A few weeks back, it was easy to point with some justice to the deviousness of a tiny clique of ‘jobbers’ eager to scuttle the primary election of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) in Anambra State. Thankfully the election, adjudged by many as peaceful, was held in the most transparent way and a candidate produced in the person of His Excellency, Governor Willie Obiano. With the conclusion of primaries by most of the political parties, attention will now focus on the big contest on November 18. Besides Obiano, APC selected Tony Nwoye, UPP nominated Osita Chidoka; PPA picked Godwin Ezeemo, while Oseloka Henry Obaze emerged the flag bearer of PDP.
It is a fairly good assessment to say that governorship election in the state has always been difficult. Not that it is any better elsewhere, but the Anambra experience has always been rough and could be messy when inclined. It is for this reason that any of the candidates, who earnestly desires to stake a claim to victory in the election must show grit. More than that, he would have worked harder than others in a manner that has positively touched the lives of ndi Anambra. Assuredly, the election is not going to be won on empty promises secured especially on campaign stumps. Neither will it be won on dubious philanthropy and/or by bandying catchy campaign slogans. It will not be won by consciously straining the limit of constitutional authority. That will be duly resisted. It is not an election for one pleasant candidate who, without any important qualification for the office, would like very much to be governor. It is an election for the best, to be won by a candidate with a track record of integrity and performance. In many ways, the election will be between promise and performance.
This period in our political and economic life requires a tested candidate, who has adroitly navigated and can still navigate the recession maze without being lost in its labyrinth. With the precarious economy unyielding to subtle change, it will be wrong to experiment with any manner of change just to keep up with the Joneses. The least Anambra State can afford on November 18 is to have a candidate thrown in at the deep end. Such a gamble will likely hurt her effort in keeping afloat the sea of the dwindling economy.
This is where the Obiano candidacy comes in handy. Apart from the fairness of allowing Anambra North Senatorial Zone complete its term of four years, which augurs for peace and stability in the state, his experience within this unusual period in the life of the state and his performance record stand him in good stead for victory. As his experience gives him a headstart over other contenders, a single term for him makes the choice of another candidate from his North senatorial zone unattractive.
An unfair assessor of the Obiano administration will still be candid enough to concede it some credit for bringing Anambra up to speed in development. What everybody, including a rabid critic of the government, will not deny is that the Obiano government brought peace to the state. It also brought development. By dealing with insecurity early in the life of the administration, he was able to create an enabling environment for rapid development of the state. It is now, perhaps, as the election date closes on, that some people became conscious that the administration has lasted only three years and some months. Because of its many achievements, it is often taken to have lasted more than a term in office. It surprises not a few persons how the administration was able to insulate the state from the vagaries of the time. To the credit of the administration Anambra State is performing at her optimal best at a time when most states are struggling to discharge the least function of statecraft.
From the seed of security planted early in the state by the administration had sprouted enormous transformation. From quality education through enhanced healthcare services, agricultural revolution, integrated infrastructure, improved social service and job creation etc., it has remained a positive narrative. Quite often, ndi Anambra forget that their state is part of an ailing economy because salaries and emoluments, pensions and gratuities as well as other responsibilities are discharged promptly. At any rate, the speed of development, especially in the intangible sector of the economy does not reflect the prevailing economic situation in the country. That, perhaps, explained why in his speech earlier (during the third anniversary of the government), Professor Chukwuma Soludo had wondered aloud why the horde of aspirants was eager to mend what was not really broken. He not only urged for support to the government but also debunked the argument that the state needed to be under the control of the party at the centre in order to make progress.
The APGA government in the state in the last 11 years has shown responsive leadership such that it will be hard put to toy with the idea of change. The time does not support such a gamble for obvious reasons. It will be a disastrous excursion into the unknown, which the state can ill-afford. The achievement of the government speaks directly to the ordinary person in the street whose brother or sister returns home with their pay cheque on or before 25th of every month. It communicates love to a family whose routine programme is not disrupted by arrears of pension. It binds a community whose restless youths have either been employed or engaged in the many skill acquisition programmes in the state. It enthrals residents of the state who are witnesses to the order and beautiful transformation going on everywhere. It motivates the petty trader, who now has access to cheap loan provided by Anambra State Small Business Agency (ASBA). It makes no sense interrupting the chain just to satisfy the desires of a new candidate or political godfather. It does not seem ndi Anambra will be willing to see the initial achievements made naught in the name of change. Besides, past activities of some of these contenders in the state can easily be remembered by discerning ndi Anambra.
It is not often a state gets lucky with a responsive government. No community in the state – in the last three and half years of the administration – can claim not to have benefitted from a fairly even development effort of the government. For example, the N20 million community-choose-your-project initiative, which is doubled on completion, has brought development – as desired by the 181 communities – closer to them. That effort is unique unto itself and the first of its kind since Anambra State was created.
Previous governments (without diminishing their contributions) did not even up in siting development projects in the state and nothing suggests that another government will be minded to carry the lofty programme through. The period in our economy does not encourage abandoning projects and it will be acting a fool to our own interest to support disrupting the impressive run of APGA in the State.
• Onyima, a former Anambra State Commissioner for Information, Culture and Tourism wrote from Umuoji.