By James Eze
IF life is measured by impact, then, Governor Willie Obiano of Anambra State who turns 63 today should sincerely be counted among Nigerians who have made worthy efforts to remake their corner of the world. And as it were, Obiano began to make an impact long before he became a governor.
In fact, what many people may not know is that before he even began to contemplate a life in public service, Chief Willie Obiano had always put the people first before anything else. Unlike many successful capitalists whose greatest concern is their immediate families, Obiano measured his personal success in terms of what he was able to do for the people.
He identified with his home town of Aguleri; with its aspirations and wishes and with its pleasures and pain. The anguish of the town was personally his. And when tragedy struck in form of the heavy flood that swept through Anambra North in 2012, his grief was palpable.
Indeed for a long time, Willie Obiano stood out as one of the few sons of Aguleri whose genuine commitment to the progress of the town was well-known to the people. It manifested in his philanthropy and his resolve to assist as many people as he could. It wasn’t long before the Igwe of the town felt that it would be unjust if his efforts were not officially recognized and rewarded.
It didn’t come as a surprise to anyone therefore that an appreciative community choose to honour one of their illustrious sons who had shown a remarkable sensitivity to its plight with a title that reflects his readiness to act in defence of the community.
The conferment of the title “Akpokuedike Aguleri” on Chief Obiano was therefore the cleverest attempt to single him out as the one man who has never failed to act in the best interest of his people. They needed to show him that they had taken note of all his interventions in the life of the community.
And once he accepted that title, Chief Obiano wore it like a most expensive perfume. Even as a banker, he subtly ensured that the authorities did not lose sight of the fact that he had been set aside by his community. He ensured that his colleagues, friends and professional associates knew and recognized him as ‘Akpokue Aguleri.’
It was a conscious choice he made because of his belief that a life led in the service of the people is a most meaningful life.
Coming from this background, it was therefore easy for him to assume the role of the chief marketing officer of Anambra State and its greatest defender when he was sworn in as governor in 2014.
He declared a war on anyone who worked against the best interests of Anambra State and sounded a loud warning when he ordered the demolition of houses used by kidnappers as holding cells in his own Aguleri town. In starting the cleansing of Anambra from his beloved town, he sent a clear signal that no sacred cows would stand in the way of Anambra’s development under his watch.
I remember one of his visits to Upper Iweka at the inception of his administration to ensure that no illegal structure would stand in defiance to the on-going reclamation and beautification of the once dreaded hub in the city of Onitsha.
A famous transporter had dared the government and refused to vacate the place but when Obiano arrived with his men, he knew that his time was up. Governor Obiano knew very well that if he failed to show enough guts, Anambra had enough trouble-makers to test his willpower. And he ensured that he was not wanting in courage and taking bold decisions.
He quickly ran kidnappers out of town, and hounded armed robbers, car snatchers, human traffickers and drug dealers out of business.
Indeed, anyone who has observed Anambra under Obiano cannot miss his tenderness towards the state. At the first strategic retreat he organized to prepare his team for the task of governance, he made it clear that he did not like the way the people referred to themselves as “Anambrarians.” He argued that ‘Anambrarian’ did not only sound too anglicised but also sounded like the word ‘barbarian.’ So, it was at that retreat that the term ‘Ndi Anambra’ was chosen as the agreed way to address the people of Anambra State.
‘Ndi Anambra’ sincerely sounds like a term of endearment, an acknowledgement of the pride that matters so much to this people. And it takes a leader who pays a close attention to sensibilities to understand why Ndi Anambra is better than ‘Anambrarians.’
It takes the attentive care of a gardener who cherishes the routine of watching gleaming drops of dew on his flowers every morning to notice when a blade has wilted and should be pulled off the stalk.
Again, history repeated itself in his favour when Ndi Anambra thought kindly of all his efforts to remodel the state and rewarded him with a resounding victory of 21/21 at the pools in the last gubernatorial election. It was reminiscent of what the people of Aguleri had done when they rewarded his service to the town by conferring the title ‘Akpokuedike Aguleri’ on him.
Indeed, Governor Willie Obiano’s growing profile gives hope to anyone who wishes to make an impact in his own corner of the world. It confirms that there is probably no better way to leave a trail than in the lives of the people.
Happy birthday Akpokuedike Aguleri, Ebubedike Aguleri, Odogwu Omambala! Oga adili gi mmaI
*Eze is the Chief Press Secretary of Gov. Obiano