Obiano’s quiet transformation of the intangible sector
In the next three years Governor Willie Obiano will lay down the burden of office as the governor of Anambra State. He will be making history as the second APGA Governor after ex-Governor Peter Obi to successfully lead the foremost State for a two term of eight years. Previous governors, especially of the opposition party, the PDP, were not as lucky as the State refused to yield compliance, forcing them out at different stages of office. To the one she rebuffed after a term. To the other she yanked off before the end of a term. And yet to another she roundly snubbed after two weeks of seizing her to advantage. All these were possibly to underscore Anambra politics as fractious.
Obiano’s five years in office have been marked by great achievements notwithsatnding a few hiccups here and there. There was the national economic recession. There were also spiteful attacks unleashed at will by the opposition. Fortunately, neither setback was of sufficient power to bring about a reduction in the performance of the government. It
glided through and still delivers on target. It is hoped that history will be kind in judging it.
Regardless, it is curious how some of the achievements of the government are taken for granted – things that are applauded elsewhere. It will take not just the knowledge of these achievements, but their honest admission. That Awka capital existed in outline was never in doubt. That security of lives and properties was in a whirl was also not contestable. Just as it is indisputable fact that education, health, environment, infrastructure, transport, and human capital development flourished more with the restoration of security.
Human capital development is one area where the Obiano government has recorded unsurpassed achievements. Relatively, it is the area that is underreported and or neglected. Few, if any, governments can succeed without adequate investment in human capital. Sadly, it is one sector of the economy that is easily taken for granted, but which has consistently brought down many a government. Mbadinuju’s government might not be the worst in the history of governments in the state, but its shabby handling of the workers’ salaries quickened its demise. It bears repeating here how Governor Willie Obiano made it expressly clear that his government would cultivate the human sector. He is yet to default since making that promise on the day he was sworn in. Some have genuinely wondered what gave him an unprecedented win in the 21 local governments of the State during the 2017 governorship election and the recent House of Assembly election. Others have mischievously alluded to all manner of influences. However, it can be said that civil servants in the State – who form the bulk of the voting public – are the strength of the administration.
It may be fair to argue that no time in the history of the State were salaries consistently paid on or before the 25th of every month. This has been the rule since five years not minding whether the day falls on weekend or public holiday. All through the dark days of the economic recession when otherwise healthy States owed salaries, Anambra did not. Pensions and gratuities of retired workers came due. As a show of its commitment to citizens’ welfare the government started by clearing all arears of pensions and gratuities. Today pensioners receive their money almost at the same time as civil servants. Equally consistent with the position of the government on welfare was the training of civil servants and their promotions. No civil servant, deserving of promotion, has been denied the privilege.
It is well to add that apart from prompt salaries, emoluments, pensions and gratuities, Governor Obiano appointed more people in government as a way of alleviating hardships in homes. It is to his humanity that civil servants engaged at the inception of his government were retained even when good judgement dictated otherwise. It is arguable if any other government would assent to such arrangement or had consented to it before. We had cases of new governments relieving employees not engaged by them just few months into office. In explaining his reluctance in following that path, Governor Obiano asked rhetorically if they are not from Anambra. Those who know him before his governorship were not surprised at the stand he took.
But the greatest aspect of the development which the government embarked upon and has pursued with unflagging commitment was the issue of the less privileged in the society. Again, to his charity he surrendered his salary for the first four years in office (it has since been extended to cover the remaining years) for the upkeep of this group of people. This was followed up with the building of a convalscent home- a sanatorium – at Nteje where the sick and others on the wrong side of life are being attended. The home, structured to accommodate inmates with varied forms of disabilities like the mentally sick, beggars, waifs and tramps, is run by qualified caregivers and medics.
One or two positive developments have since followed on from that point. One, there is de-escalation of the unsightly presence of beggars and tamps on the streets of Anambra. Two, there is greater security of lives and properties. On the face of it, the effect on security may not be easily appreciated. But an example or two would suffice. Years back, two “beggars” in Lagos were arrested for different criminal offences. The one and more notorious, was Clifford Orji, now late, arrested for cannibalism at Toyota bust-stop along Oshodi-Apapa expressway. The other a cripple, who solicited alms on Bush Street between Anthony village and Maryland, was arrested as an amourer for a notorious criminal gang. Before their arrest they were generally seen as mere beggars. There is very little doubt that ridding the streets of Anambra of these tenants-at-will augurs for progress and impacts on security.
It is not often that government interferes positively in the affairs of tramps and beggars. Most of the interference was to seize and dump off public space as was the case in Lagos sometime ago.
To date, Obiano’s government is the number one disability-inclusive government in Nigeria. Chukwuka Betrand Ezewuzie, the Governor’s Senior Special Assistant on Disability Matters did write: “Nobody loves and cares more for the Disability Community than His Excellency, Governor Obiano (Ogugua ndi Olusi)”. Appointments were made in the civil service as well as in political office. One such appointment was the elevation of a visually impaired director to the position of a permanent secretary. A sign language communicator was also appointed for effective service delivery. The Governor’s effort is boldly complemented by the First Lady of the State, Chief Mrs. Ebelechukwu Obiano. Her Caring Family Enhancement Initiative (CAFÉ) has consistently lifted a number of despairing souls through provision of artificial limbs, training in special skills, equipping of the skilled, and building of houses for the homeless among others. Prisoners, those who have served out their terms and were released, had a taste of the Governor’s humanity as they were provided with seed money to start life afresh. Transportation was subsidized with the provision of government buses for civil servants commuting to work from outside of the State capital.
The Obiano administration has, within the years, juggled development in both the tangible and intangible sectors of the economy. It is believed that by the time his government is through Anambra will compete and possibly surpass the best in development in Nigeria