The history of the creation of Anambra State has defied low key stance and attracted positive reactions and outings from across well-meaning ndiAnambra. In this discourse, an industrialist of Anambra State extraction and Lake Petroleum Ltd Chief Executive Officer, Chief C. U. Ezembaji, reflects on the journey so far and posits that the anniversary is worthy of celebration with the exploits of the t Soludo-led administration within so short a time. He spoke to RAY UDEAGBARA. Excerpts:
ON WHAT qualifies the anniversary to be worthy of celebration
A cursory look at the trend of events since Anamba State’s creation on August 27, 1991 to date shows that the state passed through many vicissitudes, hurdles, surmounted them and came to its glorious position today.
From the first military leader, Navy Captain Joseph Abulu under the military era to Col Mike Attah, we witnessed massive rehabilitation and reconstruction. Then from the first civilian leader, Dr. Chukwuemeka Ezeife to the present Soludo leadership, we’ve witnessed what I’ll call a period of consolidation, that of massive infrastructural development.
From cultural re-birth to social re-engineering, political re-orientation to economic transformation, the state conflates diverse memes while beautifully struggling away from analogue era into digital 21st century economy. Nothing tells of Anambra State more than its evolution into a business hub and competitive market.
From Onitsha, a commercial centre where everyone gathered, our state has expanded into a three traffic market that places Awka, Nnewi and Onitsha in vantage positions of opening trading windows on Aguleri, Ihiala, Ekwulobia, Umunze, Uke and the establishment of model international markets in Oba, Awka and Nnewi.
Yet, exploits of Anamba indigenes both home and in Diaspora on national and international perimeter model Anambra unto a global brand in human capital development which constantly ploughs back their managerial skills in nurturing the state. Anambra State is continually coasting to sustainable stability despite initial teething problems posed by challenges of godfatherism.
Our state is the first in Nigeria, if not in the entire African continent where automobiles are locally produced from an indigenous entrepreneur from manufacturing to assembling. Anambra possesses rich historical tapestry show; for instance Igbo-Ukwu and Ezira archaeological excavations stretching back to 9th century AD.
Taken from another angle, it also says so much on the level of general physical infrastructural development. After creation of the state, workers hurtled to their duty posts from neighbouring states because of major accommodation problem. But today, not only is accommodation available, it is also affordable for most of the workers.
Same scenario is playing out on road infrastructure all because successive administrations put their markers down to bring this sector up to speed by investing in housing estates like Udoka, Ngozika, Esther Obiakor leveraging public private partnership initiative that has delivered over 11,000 housing units in Onitsha, Nnewi, Oko and Neni.
There are strong efforts to prioritise hard-to-reach areas in physical infrastructural development. Thus from construction of Anambra’s biggest bridge – 280 kilometers long across Omambala River as part of the 42 kilometer road leading to Aguleri oil fields, to building two other bridges through Umueje in Ayamelum LGA and another two with a 5-cell culvert in Awgbu-Ndiukwuenu – Awa-Ufuma in Orumba North LGA, as well as asphalting over 102 rural roads, Anambra State is investing in the future.
Today, Anambra has built world standard airport, the Umueri International Cargo and Passenger Airport, despite playing pivotal role in the establishment of the AkanuIbiam International Airport, Enugu.
It has also built an international conference centre. The 10,000 sitter capacity mansion is an edifice recognised by everyone. Available report has it with authenticity that the Soludo-led administration has completed plans to rehabilitate all dilapidated federal roads as seen in the reconstruction work going on at the Ogidi catchment pit area and the waterlogged portion of Nnobi-AwkaEtiti – Ichida-Isuofia Road. As seen, massive construction work on the Amansea-Ebenebe-Ugbene-Ugbenu-Obaofemili road will soon commence while contract for 14.05 kilometers of road at Okpoko’ isalready being awarded. Also within the capital city, Awka, there is tender for about 15 kilometers of road.
One thing stands this governor out anywhere and that is his ability to see things differently and readiness to thread where others are afraid to go. When he was the apex bank’s governor, he introduced reforms focused on strengthening the financial systems through banking system consolidation and interest rates restructuring.
This brought a reduction in number of banks with simultaneous increase in size and concentration of the remaining entities in the sector. During his time, the minimum capital base of banks was raised from N2billion to 25billion. This brought in bank consolidation through merger and acquisitions thereby reducing the number of banks from 89-25 by 2005 and later to 24.
This is a great advantage to industrialists like us because since then, no Nigerian has lost his hard earned money in distressed banks. I remember when the coronavirus was at its peak, he boldly condemned in 2020 lockdown in Africa and gave his reason that it’ll worsen the situation by crippling the economy.
Rather, he called for “African Solution” which he described as using African herbs which, according to him, may proffer solution and cure. When Nigeria’s economy was going down, he engaged the then Minister of Finance, Prof. Ngozi OkonjoIweala, now the DG World Trade Organisation (WTO) in topical debate.
Even before becoming the governor, during his campaigns, he criticised the Monday sit at home and when he took the mantle of leadership, he set up committee to reconcile all divides and confronted insecurity frontally and brought scholarship to bear on governance. In fact, this governor has a different approach to leadership.
The way he appointed his transition committee members, recruited his cabinet members showed us he has a different view about governance. His intention to strengthen Anambra markets’ leadership to involve progressive governance so that the market unions could be effective partners in the modernisation of the markets made him dissolve the leaderships and create caretaker committees of some markets.
On assumption of office, he convoked a peace building and security dialogue with stakeholders, security chiefs, religious leaders, community leaders, among others as a way of entrenching a more peaceful and prosperous state.
And he went where others dared not, by visiting the IPoB leader, Nnamdi Kanu and promising to seek quick trial for him. As some pundits were questioning his audacity to send a revised budget to the House of Assembly, he was able to convince them and it was passed. All these are happening because ndiAnambra are aware that the elected a visionary man full of ideas and are ready to trust him.
And you can infer right away why this anniversary though low key, is worthy of celebration and was celebrated quietly. NdiAnambra trust their governor who is confident. As CBN Governor, he made proposals, in fact, policies that changed our economy. He has brought low the security challenges, reactivated the monthly sanitation exercise.
Now you can see stronger synergy between the government and private sector. Soludo’s leadership, I’ll say is a driver of policies for socio-economic development. While government will not be able to absolve everyone into the governance process, Soludo’s government is providing general platform for citizens to strive in every good endeavour. Under this administration, I see Anambra becoming one of the best three technologically driven economies in our continent,; one of rule of law and order, one of more economic opportunities transparent in governance, and proper youth involvement in the administration.
So from the above, you can see there has been massive development unlike the scenario when the state was new, say 1991-1992 when roads were none existent, no hospitals, water, good sanitation and quality education, when Awka, though urban thattim,e qualified more of a rural town; when Anambra citizens, particularly civil servants who relocated from Enugu to Awka suffered. Almost everything was lacking then – good market, good transportation, and there were no recreational facilities. I must not fail to commend pioneer administrators, the military officers who administered the affairs of our state at this dire time. I also praise the effort of Dr. Ezeife, who also was the first civilian governor of the state. He also tried although his time was short as Abacha struck and aborted the civilian regime in the country.
On what line of action to bolster support, growth of Anambra
Generally, things are hard; the economic situation in the country is dire. In this very situation when the nation’s economy is on the brink with spiral inflation, rising energy cost, scarcity of foreign exchange and dwindling of the naira, efforts must be made by governments at all levels and the citizens themselves to synergise to salvage the situation. Nigeria is no doubt, faced with multiple challenges, stuttering education system (universities are on strike since seven months now), rising debt that must be paid, depleting foreign reserves and rising fuel subsidy expenses.
This situation is further compounded, worsened by over dependence on oil. Being dependent on crude oil for over 90% of its foreign exchange earnings and 80% of its budgetary revenue, we have lived dangerously on the precipice with a major chunk of its revenue dependent on the complexities of global crude demand and supply. In this discourse, I bring Nigeria as example because correction must begin from the centre.
If remedial measures are not taken from the federal; measures like employing a holistic and multi-pronged approach towards resolving these challenges faced by the nation, states will continue to suffer. After all, it is because of these harsh economic situations faced by the country that many state governments are bleeding, more than 11 of them unable to pay workers’ salaries.
It’s because of paucity of funds at the federal level that federal allocation is dwindling and our governor, thank God he’s an economist, is working assiduously, fighting tooth and nail to shore up our state revenue base, IGR, prompting him to employ automation and digitalisation process to plug all loopholes through which government revenue is siphoned into personal pockets to have enough fund to work with, and to my mind, he’s succeeding.
The same reason he is working relentlessly to champion shift from oil to agriculture to boost the state’s economy, to diversify our economy away from oil to be able to expand the frontiers of development and achieve his administration’s new benchmark and template of delivering good governance to the people that voted overwhelmingly for him at the polls.
To my mind, Governor ChukwumaSoludo has rewritten the leadership narrative by initiating policy directions that will quickly restore people’s confidence by bringing his cerebral pedigree to bear on governance; an administrator of global repute. He’s restored the people’s confidence and trust despite meeting them at their lowest ebb. This is due to his intellectual acumen and first class technocrat of global acclaim.
You know for him to succeed, he must make Anambra free, take back the state from criminals and he began by successfully by smoking all criminals – armed robbers, kidnappers, assassins, arsonists – out of our homes, forests, bushes, houses and his administration is getting this right. Insecurity is now on a daily decline. He has succeeded to advance the frontier of safety of ndiAnambra today; a herculean task he faced assiduously. Nothing slows down societal growth than insecurity.
This, he knew and devoted time, energy and resources to curb insecurity. On the onset of his administration, the situation was hell; so dire that it looked as if the business of all sectors of the economy will cripple.
He recognises the private sector as a major employer of labour and is working tirelessly to boost entrepreneurship, set up more skill acquisitions centres and adequately fund Anambra State Business Agency (ASBA) in charge of bolstering private sector.
To advance this, he began by showing preference to locally made goods. From what has been said, Anambra is on the right course with the right man at the helm of affairs and soon, it’ll be envy of other states in terms of development.
So there is much to celebrate in this year’s 31st anniversary of the creation of our dear state. In fact, despite the prevailing challenging insecurity in the country, you would’ve seen widespread celebration on the 27th of August. You remember one of his pillars of development- to restore law and order and his leadership has worked the talk and restored it.
According to the governor, “leadership of youths will start today”, and he actualised it by appointing youths to various positions in his government. As an academic, the governor places premium on quality education and has recruited 5000 teachers to ensure quality in that sector.
I believe this governor has brought a new dawn and restored the core values of ndi Anambra. So, Anambra State is moving forward and I believe by next year’s anniversary, much progress will be made.