By Kingsley Ugwu
IMPOSSIBILITY is a word not often accepted by the valiant. Three decades and one, Anambra is on full throttle towards the point only the greats converge. Age is only a number and the state is proofing she can fly even in the committee of leading states at both local and international levels.
Anambra, arguably the leading state in SouthEast of Nigeria has a lot going for her that makes her narrative phenomenal. Sprawling from the nest of lower Niger-river embankment, first time visitors into the state, from the South-West region through the Niger-bridge, may nurse a feeling of a state bound in aquatic splendour, courtesy of panoramic view the river Niger provides atop the Bridgehead. If the sight of Wembley marble arch, in London, the United Kingdom, has any special effect on visitors to Wembledon, so does Niger Bridge evoke a gleeful feeling to visitors in the state.
Anambra as-a-matter-of fact, is not Hawaii or Florida in the United States, interns of beaches and aquatic live, neither is she Lagos, Rivers nor Cross River and other aquatic states in Nigeria but nature endowed her with magnificent marine sceneries that could last tourists unforgettable memories. The free flowing Omambala rivers in Anambra East down to Ogbaru rivers provide awesome experience.
Away from the tourists attractions in the state, the narratives of progressive Anambra, cannot be completely told without her political evolution since creation, 31-years ago.
Taking off from mundane beginning in 1991, third Republic, the journey was never without hurdles, laced with amazing turning points that place her in peculiar political trajectory.
The name, Chief Pius Chukwuemeka Ezeife, remains inseparable with Anambra’s history, as the statesman holds the honour of pioneer governor of the state. His reign albeit short-lived put in place “Think-Home Philosophy” legacy, which laid the foundation for prosperous Anambra driven by ingenuity of her citizens. Ezeife left the office less than two years of assumption and a military governor, Joseph Abulu was appointed by the then Military Head of State, Gen Ibrahim Babangida.
The era of successive administrators lasted until 1999 when democracy finally returned to Nigeria. Dr Chinwoke Mbadinuju won the governorship election and became the state governor from 1999 to 2003. His unfancied outing made pundits doubt the capacity of the new state to survive independently from the old Anambra, now Enugu State. However, big dreams are conceived by men with large mindsets and the willpower from courageous hearts turn dreams into reality, hence, the thought of great Anambra gave faint hopes but became realiseable in a matter of time.
New turn in Anambra narrative can be traced to 2003 election, which produced Dr. Chris Ngige as governor, having been announced by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) as winner of the gubernatorial election in the year. With that, the infamous reign of Dr Chinwoke Mbadinuju came to an end but only opened a vista of post-election litigations and intrigues.
Dr, Ngige hit the ground running soon after his swearing-in into office on May 29, 2003. He transformed the state in record two years, reconstructing many failed roads which before his coming, were mere dungeons and threat to ndi Anambra. Citizens immediately felt the impact of governance the way they never did in the past, with Ngige on the saddle. Notwithstanding the mass-interest oriented governance Ngige’s regime introduced, his two years in office was characterised by turbulence.
Political heavyweights in the mould of Chris Ubah sought to hijack the state and dictate how it should be run. It was at that point that the unseen hand behind Ngige’s emergence as winner of the 2003 election began to unfold to many. He was a protégé of a strong political factor – the godfather syndrome.
The impunity of Ngige’s godfather in Anambra polity led to the governor’s abduction in 2004, despite his executive governor and chief security officer of the state titles. The devourers saw no honours in the title and were out to plunder the state treasury, whether he likes it or not. But Ngige resisted them and chose to be on the side of the masses.
He refused to sign any agreement with the political merchants and hawks, who wanted to be collecting N2billion from Anambra’s monthly federal allocation, without any concern for citizens’ development program. Ngige stoutly resisted the order from his godfather and chose to provide much needed infrastructure to ndi Anambra with the fund.
For that reason, he was abducted but he never succumbed to their ungodly demands.Thugs at the same time, invaded institutions of Anambra’s government, burning down the state House of Assembly, State owned media organisation – Anambra Broadcasting Service (ABS), Ikenga Hotel amongst others. Anarchy reigned supreme in the state.
Ngige saw no call more compelling than the interests of the people and he stood his ground. His determination ensured the emergence of good roads again in the state, with improved social system as never enjoyed in the state ever since creation.
Ngige made a strong inroad into the hearts of ndi Anambra, such that when the court nullified his governorship position – first time in Nigeria’s history, a seating governor was relieved of his post after two years of occupying the office. Of course, it happened and in no other state than Anambra. The Supreme Court dismissed Ngige on March 17, 2006 and brought-in Peter Obi, affirming the notion that intrigues form part of politics while politics without regard for rule of law cannot survive the scrutiny of true democracy.
Mr Obi was convinced he won the 2003 gubernatorial election held in the state, which he contested under All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) party but the power brokers then, Chris Ubah and his cohorts arm-twisted him and foisted Ngige on the people. It took Obi two years of legal battle to recover the mandate given to him by the masses. He was immediately sworn-in, while Ngige packed his luggage and headed home. No doubt, he returned to Alor, his country home a hero.
2007 presented yet another occasion for politicians and political observers to enrich their knowledge in political calculations, discusses and engagements, using Anambra politics as a reference in the learning curve.
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) went ahead and conducted gubernatorial election in Anambra during the 2007 general elections, even when Obi’s recovered mandate had barely gone halfway. In the elections, Andy Ubah was declared winner, and quickly sworn-in as governor of the state on May 29, 2007, disregarding pending case filed by Peter Obi for clear interpretation of his tenure.
On June 14, 2007, Ubah was sacked by the Supreme Court and divested all privileges and entitlements enjoyed by any current and past governor. In actual fact, Ubah spent only 14 days in office’ as governor and made history as the shortest governorship service ever rendered by any Nigerian politicians. In response,
Prevailing tempestuous moments in the course of democracy within the period notwithstanding, Anambra’s transformation journey can be said to take off from Ngige, nurtured and expanded by Obi and consolidated by the past governor, Willie Obiano. Mr Obi’s impressive run in his time, opened the door for foreign and local investors to make the state, their destination.
Apparently. Ngige and Obi turned Anambra’s compass high-ward. It was not any surprise therefore, that Dr. Willie Obiano, having come into power in May, 2014, maintained the tempo, capping the new Anambra project with an airport before handing over to the incumbent governor, Professor Charles Chukwuma Soludo on May 17, 2022.
Governor Soludo made his intents very clear and simple, focusing on creating a liveable megacity homestead. To achieve this, technology must drive the policy. The pooling of Anambra unemployed persons in a single data base, followed by teachers recruitment exercise conducted recently, using scientific approach tells the direction 21st Century Anambra is headed. Surely, the state has shifted gears to the digital mode and discusses no longer centre on political turmoil in the state but evolutions that come with her new bride-‘technology’.
Without pandering to sentiment, the political maturity Anambra exudes today could not have come but for the calibre of personalities the state is blessed with and the leaderships they have consistently provided in recent time.