By Ejike Anyaduba
Chances are that Anambra may not be your choice of a viable state if that decision is put to vote. The oil rich states of the Deep South would. With surfeit of funds – made possible by nature’s benevolence – they are better able to outvote any other not so endowed.
Perhaps, this is an assumption. After the controversy surrounding the minimum wage, the underbelly of states was exposed. It was found out by the Senate Committee on National Planning; States and Local Government Finance, saddled with the responsibility of looking into the viability of the states, that most of them are not capable of independent existence. Categorized under five broad headings namely the healthy, the unhealthy, the tolerable, the critical and the distressed, only about four states, among them Anambra, were certified healthy and capable of existing as states. The others were dismissed as merely keeping afloat. Like few Ponzi schemes that masqueraded as banks before the tsunami (performance evaluation of the banks) the existence of more than thirty states was found to be precarious.
Expectedly, the affected states disclaimed the verdict and kicked against possible merger as recommended by the Committee. Notwithstanding, the non-acknowledgement of the verdict could not vitiate the authenticity of the report. No sooner was it made open than Nigerians began to witness persistent disquiet in those states. Many of them couldn’t carry out the least of the functions of a state. Salaries of workers and pension emoluments of retirees were in arrears. Very little in terms of governance was seen in the states.
In time, importunate demands for financial assistance – never witnessed before in Nigeria –were made of the federal government. Thus, bail-out funds were provided for them to shore up the lapses. While all these happened, a state like Anambra, without claim to princely allocation from the federal government, was discharging the responsibilities promptly. Salaries and pensions are paid on or before the 25th of every month. Strangely, up till date, the voices of discontent, however muffled, are yet to be completely drowned in those states.
Re-echoing the viability of Anambra, Ben Murray-Bruce, the Common Sense-making Senator from Bayelsa State, while decrying Nigeria’s over dependence on oil and the negative impact it has had on the economy, lauded the rapid improvement of Anambra, especially in education. He urged both the federal and state governments to study what Anambra is doing right and replicate it nationally. His words bear repeating here: “Anambra is not an oil-producing state; does not have oil in commercial quantity, yet it does not take loan or owe, workers’ salary. According to United Nations, Anambra has one of the lowest poverty rates in Nigeria at 11.2% which places her ahead of 33 states.
Anambra and one other Southeastern state formerly lagged behind in education and had poor boy-child school enrollment. But, today Anambra leads the nation in West African School Certificate (WASC) results. For the past three years, Anambra has had over 60% pass rate in West African Senior School Certificate Examination (WASSCE). It has made the best improvements in education in the whole nation and the state government even supports private schools financially. But look at these states that thrive by depending solely on federal allocation, they are broke, cannot pay salaries and are so debt-ridden that banks would not lend them any more money. Worst of all is that these states are performing woefully in education. There is something to be learnt from Anambra. Is it its policy? Is it its budgeting practice? Is it its sense of community? Whatever it is, it is working. The Federal Government and the states should study what Anambra is doing right and replicate it nationally”.
Ordinarily, these endorsements are enough to earn a government lasting credit and tone down criticisms against it. But not in Anambra where a line of do-nothing bloggers has since seized the internet for selfish advantage; youths who wish for a glorious future, but have done their utmost to compromise it. They waffle campaign slogans like Correction 2017 and Redemption 2017 on the internet without a hang of what needed correction or redemption. Perhaps, it is a common failing of mankind for those who do not bear responsibilitiy of public office to appreciate the task thereof. Otherwise, why should the purveyor of Correction 2017, whose personal attainments did not include a degree in security, claim that the security in the state was a passing fad? He was less than honest to ascribe the robust security in the state to the police alone in apparent disregard of the chief security officer of the state. Did the police suddenly come to town?
Are there no police in states where crime still thrives at a premium? If kidnap has gone with the passage of time, why did Lagos State decide on making it a capital offence? If the season of crime was gone as claimed, what is currently going on in surrounding states? For example, how many people died when the notorious kidnapper was freed at Owerri in a commando-style-operation by his lieutenants? When last was such bravado witnessed in the state? At least, ndi Anambra are not unaware of the special intervention some three years back which rid the state of criminals.
What those who choose to live in denial of the achievements of the government fail to realize is that ndi Anambra are not dumb. They know the achievements are no fluke. They also know that her solvent status in the face of recession is no happenstance. That it is uncommon statecraft – a skill honed on the whetstone of financial prudence. Though no man is a hero to his valet, ndi Anambra know that pitching the state on a tonal height where the refrain has become quite melodious and without laying any debt upon her future, is a special feat.
Very probably, people are wont to hasty conclusions and may be seduced to act wrongly. But, before you are so persuaded to act a rebel to the good of the state and a fool to your own personal interest by voting wrongly, cop a walk to other states and have a feel of disconnect in governance.
Anyaduba writes from Abatete