A central issue in the quest for Nigeria’s greatness is leadership selection. Some 2,400 years ago, the great philosopher, Plato, argued that “As a just and healthy person is governed by knowledge and reason, a just society must be under the control of society’s most cultivated and best informed minds, its ‘lovers of wisdom’…” I have chosen to share the thoughts of our two presidents to encourage a debate on the matter, especially given the pervasive indifference or downright loathsomeness to matters of politics and governance by the so called ‘lovers of wisdom’. I served Nigeria under two presidents. This piece is not part of ‘the book’ on presidential governance.
The date was Friday, March 17, 2006. At the morning prayer session with President Olusegun Obasanjo at the ‘red carpet’ in the villa, I raised a special prayer point and asked the congregation to pray for the new governor of my state Anambra, Peter Obi (who was on his way from Abuja to Awka to be sworn in same day), as well as for Anambra State so that Obi’s regime may mark an end to the brigandage and misrule in the state. We were all upstanding.
The president cut in, and pointing in my direction remarked: “We shall pray as you have requested but the problem with you people from Anambra is that those of you who have something to offer shy away from politics and hooligans have taken over your state”. To the best of my recollection, that was the only prayer point during the four years of daily devotion that received a commentary. ‘Baba’, as we fondly call him was basically telling us to ‘get involved or stop complaining’. Periodically, the three of us from Anambra who were regular members of the prayer group (Oby Ezekwesili, Rev.William Okoye and I) had cause to brainstorm on the challenges and limitations of participation in politics especially by those of us who were ‘technocrats’. While we were obsessed with ‘good governance’, we had little interest in the process of acquiring power.
After leaving office as governor of the central bank, I was in London when twice in June 2009 I received calls from Alhaji Mangal to the effect that President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua wanted to see me anytime I was in Nigeria. I returned with my family late July and on Sunday, July 26, I received a call that the president wanted to see me by 9:30pm. After a few banter, he asked what I was doing abroad. As I explained the three offers I was considering, he was shaking his head. “Well”, he started, “it is not because you are here, but I have said this several times to you. Given your age, skills, and your accomplishments for our economy and financial system, it would be a waste for you not to continue to be involved in Nigeria’s public service… For example, there is going to be an election in your state early next year and I want to strongly urge you to show interest… You know that your state has been unfortunate with leadership, and our party has been in crisis there...”
At that point, my heart beat was racing. Before I left office, many people from Anambra had suggested that I should run for governor but it did not make any sense to me and my family. As I began my response, Yar’Adua cut in and suggested that I did not need to respond immediately but instead that I should go home and ‘consult’ with some of the political leaders in the state. He then raised his two thumbs and assured that “if you accept to do this, I will come out fully to make sure that you get there”. If he had allowed me to respond immediately, the answer would have been an unambiguous ‘NO’. I thanked him and left.
On getting home, my wife was curious. I summarized what the president said, and she asked: ‘so what was your response?’ I told her the president would not let me respond but asked that I go and ‘consult’. “Then go back tomorrow and tell him that you have finished consulting and that the answer is No”, she ruled. I pleaded with her that we should at least give some time, out of respect, before reporting our decision. I confided in a few people and sought their advice. Within a week, the ‘rumours’ were everywhere. In the meantime, Yar’Adua also told a few people of his plans for Anambra and how he wanted to ‘use Soludo to make Anambra a model state’. He specifically requested Chief Tony Anenih to help him make it happen. My wife and I came under inestimable pressure --- ‘to go and serve our people’. Some even said it was a ‘divine call to serve’, etc. My wife loathes politics and can’t stand it.
On August 12, 2009, I gave Yar’Adua the ‘preliminary report’ on my consultations. To enable me take a decision, I presented the challenges and threats to his proposal to which he laid out solutions. I told him that after three offices at the Federal Government (as chief economic adviser, de facto Minister of National Planning; and governor of the central bank) I believed I had had my day on duty as far as government was concerned and wanted to return to the international community, academia and private sector. The only reason another public office would make sense to me in the circumstance was if I believed I could really make a fundamental difference.
If I would contest, my vision was to transform Anambra’s economy such that after eight years, it would no longer need federation account allocation for recurrent expenditures but would devote 100% of it to capital budget. Consequently, I requested eight things the Federal Government would do to enable me quickly transform the state into an international city, including: an airport; modern seaport for Onitsha and dredging of River Niger to enable medium-sized ship to come to Onitsha; dualisation of Anambra- Kogi road to speed up commerce between the North and Anambra; Anambra as a special line item for Ecological Fund as one third of its land mass was under threat by erosion; completion of the greater Onitsha water scheme; inclusion of Anambra as an oil producing state; Anambra as one of the pilot states for the large scale commercial agricultural scheme; and speeding up the second Niger bridge. Surprisingly, Yar’Adua accepted all of them at the meeting that lasted 76 minutes.
We agreed that the agenda of transforming Anambra would require full eight years of working 24 hours a day. He was happy and said that if he could have two states per geopolitical zone that would become ‘models’, he would have succeeded as president. I then requested another four weeks to undertake ‘extensive consultations’ and report back early September.
In the meantime, while the ‘consultation’ was to proceed, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) announced a sudden timetable to collect and return an expression of interest form. I was advised to pick the form--- almost akin to jumping into the river while still unsure whether or not to swim. Yar’Adua fell ill and travelled to Saudi Arabia. Conspiracy theorists took over and I saw treachery, intrigues, blackmail and mischief at their most banal forms. Propaganda was hatched and effectively marketed that “Soludo is not contesting for governor; he is preparing to contest for president in 2015”.
I was shocked to the marrow about the wicked plot. Of course, the game plan was to put me on a collision course with all those with an eye on the presidency. It worked. The more I tried to explain that I was drafted into the race by President Yar’Adua, the worse my case became because, as I learnt much later, it was interpreted that since Yar’Adua was the one who asked me to run, it meant that he was grooming a successor. In my various positions at the Federal Government, I survived hundreds of evil plots, but this was a different baptism of fire. Yar’Adua never returned and with an electoral body then that literally determined which candidate to ‘return’ or ‘deliver’, the rest, they say, is history! This is subject of a book project.
To be honest, I remain grateful to God and to those who supported and opposed me, for the lifetime experience. I tell my friends that what I learnt in the last five years about human nature is priceless.
To some readers, the foregoing might appear discouraging. Most professionals or so-called technocrats are scared of being ‘rubbished’ by politicians, or fear that politics is so dirty that it is not meant for ‘decent people’. At a recent church event in a neighbouring state to mine, one of the officiating bishops pulled me aside and pleaded with me: “I beg you in the name of God, please leave politics. You are too decent for that”. An elder statesman and my mentor once advised that “God did not create you a politician: He created you an economist. Please leave those people”.
There lies the dilemma for our country. Chinua Achebe was quoted as saying that on matters of leadership, Nigeria is a country that goes for a football match with its 10th Eleven. When Achebe joined the PRP in early 1980s, many people wondered what he was doing with ‘politicians’. Most people believe that Nigeria can only be transformed if a critical mass of capable people take charge at all levels of governance. How would such people emerge without going through the political process? Power, they say, is not given; it is taken! Under a democracy, the electorate can only choose their leaders from among the candidates contesting elections. If Lagos State Governor Babtunde Fashola (a cerebral and successful Senior Advocate of Nigeria) did not go through the political process as a ‘politician’, perhaps Lagos would have missed the on-going transformation.
Yes, the system is very rough indeed, and the admission fee for new entrants (without godfathers) is too high. If you are not careful, the crude Nigerian system can destroy you if you are seen as a threat. Is the solution then to shy away and complain in our bedrooms? Now that Prof. Attahiru Jega and the new INEC are restoring confidence in the electoral system that votes count, is it time then for all those who have anything to offer to stand up? Surely I understand the enormous cost that very busy professionals bear by abandoning the glassy offices and certainty of office and income to dabble into the shark-infested waters of politics. Not everyone can or should be in politics. But in an underdeveloped country such as ours, the potential marginal contribution of one skilled professional is many times that of his counterpart in advanced societies.
Thus, the society loses greatly for every one knowledgeable person who stands akimbo as the duty of development beckons. As I ponder these issues myself, I can only surmise that the import of what Obasanjo and Yar’Adua told me is a reminder to us of the eternal wisdom of Plato that “the penalty good men pay for indifference to public affairs is to be ruled by evil men”.
Dr. Chukwuma Soludo is the former Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria, and former contestant for Anambra State governorship election.
In 2014, Anambrians of voting age will go to the polls to choose Governor Peter Obi’s successor. Though the guber contest is two years away, Anambra politicians interested in the state number one seat are already behaving as if the exercise is in two months time. The state’s political atmosphere is steadily becoming charged.
Political gladiators girding their loins for the battle for the state’s topmost position are employing all manner of missiles in the fight. For now, the situation appears fluid as there is no indication any of the combatants are having an upper hand. There are three major political parties in the state: Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA). APGA, the ruling party in the state however appears to be where a plethora of the gladiators angling to take over Obi’s job are gravitating towards. Keen observers of Anambra politics are emphatic that the crisis in APGA is as a result of in-fighting in the party over who flies its flag in 2014.
For example, the travails of oil magnate and owner of Capital Oil and Gas, Ifeanyi Ubah has its locale in his interest in taking over from Obi. Last month, Ubah spent days in police custody over issues bordering on oil subsidy fraud. It is believed in some quarters that Governor Obi’s feud with the National Chairman of APGA, Victor Umeh as regards future of the party and who becomes its governorship candidate in 2014 revolves round Umeh’s preference for a particular candidate as against Obi’s own choice. Many political stakeholders in the state, especially within APGA swear the candidate Umeh is rooting for is Ubah.
The anti-Ubah elements in APGA are working on the theory that while the Nnewi-born multi-billionaire businessman is funding Umeh’s war with Obi, Umeh on his part is projecting him as the next governor of the state. Umeh’s recent confirmation that Ubah is now a card carrying member of APGA and that the party would line up behind him anytime he declares his intention to fly APGA’s flag for the state’s 2014 governorship contest tends to give fillip to the above theory. But there is also the argument that the notion that one single individual would literarily hand Anambra’s governorship to his preferred candidate is too simplistic.
For one, Ubah is not the only Anambra politician nursing governorship ambition. Veterans of past governorship battles in the state such as former governor (and now serving Senator) Chris Ngige of the ACN, Senator Andy Ubah (not related to Ifeanyi Ubah) of the PDP who served briefly as governor in 2007 before the Supreme Court booted him out and billionaire businessman, Nicolas Ukachukwu also of the PDP. Former Central Bank Governor Chukwuma Soludo who contested against Peter Obi in 2010 on the platform of the PDP is also rumoured to be gearing up to test his popularity once more, this time around, on the platform of ACN or Labour Party.
Even in APGA, Chuma Nzeribe who flew the party’s Senatorial flag for Anambra South against Andy Ubah is equally interested. So also is Dubem Obaze from the Ogbaru axis whose Senatorial Zone, Anambra North is favoured by Governor Obi to produce his successor. Obaze is the immediate past Anambra State Commissioner for Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs. His Zone, Anambra North has not produced governor of the state since its creation.
photo credit: odimmaanambra.wordpress.com
Senator Annie Okonkwo who contested against Obi in 2010 on another party’s platform is now in APGA and also reportedly eyeing the state’s Government House, Awka as the next governor. Considering the volatile nature of Anambra politics, observers are worried that unless the current brick bat between prominent political and business elites from the state is checked prior to the election, Anambra will once again plunge into blood-chilling mayhem, the type witnessed during the Chris Ubah – Ngige supremacy tiff. A pressure group, Anambra Generation Next (AGN), a group of young professionals of Anambra State origin shares this sentiment.
AGN in a statement called on politicians in the state to eschew politics of bitterness acrimony and vendetta but rather pursue noble causes that will engender peace unity and the needed development in the state. AGN’s statement which was signed by its Secretary-General, Obiajulu Nwosu said the group was appalled by the on-going war of words between two sons of the state, Ifeanyi Ubah and Chairman of Coscharis group, Cosmas Maduka who are incidentally from the same town, Nnewi over an alleged business partnership gone awry.
According to AGN, “while we believe and also advocate that every business deal and agreements must be transparent and fair, we also know that disagreement do exist in some business transactions, in such cases the judiciary comes to play as an arbiter …. this is the civil thing to do rather than resort to convicting a business partner in the media.” AGN also buys the argument that Capital Oil boss’ travails is rooted in his alliance with the APGA National Chairman, Umeh.
“Followers of Anambra politics believe that the current challenges against Chief Ubah is not unconnected with his touted political ambition in the state… in the main the obvious close relationship between Chief Umeh and Ubah is the root of the current onslaught against him (Ubah) because of the erroneous belief in some quarters that he is the one funding Umeh in the battle of supremacy with the other faction of the party.”
Meanwhile, apparently eager to endear themselves to Anambra electorates, some of the gubernatorial hopefuls in the state, including Ifeanyi Ubah have been embarking on philanthropic gestures. Ubah for example has taken his “Kero-Direct” initiative to major towns in the state where residents were availed the opportunity of purchasing kerosene at N50 per litre. Besides that, through his Ifeanyi Ubah Foundation (IUF), he has distributed various items and food stuffs to the less privileged in the state, including orphanage homes. This is in addition to his educational scholarship scheme.
While Ubah and other politicians in the state may not be totally blameless, a broad spectrum of indigenes of Anambra are of the opinion that each of them should be allowed to test his popularity so that the people will decide. “The fact that the police detained Ubah does not mean he is already guilty of the allegations against him. Let him test his popularity at the poll and if Ndi Anambra eventually prefer a criminal or 419 as their governor, it is up to them”, Amaechi Eloka, a businessman and Awka indigene said.
"Disaster struck several communities in two Local Government Areas of Anambra West and Ogbaru in Anambra State following ravaging flood after a torrential rainfall in the state. Governor Peter Obi was compelled to make emergency visit to the scenes of the flood for on-the-spot assessment, and thereafter he called on the federal government to declare the affected communities disaster areas. The Governor, who visited the areas in company of officials of the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), and State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA), as well as some members of the State Executive Council, said that the level of destruction was more than what the state alone could handle. The communities affected by the flood tragedy in Ogbaru include Osomala, Ochuche Umuodu, Akili Ozuzo, Akili Ogidi and Atani, while those affected in Anambra West are Oroma Etiti, Ezi Anam, Umuenwelum, Umueze Anam, Umuoba Anam, Nmiata, Innoma, Ukwalla, Owelle, Igbedor, Odekpe, Odemagu, Nzam and Igbokenyi." - Daily Star
Governor Peter Obi with Anglican Bishop of Mbamili, Most Rev. Henry Okeke, traversing what was once a sprawling community of Umueze Anam in a boat. The entire Ogbaru, Ayamelum, Anambra West and Anambra East are completely subsumed by flood.
Bankers and other residents of Awka are now living in fear following the kidnap of a bank manager, Mr Tochukwu Nnadi, in the early hours of Wednesday.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the incident took place at about 7.30 a.m. in Awka while the banker was on his way to his office close to Mama Africana Kitchen in Iyiagu Estate.
A source, who wants to remain anonymous, told NAN that contact had not been established with the kidnappers.
The source lamented the security situation in the state, saying: “My brother, we do not know where Anambra is heading to. We planned to close the bank because of fear but some of us summoned the courage to work.
``This man was just coming to the office in the morning and we learnt the people who kidnapped him were waiting in two cars, one was a Chrysler and the other was what they call End of Discussion with their doors wide open.
``Immediately he arrived, they came out and blocked him and took him away. Honestly, everybody is now in trouble in the state,” it added.
The police spokesman in the state, Mr Raphael Uzoigwe, said the issue was not reported to the command.
He said he had made contacts with the relevant divisions but that no such case was reported.
However, another source, who also wants to remain anonymous, told NAN that the matter was being handled secretly.
According to the source, that is the reason why it has not been reported to the police. (NAN)
"Facts speak louder than statistics"
- Mr. Justice Streatfield (1950)
In the war of words, "the first casualty is the truth," for when the numbers are pliable and shaded to accomplish a specific purpose, then observers and stakeholders must not look to the other side.
The recent article written by Nasir Ahmed El Rufai headlined: ANAMBRA'S BUDGET OF MISPLACED PRIORITIES, would have still made its point without conjuring half-baked statistics on Anambra State. But the writer could not hold back the temptation of justifying his point of view without hard numbers to make it credible and acceptable. The point must be clearly made that all Nigerians in our diverse country have the constitutional rights to express their views through articles, press releases and speeches but they are not entitled to misrepresenting facts.
The point here is not to defend Governor Peter obi, for he has the resources, infrastructures and capable hands that can do that for him. But when facts about Anambra State are misconstrued and misplaced, those of us that cherish Anambra State and appreciate the facts will not be left with any other alternative but to speak out.
Nasir El Rufai, in his most recent article on Peter Obi and Anambra State, did not provide us with credible references or scholarly sources that validate the statistics he utilized. However, it was not difficult to find out his source which is National Bureau of Statistics (NBS). The only problem was that he did not completely use all the numbers; some numbers he chose to skip and others he made malleable.
It will be logical to give a brief explanation of the role played by NBS in the country’s economic landscape. It is the country's statistical agency that was set up by Federal government of Nigeria to collect micro/macro-economic data of the country. NBS collects and documents indices on inflation, economic growth, food and commodity prices, with regards to changes in the market place, in the effort of determining the wellbeing of the nation.
Governor Obi (left) Mallam El Rufai (right)
Dr. Yemi Kale is the Statistician General of the Federation and Chief Executive of NBS. “NBS came into being with the merger of the Federal Office of Statistics (FOS) and the National Data Bank (NDB). The creation was part of the implementation of the Statistical Master Plan (SMP), a program document of the Federal Government of Nigeria (FGN).” These statistics collected by NBS are used by policy makers and bureaucrats for making economic and financial decisions.
The merger of these entities took place to give the nation an elite “statistical agency for all the three tiers of Government. NBS is expected to coordinate statistical operations of the National Statistical System in the production of official statistics for all Federal Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs), State Statistical Agencies (SSAs) and Local Government Councils (LGCs).” NBS may not be perfect but it is progressively getting better.
When Mallam El Rufai wrote: “Unemployment rate in Anambra is among the highest in the South-east zone, at 21.3 percent, it is higher than the national average of 21.1 percent." But According to NBS, Anambra state unemployment value stood at 12.2% and currently, Anambra State has the lowest poverty rate in Nigeria.
The question that is begging for an answer is where did El Rufai find his data? Is it from same National NBS or somewhere else?
His article on Anambra State was quite interesting but misleading, not because of what he wrote but for things he chose to omit and for the numbers he utilized to make his point. One thing he failed to do was to differentiate between the governor and Anambra state, for he interchangeably made Governor Peter Obi and Anambra State appears as one entity. A governor is the chief executive officer of state and a politician; therefore the citizens of the state should be respected.
One could constructively criticize the governor’s administration without the people of the state feeling belittle or insulted. By going out of his way to make Anambra State appear worst than it actuality is, reveals that the article is not being logical and serves an alternative agenda.
The below paragraph reinforces the point and drives home the idea that El Rufai is castigating the people of Anambra state with pliant statistics:
"The incidence of poverty in the state is very high – actually disappointing. The South-east has a food poor incidence of 41.0 percent of which 60.9 percent is absolutely poor, while 66.5 percent is relatively poor and 56.8 percent live under a dollar a day. Anambra has a poverty index of 22.8 per cent, the third highest in the zone, and shares the sixth lowest position in Nigeria with Rivers State which also has 22.8 percent. About 47.6 percent of the state’s population is core poor, 45.0 percent is moderately poor and only 7.4 percent of the state’s population is classified as none poor. Income inequality as measured by changes in Gini co-efficient between 2003 and 2010 increased slightly by 7.6 percent against 18.1 percent for Ebonyi and Enugu States 7.5 per cent increase."
According to NBS, absolutely poverty for the South-east is 58.7 percent not 60.9 per cent as El Rufai suggested in the article.
“Anambra is the eighth most populated state in the Federal Republic of Nigeria and the second most densely populated state in Nigeria after Lagos State” and not ninth as the article claimed.
Anambra State is by no means the poorest state in Nigeria, another indication of a thriving business activity was buttressed by the large percentage of mobile phones access in the state. Technology Times reported in 2011 that "among the states in Nigeria, Anambra has the highest percentage of people with access to mobile phones at 95.1 per cent and nearly 60 per cent of them own the devices" according to the survey report by NBS indicating that “at least 9 in every 10 persons who reside in the state are likely to have access to a mobile phone.”
On Anambra State resources, El Rufai wrote that "Anambra State is not much endowed with mineral resources and the few known to exist are not exploited."
But that is not the case; “Anambra is rich in natural gas, crude oil, bauxite, ceramic and has an almost 100 percent arable soil.”
“In 2006, a foundation laying ceremony for the first Nigerian private refinery, Orient Petroleum Refinery (OPR) was made in the Nsugbe-Umuleri area. The Orient Petroleum Resource Ltd, (OPRL) owners of OPR, was licensed in June 2002, by the Federal Government to construct a private refinery with a 55,000 bc/d capacity. Furthermore, Anambra state is a state that has many other resources in terms of agro-based activities like fishery and farming, as well as land cultivated for pasturing and animal husbandry.”
The article should have concentrated more on its preamble which was to dissect the respective allocations of resources to different sectors of the economy instead of stretching itself too thin and running a fast one with the numbers.
Nasir Ahmed El Rufai is an intellectual but on writing on Anambra State, his intellectuality was eclipsed with a noticeable and unremarkable omission of vital statistics.
Emeka Chiakwelu, Analyst and Principal Policy Strategist at Afripol Organization.
Governor Obi of Anambra State and his administration deserves unequivocal applaud on transferring 1,040 schools back to the original owners. It is important to highlight such an important and affirmative move by Obi's administration to show that we are all committed to the truth and a better Anambra state. When the government of Governor Obi misplaced his steps in governance, it should not be neglected or left un-criticized. But at same time when he put up a sound policy he should also be acknowledged and commended. All of us who cares for Anambra’s development and wellbeing must be consistent and committed to truth and justice. And we will not hesitate to call it the way we saw it and let the chips fall where they may. This time around Governor Peter Obi got it right.
The constructive criticism of the government of Obi cannot be perceived by his administration as bitterness towards the governor. When mishaps, bad policy and poor workings of the government are shaded from the light of the day everyone becomes complicit to the process. And that is not healthy for the emerging democracy in the state and in Nigeria. That is why it is necessary to give kudos to the governor on his recent move to restore the schools to the original owners.
Vanguard newspaper reported that, "The N6 billion will be shared among the Catholic Church, Anglican Church and remaining government schools in four installments. In the first installment, the Catholic Church, which owns a lion’s share of 453 schools, will receive over N762 milion, while its Anglican counterpart will get over N498 million. The remaining public schools not taken from the churches will share over N489 million out of a total of N1.75 billion. The second and third installments will gulp N1.25 billion each, while the fourth and last installment will cost the government N1.75 billion."
L-R Barr. Ezenwo Nyesom Wike, the Hon. Minister of Education; Most Rev. Dr. Christian Efobi, Archbishop of the Niger Province of the Anglican Communion; Gov. Peter Obi; Most Rev. Dr. Valerian Okeke, Metropolitan Archbishop of Onitsha Catholic Province; and the National Chairman of APGA at the return of 1040 schools to the missionaries by the Governemnt of Anambra State. credit: nigeriamasterweb
Majority of the schools were owned by religious institutions notably the Catholic and Anglican Churches. The remaining schools were owned by non-profit organization and private organizations. At the end of Nigerian civil war the then government of East Central State in the cloak of the implementation of the Universal free Education took over schools owned by private and religious institutions.
Since the takeover of the schools by the government the management was below the standard benchmark. The high benchmark quality set by Christian’s administration and management was relegated to poor quality and poor results. The worst of the all is the emergence of social breakdown and social ills epitomized by gangs, hazing, criminality and nefarious activities. The former schools of notably high morality, decency and uprightness later decomposed and metamorphosed to den of robbers, prostitution and moral delinquency.
As those schools became government owned the teaching and upholding of Christian mores, values and customs were abandoned. The saturation of student's minds with worldly and mundane values subsequently brought the total breakdown of the requisites values needed to sustain a decent and law abiding societies. The government was not interested in improving the moral integrity of the pupils and students and the large segment of the student body became wayward and criminals. In religious settings the study of Christology was richly emphasized that became the basis to build an orderly society.
Comrade Micheal Alogba Olukoya, President of National Executive Council, National Union of Teachers (NUT) criticized the handover and said: “It is a parody and travesty of governance that as the world moves progressively toward mass education through public funding, the Governor of Anambra State is all out to returning education to elitist project, undeserving for the children of the poor masses.” But that is not necessarily the prevailing case.
It must be noted that Christian schools had a history of taking care of the poor and will not abandon the children of poor masses but rather help to direct them in better direction for a successful lives. Also, there were naysayers and cynical individuals that believed Governor Obi did not turn over the schools for benevolent reasons. They were adamant that the Governor Obi could not pay the new lawful approved minimum wages; therefore he transferred the responsibilities to the private sector.
But in supposedly federal system of government, decentralization enables the state government to make the best possible decisions without interference from outside. Anambra state has decided to give back schools to the original owners and that is their prerogative and that’s how federalism works. The government has been in the control of these schools for over forty years and has not improved the moral integrity and well-being of the poor masses. Let's give the private sector the chance to try something new and creatively original that may have better answers to the societal problems.
Governor Peter Obi turning over the schools is justifiable in a democratic society that needs the growth and development of a strong private sector. The reality is that he handed the schools to the original owners and he deserved the kudos for his thoughtful act.
When Peter Obi was campaigning for the governorship election he created for himself an image of a business expert with the capacity to magically transform Anambra state hence Anambra people had a very high expectation, even when Ngige came in through the back door and was doing some good works people were still wishing that the person they gave the mandate should come and take them to the next level.
In March 2006 that dream came through and everybody celebrated the dawn of a new era for massive transformation and realization of the Anambra of our dreams. More than five years after he became governor the high expectations of Anambra people (that made Peter Obi to almost become a religion) have not been met. It is not that Peter Obi’s government has not recorded some notable achievements (especially in the area of rural development- currently about 6 bridges are at various stages of completion) but there is huge expectation gap which so far he has not been able to meet; but for Ngige Anambra people did not expect much from him hence he easily surpassed their expectations.
For example in the Education sector, during his campaign Peter Obi told us that Anambra school system will be transformed to the extent that even his kids will come back and school in Anambra state. Even though there is some piecemeal approach to rehabilitate some school buildings but till date there is no standard secondary school in Anambra state that is worthy of governor’s children; I am not demanding that his children should come back to school in Anambra but can the governor beat his chest today that there is one secondary school in Anambra he can send his own child to. I almost wept the day I saw the state of Anambra state University late last year. Please( for the sake of the children whom he preaches that he loves) let Anambra State Executive Council visit Gombe State University so that they can have an idea of how a state university should look like( Gombe is not an oil producing state hence no excuse of Gombe having more money). It did not take Gombe State government large percentage of their yearly budget to build the university; it only took vision, political will, modest cost of government contract and sincerity.
When Peter Obi came in 2006 he told us that Awka the state capital is an emerging slum, people were happy two years later when he announced that the master plan for Awka, Nnewi and Onitsha is ready; that he will transform these cities to standard cities that will be a model in Nigeria (people’s expectations went very high again), almost three years later there is nothing to show that any form of master plan is being implemented, buildings and shops are still being build indiscriminately in Onitsha, Awka and Nnewi and none of these cities are illuminated at night.
Anytime I pass through Onitsha in the night(from 8pm) from Asaba it looks so deserted that it always seems as if the Biafran civil war was still on or that it just ended. Onitsha has not been able to achieve its full potential as a commercial hub because it functions only for 12 hours unlike other commercial cities that function for at least 18 hours; this is because there are no social infrastructures to support it to function up to 18 hours like a normal commercial city. This is same sad story for Nnewi that should be the manufacturing hub of Nigeria.
There is still no visible improvement in the social infrastructure of Awka the Anambra state capital, even the Awka stadium and the golf course projects have been abandoned despite the promise of this government to complete all ongoing projects since March 2006.
People always marvel at how Peter Obi (almost on a weekly basis) will pass through Enugu and sometimes Owerri, Asaba and even Umuahia and still be comfortable with the poor level of infrastructure in Awka. The only means of relaxation known in Awka is beer parlour (that is why an average male resident has pot belly- which is not healthy); there are no sports complexes, recreation parks, cinema etc
Till date there is no plan of fulfilling the promise made by Peter Obi to put Anambra state on tourism map by developing of Agulu Lake and Ogbunike Cave into major tourist sites in Nigeria. Also the Ikenga Hotel owned by the government in Awka has been left to rot away; government should have privatised it or concessioned it to private sector to manage (even Protea hotels manage smaller hotels than Ikenga Hotel).
I believe that three years that is left of his government is enough to make amends and be on the same page with Anambra people again; if His Excellency can take time off and do a self appraisal.
Ezomike Ikechukwu, Public Affairs Commentator Lagos Nigeria.
Happy Birthday Senator Chris Ngige, Let us Sing And Dance
Love him or detest him, Senator Chris Nwabueze Ngige remains a classic to be deliberated in the annals of Nigerian politics. And yet more volumes flood in as he continues in his crusade to liberate the state of Nigerian politics from its condition of desuetude, to one where politicians and leaders seek and invest in advanced ideas to salvage their people from the artificial restraints of inequality and poverty.
This has surely earned him great foes, vicious and mean men in high places. Yet he has as well a place in the hearts of the ordinary man and this is proven by the fact that he never rents a crowd, but has charmed the people with his past works, native intelligence and simple way of life, his heartbeat is in synch with that of the farmer in Anam and Anyamelum areas, the trader in Onitsha and Nnewi Markets, The Corn Sellers in Ekuke, the Nursing Mother in Abagana, the student population in Uli, Igbariam and Awka, the Pensioner in Ebenebe, Awba Ofemili and Otogo Nnewi. He surely feels their pains and has vowed to lift such weights anywhere they are found.
Unlike certain demagogues who like to announce to the whole world their harebrained projects as indubitable achievements, for it is only in Anambra that a government announces with shameless hilarity and animation that it has carried out immunization in the state! Or given out ambulances, to non functioning clinics, spending millions of Naira on bill boards, leaflets, TV and radio advertisements in self praise, using many gifted in the art of the spin doctors as Mephisto to this Faust, that even when they fart, they immediately claim it has a wonderful deodorizing appeal.
Dr. Ngige needs no spin doctors, as an Ex Governor and savvy administrator his works as governor reveal dimensions to the man, his philosophy goes beyond windy platitudes and political banality. Whereas he spent only 33 months as Governor amidst iniquitous sallies from the Obasanjo government, a determined Chris Uba and his acolytes and even the Anambra Electoral Petitions Tribunal, Ngige managed to work, performing excellently. This is even acknowledged by his strongest foes that despite their astringent thoughts about him, they still look at his projects with admiration and unconsciously mutter, Chi Gozie Nwa Ngige! In English Language it means, God Bless Ngige's children. This trend alone nullifies out rightly one of President Jonathan's strong arguments for tenure elongation.
Now as a Senator one has no fears that we will once again be exposed to his joie de vivre in the Senate, a Senate lacking in vim and vigor since the days of the late Dr. Chuba Okadigbo. In Senator Ngige, there can never be a dull moment, for the people of Anambra Central, Igbo land and Nigeria as a whole, President Goodluck Jonathan's transformation agenda may obtain a speedy vehicle with his likes in the Senate.
Let me state that the cause for celebrating Senator Chris Ngige today, is not limited to partisan politics, nor tribal sentiments. Ngige's fan base cuts across the four cardinal points of the Federation, reaping the respect and the admiration of millions of Nigerians at home and abroad. His trademark beard and jaunty cap remain symbols of his struggle for emancipation amongst the youth.
But how can we forget Ngige's labours, it is with us even when we seek at other things, pushing back, obtruding our inner most thoughts like a flood turning into a torrent or a breeze becoming a gale. Such a situation is hardly surprising, for Anambra state had in the years past been bereft of any semblance, even a pretence to good governance by past leaders, bad governance was a like a norm, a way of life an inclination before he came on board. Even his coming as governor was simply viewed as the continuity of such an ugly trend, many dismissed our diminutive hero as a prisoner in the Chris Uba scheme to continue the hemorrhaging of Anambra state, Senator Ngige's rise from such an invented prison and his capacity in overcoming the trials and tribulations unleashed on him, even in the face of unsaid defeat proved them wrong. In his 33 months of governance we were reminded of our heroic reaction to the triple onslaught of war, starvation and blockade engineered against the Igbo people and other ethnic minorities during the Biafran war.
Senator Ngige is compared to our avowed Igbo leader, General Emeka Ojukwu. Senator Ngige built 44 Inter Local Government, State and Federal Roads, spanning all Local Government Areas in the State, 14 township roads in Onitsha, 10 Township roads in Awka, 8 at Nnewi, with a dualisation of the Nnamdi Azikiwe Avenue, thus when a spin doctor like Val Obienyem accuses Senator Ngige of building roads which led only to his Alor country home, one is immediately taken aback at such an attempt at tactless revisionism. It is again a fact that when Senator Ngige's administration came onboard, they met an empty treasury, yet when he was leaving, the state coffers boasted of 12.8 billion Naira in its accounts, an act unprecedented in our state or national history, yet such a noble act was irrationally described by Victor Umeh the APGA National Chairman as a landmine of sorts!
It was Ngige who cleared the backlog of pensions, paid striking teachers and members of the civil service arrears of salaries owed them by the Mbadinuju administration.
It was Ngige who asked the University administration of the Anambra State University to reduce the tuition fees from N30, 000 to N18, 500 and also refund the N5, 000 collected from the students in order to have the University accredited. Today the fees in ANSU have been increased by 110 percent a gesture by the present state government to show that it loves education. This governor even had the audacity to mock the students, saying that university education was for only those who could afford it and that if they really wanted to attend ANSU; they ought to tell their mothers to sell their wrappers as he claims his mother did. Pray my most learned reader, how many wrappers would your mother sell today to raise 130,000 annually for school fees, asides books, accommodation and other financial involvements.
While religious tensions are gradually rearing its head in Anambra state, we remember with nostalgia how meritocracy was built as an altar in Anambra State under Senator Chris Ngige, here a catholic governor in Ngige had more Anglicans in its cabinet.In other sectors, despite the mantra of developing all sectors simultaneously of the current state government, the Ngige Legacy in Anambra thumps whatever Mr. Obi presents, in style, planning and delivery. Such great achievements will build a monument which shall endure until the sun grows cold. I am unstinting in my judgement of him
As Ngige clocks 59 today being August the 8th 2011, let us celebrate the man whose greatness is essential to the hopes of Ndigbo and Nigeria as a nation, let us roll out the drums, sing and dance. Happy Birthday Sir.
Igboeli Arinze Napoleon writes from Abuja.
Governor Peter and his administration including Anambra State Environmental Protection Agency (ANSEPA) are not pro-active in the collection and disposal of refuse in Anambra State in general and Onitsha in particular. Despite the restive public relation by his administration on pages of newspapers, the refuse disposal in Onitsha and Anambra State is not being executed properly and it is saddled with poor management. There is no doubt that Governor Peter Obi has been trying to come up with the policy and standard of operation for hauling the refuse and debris from homes and streets of Onitsha. But there are lapses, holes and vulnerabilities in his overall operation in the disposal of solid waste that hampered his unelaborated effort.
The whole truth is that solid waste disposal scheme is not functioning properly. The removals of the refuse from residential homes are not consistent but infrequent and inadequate.There is no established and consistent framework that will stipulate the frequency of trash removal be it once or twice in a week or biweekly. The problem with Obi’s administration is his inability to decide whether a taskforce/appointed contractors or the environmental commission ANSEPA is responsible for collection and environmental safe disposal of refuse and solid waste.
As you walk around or drive through nooks and corners of Onitsha there are still refuse and waste abandon on street corners and inside the drainage system. These are serious and have deteriorating health implications for the citizens living in close proximity to the massive littering and exposure to the rotten solid waste. These abandonments of decaying refuse are becoming the ideal center for breeding of both water and air borne diseases. In addition the trash deposit becomes a breeding ground for mosquito parasites that comes with malaria.
Apart from the deformation of environmental integrity, the unkempt image of heaped refuse and solid waste are blocking pedestrian pathways and the wastes have some detrimental effects on the ecosystem and the urban dwellers. This is why it is necessary that safe removal of waste must be given a highest priority and attended immediately with most serious attention.
The menace and severity of malaria and mosquito can be easily controlled by safe removal of refuse that filled the dirty aqueous potholes on the streets of Onitsha and roads of Anambra State. The urban dwellers derived their drinking water mostly from water boreholes and there are possibilities the residues of waste material could sipped into the water, thus injecting e-coli bacteria that causes cholera, diaherra and stomach upset.
The environmental pollution of the air becomes apparent when refuse and waste are allowed to decay further and commence to discharge some toxic gases that are harmful to human and the ecosystem. Apart from the pungent smell of abandon refuse, the emission of methane and nitrogenous gases from the decomposing refuse can cause serious medical mishaps to the residents of Onitsha and Anambra State.
Re-organization of management team is necessary
There must be a clear stipulation without confusion whose party or team is responsible for attending and removing of waste. The government of Anambra State has contracted some companies to go and make sure that inhabitants of Onitsha are paying their refuse disposal fees. But the objectives, modus operandi and operational responsibilities of the appointed contractors are not clearly defined. Are the contractors mandated to collect fees and if so on what ordinances are they acting on? In this case who will the people hold responsible when trash are not removed. The citizens of the state must be promptly informed on the fees they suppose to pay, the location for the payment and the type of containers that are needed for dumping their refuse.
Good Housekeeping must be adhered to
Good Housekeeping must be adhered to
For the outcome of achieving a clean environment requires education and information on both ends – the government and the people. To keep the city clean and make littering a history in the state the people must be impacted with necessary information and the government officials must be familiar with the environmental ordinances and they must be equipped with the technical know-how to communicate effectively with the citizens. The information including the frequency of removal and what to do with other materials like bottles and plastic, oil, paints and others which are not essentially decaying materials. Instituting a policy for picking up refuse is more than providing a hauling truck but must involved a consistent planning and execution that ensures that trash are safely removed from the generated point to a recycling center and finally to an engineered landfill.
Discarded sachets of 'pure water'
Best Management Practice (BMP) can be accomplished by trial and enhancement procedures
In Anambra State and Onitsha in particular the abandoned sachets of 'pure water' are grossly littered across on the ground, ditches and gutters. Whenever it rains those empty sachets migrated into the streets and drainages. With a well established BMP, the methodology of collection can be re-visited and adjusted when necessary. The problem of not having an established standard of operation in Onitsha becomes self-evident when it rains resulting in massive over-flooding due to the blockage of drainage convergences by the waterproof polymers and solid wastes.
Governor Obi cannot afford to give lip service to the issue of refuse collection and disposal because the health wellbeing of the residents of Onitsha and Anambra State will be greatly impacted by environmental degradation due to incompetence and dereliction of duty.
Obi is Anambra State's man
When Henry Kissinger was the United States Secretary of state, Germans refer to him as ‘Unsere eigenen Mann’ which means ‘Our own man‘ because Henry (Heniz) Kissinger to them is not just only a German American but a favorite one. Governor Obi is ‘Unsere eigenen Mann’ which means in Igbo language ‘Onye nke anyi’ because he respects and honors the people of his state. Obi is truly a son of the soil.
Governor Obi is tenacious, decent, respectful and self-made man a quality that personifies what it really means to be Anambrian and son of a soil. He has made the people of Anambra State proud, for he tendered a leadership that differentiated him from the antecedent governors of the state. For one thing, he is serious with his job and he is determined to leave a legacy of successful governance.
But all things being equal, he will not be absolved from constructive criticism. When and if we do that we are not being fair to him or our self. One thing for sure, Obi is equal to the task and the best thing he expects from us is not to be milling around him, asking and begging for contracts and handouts. Alas, he wants us to help him build Anambra state, which we all can be proud to call our home.
To his credit and his commissioners, they have a comprehensive blue print for Anambra State development. By this his administration does not concentrate on a project but simultaneously undergoing many projects. The downside is that no single project is fully enhanced, nor greatly accomplished. In addition, the blue print lacks creativity with regards to generating local revenues.
For instance the collection and disposal of solid waste/debris in commercial city of Onitsha has not been fully achieved or instituted due to lack of fund and superior management. The environmental deterioration of Onitsha continues to worsen due to unattended littering of trash and rubbish in every nooks and corners of the city. In spite of the effort of Obi's administration the ditches and gutters are still teaming with debris and pollutants that readily contaminate the ecosystem. And such an environment breeds misquotes and subsequently malarial diseases have never been subsidized.
During the campaign for re-election, Obi promised to transform Onitsha into a modern city. This is a tall order and credit must be given to him for his vision. For a modern city to be realized and becomes functional some basic social amenities must be present .These social amenities and infrastructures must include electricity, tap drinking water and a functional sewage treatment plant.
In case of electricity, we all know quite well it is under federal government jurisdiction but nothing stops the state government from not acquiring solar light panels and safe the streets from total darkness at nights. The government of Delta State was able to light streets of Asaba before Onitsha Head Bridge with solar light panels; therefore it can be done. No more excuses!
Governor Obi has embarked on provision of water boreholes to provide drinking water. But instead of investing limited resources in digging water boreholes, it is better to find ways to resuscitate the abandon Onitsha Water Works and others around the state. Moreover some of these water boreholes are exposed to hazardous metals (Arsenic, lead, Boron etc) together with ecoli bacteria and radioactive elements can be life threatening and carcinogenic.
When children drink untreated water that is exposed to nature occurring pollutants it may result to diarrhea and cholera even death. The boreholes water is not treated nor chlorinated to make it healthy and safe for human consumption.
At the dawn of 21st century there should be a plan to set up waste water treatment plant in Anambra State where sewage and wastes are treated before the release into the ecosystem. The human and animal wastes can be treated properly into manures that will be utilized for farming.
The most important function of a government is to protect life and property. The mal-enterprise of kidnapping threatens the pursuit of life and happiness in Anambra State. The massive unemployment among the youths in the state do contributes to kidnapping and armed robbery. Although that the federal government control security apparatus, the state government cannot totally absolve itself when it comes to the provision of jobs to the youths. It may not be the function of government to provide jobs rather to create a secured environment with less criminal activity for capitalism and free enterprise to thrive and succeed.
Anambra state could be creative with its initiatives and improvise on new ways to lower down joblessness among the youths. The government can create environmental corps whose function would be to patrol the state and pick up trash. These corps will be mandated to issue violation tickets when citizens violate environmental rules and regulations. And the revenues they generated can sustain their salaries and employments.
Although the government of Anambra State will complain that there are no resources and funds to carry out these projects. But the most important thing is the willpower and willingness to initiate a change. Start from somewhere and who knows what will happen next. The Chinese philosopher Lao Zi said, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”