Mr C. Don Adinuba is the Anambra State Commissioner for Information and Public Enlightenment. Recently, he spoke to Daily Sun and shed light on some topical issues ranging from the Efi Igbo (Igbo cow) project of the state government, the much-talked about Anambra rice, the Fulani herdsmen menace in Eastern Nigerian, etcetera.
‘Willie is Working’ was a mantra on the lips of every Anambra indigene during the first term of Governor Willie Obiano. Critics of the governor say the mantra should be revisited …
The governor is still working, not just the governor –the entire administration –is working harder and more effectively this second term, and the results are there. For instance, on August 2, 2019, the Federal Government declared Anambra State the most supportive of all state governments in Nigeria in respect of the growth and development of small and medium scale enterprises. Anambra’s first prize was given to us by the vice president of Nigeria at State House, Abuja. In fact, this September, Radio Nigeria conferred on the governor an award of excellence, the only governor in Nigeria’s history to receive the award. Rewind to September 26, last year, the World Bank declared Anambra the best implementer of World Bank Assisted projects in the South East and South-South. The day after, Anambra State won the first position for immunisation in the country, and the prize was given by the vice president at the State House.
WAEC has just published the 2019 WASC results, and Abia came first, followed by Anambra State. Anambra had earlier came first in JAMB exams. It had earlier, too, came first in NECO exams. Also, bear in mind that Anambra has consistently recorded the least figure in the numbers of examination malpractices in the entire country. According to the National Bureau of Statistics, Anambra has the lowest poverty index of all states in Nigeria. Anambra is also among the third least indebted states in the country in domestic debts. We have remained the safest state in Nigeria. We are actually helping other states with security.
Recently, there were priests and nuns, who, on different occasions, were kidnapped in Kogi and Enugu states, our neighbours, and it was Anambra State that rescued those men and women and on six different occasions. This is the first time we are making it public –you can ask the Catholic Church. You know very well that Ebonyi and Enugu states have, on different occasions, came to learn from Anambra State. First of all, we are the first state in Nigeria to introduce the Community Choose Your Project. There are 177 communities in Anambra State, and we asked the communities to choose any project they want and get 20 million naira to execute it; the government directed them to also choose their contractors to execute the contract, and they responded. We have done the first phase. It was fantastic. Though there are 177 communities, we gave them money for 181 communities, the reason being that we gave double to Onitsha because of the large population of the city; we also gave double to Obosi because Onitsha has spilled into Obosi. So much of what you call Onitsha today, a substantial part of it is actually Obosi.
We have done the first phase, and every community did very well. For the second phase, there are communities with issues. For example, the president-general of the town development union may be quarrelling with the traditional ruler. It is a problem. In some places where to cite the projects is the issue. So, we are moving into the next phase. We have already set aside N3.5 billion, kept in the bank. So, we are pleading with the communities: go and complete the 2nd phase so you can participate in the next phase. In other parts of the country, communities wait for the state government. In Anambra, it is the state government waiting for the communities, pleading with them, ‘Come and collect your money on one condition: that you have finished the second phase. We also want to use these projects to solve some communal problems, knowing that, before coming to meet the government, if they are quarrelling, they must have reconciled. It is our own way of reconciling traditional rulers with president-generals of town unions.
So far, has it worked?
Yes, it is working. It is a gradual process. Now, Ebonyi State has learnt from us, and they are giving N10 million per community. Enugu has learnt from us, and are doing N10 million. Also, the two states were here few weeks ago to learn from our own ANSIPPA (Anambra State Investment Promotions and Protection Agency). It may also interest you to know that Kogi State has been sending delegations to understudy Anambra’s management of its financial resources. So, we are cooperating with our neigbouring states. We want them to learn, and, if there is also something to learn from them, we are also willing to learn from them. We are the Light of the Nation.
There was so much hype about the Anambra rice a couple of years ago, what’s happening to it?
I have just finished eating Anambra rice, this time, from my home town, Ihiala. I don’t know what you mean by hype, but I can proudly tell you we are so successful in rice business that we are helping other states. The Lake Rice you eat in Lagos is milled in Amichi, Anambra State, Nnewi Local Government, by a company called Stines. Lake Rice is a joint venture between Lagos and Kebbi states –the rice is produced in Kebbi State but milled here in Anambra. So that is how strong we are in rice. Four years ago, Anambra used to produce only 80,000 metric tons. Last year, we were targeting to produce over 400 metric tons, but we did only 354,000 metric tons because of the massive flood that hit us. We hope that, before the end of this year, we will hit that target. My own town, Ihiala, was not known for rice production by people outside the state. But, today, I personally give Ihiala rice to people, and they eat and rate it the very best without stones. I no longer eat foreign rice. It may interest you to know that those who have invested in Anambra rice include Cosmas Maduka, the chairman of Coscharis; and Joseph Okeke. They have invested billions of naira.
Similarly, we have excelled in bitter leaf and ugu productions. We produce the best onugbu in the world. Today, we are exporting to Europe and the US, and the impact is far-reaching. In fact, American medical doctors and pharmaceutical experts have started advertising bitter leaf as a wonder, thanks to the Anambra State government.
In Nigeria today, Anambra State has the largest state owned oxygen gas plants cited in Awka, Nnamdi Azikiwe Teaching Hospital. It was commissioned August last year, and we are giving two canisters free to every primary health centre in the state.
The Efi Igbo (Igbo cow) project of the Anambra State Government has been generating debates since its pictures began to circulate. Yet some Nigerians see it as more political than agricultural…
I don’t know what you mean by ‘more political than agricultural’. Haven’t you seen the farms? So, what is political about that? Let me tell you how it began. About three years ago, the governor said we must promote our culture, especially the positive aspect of our culture that were threatened. He said Efi Igbo, the species of cow native to Igbo land, was more dwarf in size compared to others. I bet you, many Igbo people of today have not even seen one. It is threatened. Being a business man, the governor knew that, if we produced the Efi Igbo, it would not be competitive in the market. Then it would be a failed business. So he directed the Anambra State Small Business Agency (ASSBA) to provide facilities to two major famers to do an experiment; let them work in conjunction with Agriculture experts, including researchers in veterinary medicine, to crossbreed Efi Igbo and what you may call Efi Hausa. It was a successful experiment. So, today, we have in Anambra State Efi Igbo as big as Efi Hausa (the little difference is that ours doesn’t have long horns) so that it will compete in the market.
You cannot ask a restaurateur or an hotelier or somebody doing business to go for Efi Igbo, which is expensive for the simple reason that it is customary. No! If our ancestors and grandfather bred Efi Igbo, today, with all our education, travels and exposures, we have to be able to create a breed that will be a massive improvement on the traditional variety. We have the Efi Igbo farms in Umunze in Orumba South and another in Umuchu in Aguata LGA. We have recorded a resounding success. The governor has now decided we will have to do it in each of the 21 local governments in the state, including Onitsha. With Efi Igbo, we are reviving our cultural heritage and turning it into a lucrative business. We are also supporting science and technology; we are supporting research; and we are willing to cooperate with other states that want to breed Efi Igbo.
Against the backdrop of rising menace by Fulani herdsmen nationwide, including the East, what are the strategies being adopted by the state government to guarantee a harmonious relationship between the herdsmen and their host communities?
Anambra has been rather exceptional. Nobody should be surprised at this. There are about 23 Fulani communities in Anambra State, and they have been here for decades, and they live in harmony with our people. Many of them were born here, so they may speak better Igbo than you. They understand our culture; they have integrated with our people; so we have no problem with them. In fact, what they do with our people is what we call the business of agbata eke (joint business). So many of the cattle you see in the state are owned by Anambra people who have invested in the business, but the people who understand cattle husbandry are the Fulani people living in our midst. We live in harmony with them. So we want other people to learn from us.
However, like in all human societies, we have skirmishes once in a while. What the state governor did three years ago was to set up a committee with membership drawn from host communities and Fulani herdsmen, headed by the commissioner of police with also DSS members and other security agents. They drew up code of conducts. One of the rules was, and is still there: that if a herder allows his animals to trample upon food crops or somebody’s farm, destroying the crops, the herder is liable and will pay damages equivalent to the destructions. On the other hand, if a farmer or any other person kills a cow belonging to a herder, the person pays promptly –it is not negotiable. So, both parties see it as fair and just, and abide by it. So where will there be problem in Anambra?
But once in a while, we have marauding Fulani herdsmen, who are not resident here; they enter Anambra without knowing the rules of engagements. Once they commit an error –they have done it either once or twice –the security men will go after them and they will take to their heels, abandoning the state. So we have no problem with Fulani herdsmen except the marauders among them who, from our own experience, are not resident in the state.