•You asked for legacies, we gave you monuments, Obiano tells Anambra people;
•I’m leaving you in good hands

CHIEF Willie Obiano, the outgoing governor of Anambra State, who was sworn in on March 17, 2014 as the fifth civilian governor of the state, will bow out of office today after completing the constitutionally allowed two terms of four years each.

In his place, Governor-elect, Professor Charles Soludo, a former governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, would mount the saddle.

Soludo, who won the November 6, 2021 governorship election on the platform of the ruling All Progressives Grand Alliance, APGA, has already given the people of the state a glimpse of what his administration would look like.

Essentially, the Professor of Economics and a consultant to many world bodies has, by his pronouncements since winning the election, showed that he might not be at home with ostentatious lifestyle and heavily padded administration. First was his decision to have a quiet swearing in ceremony that would involve just a few people, unlike what used to happen in the past when it was usually an occasion for the government in power to show off as the political party that produced the governor. He had also said that immediately after the swearing in ceremony, he would drive straight to Okpoko in Ogbaru local government area, which is one of the worst slums in the country.

He had promised during his electioneering campaign that he would clean up the area and make it habitable. In fact, but for obedience to protocol matters, Soludo had earlier planned to have his swearing in ceremony at Okpoko to drive home the importance he attached to turning the area around.

Boosting local industries, products
In fact, the first surprise from Soludo as the governor -elect came the day he was presented with his certificate of return when he adorned a simple Akwete shirt and looked so simple that his party members who dressed gorgeously wondered what was happening. Shortly after that the governor –elect announced that he would also dress in Akwete clothe and wear the shoes manufactured at a factory in Ogbunike during his swearing in ceremony.

He has also announced that the locally manufactured Innoson vehicles would be his official convoy cars. Another surprise was to come when the social media became awash with reports that the governor –elect had opened an online platform where people who wish to work in his administration should apply.

Some members of the ruling APGA were already grumbling that their expectations were being dampened after they campaigned to safeguard their political future by voting for the party’s candidate during the election. However, Soludo has assured members of his party that they would adequately be taken care of during his tenure as the governor of Anambra State.

Low profile hand-over
Already, his predecessor, Obiano, appears to have bought into the incoming governor’s low profile by accepting to make the swearing in ceremony as less expensive as possible. For instance, few weeks to the swearing in ceremony, some state government officials were said to have proposed a budget of about N20 million for the few hours exercise, which Soludo allegedly frowned at. However, the outgoing governor had to tinker his exit programme to suit the incoming governor’s plan.

It was initially planned that Obiano would use the occasion of the swearing in ceremony to inaugurate the multi –billion naira 13,000 sitting capacity International Convention Centre he built in Awka, but because Soludo does not want crowd during his oath –taking ceremony, the governor decided to commission the edifice, last week. He also used the occasion of the commissioning of the Convention Centre to launch a book written on him by a member of his kitchen cabinet, Mr. Ike Chioke.

The book titled ‘ Akpokuedike: Duty call in Anambra’ chronicled all the achievements of Governor Obiano in his eight years as the chief executive of the state. The author of the book said:

“This book is my attempt to document the achievements of the governor for posterity. He is a man who has a strong conviction about what he wanted to achieve in Anambra, and he came to power fully prepared for the task and he is leaving for the state a lot of legacy projects.

As part of the winding down of the Obiano administration, the report of the Anambra State 50-year development plan prepared by a committee headed by Professor Soludo was presented to Governor Obiano during the valedictory session of the outgoing state executive council held at the International Convention Centre.

Soludo said the document would provide the development trajectory of the state in the next five decades and described it as a wholly home-grown document which had contributions from the cross the spectrum of the society, including the traditional institution, market women, civil society organizations and youths.

“The document is indeed that of the people and government of Anambra State,” he said and recalled that at the time the committee was put together by Governor Obiano, he had no idea that he would be governor of the state. “It was divine providence that I am submitting the document as a governor-elect and would likely be the governor to start implementing it”, Soludo said. He commended the Obiano administration for laying a solid foundation for the economic transformation of Anambra State and promised to continue in that stride as the ruling APGA is a political party with people-oriented manifesto.

At the end of the valedictory session of the state executive council last week, the outgoing Secretary to the State Government, Prof Solo Chukwuelobe sent out a memo reminding all political office holders that their duties were over and directed them to handover government property in the possession on or before Wednesday, March 16, 2022.

With the exit of Obiano, all eyes are now on Soludo. There is so much expectation from the new governor, especially with the enormous work before him. He has shown from his pronouncements since his election that he is prepared for the great task ahead. As he often says, Anambra would become a megacity state by the time he will be leaving office.

You asked for legacies, we gave you monuments, Obiano tell Anambra people
Chief Obiano, in a valedictory speech to bring his administration to a close, and usher in that of Soludo, said he has done his best for the state and urged Soludo to take Anambra to greater heights.

Expressing happiness that he was leaving Anambra people in good hands (Soludo), his farewell speech read in part: “Eight years ago, when I gave my inaugural address, I shared my vision of a greater Anambra State with you. To some people, it sounded like a dream. To many, it came across as the usual sweet-talk from a politician. And yet to others, it carried the light of hope. Today, most of those dreams I shared with you have come true.

“You asked for safety, we gave you ‘Nigeria’s safest state.’ You asked for dignity; we sent our children to a global contest of intelligence and they defeated America, China, Spain and Turkey and brought back dignity and honour. You asked for legacies, we gave you monuments. I touched a dream.

“As your governor, I worked under extreme pressure. I took many hard decisions. I stepped on toes. I didn’t answer some phone calls. I lost some friends on account of these. If you are one of those who felt offended by what I did or did not do, please forgive me. For in the words of the great Nelson Mandela, ‘forgiveness liberates the soul.’ A governor is also human. Whatever I did was for the good of Anambra State.

“I’m also aware that I did not fulfil every promise I made. But no government in the world has ever kept all its promises or solved all the problems of its time. However, my intentions were pure and my ambitions sincere. Let history be the judge

“Now, let’s take a look at what we did. Our efforts were audacious; covering major areas of development, from the softest to the hardest issues that challenge modern governance. While I have decided to leave my account of stewardship to historians and students of leadership, it may be necessary to recall that my team and I began by defining the realities of our environment.

N20m Community-Choose-Your-Projects-Initiative
“It is interesting to recall that our Economic Stimulus Package actually gave rise to the highly acclaimed N20m Community Choose-Your-Project Initiative, which has become a much sought-after model in rural development studies. This initiative also ensured that my administration touched all the 181 communities in Anambra State with projects of their own choices. The success recorded in the first phase of the project encouraged the administration to do even more; leading to the commencement of the second phase of the project. As a result of this, all the communities got projects worth N40m each from my administration.

“Indeed, one of the major achievements that I look back to with pride is the establishment of a Court of Appeal in Awka. Until that development, our people had always travelled to Enugu to seek justice. But the setting up of the court has restored our people’s pride and dignity.

“We approached Education in three broad areas: Students’ Welfare, Teachers’ Welfare and Infrastructure Development. Essentially, my administration set out to maintain the competitive advantage our state has enjoyed in education over other states in the country, and took it a notch higher.

To achieve that, we sent Anambra teachers on off-shore training and exposed them to global best practices. We did that because we knew that the best way to take charge of tomorrow is to inculcate the right character in our teachers today. This is one of the secrets of Anambra’s great performances in education under my watch. In infrastructure, the 1000-room hostels we built in 12 technical colleges across the state are monuments that will speak for me long after I’m gone.

In addition, we funded both missionary and public schools in equal measure. We donated the sum of N2.8bn to both Mission and Public Schools. In Students’ Welfare, we have offered scholarships to over 300 students. A direct outcome of this is that both our school children and their teachers won impressive awards under my watch. And with this development, I have no doubt that the future belongs to Anambra State.

“Health comes before wealth. One of our greatest legacies in the health sector is the Anambra State Health Insurance Agency, ASHIA, which was set up to make quality health delivery services easy and accessible to the greater number of our people. With only N12,000 per year, residents of this state can access high quality healthcare as they like. Our second major legacy in the health sector is the Anambra Oxygen Plant which is the biggest state-owned oxygen plant in Nigeria.

This investment has continued to play an unforgettable role in the fight against COVID-19. The third major legacy is the Immaculate Heart Multi-Specialist Hospital Aguleri. This hospital is a showpiece of medical excellence. It is equipped with the most modern facilities that can be seen in any hospital across the world.

Beyond these, we also paid a great deal of attention to the challenges of delivering quality healthcare to the riverine areas. We floated 26 water ambulances to deliver medical supplies to riverine communities. We also provided Keke ambulances for quick emergency shuttles in locations where conventional vehicles cannot easily access. We donated the sum of N1.2bn to all mission and government owned hospitals in the state to strengthen their capacities to respond to the medical needs of our people.

Economic blueprint
“When leadership is focused and innovative, it invokes the future. My team and I worked very hard to invoke the future of Anambra State. We worked on my economic blueprint which is anchored on Agriculture, Industrialization, Trade & Commerce and Oil & Gas.

“When we lit the fire of agricultural revolution in Nteje on May 15, 2014, we created a fertile soil for big industrial farms like Coscharis, JOSAN Agro, Chelsea Farms, Excel Farms and Lynden Farms to thrive.

Our story changed immediately afterwards. Rice production output climbed from 80,000 metric tons in 2014 to 525,000 metric tons in 2021. Maize production rose from 15,902 metric tons to 74,255 metric tons. Cassava rose from 275,832 metric tons in 2014 to 2,060,687 and Vegetables from 48,032 metric tons in 2014 to 482,400 metric tons.

We now have over 160,000 farmers and 3000 co-operative societies for farmers. In less than five years of operation, Coscharis Farms had quickly added a fully automated 40,000 metric tons rice mill to its investments. JOSAN Agro also added 50,000 metric tons rice mill at Umumbo to its fast expanding line of operation. Similarly, Lynden Farms expanded its scope beyond the 90,000 bird-facility it started with in Igbariam. It now has three production houses with an output of 265,000 birds laying an average of 72,000 crates of eggs per day.

Our foray into industrialization was driven by the Anambra Small Business Agency, ASBA, which I set up on December 8, 2014. Since then, ASBA has successfully funded 10,000 cooperatives, micro enterprises and artisans while also providing operating capital to 300 small and medium enterprises. ASBA’s success has attracted Nigeria’s most modern Small and Medium Enterprises complex to Nkwelle Ezunaka. The complex houses an ultramodern industrial shoe-making hub with cutting edge technology and a capacity to produce shoes that compare with shoes made in Europe. One of the machines in the complex has a capacity to produce 1,500 soles per hour. On the strength of these stellar achievements, Anambra was declared the “Best State in Support of SMEs” and honoured at the Presidential Villa, Abuja in 2018. Today, made in Anambra shoes are exported to other West African countries on a weekly basis.

Oil and gas
“The crowning glory of our efforts in oil and gas is the recognition of Anambra State as an oil-producing state by the Federal Government. We have 15 oil wells at the moment. With this achievement, our dear state is now qualified to receive additional revenues from the 13% derivation fund given to oil producing states. This will definitely give big financial elbowroom to my successor and make it easier for the state to undertake more ambitious projects. In addition, we successfully constructed two bridges to open access to the oilfields. They are the Aguleri Otu Bridge (which is also the longest bridge in the South-East, measuring 280 meters long) and the Umueje Bridge. The Umueje Bridge also offers a direct access to the multi-billion Naira Chelsea Farms. Before now, the oilfields could only be accessed through Enugu State.

Trade and Commerce
Our remarkable legacy in Trade and Commerce is the market modernization scheme which ensured the disbursement of the sum of N10m each to the 63 markets in Anambra State. It helped the various Traders’ Associations to upgrade the facilities in their markets. We also relocated many markets to lend depth to commerce and boost the capacity of our markets.

Power Supply
In my inaugural address I had assured you that my administration would pay a great deal of attention to power supply in our dear state. Today, I am delighted to report that we successfully constructed a 33 kVa distribution line from Oji River sub-station in Enugu State to supply electricity in Orumba North and South and even Isuochi town in Abia State. We also constructed another 33 kVa line from Agu Awka to Anambra International Airport to ensure a 22-hour supply of electricity to the airport per day. But perhaps even more important than that is our partnership with the Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN) for the construction of electricity projects in Ifite-dunu, Umuchu, Amansea and Aguleri that will change power supply in Anambra State for the better.

Overall impact of my blueprint
“The direct result of implementing my blueprint is that under my watch, the economy of Anambra State grew from N3.2trn to N4.4trn. That comfortably placed us as Nigeria’s fourth-largest economy. Another direct result is that under my watch again, Anambra joined Lagos and Rivers as the only states in Nigeria that could meet their operating obligations with funds from their Internally Generated Revenue, IGR and earnings from Value Added Tax, VAT.

Still, under my watch, poverty rate in our dear state dropped from 53% in 2010 to 14.8% in 2020. Our dear state was also rated as the state with the lowest unemployment rate in Nigeria in 2020 at a stunning 13.1%. That was a time when the national average stood at 27%. “Similarly, we were also rated as the state with the best Fiscal Responsibility Index in Nigeria after only Rivers State. And finally, to crown it all, Anambra State attracted the sum of $10.2m in foreign direct investment in 2020. These statistics tell a simple story- a story of resilience in the face of incredible odds, a story of my stewardship to you.

Anambra International Passenger/Cargo Airport Umueri
“No experience compares to the pleasure of touching a dream. The feeling is unbelievable. It is even more so if the dream had lasted for 30 long years. We touched a dream when we commissioned the Anambra International Passenger and Cargo Airport Umueri. We are a people who covet dignity and honour.

International Convention Center Awka
The Awka International Convention Center represents the size of our dream. In its grandeur and sublime aesthetics, the Centre points at the huge possibilities for Anambra State.

In both the City Stadium and the iconic flyovers in Awka and Amawbia, we see a statement in disarming beauty. They speak the language of the future. Just like the dazzle of the streetlights that shimmer all over our landscape at night. The 17 bridges and 113 roads we completed are also part of our distinctive landmarks. The robust development of Tourism Treasures like the Ogba Ukwu Caves and Waterfalls at Owerre-Ezukala and Ogbunike Caves in Ogbunike has added tourism to the many attractive offerings from Anambra State. They are things that remind us that we are the Light of the Nation.”