Outside the disturbing gloomy news emanating from Nigeria on a daily basis due to the spiraling insecurity across the country, I can confirm that something good is definitely happening in Anambra State, the gateway to the South East region. Apart from the 2021 gubernatorial election coming up in the state in November and the understandable upsurge in political activities ahead of the poll, and the growing number of governorship aspirants, the Governor Willie Obiano administration is busy delivering his campaign promises to Ndi Anambra without much publicity, which is common in our polity.
I can remember vividly that one of the promises Obiano made to the Anambra electorate during the campaign for the governorship post was the construction of a new cargo and passenger airport in the state to facilitate faster and safest movement of people and goods to the state, whose citizens are generally known for their commerce and industry. Among his many campaign promises, not many people believe that Obiano will keep to his promise of building the airport following the lull and controversy that trailed it.
The doubting Thomases quickly dismissed the idea. Many people walked away in doubt and regarded it as one of those campaign promises specially tailored to catch votes and not even meant to be fulfilled. Some people feared that the state would not have the financial muscle to finance the project. Some said it would be stillborn. Yet, others kept their hands crossed watching anxiously for what would happen over the project. Perhaps, only a few believed that Obiano would not disappoint them. Only a few saw the light at the end of the dark tunnel. Only a few saw the glittering splendor of the Promised Land. The project was generally greeted with skepticisms by many stakeholders, politicians and notable political commentators on Anambra State affairs.
But today, the story is quite different. It is a tale of joy. It is a song of triumph over fear and despondency. The project has moved from conception to reality as the Anambra International Cargo and Passenger Airport, Umueri, witnessed its first series of successful test-run flights on April 30, 2021. Two aircraft from the fleet of Air Peace were the first to land at the new airport for the maiden inauguration ceremony attended by many prominent people in the state and the South East region. They were quickly followed by a private jet owned by an Anambra business mogul.
It is believed that full commercial flights will resume in the airport as soon as the Federal Government gives its final nod. When operational, it will be one of the busiest airports in the country in terms of passenger volume and it will also open up more businesses in the state and create more jobs for the people. Its viability is not in doubt as the people of the state are known for air travel, importation and other businesses. Citizens of other South East states, which share boundary with Anambra will patronize it. It is laudable that a project conceived 30 years ago by past administration in the state is being delivered through the doggedness, vision and audacity of the Obiano administration.
In conceptualizing the airport, the government wants to use it to expand the frontiers of excellence in the state and make Anambra State the first choice in investment destination and a hub for economic and commercial activities. It also believed that the airport will serve as a direct link between Ndi Anambra and the world. It will indeed open Anambra to the world as well as enhance the state’s tourism potential. The project is a product of great thinking, good planning and seamless execution.
While it takes so many people to dream of a worthwhile project, it takes the tenacity of one visionary leader to make the dream come true. This assertion is very true of the new Anambra Airport, Umueri, which some people thought initially to be impossible or something not worth the effort or any serious consideration. Without doubt, the airport with 3.7 kilometers runway and other modern navigational features is one of the legacy projects of the Obiano administration. It is unarguably one of his most audacious projects till date. To many people in and outside the state, it is his best signature project so far.
History will remember him as the governor who promised to build an airport for his people and really fulfilled it despite all intimidating odds. It is a lesson in patience and determination. The American poet and educator, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, might have Governor Obiano in mind when he wrote in “The Ladder of St. Augustine” that “The heights by great men reached and kept were not attained by sudden flight, but they, while their companions slept, were toiling upward in the night.”
I strongly believe that History will remember him for daring and succeeding where others expressed fear and disbelief. With the execution of the airport project, the governor has already written his name in gold and etched his memory in the collective memory of Ndi Anambra. The moving Anambra airport story is the stuff for making Epics and it quickly reminds one of Imo Cargo Airport built by the former governor of Imo State, Dr. Sam Mbakwe of the blessed memory.
Interestingly, Governor Obiano revealed that he did not borrow a dime to execute the project. This is another indication of judicious deployment of state resources for the benefit of Ndi Anambra. This project is indeed their own delivered by one their own in record time. The governor deserves immense commendation for building the airport. It is also commendable that the administration is also executing two other legacy projects in Awka, the state capital. They include the International Conference Centre and the Township Stadium.
He must ensure that these legacy projects are completed before leaving office next year. Therefore, one big lesson from Obiano’s airport project is the need for leaders to be visionary and prioritize their projects and fully execute them. Such leaders should also believe in themselves and they should have the zeal to deliver the projects.
Another very important lesson of the project is that leaders must embark on projects that will satisfy the needs of the people. They should execute projects that can create wealth and employment, projects that can positively impact the lives of the citizens. They must avoid worthless and wasteful projects. The Obiano example is worthy of emulation for other governors, especially those in the South East region.
The Anambra good governance template put in place since the emergence of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) on the political scene some years back is still working. To all those jostling to succeed Willie Obiano, over 30 in number, the stakes are so high and expectations are legion. They should all know that the job won’t be so easy, with dwindling national revenue and steady decline in states’ internally generated revenue and the legacies of the present administration in Awka. So far, Obiano has proved with all his developmental projects that governance is about the people and therefore must be people-centred.