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*Nigeria: Peter Obi's Many Burden
Some six years ago, in May 2006, an apparently unknown political neophyte, named Peter Obi, upset the Apple Cart when he was finally declared the REAL Winner of the 2003 Governorship elections in Anambra State – after about 30 months of unrelenting legal battles.
The routine challenges of delivering good governance to a long-neglected populace are onerous, and coupled with predatory designs on public assets the burdens of steering the ship of Anambra State begin to come into marked focus. But as the Igbos would say” A naghi aso ngide eje ogu” [One does not shy away from battle on the scare of being captured].
At bottom were the challenges of a State made prostrate by a cohort of self-seeking and venal politicians, private individuals and their bogus outfits. In response to Peter Obi’s refusal to key into their modus operandi, they adopted all kinds of fiendish and physical means to render the State ungovernable. They sponsored thugs, arsonists, murderers, armed robbers, cultists and political jobbers to unleash terror on the administration and hapless citizenry alike.
Over time, the Good Lord granted the administration victory and the erstwhile ‘enemies’ are increasingly toeing the line of peace. Peter Obi’s message was unambiguous a situation where a minority would hold the rest of citizenry hostage was unacceptable. Of course, it is only a committed leadership that can successfully checkmate this unwholesome phenomenon.
Institutional structures were hardly enabled and public service morale was at an all-time low. It was indeed appalling and sobering to discover that – some 15 years into the creation of the State -- Judges had no official quarters, Permanent Secretaries without official vehicles, salaries/emoluments and pensions in arrears, offices in rented buildings, internally-generated revenues controlled by the predators and so on. Tackled with dogged determination, the Obi administration has changed the situation extensively for the better. Conditions of services have improved, majority of the Judges now have official quarters, Permanent Secretaries have official cars and drivers, new State Secretariat complexes have been constructed and now effectively occupied, salaries are paid as at when due, promotion is based on merit, pensioners get their gratuity within 3 months of their formal disengagement from service and the public sector is re-established as the main engine of development.
The Obi administration was also confronted with the heavy burden of local and external debts running into billions of Naira; much of which had no relevance to the development of the State, but to which the State had been committed. As at end-2011, the incumbent Anambra State Government had cleared all pension arrears to the tune of about N7 billion as well as other indebtedness it inherited. It is on record that the administration has not borrowed money from any person, organisation or Government within and outside the State. In spite of his background in finance and management, Peter Obi has stoutly resisted the attractive temptation to issue Bonds, which has become the bane of most other State Economies. He is not one to mortgage the future of the people.
The peace and security challenge conveyed the image of a State at war with itself. The predators that held the State hostage had unfettered access to public sector apparatuses through their influence in many corridors of power. With massive investments in community policing – involving regular agencies and screened vigilance groups – the Government has now successfully promoted collective responsibility in the maintenance of peace and security in the 177 major communities of the State, particularly against various manifestations of violent crimes.
All told, the Obi programme of action -- the multi-focused Anambra Integrated Development Strategy [ANIDS] -- clearly demonstrates the enormity of the challenges on ground. Evidently to date, there have been tremendous achievements in all sectors and sub-sectors of the economy, polity and society at large. Included here are significant boosts to transparency in the conduct of public affairs, education, ICT competences, healthcare delivery, agriculture and agri-business, water supply, social and economic infrastructure, youth & women empowerment and entrepreneurship, security, human capacity development, among several others. The impressive list is really a thing to tell: return of erstwhile mission/voluntary organization schools to their original proprietors, resuscitation of education and health services, ICT-Microsoft Academies in the Local Government Areas, the youth empowerment initiative better known as ANSYREP-Anambra Re-Birth, collective responsibility in security, expanded rural & urban road network of over 500 kilometres, community participation in development, ana enabling environment for business and deepening sense of self-worth among the people.
Governor Peter Obi is one of the three State CEOs invited into the select Nigeria Economic Management Team and an Honorary Presidential Adviser on Finance. Beyond this commendable and earned recognition, these twin roles impose great burdens on him to make impact in the fulfilment of the national transformation agenda.
A few years back, Peter Obi’s colleagues on the South-East Governors’ Forum unanimously decided that he should be their permanent Chairman thence, rather than the rotational 6-month tenure per Governor. Also, though the [then] sole APGA Governor, his counterparts in the Southern Nigeria Governors’ Forum and in the larger Nigeria Governors’ Forum also made him their Chairman and Vice-Chairman respectively. As he bears the weight of imprinting his acclaimed integrity, transparency and accountability in the conduct of public affairs, he should become one of the rallying points to help galvanize these fora into greater relevance on issues of regional, national and international interests. There are critical issues of restoring unity of purpose and dignity among the people and Governments of the south-east; peaceful co-existence, co-operation and harmony among the ethnic nationalities of southern Nigeria; and mutual understanding and concord within the Nigerian geo-polity and economy.
As is well-known, the reign of terror in the pre-Obi administration era practically tagged Anambra State a pariah State. Investing his tremendous personal and corporate goodwill as well as governance credentials, Peter Obi has restored the confidence of the international community in the State. Across the State, quite a number of organizations within the United Nations system, the European Union, bi-lateral, voluntary, other donor agencies and Development Partners are actively involved in various value-added programmes and projects in Anambra State. These are verifiable.
A man of vision and mission and a positive Change Agent, Peter (the rock) Obi represents a new genre of leadership that well-meaning Nigerians and Friends of Nigeria have prayed and hoped for over the years. In the Nigerian experience, there is a thin line between loyalty to the State, admiration, support and sycophancy for Oga. But, Peter Obi has avoided the creation of a leadership cult around his person. Rather, he has been focused on the daunting task of strengthening institutional structures that would render abuses of public trust unattractive.
The trip-wires are still being laid on his path and the pressure has been mounting, but he is unwavering in his commitment to meaningful societal development. His attainments and determined focus in the service of his State and country at large speak volumes of Divine intervention in his mission. So help him and the rest of well-meaning Nigerians, God.
Photo Above: His Excellency Governor Peter Obi
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