FROM an economic point of view, what is the macro economic thrust of Governor Willie Obiano’s administration, and how does it rub off in the visible economy of the state?
Governor Obiano came in as governor as an accountant, as a high finance person, as an investment banker whose life has been defined by analytical bent of focus over things that are financial, over things that are economic. In 2014, he hit the ground running by defining what his blueprint would be, the things that he was going to focus on.
These include agriculture, trade, industry, oil and gas, and later, he added logistics. What are these? In the course of this interview, let us redefine those things. He called them pillars; economic development pillars.
For the sake of this interview, let us redefined those pillars and call them root factors, fulcrum, livers that pull the economic activities of a state, knowing fully well that you could divide Anambra State randomly into areas that have strategic advantage over these growth factors.
There are areas that have strategic advantages regarding agriculture. The northern flank of Anambra State (if you want, you can call them the Omambala area) are riverine, fertile and mass agrarian area.
The southern area, that’s the Nnewi side has advantage over industries, that’s the technical growing of industries, manufacturing, and other such things. In the central part and part of the north, Onitsha axis, the same Nnewi, and Awka, people are involved in trade in the way they have understood it.
So part of the things done is to begin to recreate the market to be in tune with the way commerce is happening now, changing the movement from the brick and mortar trading to trading on the digital space, so that the Igbo people that have been involved in commerce over decades would not find themselves that they are no longer in tune with the way commerce is being done in the 21st century. That is the development of trade and commerce as one of these development pillars.
Then, logistics. This place is a natural gateway, a natural commercial hub, through which people migrate from one state to another. Therefore, part of the governor’s idea to pull economic development is go develop this natural hub, develop the industry of logistics, the monument of logistics as a critical contributor to growing the economic activities of this place. The Commissioner(s) involved can give you more details about these. In other words, what I am just telling you now is the philosophy that underpins the actions of government in these areas.
Now, there is another aspect of Governor Obiano’s management of Anambra State macro economics. A lot of people don’t know that until COVID-19 came and chased people back to their house, Anambra State, from Thursday, Friday to Saturday and Sunday (every weekend), used to be one big state that is bubbling with all kinds of reveries, carnivals, celebrations, burials, marriages, ozo title taking and all kinds of festivals. People were flying into the state, A-class people were flying in from Lagos and Abuja, some from abroad, and so on and so forth. As we have 179 communities in the state, 50% of those communities have events during weekends.
That is another critical arm in the macro economic management. And what did the man do? The governor is not the one handling those events, but he did something. He created a stable, safe and social environment that encourage those things to take place. Now, where is the macro economic component aspect to it?
Simply, he opened up the place for money to fly in. I must tell you, that time (by random calculation), every weekend, what comes in from socio-cultural economy was not less one billion naira, in drinks, in food, in hotels, in transportation, in asoebi, in firewood, in bottle water, in satchet water, in cultural groups that are engaged, in migrant flutist and all kinds of people that contribute to the reveries. If you take a calculator and punch, you would agree with me that not less than one billion naira comes into the state.
Now, the result: when Nigeria went into recession about two or three years ago, Anambra State was the oasis in the desert. The GDP, meaning the totality of economic activities (that’s the totality of monetary value of economic activities) in Nigeria started getting negative, meaning that it started falling from a height it had attained.
But Anambra was positive, and was moving 1% growth, that’s, N1.5 billion coming into Anambra every year, among neighbouring states and Nigeria itself. So, that’s one outstanding result that showed clearly that there was something the state was doing differently in managing its macro economics. And that is what I have just explained to you.
What do you think Governor Obiano has brought on board as the Governor?
Generally speaking, Obiano has changed the grammar of governance. In other words, the grammar of governance has changed. Anambra citizens, before Governor Obiano, had been satisfied with threshold performances. Their idea of a good and performing governor started and ended with expectations for good roads. So, when you came and built good roads, you would be rated a performing governor.
But when Obiano came in, he changed that grammar. People now realised that and were like ‘Come on, it’s not just about good roads; but about lifting the state to look like a 21st century state, looking like where human beings live, where you can go out at night, you would not be afraid of being kidnapped, where good money would have a clear channel of view, private money have a clear channel of view. You know private money now has a clear channel of view.
And they are seeing that there are assets here that have potentials to yield more, because there is safety, there is institutionalised way of private money coming in and having a partnership relationship with the state, and having access to assets that they can work. Governor Obiano institutionalised it by building that institution you see at Aroma, called ANSIPPA.
Before Obiano, there was nothing like ANSIPPA. ANSIPPA is an institution that midwifes the relationship between the state government and private money. By that institutionalisation, private money and investors now has confidence to come in. The fate of their investments does not depend on the governor anymore, because even when the governor leaves office, the institution remains. That is why you see people like Coscharis Farm come in and invest huge amount of money in agriculture and rice production. There’s also the Lindel Farm, Stanel World, and so on and so forth. These investments and many others came in, and more are still coming in, because there is a clear channel of view, and this environment was understood.
Look at Awka Capital Territory Development Authority (ACTDA), which does not only cover Awka, the capital city, but about 24 other communities, with the central point being the roundabout at Amawbia. You’ve seen what he (the governor) has done on lifting the capital city. Some ordinary people don’t understand what he is doing. They said he built three flyovers in the capital city. Do you know what that means? Futuristic thinking! This is the core of the Capital Territory.
Awka is one city where a Trunk-A Federal Highway passes through the capital city. And therefore, you need to build this, because if you do not build, by the time this capital city get built up, it will be chaos. So that is all about changing the grammar of governance. But for people who do not know or understand ‘He just built flyovers’. No! What you should say is that he built the foundation for the creation of a worthwhile 21st century capital city, being the thing that if he didn’t do, in years down the line, the place will be chaos.
In your mind, what will be the best way to move forward after this seven years and beyond?
Let me tell you the best way to move forward. There are two ways available for a leader (a governor) to exit office —you can pander to the emotions of people, meaning to be very popular in the short time; or you can do what is right. When Obiano came in, we had this number of streams of revenue. But when he is going, he is going to extend and multiply the number of streams of revenue that the incoming governor will enjoy. Let me tell you one thing: he is using money that he has to build three critical assets as his exit legacy monuments. What are these three critical assets?
The Cargo Airport that he is building in the northern part of Anambra, that’s in Umueri. It is Cargo and Commercial Passenger, with the complementarity possibility for optimised oil and gas, because there is a deposit for high grade aviation fuel in that flank. One of the principal outstanding key players in the aviation industry is an Anambra man —Allen Onyema of the Air Peace —who has expressed interest in integrating to the Cargo Airport, a mechanic workshop for the servicing and maintenance of planes.
This means that the frequency of landing and taking off there would not depend only on passenger traffic or lifting or landing of light cargo goods, but also on landing and taking off of planes for different grades of maintenance, for certifications, etc.
So, in response to your questions, this is a legacy that he’s going to hand over to someone who will take it to next level. Do you think this state is going to remain the same? Do you think that this state will not feel that someone with a critical mind came into leadership? You may go and make enquiries about the revenue model for any airport that is so conceived. For every landing and taking off, there is a revenue (in dollars) that accrue to the state, including taxes of the staff of Federal Aviation Authority that are going to be working there.
More importantly, it would create a critical mass for the development of exportable agricultural products and perishables from the area, because that is a riverine, agrarian huge market that is docile, people have not seen it; but that’s what you’re going to see. My brother, is this a Grade-C leader? This is not a Grade-C leader, but a Grade-A leader; an outstanding one at that!
So now, let me tell you the one that eyes don’t see, especially most of us who work in the government. People keep saying ‘Obiano is an alert Governor’. Every 24th, 25th, 26th or before the last day of every month, people receive alert. Oh yes! People would say ‘Any fool can do that’; but not all fools can do that. So, why does he do it? Governor Obiano has restructured, revolutionalised the financial system of Anambra State. How money comes in and how money goes out…
If Obiano does not sign with his red pen, no kobo goes out. The way to know that a man is applying his skills as an auditor, as a Compliance Executive in the bank (that was his career part) was to see how much he has applied that in managing the public finance. What people see is that every month, there is alert, still, work is going on at the Airport, work is going on at the International Conference Centre, contractors are being paid; so why? and how?
The answer is simple! It is because the man is standing at the junction box of the financial flow of this state. He is like a traffic man controlling the traffic ‘in’ and ‘out’. So a penny in the coffer of the state serves the purpose of a pound. Anambra does not receive the derivation percentage of the federal allocation, therefore, it is one of the states that have very low federal transfer. But the state is optimising her internally generated revenue.
More importantly, the governor is controlling leakage, as an auditor that he is. That is why, even people like us who are part of the government still wonder ‘How does this man make this money?”
So finally, in response to your question, what the governor is going to leave behind is for you and me and every other person to interpret. But for there to be a continuity in the level and quality of leadership that has come in, from technocracy, from exposure in the bank, going forward, governance should not slip into the hands of any person who does not have the equivalent adaptive capacity. It would be anti climax. I haven’t said who; but the person must have the equivalent adaptive capacity to be able sustain and forge ahead in this; otherwise, anti climax will follow. Thank you very much.