The MD of ASBA, Mr Clement Chukwuka, addressing media men at the site of the proposed shoe manufacturing market at Nkwelle Ezunaka. With him on his right is Ogbuefi Tony Nnacheta, commissioner for information and communications strategy.
Penultimate weekend, I was a part of journalists from within and outside Anambra State that were taken round facilities built by the Willie Obiano administration. It was a two-day project that saw us being taken to places like Nkwerre Ezunaka where the proposed shoe manufacturing market is being built; Linden Poultry Farm and Del Farm both at Igbariam; Osomala where some of us went by boat to the vegetable (Ugu) farm where government said it was encouraging the farmers to grow the vegetables for export; Ufuma at Josan Rice Mill; Amichi at Anambra Rice Mill, as well as Steine Rice.
We were also taken to Adazi Nnukwu to meet the commissioner for education who reeled out government's strides in education that included running education with an eye to making school leavers employable, fighting the girl-child drop out in school, as well as leveraging on a World Bank-assisted project to pay schoolteachers in the rural areas 20% of their basic salaries as incentive and also adding more incentives to teachers in special science schools.
We also visited what were no doubt some of the major achievements of the administration. They were the bridges at Ezi Agulu-Otu and environs.
In most of the places visited, government told us they were partnering with the firms through provision of enabling environment. At the two farms, government donated large expanses of land to them at the place which was previously the famous farm settlement in Nkwelle.
At Osomala, it was the same as government said they were coordinating the sale of vegetables for the farmers to foreign markets. Some of the journalists embarked on a boat trip in the long river to get to the vegetable farms.
However, it seemed as if the government's intervention wasn't well assimilated by the entirety of the farmers. Some women we interviewed about government's assistance denied knowing about it. According to them, they had been doing their business on their own the way they had done it for years. They called on government to come to their aid if really it planned to help them.
At Ufuma and Amichi were the rice mills which are part of the story of the Anambra Rice. Government assisted by providing improved seedlings and other forms of support.
Before the commencement of the tours, government officials gave the journalists an overview of government's progress, as well as projected goals. This covered some of government's achievements like the three flyovers in Awka, the completion of the Abakaliki Road also in Awka, the longest bridge in the state, among other plans.
On my observations, I will say that while government has tried within the limits of available resources, there are a few grey areas that should have been attended to. Obiano on assumption of duty promised to continue, complete and commission the projects started by his predecessor. Has he entirely or successfully done that? I will not score him above 50%
There are the ones that should have received priority attention like the Agulu Lake Resort Hotel and the virtually abandoned Shoprite complex in Agu Awka. These two alone should have been generating the much needed revenue to the state and giving the government some form of cushion as it embarks on other projects.
Methinks that finishing Obi's projects would have been an achievement on its own without Obiano seemingly being in a hurry to leave his own signature projects. That should have begun in the third year as ongoing projects. All he will be doing in the campaigns will be to point at all the inherited projects he completed and the ones he has commenced. It will be left to the people to choose between allowing him to continue in order to complete what he started, or to give him the boot and bring in some other person that may or may not complete what Obiano started.
But in striving to start his own, many important projects left by the outgone regime suffered and the state is worse for it. Agulu Lake project would have been a masterpiece had it been taken up and finished. Today, it is like a ghost yard, same as the shopping mall site at Agu Awka. It is clear these projects and others have been sacrificed on the altar of political expediency.
On the flyovers in Awka, much as they are pleasing to the eye, the one in Aroma is yet to solve simple traffic problems. The traffic there even appears worse now than before. On the other hand, the one in Amawbia should not have been in the first place as the area had always witnessed low traffic flow.
The original concept of the road from Amansea to Amawbia as conceived by the previous regime was for it to be done the way the road from Onitsha Head Bridge to Upper Iweka was done, with six major lanes and service lanes. That surely would have yielded better results. The one in Onitsha is also a wonderful sight to behold without flyovers.
Now, because the one in Awka was abandoned for the luxury of beautiful flyovers, the roads leading to them from the Amansea axis are still in their bad state.
Again the flyovers have come under much criticism from opponents who have all described them as antiquated. They have a point. I was in Abakaliki recently on a similar tour. Their own flyovers are modern, with underneath access. One can see the other side of the road from one side and this enhances security. For the ones in Awka, somebody may be accosted by robbers on one side and those at the other end won't know. Surely such type of flyovers are no more in vogue. However, the deed has been done and we have to live with them. At least they have changed the landscape of Awka City, haven't they?
Iyiora Bridge, one of the signature projects of the Obiano Administration.
Another thing I observed during the tour was the seeming infighting among Obiano's appointees. This has resulted in poor coordination of media work. In this government, it is often difficult to know who is truly in charge of things. Is this helping a government facing a major electoral hurdle? NO!
I think that this government has the worst record in media coordination. It is a fact shared by all independent media people, not the ones under the apron strings of the government. The government's media team is too far removed from their supposed immediate constituency. Even the tour organized to partially bridge this gap and cement a new relationship between the government and the media failed rather woefully for reasons I will not mention here. But as the Igbo would say, those involved should count their teeth with their tongue.
The truth is that those who have no business managing Obiano's media work are holding sway, while the ones that would have done the real job effectively have been sidelined.
Nevertheless, I believe Obiano hasn't fared worse than many of his contemporaries. His greatest problem, though, remains his appointees. I keep saying this. It is left for him to listen, ask questions and take appropriate action, especially now that the axe has been deposited at the foot of the iroko tree. If I'm not understood now, no one will need an interpreter to do so when it begins to happen soon.
Peter Obi: Strange In and Out
As the immediate past governor of Anambra State, he was described as Nigeria's strangest governor. It wasn't for the sake of talking. Obi made waves for being a governor with a difference. He demystified the office of governor by making it too simple and unattractive to the extent that he drew the ire of some of those aspiring for the position who feared that if Obi was left to continue as he was doing, it would be too big a challenge for his successor.
As a governor, Obi was unglamorous. He prided himself on owning two pairs of shoes; on travelling very light without a retinue of aides; on never leaving the state more than two days; on having the least convoy…the list is endless. Then, it was a strange sight, seeing Obi queuing up behind ordinary citizens at the airport and carrying his luggage all by himself. You would not see stern faced security personnel glaring at you over his shoulders. He was that simple, an ordinary, regular guy.
Now that Obi has left office, he has become even stranger. While his contemporaries are busy enjoying life after office in foreign lands, with others facing the wrath of the EFCC, Obi is not just walking freely, but going round the country, donating to schools and hospitals. He has been to schools not just in his home state, but in other parts of Nigeria.
Recently he was in Sokoto State. He visited some schools and donated one million naira each to them. One may ask: is he contesting senatorial election in Sokoto? Of course the answer is no.
Before the Sokoto trip, he had visited schools in Rwanda and Kenya; something no one would have thought of.
He has also metamorphosed into a resource person, being invited to speak at public fora. He is clearly the most visible ex-governor in Nigeria today and commands a great deal of respect.
This man surely beats me by his strange ways and unpredictable style. This is why I think Obiano made the mistake of not making Obi Anambra's goodwill ambassador. Obi remains a huge well of knowledge waiting to be tapped.
He is surely a good example of how leaders should behave in and out of government.