HE turns 65 today, it is doubtful if Governor Willie Obiano is aware that his life has been an interesting film reel; spinning and spraying brilliant lights across eastern skies. It is doubtful if he is fully aware of what he has achieved and the impact he has had on the eastern landscape.
For someone who was not a career politician before he ventured into politics, Obiano has handled the challenge of political leadership with the purposefulness of a private sector titan. He has applied himself to the rigor of diagnosing the most painful ailments of Anambra State and came up with effective prescriptions for them. He has looked at the competitive advantages of the state and decided to play to their strengths. He has restored the dignity and pride of Ndi Anambra. And this is what he did.
Before the Obiano administration, the name “Anambra” invoked mixed feelings across the land. The first feeling was always negative. It is a mental picture of Upper Iweka and the surrounding chaos. The gunshots in the late night, the frenzied closure of stalls by traders before dusk and their crazy flee to safety, frequent high-profile kidnappings and a nondescript state capital. The second feeling is the ironic recollection that Anambra has given the world some iconic personages ever. You remember Chinua Achebe, Chike Obi, Nnamdi Azikiwe, Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu and his father, Sir Louis Odumegwu Ojukwu and a host of other exceptional Africans who rose from Anambra to earn the respect of decent people across Africa. These are two feelings of greatness and failure on equal measure.
But Governor Obiano’s campaign for a safe and secure Anambra has made all the difference. It has chased many violent criminals away and reduced crime in the state to a policeable proportion. It has wiped away the once crushing fear that made many people spirit away their ageing parents from villages to safety. It has returned confidence in the business environment and attracted investors to the state. It has placed Anambra on the continental security map. As a result, Obiano has won the prestigious award of the Icon of Security in West and Central Africa and the Best Governor/Premier in Security Architecture in West and Central Africa. That is a complete turnaround story.
Similarly, there is probably no better sector where Obiano’s impact is felt as in the education sector. Barely one year after he assumed office, Obiano had sent 28 teachers on offshore training to Singapore. The idea was to equip the teachers with the relevant knowledge they needed to bring Anambra children at par with their peers across the world. It was the first time any political leader would do anything like that in South East Nigeria. That gesture proved to be the catalyst needed to induce positive change in the education sector of the State. Consequently, in 2015, 37-year old Rose Nkemdilim Obi won the maiden edition of the Maltina Teacher-of-the-Year Award. Two years later, Clement Okodo who teaches at Central School, Abagana, won the Best Teacher in Nigeria Award. A bigger success followed two years after when Anambra teachers won four awards at the President’s Teachers and School Awards for Excellence in Education organized by the Federal Government in Abuja. These are a clear indication of the quality of teachers that populate schools in Anambra State under Obiano. They also explain the sustainable performance of Anambra State in education and production of knowledge.
The outcome of Obiano’s investment in education has been outstanding. The greatest of them was the Gold Medal won in August 2018, by five school girls from Regina Pacis Secondary School, Onitsha, at the World Technovation Fair in the Silicon Valley, San Francisco, USA. It was the first time some school children from Africa would defeat their fellow school children from the USA, China, Spain, Uzbekistan and Turkey in any innovation contest. To prove that the Technovation performance was not a fluke, less than one year after the Silicon Valley feat, four boys from St John’s Science and Technical College, Alor, won the Bronze Medal at the International Festival of Engineering, Science and Technology in Tunisia ,defeating countries like Canada, Italy, Sweeden, Ukraine, Malaysia, Brazil, South Korea, Turkey, China, Bosnia, Herzgovina, Indonesia, South Africa and Tunisia. The boys won the Bronze Medal with a device they called Adaptable Alternative Power Supply for Sub-Saharan Africa. Before that, Anambra school debate team had also won laurels in Singapore at the World Schools Debate Championship. It is therefore factual to say that under Obiano, Anambra’s academic performance has gained global dominance. Willie Obiano will be remembered for all these achievements.
Obiano’s thirst for conquests also added yet another chapter of excellence to the Anambra narrative. His unwavering focus on agriculture created a new window of success for the entrepreneurial gift of Ndi Anambra. From a miserly 80,000 metric tons of rice per annum that Obiano met when he assumed office, Anambra has become a reference point in rice farming in Nigeria with a production output of 345,000 metric tons at the moment. The state also has some of the most modern integrated farms in Nigeria. Anambra has also become the center of food processing in Nigeria with ultramodern rice mills in Igbariam, Amichi, Ufuma and Umumbo. Lynden Integrated Farms in Igbariam, which came into existence from a partnership between the state and some indigenous investors is the largest poultry farm in South East and South South Nigeria. To cap it up, farm produce from Anambra State have been exported to Europe and America by Awka based Grafil Farms Limited. All these were unthinkable before Obiano.
Indeed, Governor Willie Obiano has repeatedly proven that mediocrity in leadership is an expensive choice Nigeria cannot afford. He has shown that if we take responsibility for our country, Nigeria will be a better place.
Happy birthday Akpokuedike Aguleri.