ON the back page of THISDAY Newspapers of Friday June 8, 2012, Nasir El-Rufai in a piece entitled “Anambra’s Budget of Misplaced Priorities” displayed what was in fact a misplaced aggression against Anambra State – her Governor, Mr. Peter Obi and her people.
Reading this article, one would immediately notice that the former Federal Capital Territory Minister actually has an axe to grind with Anambra State for reasons best known to him. His conclusions were as unrealistic and fallacious as his analysis. So also were his comparisons.
For example, he argued that contrary to the expectations of Anambra people, Obi’s administration has been characterised by “increasing crime rate, infrastructure deficits, a number of strikes over minimum wage, among other challenges”.
This claim is clearly unfounded and cannot be substantiated. Before Obi assumed office in 2006, what obtained in Anambra State was akin to what was the case in the Hobbsean State of Nature where there was war of all against one and one against all; where life was nasty, brutish and short. During the pre-Obi era, Anambra was literally under siege as such bodies as National Association of Road Transport Workers, NARTO, Bakassi Boys, etc, held the State by the jugular with each of them carving out its own territory within the State and controlling same.
In fact, what actually drove Obi into politics as he was later to disclose, was the sordid spectacle which he beheld at Upper Iweka area in Onitsha where a man was suddenly beheaded by a bunch of Bakassi Boys. That was in 2002 or thereabouts. This was what touched the then citizen Peter Obi who was simply carrying on with his private business. According to him, he was at Onitsha to search for a location for a branch of one of the banks in which he was a Director.
Immediately he was sworn in, Obi decided to restore order and civility to a State where the crime rate was once so high that even its governor at that time, Dr. Chris Ngige, was kidnapped in broad day light.
It must be stated that a little after his assumption of office, Obi was able to use the Nigeria Police, the Army and other legitimate and statutorily-charged government security agencies to restore order and civility to the once Pariah State.
Today, no one hears about, let alone sees Bakassi Boys or NARTO in Anambra State. Kidnapping which occurs once in a long while is a new security challenge which is a national issue. In El-Rufai’s North, the menace of Boko Haram is even more devastating than the kidnapping cases witnessed in the South East.
Equally bewildering is the false claim made by El-Rufai about infrastructure deficit in Anambra State. Governor Obi since he took over leadership has transformed the infrastructural landscape of the State. A tip of the iceberg will suffice here: He built the first and second phases of the Civil Service Secretariat to accommodate civil servants in a more conducive atmosphere.
He built Kenneth Dike Library, a new teaching hospital – the Anambra State Teaching Hospital, Odor Bridge, several other bridges and over 500 kilometres of roads. He has attracted several companies to the State, including SABmiller, a Fortune 500 company; supported and invested in Orient Petroleum Resources Plc, among other business concerns with a view to creating employment for Anambra citizens.
It is not true that “unemployment rate in Anambra State is among the highest in the South-East” as El-Rufai would want the world to believe. The truth of the matter is that the average Anambra man or woman is naturally enterprising such that even when he or she has obtained Western Education and there is no immediate white-collar job, he or she sets up his or her own business.
This explains why we have in large numbers such successful companies as Innoson Group of Companies, Juhel Group of Companies, Coscharis Group, over and above the innumerable traders and artisans found not just in Onitsha, Awka, Nnewi and Ekwulobia among other places in Igboland, but also in large numbers in El-Rufai’s Kaduna and other Northern parts of Nigeria as well as Lagos, Lokoja, Akure, etc.
In this connection, it is important to state here that Governor Obi has often supported this Anambra spirit of entrepreneurship. He not only took President Jonathan to Innoson Motor Industry, Nnewi, but also worked on the road leading to this facility with a view to providing better accessibility to the company.
In a similar vein, the Governor has worked on the road leading to Cutix Cable, a wire manufacturing company operating in Nnewi. It may interest El-Rufai to know that this company was among the very first set of privately-owned indigenous business concerns in Nigeriato be quoted on the Nigeria Stock Exchange.
It is worth-stating that there are numerous industries owned by Anambra citizens operating in Anambra State and other States of the country and employing many citizens of Anambra State, thereby reducing the menace of unemployment among the people of the State, contrary to the impression created by the former Minister of the Federal Capital territory.
A very important point which El-Rufai clearly missed is the fact that because of Governor Obi’s sense of commitment to international best practices, his State enjoys a lot of goodwill from international donor agencies such as the European Union, EU, the Department for International Development, DFID, UNICEF and the like. These organisations co-fund a lot of projects in the State, especially such projects as those connected with the pursuit of the Millennium Development Goals, MDGs.
So when El-Rufai gives the impression that “a meagre N1.4 billion is budgeted for health” in Anambra State and goes ahead to regard this as “barely adequate”, he merely holds this view out of ignorance of the fact that the government need not budget a staggering amount of money to that sector because already the contributions of donor agencies have taken care of the needs of that sector.
Mr. MIKE UDAH, a policy analyst, wrote from Anambra State.