There is something to be learned from Anambra. Is it their policy? Is it their budgeting practice? Is it their sense of community? Whatever it is, it is working! The Federal Government and other states should study what Anambra State has been doing right and replicate it nationally. Anambra proves that Nigeria does not need oil to thrive.
– Ben Murray Bruce, senator representing Bayelsa East.
In November 2004, when a group of thugs and marauders set on fire state institutions in Anambra State in a desperate effort to remove Anambra State Governor Chris Ngige through a proclamation of a state of emergency, Kayode Komolafe, Deputy Managing Director of Thisday newspapers, put a call to me and asked in a deeply worried tone: “What is happening in the birthplace of Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, Chinua Achebe, Mokwugo Okoye, Chike Obi, Cyprian Ekwensi, Phillip Odumegwu-Ojukwu, Alex Ekwueme, and other great Nigerians? How can you allow a bunch of urchins organised from Abuja to destroy your place?”
KK, as we call him, is a committed Nigerian patriot and one of the most humane persons I have ever met anywhere. You cannot ask for a better friend.
After a long pause and deep breath and fast reflection, I managed to respond: “What is going on at home mirrors tragic events in Germany under the Third Reich. Who would have believed, in view of the robust heritage of the Germans in philosophy, science, literature, medicine and military prowess, that a mere sergeant named Adolf Hitler would seize power and lead them and humankind to massive destruction?”
KK replied: “I can see the point you are making,” adding rather humorously, as he was wont to do, “I always come to you for rewarding insights because you are a philosopher, always philosophising exclusively for me!”
I was encouraged to quip, with a touch of braggadocio, “Anambra will rise again, earlier than most Nigerians would think, just as Germans did after World War II.”
Nationalism compelled me to engage in positive prognosis, for, as Paul Nwabuikwu, the brilliant journalist and communication consultant, wrote in those dark days, it was a difficult period to be an Anambrarian.
A gubernatorial election will be held in Anambra State on November 18, three days from today. The state is far from being engulfed by tension. There are no serious threats of security breaches. Anambra State has come a long way from the days of mayhem. In fact, it has become in the last three years the safest state in the country. Whether in education, agriculture, industrialisation and infrastructural development as well as public financial management, its record is impressive.
A little comparison will be helpful. Anambra’s internally generated revenue (IGR) is N1.3 billion monthly. Though a 300 per cent increase since 2014, it is a less than 20 per cent of what accrues to Ogun State monthly; Ogun hosts more industries than any other state because of its proximity to Lagos, Nigeria’s economic capital. Anambra’s monthly N1.3 billion IGR compares with that of Bayelsa, which receives an additional N8 billion monthly from the federation account as a major petroleum-bearing state. Yet, while Ogun and Bayelsa states asked for presidential bailouts to pay workers’ salaries in arrears, Anambra didn’t because it had no need. Interestingly, Anambra two years ago reviewed workers’ salaries by 15 per cent, becoming the only state in Nigeria to do upward salary review in recent years. Despite engaging 6,000 new graduates three years ago, it remains the first state to pay workers monthly. Civil servants have given Willie Obiano the sobriquet of Alert Governor because they receive alerts of salary payment from their banks promptly.
There is no justification for a state like Bayelsa to continue to owe its workers. Employees of Balyelsa’s eight local governments, as opposed to Anambra’s 21 LGAs, are owed for one year, according to the Nigeria Labour Congress. All employees of the Bayelsa State-owned Niger Delta University went on a protracted strike last year after several months of non-payment. Yet, the strength of the Bayelsa State workforce is a fraction of Anambra’s. Well, if you think that Bayelsa’s case is exceptionally bad, think again. In Kogi State, workers are owed for 15 months, a more pathetic situation than what obtains in Osun State, which is much publicised and criticised. The plight of Kogi workers shows that Governor Bello has not profited from the recent ritual of sending top government officers to Anambra State to understudy public sector financial management.
As already adumbrated, Anambra is competitive in different sectors. Students in its public schools continue to represent Nigeria in international academic competitions very well, from Germany to South Korea. Loretto Science School, a public school, in Adazi, Anaocha Local Government Area, still holds the best record in science subjects of all high schools, which write both the West African School Certificate and National Education Council examinations. The state’s teaching hospital, which could not get the accreditation of the Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria for eight years, has now produced well-qualified doctors and all of them automatically employed by the government; the hospital has in the last two years attained such status that consultants and specialists are now being trained there. Doctors who went on a strike against the state government for a whole seven months in 2012 over sundry issues are now among the greatest cheerleaders of the current administration.
No one thought until recently that Anambra could be a rice belt. But with such corporate executives as Cosmas Maduka of the Coscharis Group and Emeka Okwuosa of Oilserv investing several billions of naira in agriculture in the state, the narrative has changed significantly. Even my cousin, Mike Ejezie, an economist and accountant who ran for governor twice, has become a full-time farmer in the village, and is happy about it. SABmiller, which has the second largest brewery in Nigeria, in terms of hectoliters, is now sourcing all the sorghum for its plant in Onitsha from Igbariam, a sleepy town in Anambra West LGA. The received wisdom was that sorghum could not be grown in Southern Nigeria, but Godfrey Nzamujo, Catholic priest, engineer, biologist, agriculturist and scientist from Imo State and founder of Songhai Farms, with headquarters in Benin Republic, has used Anambra State as a base to explode this myth.
There are other instances of a renaissance in Anambra State, but there is not enough space. Ngige steered the state in a new direction and Peter Obi built on it. Under Willie Obiano’s leadership, the state attained new heights. For this reason and others, which some people refer to as justice, stability and peace in the state, there is a consensus among Anambra stakeholders – including the Nigeria Labour Congress, Trade Union Congress, town unions, traditional rulers, churches and market associations – that he be re-elected overwhelmingly on November 18. Ex-Aviation Minister, Osita Chidoka, and Ifeanyi Okonkwo, who could have given Obiano a good run belong to parties, which Anambra people do not yet know. The third person, Oseloka Obaze, is battling with the reputation of a puppet. His backer, Peter Obi, has successfully been portrayed as not being guided this time around by Aristotle’s common good. Such a pity that the All Progressives Congress (APC), the ruling party at the national level and a party for which I had tremendous sympathy at its formation in 2014 because of its reformist claims, is just not in the November 18 gubernatorial race in Anambra State. Its choice of candidate will hurt it profoundly for long because it is as scandalous as the Mainagate. APC’s mantra of “we shall take Anambra by fire, by force” alienates it further from the people. The APC has long lost its soul.
All said and done, Anambra State is on the move, and the November 18 polls will deepen the current dynamism.
• Adinuba is head of Discovery Public Affairs Consulting.