By Chike Nnanna
When you blame Chief Willie Obiano for his gross failures as a governor in Anambra State, it will be unfair not to cut him some slack. First, is because he never had the ambition of being a Governor, he never prepared for such leadership position and has never failed to repeat to willing ears that he was busy swimming in his Houston pool when he received a call to contest for the governorship election in 2013, a pre-arranged scene between him and Chief Victor Umeh.
Secondly, it’s never easy for someone that is not as organized or a proven administrator to come after Peter Obi has performed wonders in Anambra State which only a few are capable of and succeed. Peter Obi raised the bar so high that the electorate expect at least half the competence of Obi to grant any other governor a pass mark.
That said, it is no excuse for what has been described by many as a monumental failure of this government.
Not more than a month after Willie Obiano assumed office, he attended his first South East Governors Forum meeting and demanded that he be made the Chairman of the Forum as the former governor of Anambra State, Mr. Peter Obi, was the Chairman until the end of his tenure. Shocked by the drama, the Governors including Rochas Okorocha reprimanded him saying he’s not even lasted for a year and wants to rule over governors some of whom are serving a second term. They made it clear to him that he was no Peter Obi as Obi had special qualities that allowed him navigate the fine lines despite coming from a minority party. The governor left the meeting and never returned until this election year as it became a campaign issue. That was a sign of things to come.
Obi had left N75bn in cash and investments for his predecessor, the only governor to have left even N1 in Nigeria. But not long after Obiano assumed office did his government begin to squander the investments. First, Obi had gotten the approval of the Federal government to do Kilometer 1 to 9 of the Onitsha – Enugu expressway from Headbridge to Umunya which he finished and requested Obiano to ensure that Umunya to Amansea was completed so that Anambra part of the road will be fully motorable. Rather than do this, Obiano embarked on a luxurious project of constructing three flyovers within the space of less than 2KM in the Awka part of the express at an inflated cost of N15bn to uplift the aestatics of the city. The flyovers not only added to traffic in the city, but are not strong enough for trucks and other heavy duty vehicles to ply. They have been barricaded for close to a year now to ensure only small cars are allowed.
Worst still, immediately after the flyover in Amawbia, the road remains unmotorable till Umunya junction where Peter Obi left it. N9bn would have seen the road from Umunya to Amawbia become motorable.
Secondly, the government embarked on sales of the foreign currency left by Peter Obi as investment for the State, it got a point where the State government was alleged to have sold forex worth $156 million at N315 for $1 on a day the official market was selling N450 for $1. Somebody made billions, who was that?. It was that wasteful with part of the proceeds used to pay salaries and others unaccounted for. How can the governor explain that after receiving N455bn approved budget appropriation in the past three years and monthly allocations that are 50 percent more than the previous administration received in its first three years, Paris refund of over N18.5bn (N11.4bn for the first tranche and N6.121bn for the second tranche) and refund of N30bn for the Enugu – Onitsha expressway way part done by Obi, that Anambra State is now in foreign debt of $85 million(N31 billion) and local debt of N37bn totaling a current debt of N68bn.
This is also made more worrisome by the government’s claim that it improved IGR from 500 million monthly to N1.5bn.This was a State left debt-free by Peter Obi in 2013. Observers keep asking, where is this money on the ground?
One of the things that contributed to Obiano’s failure is the lack of government prescene across the State. Besides the infrastructure built by Peter Obi, one can hardly point to what this government has done. Peter Obi through his ANIDS strategy anchored on the United Nations MDGs developed all sectors and communities simultaneously. It was Mr. Oseloka Obaze who is now the candidate of the PDP that helped design the ANIDS programme and it’s linkage to MDG with which Peter Obi performed the wonders he did as governor. In his first tenure, Obi gave each school across the State 10 million naira with full ICT capacity, a bus each, built classroom blocks in all and renovated some blocks in others. No school in Anambra State during Peter Obi’s first tenure failed to receive attention. In Obiano’s three years, the Principal’s are complaining that the government doesn’t even wait for three weeks into resumption of school to come and empty the school fees account lamenting that they are left with nothing to run the school. One of them who confided in me said they only received N100,000 from the government in the past three years “that’s why we have resorted to taxing pupils for cement, chalk, chair and all manner of things which is normally not right but the condition with this government is harsh”.
“Last year Anambra State was the last to take Junior WAEC because the State didn’t have money to print question papers. You can imagine”, he concluded.
The previous government had done over 65% work on the Agulu Lake hotel and on handover revealed that it had left money for the completion of the project for the current administration. Nothing was done on it until three months ago when Obiano purportedly signed an MoU with Golden Tulip renaming the hotel and defeating the aim of marketing Agulu Town which hosts the hotel. The MoU is yet to yield fruits not a surprise knowing that out of about 120 MoUs signed by this government, only 10 attempted to be operational others failed.
Again, out of the 38 roads which were ongoing before Obi left, only three have been completed by this administration. The rest remained abandoned. In his first tenure, Peter Obi did over 400KM of roads. Obiano is struggling to convince the electorate that he did at least 40KM.
In Awka, one of the things held against this government is moving 50% of the electricity requirement in the city to the Governor’s hometown Aguleri which now boasts of near 24/7 power supply while the city is gapping for life. Awka dwellers cannot comprehend the reason why a governor who promised three independent power plants in four years during his inaugural speech not only failed to deliver one, but now turns to take away the little that Awka is managing. In his inaugural speech, Obiano promised thus “We shall aggressively address the challenge of power supply with the proposed citing of ultra-modern Independent Power Plants (IPP) in the three industrial hubs in the state; specifically, in Onitsha, Nnewi and Awka”. That was obviously a case of easier said than done. The Awka community is also very bitter over allegations that the governor is forcefully taking over their lands and selling them to cronies. The land of their inheritance is fast disappearing in their very eyes. One of the stakeholders in Awka summed it up thus “how can we have a governor that uses our lands for bonanza, selling them to his friends?”.
One of the pillars on which Willie Obiano promised to build his development was oil and gas which during his inaugural speech he said, “We will provide the enablement for Oil & Gas companies to prospect for natural resources in our state and set up a refinery within one year of my administration”. It has turned into a pillar of failure as normal single development has taken place in that sector since Peter Obi left. It is striking to know that Anambra State was declared the 10th oil producing State in Nigeria by President Goodluck Jonathan in December 2012 at the end of Obi’s administration but is yet to receive monthly derivation however, Lagos State which was declared the 11th oil producing State last year has started collecting their 13 percent derivation. A source well informed on the matter said “the governor lacks the discipline and understanding required to settle the dispute with Kogi, produce the required daily supply and see through the legislative process that will make it a success”
“It’s just about paying attention to details and focusing on what are your priorities. This government lacks that focus of sense of direction”, he concluded.
Another issue that has irked many in the State is the dominating influence of his Wife, Mrs. Ebele Obiano, who is widely touted as one of best examples of how not to be a first Lady. Beside her poverty of character and goodwill, she represents a terrible departure from the loveable, caring and very humble former first Lady, H.E Margaret Obi who was considered on of the best first ladies Nigeria have ever witnessed. The fact that the minority leader of the Anambra State House of Assembly has repeatedly confirmed that Mrs. Obiano receives a security vote of N250 million naira monthly tells the story of what height of illegality goes on in the State. The previous government had no office of the first lady but the incumbent does with his wife appearing more powerful than him the governor. Many in the State want to see the back of this administration because of Ebele Obiano.
If this government has succeeded in anything beyond putting street lights on select roads and maintaining the security architecture of the previous government in the State, it has been excellent in media propaganda. Almost every project starts and ends in media houses and billboards, Anambra dwellers struggle to physically locate advertised projects. A situation played out when one of the Special Assistants of the governor came on radio to promote the proposed Umueri cargo airport, they have been doing so for some months and a caller from Umueri who tore into the SA narrated how he had returned from Malaysia for an assignment in the country and came back to Anambra State solely to see the airport project only to discover that with millions spent on media publicity, not even a trip of sand was at the proposed site. He wondered why a government will look her people in the face and lie to them. The same goes for the government claims that it exported Ugu vegetable worth $5 million and varying metric tons of rice with yam which Anambra buys from Benue State now also added by the current administration on their export list. The request by residents is simple, “show us the farm”. The government is unable to do that. The PDP candidate Mr. Oseloka H. Obaze, a Public Policy expert himself armed with statistics took the propaganda of vegetable so seriously as the government had mentioned his local government as the site of production. He explained what is now known as the Ugu-scam thus, “for you to export Ugu vegetable of $5 million, you need the whole of Awka Capital Territory to plant it, you need about 5,000 women to harvest it, you need about 20 football fields to spread them and cold storage facilities which don’t exist in Anambra State for necessary storage”.
He continued, “We all know that Ugu doesn’t last more than six hours without shrinking or changing colour if it is not stored properly, you need about 20 packaging companies none of which is in Anambra to package the Ugu for export, you also need an export license. Please, ask the governor, did he export the Ugu fresh, dried, smoked or cut?”. The government have given no answer yet.
The Federal government also seems to have put the Obiano administration in its place when it rightfully ignored her in the list of States producing rice for the country.
Governor Willie Obiano is very desperate to win a second term and from his body language, it’s a do it die affair which some people have explained that such desperation stems from his belief that frontline candidates are waiting to probe him if they win the election. He has also gone to the point of forcefully collecting the voters card of the civil servants in Anambra State before they are paid their salaries, which has put people at loss to what really he is doing with the Worker’s voters card? Is he planning something dubious with photocopies of the entire State civil service? INEC should beware.
But the campaign for the opposition especially former Governor Peter Obi has revolved around this line, “what did this government to for you, can you point to any project he did?”
“During my first tenure I did this and that, where are Obiano’s projects?” That is the question still begging for answer maybe November 18th will provide a clear response from the electorate.