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You are here:Home>>Strategic Research & Analysis>>Governor Obi: As he turns the last lap
Monday, 18 March 2013 12:47

Governor Obi: As he turns the last lap

Written by Ifeanyi Afuba
Gov. Obi Gov. Obi

March 17, 2006 is a historic date in Nigeria for a number of reasons. With the inauguration of the government of Mr Peter Obi in Anambra State on this day, the advance of fascism under the Olusegun Obasanjo presidency was curtailed and vent given to the people’s democratic will.


This singular development broke the regimented pattern of so – called general elections, leaving in its wake, diversity – sensitive electoral calendar. The validation of Obi’s mandate from the April 19, 2003 governorship election further boosted multi party system in Nigeria. If APGA founded just four years earlier could soon assume control of a state government, this was perfect tonic for other fledgling parties to persevere and become relevant.


For the people of Anambra State, the day ushered in an era of peace and civil rule as the new regime effectively cancelled out the forces that had warred over a stolen mandate for close to three years. And following from this new order, a journey of economic reconstruction began in earnest.


The contract between the people and the incoming government was clear to both sides. Anambra State was sadly caught up in the throes of underdevelopment, neglect and misrule.


The potential leadership and followership both envisioned a season of social reconstruction as the path to recreating Anambra State, which understanding had led to Obi’s victory at the poll. Peter Obi met Anambra on the brink of a failed state when he assumed office in 2006.


Between 2003 and 2006, Anambra State was a war zone with two factions of the PDP battling for retention of Obi’s mandate. Several state of emergency plots were hatched, leading to the burning of the state’s few public infrastructure in November 2004. Investors and donor agencies had taken flight from the state.


As at 2006, no public school in the state had equipped and functional laboratory; no government-owned health institution had professional accreditation. The state university was a glorified primary school with a barren Igbariam campus existing only in name. Pensioners were owed accumulated arrears of 22 months pension while permanent secretaries and magistrates lacked official cars.


It was time to give vent to the vision of a mission but as it sometimes happens, the excitement of expectations could blur reality. For Obi the philosopher, you could not set out to restore a failed system using the same approaches and tools that led to its collapse in the first place. Nor could you hope to cure a troubled medical condition without the body experiencing some pains or inconvenience.


A salvage operation was to be done but perhaps, even more importantly; it had to de done systematically. With a business background, Obi would set forth his objectives and goals with clear targets and time frame. Reasonable space was to be devoted to planning.


And there the bubble burst. The roadside expectation of loud politics and showy leadership was not forthcoming from Obi who did not see grandstanding as a substitute for the serious work of governance. Development had to rank above populism for every government worth its name and especially for a state like Anambra whose condition was desperate.


The mistaken impression that road construction was the mark of an action government was deep seated and not surprisingly, the clamour for roads, roads and more roads rent the air. Would Obi accede to this emotional view of governance albeit with strong promise of political capital to be made out of it? This was a tempting and easy way out for a politician thinking of the next election.


At this point, the words of Mahatma Gandhi must have rung in Obi’s mind. In his characteristic simple but powerful reflections, the social crusader had advocated: ‘Be the change you want to see in the world.’ It was elementary that the much desired transformation of Anambra could not be accomplished, could not even commence without setting the priorities right. Though more demanding, a coordinated stimulation of the various sub-sectors would eventually provide the impetus for Anambra’s transformation.


What to do? Obi stuck to his vision. What was the sense of the entire struggle if it boiled down to just playing to the gallery? Seen from another perspective, a society’s God – given resources were not only for the present generation. Future generations too had a stake and right to a meaningful heritage. In adopting the longer but ultimately more rewarding development approach to governance, Obi was not oblivious of the political implications. It would foster opposition from the elite and grassroots alike.


But displaying uncommon courage of conviction and applying strict fiscal policies as well as prioritization of societal needs, the Obi administration succeeded in laying the foundation for Anambra State’s transformation. By 2010, Anambra had become a destination point of investors marked out by good governance and improved socio – economic infrastructure. A pointer to the success of Governor Obi’s mission would be found in his re-election in 2010. It is noteworthy that in so doing, he became the first governor of Anambra State to win a second tenure mandate since the time of the second republic.


Of course, not everyone was impressed by the strides of the administration and there are still dissenting voices to this day. Acknowledging the relevance of the criticisms against his performance, Obi, the long distance runner had in his inauguration speech on March 17, 2010, taken up the challenge this way. ‘There are some people who may still not agree with our policies and decisions.


However, let me assure them while we may not solve all the problems overnight or achieve 100 per cent result, we shall continue to put in 100 per cent effort.’ Again, while the critics have their say on the omissions of the regime in this second tenure, records show that more towns have been provided with potable water; all the 177 communities in the state are funded to undertake community policing; erosion menace is being tackled in different parts of the state; urban planning and housing is being addressed while education, health and road construction continue to receive priority attention. As Governor Obi begins the last lap of the journey, indications are that he is resolved not to be a lame duck Governor to the very end.


It is heart – warming to observe that the Governor has redoubled his efforts to serve Anambra State well at a time some expect to find him tired out and slowing down. Some think this has to do with the desire to achieve electoral victory for a preferred successor candidate.


That itself is still a legitimate ambition. However, going by antecedents, there can be no doubt that Obi continues to be driven by the performance target approach to governance – by which he seeks to achieve defined results within a given time frame. No less interesting is that the government’s spending at this time has not been on frivolities as is usually the case with expiring governments here.


Consider that the Anambra State 2013 budget significantly provides for N70.895 billion capital expenditure and N39.999 billion recurrent expenditure. It would be to the benefit of Anambra State if these progressive tendencies are sustained in the next dispensation.

Afuba is based in  Nimo, Anambra State, Nigeria.

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