Gov. Willie Obiano. Image: Youtube
Ndi Anambra ekenem unu.
Eight years ago, when I gave my inaugural address, I shared my vision of a greater Anambra State with you. To some people, it sounded like a dream. To many, it came across as the usual sweet-talk from a politician. And yet to others, it carried the light of hope. Umu nnem, today, most of those dreams I shared with you have come true!
You asked for safety, we gave you “Nigeria’s safest state.” You asked for dignity; we sent our children to a global contest of intelligence and they defeated America, China, Spain and Turkey and brought back dignity and honour. You asked for legacies, we gave you monuments. Ndi Anambra, I touched a dream!
Brothers and sisters, as your governor, I worked under extreme pressure. I took many hard decisions. I stepped on toes. I didn’t answer some phone calls. I lost some friends on account of these. If you are one of those who felt offended by what I did or did not do, please forgive me. For in the words of the great Nelson Mandela, “Forgiveness liberates the soul.” A governor is also human. Whatever I did was for the good of Anambra State. Dalunu!
Umu nnem, I’m also aware that I did not fulfill every promise I made. But no government in the world has ever kept all its promises or solved all the problems of its time. However, my intentions were pure and my ambitions sincere. Let history be the judge!
Now, let’s take a look at what we did. Our efforts were audacious; covering major areas of development, from the softest to the hardest issues that challenge modern governance. While I have decided to leave my account of stewardship to historians and students of leadership, it may be necessary to recall that my Team and I began by defining the realities of our environment.
We figured that we would not be able to make reasonable progress unless we found a solution to the challenge of insecurity and public safety in Anambra State. In response to that, we organized Nigeria’s first international conference on security and flew in an Israeli security expert to facilitate the conference. The outcome was a revolutionary security architecture which helped us launch an all-out war on crime in our dear state. The crackdown was heavy; but in the end, we took back our state from the men of the underworld. I have not the slightest doubt that the glory of the new Anambra began with our victory over crime and criminalities.
The Soft Issues of Governance
Our campaign to return self-belief to our people was subtle but effective. The melodious Anambra Anthem, the Anambra logo and symbols of unique identity, the core values which are recited by school children every day; are all silent efforts to give our people’s pride back to them. Through these silent efforts, we have succeeded in raising some generations of Anambra children who have enough self-esteem to compete with their mates from across the world. Our concept of ana alu olu, ana alu mmadu which emphasizes commitment to the welfare of Anambra workers also led to improved loyalty and productivity from the workers. I must however recall that my administration was hit by two major recessions. But we still increased workers’ salaries and never owed salaries or pensions for one day. Our policy of “Doing more with Less” ensured that Anambra was insulated from the ravages of recession while we rolled out a Stimulus Package to reflate our sub-national economy.
The N20m Community-Choose-Your-Projects-Initiative
It is interesting to recall that our Economic Stimulus Package actually gave rise to the highly acclaimed N20m Community Choose-Your-Project Initiative, which has become a much sought-after model in rural development studies. This initiative also ensured that my administration touched all the 181 communities in Anambra State with projects of their own choices. The success recorded in the first phase of the project encouraged the administration to do even more; leading to the commencement of the second phase of the project. As a result of this, all the communities got projects worth N40m each from my administration.
Indeed, one of the major achievements that I look back to with pride is the establishment of a Court of Appeal in Awka. Until that development, our people had always travelled to Enugu to seek justice. But the setting up of the court has restored our people’s pride and dignity.
We approached Education in three broad areas: Students’ Welfare, Teachers’ Welfare and Infrastructure Development. Essentially, my administration set out to maintain the competitive advantage our state has enjoyed in education over other states in the country and take it a notch higher. To achieve that, we sent Anambra teachers on off-shore training and exposed them to global best practices. We did that because we knew that the best way to take charge of tomorrow is to inculcate the right character in our teachers today. This is one of the secrets of Anambra’s great performances in education under my watch. In infrastructure, the 1000-room hostels we built in 12 technical colleges across the state are monuments that will speak for me long after I’m gone. In addition, we funded both missionary and public schools in equal measure. We donated the sum of N2.8bn to both Mission and Public Schoools. In Students’ Welfare, we have offered scholarships to over 300 students. A direct outcome of this is that both our school children and their teachers won impressive awards under my watch. And with this development, I have no doubt that the future belongs to Anambra State!
In the words of America’s Ralph Waldo Emerson, “the first wealth is health.” My Team and I believed in this axiom. Health comes before wealth. One of our greatest legacies in the health sector is the Anambra State Health Insurance Agency (ASHIA) which was set up to make quality health delivery services easy and accessible to the greater number of our people. With only N12,000 per year, residents of this state can access high quality healthcare as they like. Our second major legacy in the health sector is the Anambra Oxygen Plant which is the biggest state-owned oxygen plant in Nigeria. This investment has continued to play an unforgettable role in the fight against COVID-19. The third major legacy is the Immaculate Heart Multi-Specialist Hospital Aguleri. This hospital is a showpiece of medical excellence. It is equipped with the most modern facilities that can be seen in any hospital across the world. Beyond these, we also paid a great deal of attention to the challenges of delivering quality healthcare to the riverine areas. We floated 26 water ambulances to deliver medical supplies to riverine communities. We also provided Keke ambulances for quick emergency shuttles in locations where conventional vehicles cannot easily access. And finally, we donated the sum of N1.2bn to all mission and government owned hospitals in the state to strengthen their capacities to respond to the medical needs of our people.
My Economic Blueprint
Fellow citizens, when leadership is focused and innovative, it invokes the future. My team and I worked very hard to invoke the future of Anambra State. We worked on my Economic Blueprint which is anchored on Agriculture, Industrialization, Trade & Commerce and Oil & Gas.
When we lit the fire of agricultural revolution in Nteje on May 15, 2014, we created a fertile soil for big industrial farms like Coscharis, JOSAN Agro, Chelsea Farms, Excel Farms and Lynden Farms to thrive. Our story changed immediately afterwards. Rice production output climbed from 80,000 metric tons in 2014 to 525,000 metric tons in 2021. Maize production rose from 15,902 metric tons to 74,255 metric tons. Cassava rose from 275,832 metric tons in 2014 to 2,060,687 and Vegetables from 48,032 metric tons in 2014 to 482,400 metric tons. We now have over 160,000 farmers and 3000 co-operative societies for farmers. In less than five years of operation, Coscharis Farms had quickly added a fully automated 40,000 metric tons rice mill to its investments. JOSAN Agro also added 50,000 metric tons rice mill at Umumbo to its fast expanding line of operation. Similarly, Lynden Farms expanded its scope beyond the 90,000 bird-facility it started with in Igbariam. It now has three production houses with an output of 265,000 birds laying an average of 72,000 crates of eggs per day.
Our foray into industrialization was driven by the Anambra Small Business Agency (ASBA) which I set up on December 8, 2014. Since then, ASBA has successfully funded 10,000 cooperatives, micro enterprises and artisans while also providing operating capital to 300 small and medium enterprises. ASBA’s success has attracted Nigeria’s most modern Small and Medium Enterprises complex to Nkwelle Ezunaka. The complex houses an ultramodern industrial shoe-making hub with cutting edge technology and a capacity to produce shoes that compare with shoes made in Europe. One of the machines in the complex has a capacity to produce 1,500 soles per hour. On the strength of these stellar achievements, Anambra was declared the “Best State in Support of SMEs” and honoured at the Presidential Villa, Abuja in 2018. Today, made in Anambra shoes are exported to other West African countries on a weekly basis.
Oil and Gas
The crowning glory of our efforts in oil and gas is the recognition of Anambra State as an oil-producing state by the federal government. We have 15 oil wells at the moment. With this achievement, our dear state is now qualified to receive additional revenues from the 13% derivation fund given to oil producing states. This will definitely give a big financial elbowroom to my successor and make it easier for the state to undertake more ambitious projects. In addition, we successfully constructed two bridges to open access to the oilfields. They are the Aguleri Otu Bridge (which is also the longest bridge in the South East; measuring 280 meters long) and the Umueje Bridge. The Umueje Bridge also offers a direct access to the multibillion Naira worth Chelsea Farms. Before now, the oilfields could only be accessed through Enugu State.
Trade and Commerce
Our remarkable legacy in Trade and Commerce is the market modernization scheme which ensured the disbursement of the sum of N10m each to the 63 markets in Anambra State. It helped the various Traders’ Associations to upgrade the facilities in their markets. We also relocated many markets to lend depth to commerce and boost the capacity of our markets.
Ndi Anambra, you may recall that in my Inaugural Address I had assured you that my administration would pay a great deal of attention to power supply in our dear state. Today, I am delighted to report that we successfully constructed a 33 kVa distribution line from Oji River sub-station in Enugu State to supply electricity in Orumba North and South and even Isuochi town in Abia State. We also constructed another 33 kVa line from Agu Awka to Anambra International Airport to ensure a 22-hour supply of electricity to the airport per day. But perhaps even more important than that is our partnership with the Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN) for the construction of electricity projects in Ifite-dunu, Umuchu, Amansea and Aguleri that will change power supply in Anambra State for the better.
The Overall Impact of my Blueprint
Fellow citizens, the direct result of implementing my blueprint is that under my watch, the economy of Anambra State grew from N3.2trn to N4.4trn. That comfortably placed us as Nigeria’s fourth largest economy. Another direct result is that under my watch again, Anambra joined Lagos and Rivers as the only states in Nigeria that could meet their operating obligations with funds from their Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) and earnings from Value Added Tax (VAT). Still under my watch, poverty rate in our dear state dropped from 53% in 2010 to 14.8% in 2020. Our dear state was also rated as the state with the lowest unemployment rate in Nigeria in 2020 at a stunning 13.1%. That was a time when the national average stood at 27%. Similarly, we were also rated as the state with the best Fiscal Responsibility Index in Nigeria after only Rivers State. And finally, to crown it all, Anambra State attracted the sum of $10.2m in foreign direct investment in 2020. Ndi Anambra, these statistics tell a simple story. A story of resilience in the face of incredible odds. A story of my stewardship to you.
Our Fight against Gully Erosion
It is important to mention our titanic struggle against gully erosion which threatens to swallow up our 4,844 square kilometers of land. Some of those gully erosion sites had swallowed large areas and several buildings before we moved in. A good example is the 100 Foot Road Nnewi which was threatening to swallow the famous Nkwo Nnewi Spare-parts Market before we moved in. The perplexity of fighting gully erosion is that you sink billions of naira in a big hole only to show a resurfaced patch of land afterwards. Anybody could walk past a reclaimed erosion site without knowing the enormous financial resources that went into reclaiming it. But that’s what we did in Nnewi, Amachalla Awka, Ugamuma Obosi, Minaj Obosi, Abagana, Enugwu-Ukwu, Nkpor, Nnewichi, Ezinifite, Ojoto, Ikenga Ogidi, Ekwueme Square and Nkisi Aroli among many other places.
Anambra International Passenger/Cargo Airport Umueri
Ndi Anambra, no experience compares to the pleasure of touching a dream. The feeling is unbelievable. It is even more so if the dream had lasted for 30 long years. Ndi Anambra we touched a dream when we commissioned the Anambra International Passenger and Cargo Airport Umueri. We are a people who covet dignity and honour. That airport has restored the dignity of our people and opened a new economic corridor for the entire South East region. The airport is a monument onto the ambitions of Ndi Anambra. It is a tribute to our desire to reject average and expand the frontiers of excellence in all we do!
International Convention Center Awka
The Awka International Convention Center represents the size of our dream. In its grandeur and sublime aesthetics, the Center points at the huge possibilities for Anambra State. In concept and execution, the International Convention Center did not pay attention to modesty. It reflects our collective drive for the best in whatever we do.
In both the City Stadium and the iconic flyovers in Awka and Amawbia, we see a statement in disarming beauty. They speak the language of the future. Just like the dazzle of the streetlights that shimmer all over our landscape at night. The 17 bridges and 113 roads we completed are also part of our distinctive landmarks. The robust development of Tourism Treasures like the Ogba Ukwu Caves and Waterfalls at Owerre-Ezukala and Ogbunike Caves in Ogbunike has added tourism to the many attractive offerings from Anambra State. They are things that remind us that we are the Light of the Nation.
A Promise Kept
Ndi Anambra, you may recall that the title of my inaugural address is “Expanding the Frontiers of Excellence.” Now if you look at the sparkling elegance of the Anambra International Passenger and Cargo Airport and the intimidating immensity of the International Convention Center, you may accept that my Team and I have indeed walked our talk. Also, in the same inaugural address, I had declared and I quote that “under my administration, we have no choice than to decide whether we are truly the sons and daughters of our fathers and true heirs to their long history of pioneering excellence.” Again, I think we have shown that we are true sons and daughters of our fathers and mothers. I think we have pioneered a few things and set a few standards for the future generation. Ndi Anambra, I think we have run this race well. I can look history boldly in the eye and dare it to judge me. I know it will be kind to me!
Historic Elections Under my Watch
Umunnem, I cannot end this speech without thanking you for the incredible support you gave me in the past eight years. I look back to all the historic records we made with pride. I look back to 21/21 with a deep sense of gratitude. What comes to my mind when I do that is the brilliant quote from American basketball icon, Kobe Bryant that “Winning takes precedence over all things.” Ndi b’anyi, winning is such a wonderful experience! Twenty-one over twenty is a watershed in the political history of this country. It was a moment when a proud people rose to their feet as one to reject every attempt at imposition. I thank you for that. I also thank you for the memorable nineteen-over-twenty-one victory you gave Prof Chukwuma Soludo in the last election. You rose against threats of violence and brazen intimidation to ensure that the vision of society we had worked hard to entrench in the past eight years is sustained. Dalunu rinne.
Ndi Anambra, it is not always easy to say goodbye. But I am happy that I am leaving you in good hands. I pray you to give the same support I enjoyed from you to our new governor. I have no doubt that he will surpass all our expectations.
Oga adili unu mma o!
God bless Anambra State.
God bless Nigeria