Five clear months have slid by since Chief Willie Obiano signed off as Anambra State governor. Everywhere is quiet. It now seems like a very long time ago that Akpokuedike left office. And that has great signification.
In the first place, the last five months have shown the level of mischief and malevolent attacks spewed by career politicians against the former governor. Second, it is now apparent that Chief Obiano came into office with a missionary zeal to serve Ndi Anambra with a singular mind. Third, history has shown that Obiano did his work without any calculation for his future political relevance.
Obiano must have adopted the Jesus model as his leadership template. Recall that the scriptures said of the Christ, “As a lamb led to slaughter, he opened not his mouth.” Obiano’s voice was not heard, either to blow his trumpet or deflect the media attacks on his person and administration by cold and calculating politicians.
Not being a politician, Obiano incurred the wrath of career politicians and opportunists, who wanted to exploit his perceived naivety to pillage the state’s treasury. With their eyes on treasury looting, some of those aggressively antagonising the former governor were used to merchandising of political opportunities. But Obiano would have none of those shenanigans.
Many people must have forgotten that Anambra was a state where political godfathers sought and got irrevocable standing payment orders for unverifiable jobs just by being connected to party leaders. But Obiano disappointed this calibre of political saprophytes who hang around the corridors of power to peddle influence and fables.
The career politicians failed to recognise Obiano as a different kind of public servant whose stint in the banking industry made him a stickler for probity and due process. The fact that the former governor worked with blue-chip companies, including a spell at Shell Petroleum Development Company and two top-flight commercial banks (First Bank and Fidelity Bank) before becoming the governor, impacted positively on his mandate delivery.
As a top-flight auditor and risk analyst, Obiano knew that he was accountable to the people whose mandate he held. Therefore, he focussed on his job, working assiduously for Ndi Anambra and not with a mindset affected with cares about his political future. As such, he clearly earned the sobriquet, ‘Willie is Working,’ which was how he was addressed by the end of his first term.
It was on account of this singular determination to focus on the mandate of governing Anambra that Obiano was able to deliver quality projects of monumental impact on the socio-economic development of the state. Given that he was not using his office as preparation ground for further political ambition, Obiano’s administration was perceived as winking in the dark.
Unlike many of his peers, the former Anambra governor did not celebrate his successes on the pages of newspapers or other media of public communication. He tended to believe that Anambra people and God that he served would always see, feel and appreciate what he was doing. Needless to say that political jobbers and merchants took advantage of Obiano’s absence in the media to weave the erroneous narrative that his administration was steeped in frivolities and wanton expenditure.
However, five months after Obiano left office, everything is becoming clearer in the eyes of Ndi Anambra. The media attacks and false narratives have ceased. The man’s works are speaking for him, as he enjoys his peace and rest. In what could be described as a show of public acknowledgement, Anambra people have come to the inevitable conclusion that “Willie was truly Working.” For instance, on the occasion of his 67th birthday recently, a socio-cultural organisation of Anambra professionals, known as Anambra Development Union (ADU), recounted some of the many silent achievements of the former governor.
According to ADU, while in office as governor, “Obiano delivered many impactful projects and programmes that have continued to serve as reference points. The group noted how Obiano established the first digital databank for Anambra farmers, alongside an active situation room for progress monitoring and evaluation.”
The president, Alex Osaemeka, and secretary, Chukwuka Udeokeke, stated that the introduction of Anambra rice, as well as the state’s brand signature with a new anthem, logo, core values and colours marked Obiano out as a visionary and empathic leader.
Praising the Anambra rice brand, which has been described as the best in Africa, ADU declared, “It is gratifying to note that Obiano did not make much noise about his achievements while in office. As we celebrate Akpokuedike today and for many years to come, may we never forget that His Excellency tarred over 1,000km of roads in the state, was first in integrating social media and e-governance and was the most tolerable to rants, attacks and insults that come with leadership.
“His Light-Up Anambra initiative reinvigorated nightlife in the state, creating a 24-hour economy. He built the International Convention Centre in Awka, bequeathing the state a world-class conferencing and events centre. He restored the dignity of our traditional institutions by putting a stop to the random arrest and detention of monarchs by the Nigerian Police, in addition to providing all of them brand new Innoson vehicles.
“By making Anambra the first state in the South East and second to Rivers in Nigeria in the Fiscal Sustainability Index, Obiano remains the state’s unsung hero. With that singular feat in FSI, the former governor out-performed Lagos, Kano and 32 other states, just as he was able to offset N1.8bn of pension arrears, while maintaining regular monthly payment of salary, in line with his promise to deliver on physical and human infrastructure.”
Anambra people are now waking up to the realisation that Obiano is an unsung hero. The former governor upheld his fiduciary responsibility to Ndi Anambra as the highest esteem of his office, thereby engendering trust in the government.
With a focus on the long-term economic viability and social sustainability of Anambra, the governor, in 2019, inaugurated the Anambra Vision 2070 Committee, with Prof Chukwuma Charles Soludo as chairman.
Perhaps, Obiano’s insistence on supporting former governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Soludo, to succeed him was the epitome of his altruism, patriotism and desire for the best for Anambra. No wonder they call him Akpokuedike, a dependable protector. Indeed, Obiano comes up as a trustworthy champion.
•Chiadikaobi wrote from Awka, Anambra State