Anambra State is pursuing two tall dreams. First is to rank as the best run state in Nigeria; secondly, to emerge as the Taiwan of Africa.
This ambition resonated high last week as the state marked 25 years of its creation. Anambra was among the states created by the defunct military leadership on August 27,1991. The celebration was not similar to what obtained in the past. Clearly because it was a silver jubilee, the celebration was marked by colour and pomp.
But beyond the mirth, the leadership of the state did not mince word on what the preoccupation of the state is at the moment. The state governor, Chief Willie Obiano at a news conference set the target of the state thus “Anambra state will be the food basket of Africa in the next 25 years.
“In the next 25 years, Anambra will not depend on federal allocation. It will be known as a state that transited to become the Taiwan of Africa.
“We are number one among states that were created 25 years ago. We pay salaries as and when due. We are the safest state, and we have attracted billions of dollars in investment to the state.”
For the governor, there is no reason the state will not relent in pursuing its dream. On the road to realizing this lofty dream, he explained that the government has deliberately focused on providing primary infrastructure, security for lives, assets and investments and ensured good community relations and protection of investors from undue community harassment.
To a large extent, Obiano’s message was not new to followers of developments in the state. Anambra, in recent times has been in the news for good reasons. The state government’s uncompromising stand on security as well as its exploits in agriculture have attracted positive mention in several circles. The story of farmers in the state earning over $5m from exportation of vegetables has been a huge impetus to farmers across the country. Anambra is the first state in the country to achieve such feat. It was not surprising that even journalists had to give a loud ovation to Gov Obiano when he gave a lengthy explanation of how his government achieved that.
It may sound strange to some individuals that Obiano’s administration is rolling out drums to celebrate the state’s silver jubilee. However, those who know the history of the state would not shudder seeing the government take such step. For several years, Anambra was associated with plethora of negative happenings. Soon after the transition to civilian administration in 1999, the state, under the leadership of Gov Chinwoke Mbadinuju plunged into troubled waters. The governor was holed up by his godfathers. He tried to fight back but the gloves in his hands were too fragile and weak to confront them. Anambra drifted to a dire strait. Teachers shut classroom doors, resulting in the students not participating in WAEC exams for the year.
Apart from the failure on the education, Anambra was also on security red alert. There was the dreaded vigilante, ‘Bakassi Boys’, that was causing huge security scare across the state. Members of the group were chopping off heads of those they consider evil.
Even prominent Anambra indigenes, arguably, were not proud enough to openly identify with the state. Many who resided outside the state refused to visit home.
When that era slipped away, another not too noble season emerged. That was Dr Chris Ngige’s era as governor. The godfathers were at the center stage. The major news that came from the state ranged from abduction of the governor to burning of key institutions and landmarks. Nigerians were regaled with heart wrenching stories regarding the state on daily basis. He was later shoved aside by the court.
The victory of Peter Obi of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) in 2006 did not mean an end to the political nodus the state was swimming on. It only changed the colour and tenor of the crisis. The godfathers bared their fangs through the state assembly. The hallmark of the plots was the impeachment of the governor. And that was how the then deputy, Lady Virgy Etiaba became the governor of the state.
However, the return of Obi to the top seat through the Supreme Court ruling on tenure interpretation filed by him marked the end of political hooliganism and godfatherism in the state. Anambra began a journey to where it is today.
“The state has seen both the good and bad in the last 25 years. We are celebrating because we have put those bad memories behind us”, Gov Obiano explained.
Senatorial candidate for Anambra Central on the platform of APGA , Chief Victor Umeh feels the same way. He told Daily Sun that the state has seen both the good and bad days. He argued that the emergence of APGA government has enthroned a new era of growth and decency in the state.
“Before 2006, Anambra State was a theatre of political wars; battles that reduced governance to the least level”, the former APGA national chairman recalled.
He continued: “Mr. Peter Obi did a lot of work when he was the governor as he set up the structures of governance in the state through pragmatic approach. He was also able to put in place enduring foundations at several areas because there was nothing on ground.
“Apart from the few roads that Dr. Ngige managed to construct while battling his godfathers, there was nothing on ground.
“The real set up of government structures in Anambra State started in 2006 when Peter Obi took over.”
That residents of the state are pleased with goings on in the state was clearly displayed at Awka during the lightening of the three overhead bridges built by Obiano. Umeh insists that the bridges have given Awka a befitting shape as state capital.
“Awka is now looking like a state capital. The governor is doing everything possible to clad Awka with the aesthetics that have been missing and which have made some people not to reckon with it as a capital” .
For the state commissioner of Information and Communication Strategy, Ogbuefi Tony Nnacheta , the government has touched every area of the state’s life and will continue to invest in infrastructure. He stressed that the many awards that had come the way of Obiano were devoid of politics. “His Excellency has received many awards from reputable bodies and companies and they were based on what his administration has achieved”.
He described Anambra as a great state which has produced many prominent Nigerians but which had gone through difficult times in the hands of few people. He predicted that the state would never return to those dark days.
One of the things that last week’s celebration showed was the warm relationship between the governor and his Deputy, Dr Nkem Okeke. The Deputy Governor who chaired the anniversary committee enjoyed a free hand unlike what obtained in some states.