WHEN Governor Willie Obiano assumed office as governor of Anambra State, on March 17, 2014, he articulated his vision as: “For the State to become the first choice investment destination and most preferred location to site new industries”.
This lofty vision, he said, should be anchored on four developmental pillars of agriculture, industrialisation, commerce/trade, oil/gas. He also conceptualised 12 enablers for achievement, and one of them is ‘airport’.
In actualising the ‘airport enabler,’ Governor Obiano could be compared to great men of history, one of them being Peter The Great of Russia. He came to the throne of Russia in 1689, and met Russia as an under-developed country, lagging behind England, Holland, Germany, etc.
At that time, it was Sea Power that reigned, and Russia had only one seaport, the Archangel Seaport at White Sea. Peter sought to increase his seaports and so conquered the Turks, and acquired the Azov Seaport in 1695. He arranged for technological transfer from England and Holland, who came and taught his people on ship-building.
He expanded the Azov Seaport to international standard. In 1697, he went to Holland and England and apprenticed himself to ship-building companies, and on return, created flourishing sea-ports, with efficient Navy, for security. Russia then became rich in maritime mercantilism and commercialisation.
When Obiano came to power in 2014, he realised that Anambra State is famous in trade/commerce and industrialization, which are among his development pillars. Onitsha, has the largest markets in Africa. Nnewi is christened as “Japan of Africa,” in manufacturing prowess.
The satellite towns of Onitsha, which are Nkpor, Obosi, Ogidi, among others have large markets. Nkpor has motor spare parts markets, Obosi has electrical markets, Ogidi has building materials markets, the Awka Capital City has educational establishments and flourishing markets, etc.
Obiano knew that airports are now superseding seaports in international transportation of cargo and passengers, and the clients of these sectors are business moguls, captains of industries, erudite academia, eminent scholars, legal luminaries, ingenious scientists, versatile engineers, ubiquitous politicians, wealthy bankers, enterprising traders, resourceful investors, church leaders, Pilgrims to Holy Lands of Jerusalem and Rome, adventurous tourists, international beauty contestants, etc. and these classes of people abound in Onitsha, Nnewi, Ogidi, Awka Capital Territory, Ekwulobia, Aguleri, Umunze, Nkpor, Obosi, etc.
In fact, the proximity of sources of raw materials and channels of distribution of goods form the determinant factors in sitting industries. That was why in 1885, British Government delegated the administration of Southern Provinces to the Royal Niger Company (RNC), and the company sited their headquarters at Asaba, present Delta State Capital. But in 1900, British Government sacked the RNC and took direct administration of Southern Provinces, transferred their headquarters to Onitsha.
Their reason was that the volume of trade was greater from Eastern Side of River Niger, where Onitsha is situated, than in Western Side of River Niger, where Asaba is situated. So, like his historical counterparts of Peter the Great of Russia in 1695, and the British colonisers in 1900, Obiano knew that the 181 communities in Anambra State, famous in all ramifications of human endeavors, have greater need of air transportation.
In addition to these variables, there are discoveries of petroleum in Enugu-Aguleri, gas in Igbariam, all in Anambra East Local Government Area. Eventually, the airport is sited at Umueri, in Anambra East LGA. An added advantage is that petroleum is discovered in Ogwu-Ikpele, Ogwu- Aniocha, Akili-Ogidi, in Ogbaru Local Government Area. So, the astute Governor Obiano took congnisance of these variables, and perfected an ambitious project of an International Airport for passenger and cargo transactions, to serve multiple purposes for optimal benefits to the modern generation. This is because; an Igbo adage says that “Those who have river do not wash hands with spittle.”
The size of the airport is such that it shall have filling stations for petrol, gas and aviation kerosene, so that all classes of transportation on land, air and sea, can come to Umueri to buy their needs in petrol, gas and kerosene, even for industrial and domestic purposes. It shall also have Aviation Technical College, where Anambra youths, can learn all ramifications of aviation industry and its commercialisation, as well as manufacturing and maintenance.
Recently, Captain Musa Nuhu, the Director of Nigeria Airways Authority, and his team inspected the airport at Umueri, and confirmed that it is the second largest airport in Nigeria, only second to Lagos. He certified that facilities in the airport meet international standards in quality and quantity, and so, shall be an asset to Nigeria in aviation sector.
The Committee on Aviation Transportation, of the National Assembly of the Senate and House of Representatives, also performed their “Legislative Oversight Function,” and confirmed that the airport meets the requirements as an International Passenger and Cargo Airport, and qualifies to be granted the “operational license.”
They promised to expedite action in approving the operational license, so that the executive, through the Ministry of Aviation, can give the green light for planes to fly in the airport. Among those in the “legislative visit,” are Senator Smart Adeyemi, Senator (Mrs) UcheEkwunife, Senator Ifeanyi Ubah, Chinedu Obidigwe, Dozie Nwankwo, Okwudili Ezenwnkwo, etc.
In his comment, Governor Willie Obiano intimated that all the expenditure of building the airport are borne by the state, without any Kobo borrowed from any local nor foreign creditor. So, the income, when accrued, shall belong to the state, hundred percent.
This gigantic project, shall surely boost employment opportunities, both direct and indirect, from service providers, and enormously multiply revenue for the internally generated revenue (IGR), in the state.
Indeed, Governor Willie Obiano, shall take his pride of place in greatness, with Alexander The Great of Greece (336-323 BC), who built the City of Alexaandria in Egypt, as famous city of commerce and industry and also, Peter The Great of Russia (1689-1725 AD) who built modern Russia to compare favorably with America, England, Holland, etc. So, Obiano’s International Passenger/Cargo Airport, at Umueri, Anambra State, and other legacy projects, shall give Obiano a permanent seat in the ‘Hall of Greatness’ world-wide.
So, let us hail our hero, ‘Willie Obiano The Great’.