What the saints, sages, and saviours have accomplished, you likewise may accomplish if you will only thread the way which they trod and pointed out, the way of self-sacrifice, of self-denying service. – James Allen, ‘From Poverty to Power’, culled from the ‘Mind is the Master’
GIVEN society’s preoccupation with material feats, grandioseness, vibrance and noise, not many have the faculty to contemplate the worth of passion. I therefore, presume that I will encounter readers who will find my reasons for adoring my man of the moment, Willie M. Obiano, strange not because they do not admire him too, but they would rather I adduced more ‘solid’ things about him.
Sorry, dear reader, if my love for Obiano’s heart does sound too subtle. Just come with me and you will see how that also matters, if not more than the gigantic lumps of rock and concrete as well as the myth and might that go with them.
The man, who marks his sixth, unbroken year in office as Anambra State’s Governor is such a rare gem who has a plethora of solid power projects to the extent that on that count, he ranks one of the most proficient among his peers across country and predecessors in the state. In fact, he is the one after my heart for many things about his leadership. But one factor, particularly, his rare ability to communicate passion and responsibility in leadership, gets me enthused whenever I sit on it. Pondering the way he does some things, even those that are not usual traits of politicians always get me ending in wow!
Chief Obiano’s uncommon attributes of evidential love and sense of owing a duty to even the most lowly placed citizen which only a discerning mind would comprehend appear to me to be the real magic wands that have made his hold of the reins in the tough terrain of Anambra State devoid of frictions. Many now behold the state and wonder whether it is not the land hitherto known for red-head politics and unending altercations. The difference is that a man with penchant for passion and sincere work has been on saddle within the past six years.
One is not unaware of Chief Obiano, Akpokuedike’s outstanding records in bold, assertive and imposing infractstructure. From the Anambra Cargo Airport Project in Umueri to the international civic Centre in Awka that are progressing in flux and frenzy, to the delectable sports and recreation facilities that emerged, literally, overnight in Dr Alex Ekwueme Square to ensure that Anambra State played the real ‘A’ state it is in the hosting of the just-ended 12th Biennial Nigerian Police Games among others , the hallmarks of an empire builder are clearly there. In every community in Anambra State, there are at least, two or more multi-million-naira projects built by Gov. Obiano. In all government ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs), there are finished or on-going facility works that are originally of his era. Similarly, structural footprints of the governor are visible in markets, local councils, hospital, schools, courts, among others. In the past six years, roads, bridges, flyovers, roundabouts and monuments have been opening up in the urban, sub-urban areas and the interiors while operators in Anmabra’s internal security system from police to Civil Defence, vigilante as well as the intelligence service and military are beneficiaries of some of the best apparatuses for work in any developing country. So, on the benchmark of solid infrastructure, Dr Obiano ranks among the best Nigeria has offered.
But that is not where my heart is. I know that we live in a world where leadership is often appraised by the standards of how many colossal projects the eyes can see. Hence facilities and tangibles tend to reign supreme in benchmarks for assessment. Lurk around when people discuss their leaders, especially when elections are nearby, you will hear them harp on materials such as roads, money, food, fame, facilities, among others.
At such places, power and authority would be the thrust of discourse but not many would present a deep understanding of what the two issues mean. In the past half a dozen years, Chief Obiano, has proved that you can satisfy those in such groups and still show that good leadership is not just about manipulating people, making profits at peoples expense, lumping concretes on conspicuous sites and just solid achievements but about people, virtue and integrity. The most noteworthy factor about this is that over the period, Willie Obiano has shown that a government can take this noble stance and still be profitable, improve her internally generated revenue (IGR) immensely and run without rancour or ridicule.
“The strength of a man’s virtue,” writes Blaise Pascal, as cited by Zig Ziglar in ‘Better than Good’, “should not be measured by his special exertions, but by habitual acts.”
Obiano has, over the years, made it a habit of keeping ndi Anambra happy, keeping his promise despite the turn of things and focusing on responsible leadership. He fits Jeffrey Sachs (2011) assertion that “a society of markets, laws, and elections is not enough if the rich and powerful fail to behave with respect, honesty, and compassion toward the rest of society and toward the world” and that “without restoring an ethos of social responsibility, there can be no meaningful and sustained economic recovery.”
The governor has buttressed this in his leadership approach. He has not just shown how to lead without being coy, he has effectively tackle the myriad of problems in governance while neither losing his commitment to his duty nor failing to honour promises he made to his people. When there was a nationwide downturn in the economy, many thought he would turn back from his promise to always pay the state’s workers and pensioners on the 25th of the month. But he didn’t. Instead, he promptly paid regularly, even amid nationwide inflation. At the early days of organised labour’s negotiation for new national minimum wage, he promised Anambra’s workers that his state will be among the first to pay when the matter is resolved. He did.
His leadership style prizes human comfort, good health, basic education and food sufficiency high. This is why he regularly increased workers’ salaries; dutifully promoted them as at when due; established an alert and active state health insurance scheme; gave motivating incentives to teachers especially those in remote interiors and yearly ensured that almost every home in Anambra has a bag of Anambra Rice at least during Christmas and New Year seasons. He gives jobs, committedly, to the qualified, the indigent and the handicapped. He also ensures that the citizenry has the best internal security to enable them go out for their businesses and return safely. All these he said and has been executing as he said them.
So my admiration for him is his humane heart and his high sense of responsibility in governance which are missing factors from what we see or read about leadership in most contemporary societies or organisations. Noting the importance but rarity of the kind of leadership Obiano is currently, presenting to Anambra people, scholars Waldman and Galvin (2008) in their work … note that we often learn of such forms of shepherd roles as “transformational, charismatic, authentic, participative, servant, shared, or even spiritual and ethical leadership” but we do not hear of responsible leadership which “is actually this element that is at the heart of what effective leadership is all about” because, “to not be responsible is not to be effective as a leader.”
In Anambra of the past six years, Obiano has shown a leadership concept and capacity that even experts in the field of leadership studies acknowledge its rarity. He has shown an uncommon understanding and ability to show that leading a people is about responsibility, sincerity and passion.
Pondering this, I sense that somewhere in his mind, he feels that he is deeply answerable for his decisions and that the citizenry are heavily reliable on his acts in power. This is squarely what Nicola M. Pless and Thomas Maak in Responsible Leadership: Pathways to the Future (2011) define responsible leadership to mean – a leadership “geared toward the concerns of others and asks for what and to whom leaders are responsible.”
In Obiano, I see a committed man who rules with a kind heart that would not stand the sight of his people hurting when he can help – and that is exactly what his Igbo praise name, ‘Akpokuedike’ means. That is why in 2015, whilst the entire nation struggled through inflation, Anambra State was solvent and even increased workers’ pay. How he did it, one still cannot tell.
No matter the odds, which every man has, what no one can take away from the governor is his passion for his people and his zeal for the duty he executes selflessly for them in Government House, Awka. That is why I love his heart. He immerses himself in the Anambra project with gusto and leads boldly from the front.
“Passion”, Ziglar writes (ibid), “supplies energy and drive, and peak performance is the result of the application of passion.”