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Anambra at 25: The journey so far

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By IFEANYI AFUBA

A stock taking of the fortunes of Anambra State since its creation on August 27, 1991 necessarily invites recognition of the circumstances that brought it into being. There were at least two principal reasons behind the quest for a new Anambra State. In its report on the national debate on Nigeria’s political future in 1987, the S.J. Cookey led Political Bureau recommended the creation of an additional state in the south east to balance the geo ethnic configuration of Nigeria’s then 19 state structure. The Bureau made the advocacy mindful of the link between social justice and national unity. It would take four more years before the military government of General Ibrahim Babangida acted in the spirit of the Bureau’s advocacy. However, it is important to note that at the time the Political Bureau made its recommendation, many analysts reckoned with a new Anambra State as the next entity from the south east. The assumption was hinged on the calculation that its agitation predated all others from the region, and perhaps more importantly, that the geographical south of the old Anambra State had the human and material resources to sustain a separate State.

The second leg of the movement for the creation of Anambra State in 1991 was the sense of rivalry between the elite from the north and south of the old Anambra State. The genesis of this distrust probably dates back to the first republic; was overwhelmed by the civil war emergency; resumed in blunted tones in post-civil war military rule; climaxing in the second republic government led by Senator Jim Nwobodo when the word dichotomy assumed much currency. The climate of apartness was fuelled by the perception that the elite from Anambra South who had embraced western civilization earlier and in greater numbers than their peers from the North were dominating the state’s public service and economy. In some quarters much significance was attached to the fact that in the relay of the region’s leadership from Nnamdi Azikiwe, Michael Okpara, Chukwuemeka Ojukwu to Ukpabi Asika, only Michael Okpara from present Abia State was not from the Anambra south. It seemed incongruous to not a few that the locality which hosted the seat of government was disadvantaged in the scheme of governance. Interestingly, the southern population held the view that the zone was marginalized – notably in the skewed formula which gave the northern part of the State 15 local government areas as against 8 for the south and in the policies of the Nwobodo administration.

Consequently, the splitting of the old Anambra State into Enugu and Anambra States on 27th August 1991 represented a breakthrough for the aspirations of the Igbo nation in general and the people of the two new states in particular. With the leverage of a rallying state, the creative energies of its rich human capital would be unleashed to usher in development, many thought of the new Anambra State. This was not in itself blind optimism but a projection that failed to situate the transformation agenda. A sense of the state of anomie in which the Igbo nation was caught at this juncture is seen in the political disaster that nearly befell Anambra State in the unfolding third republic transition. But for the National Electoral Commission’s extraordinary disqualification of some candidates in the primaries of the two Government created parties, the SDP and NRC, the governorship process had effectively been hijacked by illiterate political gangsters in the SDP with the same perversion threatening to play out in the main election. This tendency which has persisted in Anambra’s government and politics has become a critical factor in the state’s developmental efforts.

Military rule intensified the unwritten policy of marginalisation the Igbo were subjected to as an aftermath of Biafra. With no corresponding armed forces disadvantaged remedy vis a vis educationally disadvantaged states affirmative action, the Igbo were destined to become a quantitatively and qualitatively inferior group in the military. The combined effect of the arbitrary nature of military rule generally and the discriminatory measures against this segment of the Nigerian polity was traumatic on the people. For some sections of the Igbo elite, the situation called for studied indifference.

The Chukwuemeka Ezeife administration inaugurated on 2nd January 1992 was spared the meddlesomeness of the political Mafia for the simple reason that a diarchy was in operation and caution had to be exercised where the military was involved. Yet the bold start many looked forward to did not materialise in the two year duration of the regime. Two factors may account for this. The finance available to the young state was lean with the state only one rung from bottom of national revenue allocation. On the other hand, the enormity of the job that had to be done, building up a barren land from the scratch, seemed to overwhelm the white outfit spotting Governor whose elevated campaign had inspired so much hope. In the difficult circumstances of the time, Ezeife stands credited with providing the space for the machinery of government to take off; expedited federal responsibility for Nnamdi Azikiwe University and for construction of the first government housing estate located at Awka.

ALSO SEE: Anambra @ 25: Obiano solicits joint efforts to make the state better

The Chinwoke Mbadinuju regime was born in tumult, stumbled through an unstable tenure and exited on a damning note. Installed by a faction of the resurgent power speculators after fierce battles for the PDP nomination, the regime was immediately bogged down with the reality of having to share power with its sponsors. The demand contests variously shifted from the House of Assembly leadership to headship of juicy ministries; to control of party structures and award of contracts. There was hardly a calm moment as the saga soon graduated to re-nomination schemes which were no less intense, prolonged and sapping. Needless to say this disorder took a heavy toll on governance. At a time of soaring oil prices when state treasuries were once more awash with petro dollars, Anambra State was indebted to her workforce and several financial institutions. However, the administration initiated the Orient Petroleum venture; the Oba international market project and completed the Iyi agu housing estate inherited from the military government before it.

More trouble lay ahead. The convincing victory of the APGA’s Peter Obi in the 2003 governorship election was falsified and Chris Ngige foisted on the people as Governor.

The cabal was demonstrating not only its closer access to officialdom but also the resolve to turn the state into a playground. Repulsed by the crudities and greed of his sponsors but nonetheless determined to keep the conscripted crown to himself, Ngige decided to stand up to them. It was a confrontation that dragged to the last days of the regime with obvious consequences for development. Though burdened with legitimacy deficit, the Chris Ngige regime is on record for executing a network of durable roads, settling arrears of workers’ salaries and achieving reduction in violent crime.

A clean break with the neo feudal forces came with the restoration of Peter Obi’s 2003 governorship mandate in 2006. Obi’s insistence on the sanctity of his social contract with the electorate had paid off with a touch of providence. By the time Obi assumed office, the traditional cowboys’ constituency was still reeling from the exposure and war of attrition of the preceding era to pose any serious trouble. Threat however emerged from another front which saw a force of multi partisan interests stretching from Abuja to Awka; from politics to religion; temporarily uniting to impose a jungle impeachment on the State. Judicial nullification of the impeachment and subsequent reaffirmation of Obi’s four year mandate opened the way for a new lease of life for the State. Sanity returned to the State and with it donor institutions and international development agencies that fled the disorder. With an initial slow pace that sometimes defied reason, the Obi leadership revived dormant public service institutions including health establishments. It went on to blaze a trail in road construction, education and community development.

Enter the Willie Obiano regime. Although the administration inherited N9 bn cash from its predecessor, it was faced a few months later with the reality of tumbling oil prices and therefore drastic reduction in national revenue. Against the background of paucity of funds and performance in just two years, Obiano has served notice that he intends to be a Governor of distinction. An extensive and effective security action plan is in place. Beyond the usual support to security agencies with upgraded equipment, security took on a systemic approach that spans intelligence gathering, synergy of operations and complement of food security. The state’s educational revolution is being sustained.

Agriculture, small and medium scale businesses has received a boost with the support of specialised agencies. In the past two years, Governor Obiano has succeeded in making Anambra State an investor’s haven, striking significant partnerships to the tune of $3.4 bn with a variety of entrepreneurs. With a thriving mass transit system and job creation interventions, pure economic policies are being pursued side by side with social welfare programmes. Great leadership was on display when Obiano achieved the relocation of Boko Haram detainees from Anambra State without a confrontation with the federal government.

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Afuba is a political scientist and writer.

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