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Saturday, February 18, 2017

Silverbird Award – The World Finally Appreciates Obiano

LAGOS - When Governor Willie Obiano of Anambra State mounts the podium to be crowned the Silverbird Man of the Year in Lagos tomorrow, 19th February, 2017, he would have received three of Nigeria’s most respected honours from the private sector in one year. About this time last year, he was awarded The Sun Governor of the Year by the publishers of The Sun Newspapers. Then, in June last year, he won the Zik Prize for Leadership instituted by the Public Policy Research and Analysis Centre, in the Good Governance category. With the Silverbird Man of Year award, Obiano makes it a clean sweep in a record time. And this is a record on its own!

However, since we are looking at how Governor Obiano’s effort to change our understanding of responsible leadership in Anambra has drawn approval from the world, it has to be mentioned here that he was also honoured in August last year with a certificate of recognition by the Institute of Housing and Urban Development in the Erasmus University in Rotterdam. This recognition from the Netherlands introduces a global dimension to Obiano’s rising profile. It also validates the saying that if a man makes the best mousetrap, the world would make a beaten path to his door. Vanguard has named him its Man of the Year too. The award will be handed to him in March this year. The governor has equally added a few other important awards to his growing list of honours that might not be as glamorous as these ones but no less important.

Now, let’s face this, in a society that holds its political leaders in perpetual suspicion and mistrust, only few leaders manage to win genuine approval from the people. Put the other way, in a society where political leaders abuse public trust and misuse the people’s confidence, it is understandable why only few leaders make it to public acclaim. But Governor Obiano has made a sound case for himself with a string of solid achievements. As a result, he has set himself apart from the motely pack of Nigeria’s political class whose public careers reek with broken promises and misplaced hopes.
From the moment he was sworn into office on March 17, 2014, Governor Obiano had approached governance with focus and concentration that compare favourably to the focus and concentration that Usian Bolt brings to winning a 100 meters race. He appeared to know exactly what to do to fix problems that the people had resigned to fate about; problems that had lingered for decades but showed no signs of going away.

Although Obiano showed a clear promise in his early days, the raging fire of skepticism in most people that was fueled by years of disappointment by our political leaders would not permit many people to acknowledge that. When he took on the vicious criminal world that had enjoyed an unbroken reign in Anambra State since 19-kiridim and ran them out of town in less than three months, some people didn’t pay much attention. But he still moved ahead with his crackdown on violent criminals, arresting 177 kidnappers in three months and setting up security tents in areas known to be flashpoints across the state to seal off that crack on society’s mirror.

In the same vein, when he promised an Agricultural revolution on May 15, 2014 at the flag off of that year’s farming season in Nteje, Oyi Local Government, some people doubted him. But soon after that, Coscharis Farms moved into Anaku and began an ambitious rice farm that would employ 1000 people and produce 120,000 metric tonnes of rice per annum. Now, Anambra is on the agricultural map for the Anambra Rice brand, export of vegetables and lately for hosting one of the largest and most modern poultry farms on the sub-continent with a capacity to produce 2 million birds.

Similarly, when he announced his vision “to make Anambra State the First Choice investment destination and a hub for industrialization and commercial activities,” some people thought he was telling tall tales. Now, Anambra has become the premium destination for wise investors, attracting a little over $4bn in an economy that seems to be on an endless downward spiral. Similarly, his heavy investment in education has paid off with Anambra children dominating in many external exams in the past four years and representing Nigeria in world schools debate championships.

Indeed, with each new day, many Nigerians are beginning to see in Governor Willie Obiano, the birth of hope. Hope for a more purposeful leadership from the political class. The dominant thinking is that if the South East for instance could have three governors with Obiano’s clarity of vision, focus and determination, it would not be long before the zone shrugs off its undeserved underdog status in Nigeria. Interestingly, looking back, it would seem that it was always clear that Obiano would make a difference.

This extract from the lecture delivered by Chimamanda Adichie to mark his First 100 Days in office provides a rare insight into this thinking. Assessing his performance in the aforementioned period, Chimamanda had summed it up thus – “As we mark the first one hundred days of his term, I would like to commend him for his vision and ambition in the areas of education, health and agriculture and particularly security. Most of us know how, for a long time, Onitsha has been a security nightmare. If you are travel¬ling, you do not want to be in Upper Iweka after 6 p.m. because of the fear of armed robbers. But today, because of our new governor’s initiative, people in Onitsha no longer live in fear. True freedom is to be able to live without fear. A relative told me that you can drop your mobile phone on the ground in Upper Iweka and come back hours later and still see it there, which was not the case in the past. And which is one of the best ways to measure leadership – by the testimony of the ordinary people. My sincere hope is that, under the leadership of Governor Obiano, Anambra State will continue its journey of progress with strides that are wide, firm and sure.”

Today, with the torrent of awards and commendations from institutions and people who the society takes seriously, there are no longer any doubts that under Obiano, Anambra has continued “its journey of progress with strides that are wide, firm and sure.”

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