BY VINCENT UJUMADU, Awka
By every standard, the swearing in of Chief Willie Obiano and Dr. Nkem Okeke as governor and deputy governor of Anambra State respectively on Monday, March 17, 2014 was a carnival.
The mammoth crowd that witnessed the ceremony was an indication of the acceptance of the duo by the people of Anambra State who believe that going by the pedigree of the two men, there is every hope that they would take the state to the next level.
Enthusiastic crowd started trouping into the famous Alex Ekwueme Square in Awka as early as 8 am and by the time the ceremony started at about 2 pm, the entire square and its environs were filled to capacity by spectators, most of whom were witnessing such an event for the first time.
Visitors from outside the state were so much that at a stage, the masters of ceremony for the event had to be making appeals to every Anambra indigene occupying a seat to vacate same to ensure that visitors from other parts of the country and abroad were properly seated.
It was also time for brisk business for vendors of all kinds, including photographers who framed hundreds of Governor Obiano’s pictures which they sold at the venue.
Despite the apparent inconveniences suffered by the people, most of them still danced, shed tears of joy and thanked God for eventually ensuring the return of stability in Anambra politics after a long period of political rascality fuelled by the infamous political godfathers.
Reason for the way the people felt was not far –fetched because it was the first time such an event took place in the Anambra State, as the state had never witnessed a situation where an outgoing governor peacefully handed over to his successor.
For instance, after 13 years of military rule from 1966, the second republic began in 1979 with Chief Jim Nwobodo as the first civilian governor of the old Anambra State.
Nwobodo could not be re-elected and the manner in which Chief Christian Onoh was sworn in at the old Governor’s Lodge in Enugu less than one hour after the court declared him winner of the 1983 election showed the type of political acrimony that existed between them.
After another eight –year period of military rule, Dr. Chukwuemeka Ezeife was elected governor in 1991 and with another coup, Ezeife could not hand over to anybody.
For the fourth republic which began in 1999, Dr. Chinwoke Mbadinuju was elected and the circumstances that surrounded the way the ruling PDP which denied him ticket for second tenure did not provide a conducive environment for him to hand over as expected to Dr. Chris Ngige who was declared winner by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC.
When Chief Peter Obi recovered his mandate from Ngige in 2006 after three years in court, he too was not handed over the reigns of power.
So, the joy of the people knew no bounds when Obi, the former governor and Obiano, the man taking over from him, drove into the arena for a proper handover. Obi, after inspecting a guard of honour mounted by the police, made a valedictory speech in which he expressed happiness that Anambra had returned to what it should be.
Describing Governor Obiano as lucky, the former governor recalled that after his swearing in 2006, there were no office for him to move into and no official car for him, adding that his successor was lucky to have them in place.
As Obi was speaking, Obiano’s bullet –proof SUV, with accompanying back-up vehicles, were lined up in one part of the Ekwueme Square. He also said that Obiano assumed office at a time the state was financially stable and with no indebtedness to any financial institution, whether local or international.
Dressed in a well cut suit with tie to match, Governor Obiano, in his speech, thanked the people of Anambra State for voting him and his deputy, Dr. Nkem Okeke in to serve them and promised that they would not disappoint them, having realized their expectations.
Reading from his eight- page address, Obiano said: “Beloved Anambrarians, with humility, I stand before you today, to accept this historic responsibility that you have given to me to serve.
Our great leader, Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, advised Ndigbo that only wise political choices would ensure their survival as a nation within a nation. I am happy that you heeded that advice.
“I wish to assure you that you made a wise choice when you voted me and Dr. Nkem Okeke as your governor and deputy governor. Not only that, in voting for our great party, the All Progressive Grand Alliance, APGA, you once again listened to the wise advice of the great American Civil Rights leader, Dr Martin Luther King Jnr, that; ‘We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools.’
“Let me quickly say that the occasion we have today is not a celebration of the victory of one party over another, but the triumph of the human will over the challenges that make democracy a reluctant seed to grow in Africa.”
Going down memory lane, the new governor recalled that about 10 years ago, the situation in Anambra State was so appalling that Anambra’s famous son and writer, the late Professor Chinua Achebe referred to it as a place where a small clique of renegades had turned into a “bankrupt and lawless fiefdom.”
He said further: “To the glory of God, the tables turned against enemies of Anambra when our great leader, Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu built a new political ark for our people and gave us a fighting chance in the ever-threatening flood of Nigeria’s political climate. Today, our story is different.
“After eight years of a remarkable leadership under the All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA), our narrative has changed from the story of near-bankruptcy to that of the only state in the federation that hosts Nigeria’s first indigenous automobile manufacturing plant.
Yes, it is a thing of pride to know that our brother, Dr Innocent Chukwuma has launched Nigeria into a new industrial orbit by fulfilling the country’s dream of indigenous automobile manufacturing with Innoson Vehicle Manufacturing Limited, Nnewi.
The story of Innoson is the story of courage and vision. It is the narrative of the New Anambra!
“Slowly but steadily, we are regaining our self-belief. We are reminding ourselves that a people who astonished the world with their ingenuity and resourcefulness in wartime can lend a weighty hand to efforts to re-make our world in peace-time.
“Indeed, the time has come to prove to ourselves that the entrepreneurial spirit for which our people are known all over the world can take firm roots at home; that together as one, we can be masters of our own house! Fellow citizens, under my administration, we have no choice than to decide whether we are truly the sons and daughters of our fathers and true heirs to their long history of pioneering excellence!
“At this juncture, I pray you to join me in thanking our brother, Mr. Peter Obi for the excellent job he has done in Anambra State. Similarly, we must not forget to thank the ebullient chairman of our great party, Chief Victor Umeh for providing the vision and stability that made it possible for APGA to deliver on its campaign promises to our people.
“We must also thank our great party men and women who worked night and day to actualize the victory we are celebrating here today. My greatest gratitude however goes to Anambra people, some of whom broke party loyalties and climbed over narrow interests to cast their votes according to their conscience.
I salute your courage! Your clamour for continuity in Anambra State as captured in your slogans “from Agulu to Aguleri” and “from Obi to Obiano,” has finally been fulfilled! This victory belongs to you all.
“A time comes in history when the ebb and flow of life makes extraordinary demands on a generation of people. Now, the natural question that you may want to ask is; what plans do you have for us?
Going into the priority areas of his administration, Obiano continued: “We shall aggressively address the challenge of power supply with the proposed citing of ultra-modern Independent Power Plants (IPP) in the three industrial hubs in the state; specifically, in Onitsha, Nnewi and Awka. When fully operational, these plants will generate enough electricity to power the entrepreneurial dreams of our people.
“In the area of security, Anambra will be different under my watch. Not only shall we redraft the operational manual of the entire security apparatchik of Anambra State to ensure a lightning-quick response, we shall also re-orient our people to see that every citizen has a role to play in the security of our communities.
The concept of community policing or what is better known as the Vigilante Groups, has worked well in Anambra State.
“The next challenge however is to re-train, re-equip and refocus them to meet the dynamics of our time. Along the same line, we will strengthen the Police and other law enforcement agencies in the state to enhance their efficiency and response rate to distress calls.
“Your clamour for a capital city that fully reflects the essence of our people will be addressed by my administration. We shall re-design and re-model Awka to meet the structural and aesthetic requirements of a 21st century city that we can all be proud of. We shall also faithfully implement the master plans for Onitsha and Nnewi.”
The governor also spoke on the four pillars on which his administration would anchor namely: aggressive mechanized agriculture; oil and gas; trade and commerce; and industrialization, which he described as four pillars of the Anambra wheel of development.
He said further: “The remarkable thing about this blueprint is that it is centred on the family. When we create jobs and boost the earnings of workers, we are strengthening the family. When we subsidize education and revolutionize healthcare delivery in the state, the family is the ultimate beneficiary.
When we secure our communities and build new estates with first class infrastructure, we reinvigorate the family. All over the world, the role of the family as the first point of civilization is fully acknowledged. Sadly, today, we are too driven by narrow pursuits to build strong families and stronger communities.
“Beloved Anambrarians, I would urge you to also spare a thought on one thing that has held down this state from the full realization of its manifest destiny for years. Fellow citizens, the greatest challenge that we face as a people is the challenge of fostering peace and brotherhood amongst ourselves.
“Over the years, we have allowed narrow interests to put a knife on the things that held us together and today, we can no longer act as one.
Our land yearns for healing! It is our collective responsibility to heal this land with love! That is why we have started this movement; a social hurricane that will sweep through our towns and villages, through the nooks and crannies of Igbo land and through the Igbo Diaspora. We are calling on everyone to rethink and re-engage our heritage, our history, our families and our future.
“There comes a time in history when a generation plagued by uncertainties and doubts must grind to a halt to take a hard look at itself in the mirror and the time to do that is now!
. “The hard question we must ask ourselves is; how well have we fared as a people with a political future? The South Eastern Nigeria is the only region which does not have a dominant political party.
Today, APGA is the only political party in Nigeria whose geographical coverage has yet to match its inherent potential. The time has come to re-invigorate the party and reclaim all the states in the South East and South and the rest of Nigeria.
“To do this; we must climb over the recriminations of the past to build new bridges of understanding across Nigeria. If our ancestors sacrificed so much to create Nigeria, we must not sacrifice any less to rebuild this country. I have no doubt whatsoever that our future as a people is guaranteed in Nigeria”.
Extending an olive branch to his political opponents who contested for the position with him, namely, Senator Chris Ngige, Dr. Ifeanyi Ubah, Comrade Tony Nwoye and others, Obiano appealed to them not let the ideologies that polarize the polity deny the people the full benefits of democracy, urging them to join hands with him in brotherhood and love to create a bold new world for everybody in the state.
Already, the governor has started to assemble his team with the appointment of Mr. Oseloka Obaze, who also served former Governor Peter Obi as the new Secretary to the State Government, SSG; Professor Joseph Asike, a professor of philosophy at Howard University in the United States of America, USA, as the Chief of Staff and Mr. Willie Nwokoye as the principal officer to the governor.
As the euphoria of the emergence of Obiano as governor of Anambra State continues, one institution whose present and past students are holding their heads high is Christ the King College, CKC, Onitsha.
By sheer coincidence, the former governor, Peter Obi, the new governor, Willie Obiano and the SSG, Oseloka Obaze, are all old boys of the college. At the swearing in ceremony, the old students of the college were there in large numberto lend support to their mates who had made their alma mater proud.