Rejoinder: The Looting of Anambra: Gov Obiano Takes Nepotism to High Heavens By Chikwado Odunukwe
There’s only one reason I’ll be responding to the one-page oddity published by one Fejiro Oliver of Elombah.com on Wednesday August 13: to set the records straight. The report heaped huge allegations on the person and young administration of Chief Willie Obiano of Anambra state, describing him as a treasury looter who is nepotic and clannish. However, other than the name-calling – an act which does not require any ingenuity to execute – there was nothing presented in that report to back up the wild claims.
In a way, the illogicality of the report itself makes it easy for a rational mind to sieve through the watery essay and arrive at the obvious conclusion. Yet for those who find it difficult to trust any government as a spill over of previous disappointments from people in government, this rejoinder is necessary.
I am from Anambra State, and governance in my state has never been this good. I try to, however, restrain myself from premature excitement, knowing that Willie Obiano’s administration is a relatively young one. Yet even in its nascency, it’s difficult to close one’s eyes to the bold marks the governor has made which suggest where he intends to drive the state to.
But let me suspend listing the achievements and delve headlong into the allegations by Elombah’s Fejiro Oliver.
On every front, the report is for the waste bin. First, on prose elegance, it cannot stand the test of quality. It began with a grammatically incorrect introductory line: “All is currently not well with the government of Willie Obaino, Anambra State Governor, as battles beyond his powers seems [sic] to have overshadowed him.” But we can afford to ignore the poor grammar and strive to make sense of the writer’s logic. The report suggested that battles beyond the governor’s powers have overshadowed him, and that overshadowing is manifest in no other place than the governor appointing ‘over 120 aides’. If forces beyond Governor Obiano’s powers have taken over the task of decision-making in the government, one would have expected to read at least a line where the writer mentioned that the appointment of over 120 aides – assuming we concede truth and accuracy of the matter to the writer – were influenced by any godfather within or outside the state. But that did not happen. A typical case of standing logic on its head.
We all agree that facts are sacred; now, let’s examine them. The report made a mockery of the governor’s appointment of a fishery expert as his S.A on Fish matters. But Willie Obiano does not find it amusing that Nigeria spends N125.38 billion every year on fish importation. It is not amusing to the governor that Anambra state can tap into the potentials for employment and economic growth in this vast industry. Agriculture is amongst the 4 pillars of the Obiano administration. And fishery is a thick rod inside of that pillar. Governor Willie’s ultimate goal is to reduce at least 20 per cent of this import bill by producing the fishes in Anambra. With this, we will feed ourselves and employ our youthful population and then pay them well enough to sustain their families. This is why he deemed it necessary to employ the services of an expert in fishery as his Special Adviser on fish matters. The S.A’s job role is clearly spelt out. And he will be expected to report the progress of the fish business to the governor from time to time. Now the writer would have seen that this fish matter isn’t a laughing matter.
Are the governor’s aides 120? This is easy to answer, really. What are 120 aides doing for governor Obiano? The governor has a few aides on few issues that are germane to his administration. He appoints aides as the need arises, and so far, they are just enough to carry-out the jobs he desires them to perform. 120 is a figure lazily conjured up in someone’s imagination. Every concerned Anambra citizen or friend should ignore such unreasonable figures.
The charge of nepotism comes off as ridiculous. Again, the facts are sacred. Willie Obiano is not clannish and his history as a professional banker offers a solid defence in this regard. He who seeks to know can inquire from his former colleagues and staff at Fidelity Bank. Yet in this administration, the governor has demonstrated his preference for quality as against any other consideration. He pulled together competent hands and experts from different fields in his bid to build Anambra. And in doing this, where anyone hailed from was the least of Obiano’s considerations. He has a senior aide from Northern Nigeria who holds a very important position in the government. Also, the governor’s aide on media, another key position in the government – and any government at that – is not from Anambra state. This then makes it difficult to imagine what the charge of the governor surrounding himself with only his Aguleri kin intends to achieve.
How on earth will the wife of Obiano handle 100 aides? That’s more than the staff strength of many blue chip companies. The governor Obiano I know will not even give in to such demands from his wife, and that’s assuming Mrs Ebele Obiano will ever become that outlandish. Theirs is a family built on prudence and good conscience. They will not change now because they are in government.
I saw the attempt to draw a comparison between Mrs Obiano and the wife of former governor Peter Obi; thereby stoking an ember of discord between the two leaders. The attempt was made more than once. Elsewhere in the essay, the writer made reference to governor Obiano abandoning contractors recruited by former governor Obi. The good news is that governor Obiano’s highest respect for his predecessor in office is known everywhere; just as former governor Obi’s respect for the governor is common knowledge. The friendship of the two leaders dates many years back and will certainly outlive both men’s stay in government. Their relationship is not determined by what is written on blog posts. They are that mature.
From the report, one could glean discontent from certain groups and individuals, as a fallout from expectations not met. The governor won the November 2013 election with the help and commitment of thousands of Anambrarians. It is not possible for every one of these people to be appointed into positions in Willie Obiano’s government. But it is possible that every one of them, including those who did not support or vote for Willie Obiano, will benefit from the governor’s developmental strides as he dares to open up the state for unprecedented growth. For in the final analysis, what should matter to us all should be the evolution of a state that can nourish our dreams and aspirations. Obiano has that as his number one priority. He intends to build Anambra as the state where we can sleep at night with our two eyes closed, where we can wake up the next morning and meet thriving businesses, where we can graduate from school and find good-paying jobs and where we can rest assured that our children will not go to bed hungry.
In the last 5 months, Obiano has demonstrated an unwillingness to not betray the faith reposed in him by Anambrarians. He has tackled security headlong and has given kidnappers a run for their guns. Interestingly, the report to which I am responding accused the governor of concentrating his fights with the criminals only in the three major towns of Onitsha, Nnewi and Awka. It is good that this effort is recognized as genuine. We can agree that these three main towns house the major economic activities in Anambra. It is only logical that criminals will concentrate their activities in these parts. The governor started with where the need was highest. The efforts to rid the entire state of criminals have since reached other parts of the state. It is difficult to believe kidnappers or other kinds of criminals will still be anywhere within the boundaries of Anambra state, knowing that the governor has made the entirety of the state uncomfortable for them. It is so serious that even those who kidnapped people 6 years ago are facing the brunt of Obiano’s operation. And while we are at, it might help our judgment to recall that Willie Obiano’s government is just 5 months old. If at 5 months a four-year bound government is this promising, isn’t it too early to start hurling invectives at it?
Willie Obiano will not fail, because he knows what makes governments successful: the acceptance of genuine criticisms of concerned citizens and all stakeholders. When next the writers and publishers pick up their pens to write, I expect to see big ideas on how to excite Anambrarians with job creation, modernization of state infrastructure and improvement of social services. These are the things that keep Obiano up at night, not the number of aides to employ or whom to fly to the United States for real estate assessment.
By the way, that stood out as yet another untruth in the published report.
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