a tragedy. The scope of response and the efficiency of the entire operation within a very short space of time serve as an acceptable template for emergency management in developing societies.

Governor Obiano has also shown enough presence of mind when the occasion demanded such. He has always been the first to arrive on the scenes of disaster and tragedy. From the mass killings in a church in Ozubulu to the petrol tanker explosion at Upper Iweka and from the tragic accident that wiped out almost an entire family at Finotel Junction in Awka to the fire outbreak at DMGS Roundabout Onitsha, Obiano has proved himself a reliable friend to citizens in distress.

Obiano’s approach to conflict resolution is also a very important aspect of his leadership that compels interest. In a world that is plagued with perpetual conflicts, it matters a lot just how much a leader reacts to disputes and rifts that threaten peaceful co-existence in his domain. Most people in Anambra State will remember that there was a deep gulf between the two major denominations of the church in the state when Obiano assumed office. But he deftly deployed his conflict resolution skills to wipe out the cold war in a very short while. Obiano had also shown a remarkable proactive side when he foresaw the looming clashes between farmers and herdsmen long before the issue became a serious threat to national security. During a strategic scenario planning in 2015, Obiano foresaw the herdsmen threat and moved quickly to weave it into the security architecture of the state. He set up the Cattle Menace Committee and drafted the leaders of the Hausa-Fulani Community, government officials, the traditional rulers of agrarian communities and the Service Commanders of the various security agencies in the state to serve as members. This committee stamped out the simmering quarrel between the herdsmen and farmers in agrarian communities in the state. That is admirable.

He has also recorded quite some success in his efforts to entrench peace in the state. Under his watch, age old disputes between warring communities have been managed well while quarrels over traditional stools that plagued many communities have fizzled out. Now, a strong sense of community pervades Anambra State in a manner that has not been known before. People now look out for one another in a sense that echoes the APGA mantra of onye aghana nwanne ya. There’s also a communal pride that makes so many youngsters declare on their social media status “A bu m onye Anambra, in case you don’t know.”

And if a leader achieves even only this sense of pride, this new way of seeing oneself in just five years, he deserves my respect.

By James Eze (eziokwubundu@gmail.com)

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