By Willie Nwokoye
Governor Willie Obiano of Anambra State has dominated popular consciousness in a very uncommon way this August. The first spotlighting event was a remarkable celebration of his sixtieth birthday on August 8th in his home town, Aguleri. A week after, the Governor plugged himself into the Lagos lecture circuit when he delivered this year’s distinguished lecture series of the School of Media and Communication of the Pan-Atlantic University, Lagos. His spectacular Lagos outing, capped with a courtesy appearance at the Nigerian Stock Exchange where he beckoned investors to the distinctions in the Anambra governance ideas was rounded off back home with a hosting of a security summit of all the southeastern states plus Delta. The summit drew a road map for a supra security framework in the contiguous states.
These outings have induced private conversations around the person of the Governor and his ideas of governance. This piece therefore is a private voice publicly offered in contribution to the conversations. To appreciate this man and his leadership ideas, where to start, perhaps, is his office. One of the companion books on Willie Obiano’s table is Flashes of Thought, by Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoun, a seminal collection of insights and reflections on the purpose of government, inspired by a dialogue at a United Arab Emirate’s Government Summit in 2013. The other is From Third World to First, the Singapore Story: 1965-2000 by Lee Kuan Yew and the third is Trust: the Social Virtues and the Creation of Prosperity by Francis Fukuyama, a devastating divination by the American author, of the underlying principles that foster social and economic prosperity.
I am firmly in the proud company of attentive and dispassionate analysts who think that Governor Obiano approaches the task of governance from musings molded by years of accumulated reflections. I will say that Governor Obiano took up the Anambra Governorship responsibility with a resolve to provide 21st Century leadership, a noble undertaking to reconstruct the value curve for Anambra State citizens. I will expatiate.
Led almost to stupor by successive governments, the citizens of Anambra State had been dulled by years of threshold outputs of governance. Benchmark for the dividend of governance had come so low that mere incremental on the same line of monotonous things had become standard for sterling performance, government-after-government since the creation of the State. In my opinion, that actually illustrated very vividly the multiple years of vacuity of ideas in the governing of that State. The result is that Anambra as a core, monolithic Igbo society remained in dire want of its people to think and work together guided by a common purpose. Essentially in Fukuyama’s sense, the State was fundamentally short in community spontaneity.
To appreciate Obiano, take an analytical look at the thoughts that underlie his actions in government. This man obviously shares the philosophy that a leader, in quotes, whether of a country, company, team or a State for that matter, is to first of all unite hearts before uniting efforts; and to fill the spirit before building the place. The leader must inspire a patriotic feeling that brings together the people under one flag. This was at the heart of Governor Obiano’s idea of an Anambra flag, an Anambra anthem and a brand Anambra insignia, with essential elements of the new Anambra spirit; the Anambra colours and the Anambra shared values. Element by element, these evoke the imageries of the Anambra people’s common geographic identity, the Anambra royalty, wealth, rich craft and stupendous agricultural potential. As the Anambra flag flutters and citizens sing the 15-line anthem, the Anambra spirit resonates with a people’s sense of their historic greatness.
Being at one in the spirit is a necessary condition for real community prosperity. This is a very delicate thought that infuses the mind from a profound familiarity with Igbo cosmology. The idea of Ozoemezina, the performance of a rite of common and final burial of all people of Igbo extraction who died in the war and other Nigerian conflicts is one outstanding note in Obiano’s statecraft. He led the laying of a symbolic wreath at the cenotaph commemorating the burial. That act is the object. Around it is wrapped the mystery of consensual covenant between the Igbo as man and his spirit. May I enjoin the reader of this piece to re-listen again and again, to Governor Obiano’s speech at the massive Ozoemezina event.
Reconstructing a people’s habit, custom and ethics and unleashing the philosophical, social, spiritual and leadership constraints to meaningful progress is no mean feat. But it takes bravery to initiate. I have held the brave view that Governor Willie Obiano did not come by chance; he is a patient God’s answer to years of prayers for “o di mma ndi Anambra,” instituted perhaps in Governor Chinwoke Mbadinuju’s Administration and intuitively concurred to in routine supplications in churches years after. Finally acting God’s script, Peter Obi, as told by his political foes, hatched a rather self-serving political treachery that led Willie Obiano out of a well-deserved retirement onto Anambra leadership role. Please note that this imagery resonates with the scriptures. God writes His script and assigns roles to those to run His errand.
Governor Obiano therefore came into Government fully prepared with the conviction to continue with the work on physical infrastructure together with the distinctive craft for the re-tuning of the State’s soft infrastructure. By this I mean those tricky aspects of governance that require a prepared level of intellect to deliver. On the tangibles, Willie Obiano’s paradigm had meticulously aggregated the Anambra State economy around four major growth drivers namely agriculture, trade & commerce, industrialization and oil & gas. The underlying thought here is that the complex interaction of the four-sector programme will generate chains of activities that will kick the graph of Anambra State development upwards, radically shifting the value curve for the entire citizenry. This paradigm recognizes the pre-conditional enablers as sine qua non for the optimization of the 4-pillar programme outcome. The Governor’s call on investors at the Nigerian Stock Exchange was an encapsulated invitation to note this fundamental paradigm shift.
The enablers are variables in the Obiano economic management equation that are crucial catalysts because of their co-efficiency role in the 4 growth drivers. They are about 13 in the master blueprint. The most impactful of Government actions on the enablers is on Security. The Obiano distinction in this particular enabler is in the creative thoughts that underlie its pursuit. This has been principally in the provision of spot-on crime fighting equipment, personnel resources and, more important, in the management of the morale of security agencies.
Most people may not know the Obiano winning formula in fighting crime. The wand is in his overriding personal value. This man has no sight set on franchised products to import and sell, no private plazas or malls to build or any such vulgar hunger to stash away billions from his Security Vote; he has spared his mind and finger of such soil by instituting a funding flow that excludes his executive presence in that Special Vote. Every dime appropriated for State security is sincerely deployed as he sits firmly in the chair of the State’s security apparatus, showing direction. And security agencies give impeccable results!
There is only a countable number of Governors in Nigeria today that are guided by some stricture in managing their state’s finances. My quick calculation shows that Anambra applies the 60/40 Rule or some close ratio in setting its budget structure, with line details that ensure stability of liquidity despite exogenous shocks. With two-third of budget going into Capital things, the indication is that of a sound financial management that applies an uncommon check on the recurrent. This eminently is a best practice benchmark for States with huge hunger for new infrastructure. The Anambra State strategy for independent financing emphasizes optimization of internally-generated revenue both horizontally and vertically such that the State’s IGR can take care of its monthly recurrent expenditure, relieving Federal transfers for growth programmes. The financing model is completed with a framework for filling the Capital Expenditure financing gap with partnership equities invited around viable assets in the four growth sectors. This model is the bewildering magic as observers are confounded that massive amount of construction work goes on in Anambra State whilst contractors in other states grumble over uncertainty of their milestone payments.
Willie Obiano’s ways in Government is in sharp contrast to the preceding philistinism that had infused the actions of government. The difference or more appropriately, the far difference which Obiano’s government will make from all the previous is in the honesty with which he deploys public resources for public purpose. The second is in the dexterity with which his government addresses the other soft elements of governance. In Obiano’s undisguised view, governance is driven essentially from the head. It is misleading to think that governance is only about the cracking of concrete mixers. Roads, bridges and all such assorted are undeniable signs of Government action; they are tangible things that the people see but they are not where the required craft lurks. Distinction in leadership lies in the art with which the soft elements of statecraft are managed together with the hard to truly, truly deliver prosperity and fulfillment. When this happens, innovated value is delivered to citizens in a completely reconstructed expectation curve.
Willie Nwokoye is Principal Secretary to the Governor