I dedicate my column this week to the former governor of Anambra State, Mr. Peter Obi, CON, in celebration of his quintessential and interminable indispensability to borderless human development—years after his glorious and profound exit from office.
On August 27, 1991, a new state full of hope and bright prospects was born. Inhabited by one of the most industrious and entrepreneurial people in Nigeria, Anambra State derived its name from one of the major rivers of the state. Twenty-three years after creation, my special thanks go to all those who worked hard for its creation. I thank organizations and individuals which and who have contributed to work assiduously for the progress and development of the state. I particularly thank the Elders Advisory Council, the Traditional Rulers’ Council and Association of Town Unions (ASATU).
At inception, the state was administered by Joseph Abulu, a Navy Captain who was in the saddle until December 1991. He was succeeded by an elected civilian governor, Dr. Chukwuemeka Ezeife, who governed from January 2, 1992, to November 18, 1993 when his government was truncated by a military takeover. Consequently, Colonel Mike Attah became the military administrator from December 13, 1993 to August 20, 1996. He was succeeded by another military officer, Group Captain Rufai Garba, who ruled from August 21, 1996 to August 9, 1998 when he made way for the last military governor in the person of Wing Commander Emmanuel Ukaegbu who held sway from August 10, 1998, to May 29, 1999.
It was at the time that Nigeria transited once more from military to democratic governance with Dr. Chinwoke Mbadinuju becoming the state’s first elected governor in the Fourth Republic. His regime lasted from May 29, 1999, to May 28, 2003.
Then came what was supposed to be another bold step in the country’s democratic journey, when elections were held throughout the country to elect another set of civilian leaders. At this point, it was clear to everybody that something had gone wrong. Anambra State was lagging behind most states in the performance indices of good governance and development. That was when I decided to come out from the secure and organized private sector to delve into the murky waters of politics with all its uncertainties. Driven by a burning zeal for a corrective mission after my experience at Kellogg Graduate School, North Western University, USA and observing the obvious decay in the politics of our dear state, I could neither say “No” to myself nor to the desire of our people for change.
I contested election for the position of governor on the platform of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA). Following an extensive issue-based campaign that was acclaimed as unprecedented, I was overwhelmingly endorsed by the electorate to govern the state. Regrettably, that unflinching verdict of the people was thwarted by anti-democratic elements who declared another candidate the winner of that election. Rather than give up and surrender to fate or resort to violence, I saw the anomaly as part of my raison d’être for being in politics and therefore a challenge to be confronted. I initiated proceedings at the Election Petition Tribunal where I eventually reclaimed my stolen mandate after three grueling years of political and forensic battles. The verdict of the Election Petition Tribunal was subsequently affirmed by the Court of Appeal. It was the first time a sitting governor would be removed from office by a litigant.
However, I was barely seven months into office when the same anti-democratic forces again struck and illegally impeached me. Part of the reasons adduced for my illegal impeachment was that I was frugal in pruning the cost of governance by reducing the previously inflated cost for the rebuilding of the Government House and Governor’s Lodge burnt by the same undemocratic forces. Interestingly, reducing cost of governance and efficient management of resources, which contributed to my jungle impeachment, formed the need for my involvement in politics. Was it then time to say “Enough” and pack my things and go? I returned to the court and made history again as the first governor to upturn an impeachment.
Incidentally, the state had suffered another setback in its developmental journey as the midnight impeachment came just as I was fashioning out a blueprint for its restructuring. Having come back from the illegal impeachment, I was confronted by yet another obstacle. This time, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), the body charged with conducting elections in Nigeria, wrongly ordered the conduct of gubernatorial election in Anambra State, despite the constitutional provision that any person elected as governor has a four-year tenure which begins from day he takes the Oath of Allegiance and Oath of Office. Worse still, I was even excluded from contesting this new and controversial election for fear I would win.
Eventually, somebody was declared winner. This forced me to vacate office on May 29, 2007. I once more returned to the courts and doggedly pursued the case from High Court to the Supreme Court, while the public doubted the validity of my conviction. Again I won. This case changes the timetable for the conduct of gubernatorial elections in nigeria, as i was reinstated on june 15, 2007—17 days after being forced out of office.
This judgment opened the doors for some other governors to benefit from similar situations. Such governors include: Adams Oshiomhole, Olusegun Mimiko, Rauf Aregbesola, Kayode Fayemi, Liyel Imoke, among others.
However, despite returning to office, my troubles were far from being over, with a State House of Assembly that was 100 percent PDP. By the time I was able to make the House members see reason and key into my programmes, 2007 had already gone. Suffice it to say that while I was sworn in on the 17th of March, 2006, my actual service to the state started in 2008. The 2008 budget was thus the first budget that I presented to the House of Assembly as governor. It was based on the vision of achieving the Millennium Development Goals by the year 2015 as stipulated by the United Nations during the Millennium Development Summit in 2000. The strategy for achieving this was christened Anambra Integrated Development Strategy (ANIDS), which is a process for planning, budgeting and implementing all sectors of the Millennium Development Goals simultaneously.
Hence the budget of 2008 was tagged ‘Budget of Integrated Development’, which was principally anchored on the need to turn Anambra State around and commence visible and sustainable development that would permeate all sectors. Thus, today, ANIDS has transformed Anambra State and made it a destination for donor agencies/development partners.
As part of our strategy, we turned our planning/budgeting and implementation from being supply-driven to being demand-driven, by involving all stakeholders in the planning, budgeting and implementation processes. A good case in point is the incorporation of the Presidents-General of town unions in the process of governance as experimental 4th tier of Government – an innovation that is fast gaining popular acceptance. It is noteworthy that ANIDS and the sectoral programmes that it contains were borne out of the needs of all stakeholders expressed during the 2008 Budget Preparation and Implementation Workshop sponsored by the European Union. Since then, the state has never been the same again as it turned from its pariah status to a state everybody and group want to associate with.
Some of the results of this vision can today be seen in the well-articulated and strategized road construction programme that has made Anambra one of the states with the best road network in the country. It can be seen in the revitalization of such critical sectors as health, education, commerce and industry; institutions of government, sports, to mention but a few. It was also in tandem with such vision that, for the first time, Structure Plans were produced for Awka, Onitsha and Nnewi by the UN-HABITAT for the all-round development of the state by my administration.
Today Anambra State has shown that, with a clear vision, proper planning and frugal management of resources, a lot can be achieved. Any wonder that Anambra has fittingly turned from being ‘Home for All’ manner of people to The light of the nation.
As the light has started shining, I urge all of you, great people of Anambra State, to make it shine brighter by being committed to the state.