There is something to be learned from Anambra. Is it their policy? Is it their budgetary practice? Whatever it is, it is working! The Federal Government and the state governments should study what Anambra has been doing right and replicate it nationally. Anambra proves Nigeria does not need oil to thrive.
-Senator Ben Murray-Bruce from Bayelsa State.
These are really good times for the people of Anambra State. The dramatic changes we have seen and experienced across the state in the last three years are well acknowledged. From agric development to exemplary performance in educational contests in Nigeria and overseas to security, Anambra State has attracted national attention, and Willie Obiano has consequently become one of the most decorated governors in recent years throughout the country. However, there is one area, which has escaped the attention of most commentators: Making Anambra State scandal-free.
As I am writing this brief article, there are newspaper reports that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has obtained a court order confiscating an exquisite 100-room hotel under construction in Lekki, Lagos State. The reason is that the hotel is reportedly being developed with N500m and $500,000 by a serving state governor, and the monies are believed to be proceeds of crime. Though the EFCC has not mentioned publicly the name of the state governor, many media outlets have disclosed authoritatively that the developer is a top-notch of the Nigerian Governors Forum (NGF), who is also a member of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC). The governor has vigorously denied the allegation, but everyone seems to take the denial with a pinch of salt. Newspapers and Internet media outlets have quoted unnamed EFCC officials, as confiding in them that the governor diverted the state’s share of the refund of money from the Paris Club made to the 36 states of the federation plus the Federal Capital Territory of Abuja. As someone who did his one-year compulsory one-year National Youth Service Scheme (NYSC) in the governor’s state, which is arguably Nigeria’s poorest state, I am disheartened by the news. Why is the money not invested in the state but used to develop Lagos further?
Let the truth be told: The governor is not alone in being accused of looting the refund of the Paris Club. Many other governors stand accused. Looting by state governors seems to have become a way of life in Nigeria since 1999. Newspapers before me, as I am writing, report that Alhaji Ibrahim Saminu Turaki, former Jigawa State governor, is standing trial before Justice Nnamdi Dimgba of the Federal High Court in Abuja for refusing to honour invitations from the EFCC in connection with the looting of N5.2bn and $20m when he was in office. Indeed, there are very few state governors, both former and current, who are not charged with acts of scandalous corruption.
For us in Anambra State, the good news is that the state has been scandal-free. If not for the police arrest and detention of a sport utility vehicle (SUV), carrying N250m raw cash on Sunday, June 1, 2009, at 7 Aerodromme Road in Apapa, Lagos, which is the private office of the then governor, Anambra State would have been totally free of corruption scandals since the restoration of democracy. In fact, Anambra has been really free of all forms of scandal in the last three years. Take strikes. Though doctors in the service of the state government went on an unbelievable two-year strike just before Chief Obiano assumed office over poor conditions of service, no one dare talk of workers, protesting against the current administration because there is, frankly, nothing to protest against.
Can workers protest against Obiano for increasing their salaries by 15%, the only governor to do so in the last four years? Can they possibly protest against the only state government, which pays salaries before the end of every month? Can they protest against it for being concerned right now with how to increase salaries again? Can they protest against the government for not going for a bailout like even rich oil-producing states, which got so broke that they have not paid salaries for about one year? Can they protest against the only state government to launch a stimulus package in the wake of the ongoing recession in the country? Can they protest against, perhaps, the only government still employing people, especially graduates with physical disabilities? Can they protest against Obiano’s clearing of the N200m salary arrears owed the staff of the state water corporation for 10 years? Can they protest against a government, which has just released almost N1bn to the state radio and radio stations as well as the newspaper company for the payment of retired workers’ pensions and gratuities, which were not paid for decades? Can they protest against a government still building roads and bridges, as if the state were inoculated against the national recession?
Needless to state, there is no state in Nigeria today where the workers unions and the government have demonstrated so much affection for each other as Anambra State. Last May 1, for instance, the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and the Trade Union Congress (TUC), among other groups, endorsed a second term for Obiano. They described him as a role model, the leader Anambra State needs. One of my relatives spent eight years at the Anambra State University Teaching Hospital to become a doctor but failed because the hospital could not secure the accreditation of the Nigerian Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria on grounds of insufficient staff and inadequate facilities. Today, he is a qualified doctor, thanks to Obiano, who provided the required funds. The state teaching hospital is not only accredited, it is training consultants. Willie is working.
Senator Ben Murray-Bruce from Bayelsa State is correct in recommending that both the Federal Government and state governments in Nigeria borrow a leaf from Anambra. Kogi State, for instance, has been sending its top officers to Anambra to understudy the state’s financial management. Even states like Lagos should learn from Anambra, even though both states are the fastest developing in Nigeria in terms of infrastructural development. But Lagos is not as safe as Anambra. Lagos has in recent times been devastated by kidnappings and cult-related killings. Pupils and their teachers are now fair game to kidnappers in Nigeria’s commercial capital. In Imo State, kidnappers have been having a field day for several months. The Kaduna-Abuja highway has in the last five months been hijacked by robbers and kidnappers. Violent criminals used to enjoy free rein in Anambra State until Obiano found a solution, which turned out to be a magical bullet. But today the state has become the safest in the whole country. Therefore, various state governors as well as federal security agencies should find out from the current administration in Anambra State how it performed the security miracle and learn from it.
Let me end this commentary with a quote from the Holy Bible: “When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice; when the wicked rule, the people groan” (Proverbs 29:2).
• Nzeribe, until recently a manager with Keystone Bank, lives in Onitsha, Anambra State.