Opinion: Gov Election: The Choice Before Ndi Anambra By – CHUMA OZOWALU
When Dr. Chinweoke Mbadinuju (Odera) became the Governor of Anambra State on May 29th 1999 at the beginning of the fourth republic, after defeating Prof. A.B.C. Nwosu in the PDP primaries, his administrationwas nothing to write home about. Civil Servants were being owed salaries, teachers were not paid and retirees were being owed their gratuities and pensions. The State Government under Odera was deep into borrowing money from every bank with a branch in Awka. The loans were not performing as no developmental projects and infrastructures were being done. The government house were overgrown with weeds as workers were perpetually on strike. It was all squander mania all through. By September 2002, unpaid teachers had been on strike for a year and civil servants and court workers had been on strike for months. Thus, Odera went into records as the least performed Governor since the creation of the state in 1991.
Odera was kicked out of office in 2003, and Dr. Chris Ngige took over the governance of Anambra State in controversial circumstances, following the elections, but he quickly went to work. He not only cleared the arrears of salaries being owed by Odera’s government, he paid the recurrent salaries as and when due. As a result, civil servants and teachers resumed work. Ngige started developmental programs mainly road construction and really opened the eyes and mind of ndi Anambra to the fact that the Government actually has money. In fact, Ngige’s 33 months in office were characterized by populist programs, especially afore-mentioned road construction, leaving him in good standing with the electorate. While paying salaries and tarring roads are not achievements per-se, as these are barest minimum expectation, I will call them improving on the existing structure and state of affairs considering what Odera subjected the State to.
In comes Governor Peter Obi (Okwute) three years later after reclaiming his electoral victory in court from Dr. Ngige. Not only did Okwute continue with paying salaries as and when due, he cleared arrears of pensions and paid gratuities owed to retirees. Despite all the road blocks he encountered first to reclaim his mandate and subsequent impeachment by his state legislature because he was being prudent and saving money for the State, Okwute hit the ground running. The following are some of Okwute’s list of accomplishments while in office:
Ø Okwute restored Anambra State to number one in education from 25th he met it. He did this by returning schools originally belonging to the missionaries and funded the missions. The ones that did not belong to the missionaries he made sure they were well funded, supplied them with equipped computer labs with internet connections, provided vehicles, rehabilitated their buildings and constructed new ones in addition. These made the environment more conducive for learning and thus Anambra took the 1st position as reflected in JAMB and WAEC results.
Ø Okwute opened up the hinterlands not just concentrating his development in Awka and the urban areas. This makes it possible for someone to reside in rural areas as Ekwulobia, Uga, Achina, Isuofia, Ihiala, Okija, etc. to work, live and commute easily to the urban areas in minutes without stress.
Ø Owing to prudent management of resources, Okwute cut down drastically the cost of governance, and positioned the state’s Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) to be amongst the top three in the country, having the vision necessary to allow the state make the best use of its human and material resources to be one of the leading centers of commerce and industry in the country.
Ø Okwute built the security structure of the state, equipped the police and the state vigilante groups and dealt a great blow to the criminals and kidnappers menacing the people of Anambra causing them to flee the state.
Ø Okwute sanitized the entire system of governance and through his prudent management of resources left a total of N75 billion in both cash and investments which was clearly documented and handed over to his successor, Willie Obiano.
There are lots of other developmental projects too numerous to mention, but let me leave it at the above five main points. Now this is what I will call real improvement on the existing structure. Note that paying of salaries continued, including over N35billion inherited in pension and gratuity arrears that Peter Obi liquidated.
Now comes Governor Willie Obiano, and in 4 years what have we seen in Anambra? Apart from sustaining the security structure bequeathed to him by Okwute, Obiano cannot point to any meaningful project or achievement he made in Anambra State. He has abandoned all the projects initiated by his predecessor, wasted money in building three flyovers in Awka when the roads to inner towns and cities are not being developed and maintained, and squandered the N75billion left for him. All we hear from Governor Obiano and his cohorts is that Okwute never left any money, but only liabilities. Really?
A well-documented handover note was given to Obiano with the amounts and the account numbers of the Banks where these monies were. Today, Anambra is now a net borrower of funds and nothing to show for it. Anambra has lost its 1st position in education, as school funding has been abandoned and quest for excellence went out of the windows. No developmental projects are done anywhere else in the state except maybe in Aguleri (Obiano’s hometown). Anambra is fast losing all the gains and upward developmental trajectory the previous administration put it on.
Here is where Anambra people have a decision to make come November 18, 2017. We have to reject the politics of “give us this day, our daily bread”. A government which taunts payment of salaries as an achievement is dragging Anambra back. We have to take back our state and refuse to be satisfied with a government that barely performs the basic duties of government. Anambra people cannot accept a government that cannot account for over N75billion received from his predecessor; a government that cannot buy one vehicle or fund our schools, yet he bought over 400 vehicles for his campaign; a government that was handed a debt-free state but is now a net borrower of funds, thus putting ndi Anambra back to slavery; a government that constructed over 35 roads in his village and is yet to construct one in any other village in Anambra; a government that abandoned all major projects: government is a continuum; and a government that spent a lot of State funds in media hype on supposed export of N5 million worth of Ugu andOnugbu (bitter leaf) vegetables as well as processing an order for the export of 10 million tubers of yam. Being seasonal crops, is the export of Ugu and Onugbu a regular business or a one-shot, election-year hype? As for yams, we in Anambra know that over 80% of the yams we consume are from Benue and Taraba States. It will be interesting to know by what magic this government is generating 10 million tubers of yams.
So who will fix this broken State? Oseloka Henry Obaze (OHO) is here to fix it. A lot of great things have been written on OHO’s fitness and qualification for the office. All I can add is that OHO is a man of integrity, accountability, and most importantly, a man with a good heart. He understands governance as he has been in it at the local, state, federal and international levels, as such he understands the pains of the people. A man with a humble beginning who understands that government must work for the people so the people can flourish and make better use of their God given talent. To this end, OHO has articulated his deliverables summarized as the OHO compact to ndi Anambra thus:
- Health – Provide first responder (EMS/EMT), mandatory emergency and charity care.
- Education – Free education up to JS3, support special needs school
- Security – Reinforce kidnap laws, support mobile and community policing, crime report reward
- Youth Empowerment – A niche skill acquisition center, train 100 youths on digital space, establish youth chamber of commerce.
- Agriculture – Subsistence farmers support group, tools and equipment rental, mechanized farming.
- Industry – Revamp oil/gas sector, incentivize entrepreneurs in SME clusters
- Infrastructure – Upgrade and maintain existing ones, heavy haulage routes, open database on land ownership, intercity light rail system.
- Employment – Job fairs/placement program, Artisan Certification/license, formalize street vending, support mom/pop stores.
- Investment/Savings – Sustainable development goals (SDG) driven investments, Diaspora direct projects, and direct foreign investors.
The above is not exhaustive and you can view/read in details the OHO compact and manifesto at http://oho.ng/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/THE-OHO-Compact-Mx.pdf.
Our people yearn for good governance and good governance comes with a very good quality leader. If ndi Anambra want to sustain the growth trajectory put in place by Okwute, then the decision come this November 18th is very easy and clear. They should look no further as God has provided them with a highly qualified leader in OHO. Governor Obiano has nothing to lose if he loses this election, likewise, OHO and other candidates. However Anambra people have a lot to lose if we don’t make the right choice. It is already broken and OHO will fix it.
Mr. Ozowalu, M.Sc., CMA, CIA, CPA, is a citizen of Anambra State and a Certified Public Accountant based in San Antonio Texas, US.