Opinion: Beyond Willie Obiano’s Inaugural Speech
By Cosmas Oguegbu
IT is customary for writers and commentators to analyze the inaugural speeches of their political leaders as soon as they are delivered. The ritual over, only a few care to monitor governance to determine their conformity to what have been promised in these “wonderful speeches.” This has become a common feature in Nigeria, where the speeches of many leaders are more of platitudes than objective reality.
In 2013, though nobody knew Chief Willie Obiano then – because Mr. Peter Obi was behind him – the people of Anambra voted overwhelmingly for him. In his inaugural speech on March 17, 2017, Governor Obiano said many things that were pleasing to the ears. Now is the time to ask questions. In Willie Obiano’s inaugural speech, he recognised the challenges posed by power supply in Nigeria in general and Anambra State in particular. In his words: “We shall aggressively address the challenges of power supply with the proposed citing of ultra-modern Independent Power Plans, IPPs, in the three industrial hubs in the state; specifically, in Onitsha, Nnewi and Awka…” Now, coming to the end of his tenure, it is sad to note that nothing has been done on this. The best we heard about him and power supply was his commissioning of a project at Enugu-Ukwu, built by Niger Delta Power Holding Company, NDPHC which, as usual, he claimed was undertaken by the state government. At the time he took over, there was already an on-going IPP which the former Governor of Anambra State attracted to the state. The project had already gone very far that one thought the right thing Obiano should have done was to complete it, but he abandoned it. Today, nothing, absolutely nothing, has been achieved in that sector.
Going further in his platitudes, which at times verge on grand deception, Obiano raised the hope of the people on an oil refinery in the state. Again, he declared: “We will provide the enablement for oil and gas companies to prospect for natural resources in our state and set up a refinery within one year of my administration.” During the tenure of Peter Obi and perhaps a bit of Dr. Chris Ngige, Anambra State invested in Orient Petroleum. Boosted by the N4 billion invested by Governor Obi, the drilling of oil commenced in the state. Then President, Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan personally commissioned Orient Petroleum and proclaimed Anambra an oil-producing state, which he, unlike Lagos State, failed to see through. Inspite of the promises of Chief Obiano, it is painful to observe that he has not invested a Kobo in Orient Petroleum, but he is visibly enamoured of the ultra-modern filling station at Agu-Awka rumoured to be connected to his family.
It beats the imagination to hear and read of certain persons commending Obiano’s achievements in the area of oil and gas. He deceives the people more by saying that British Airways and other airlines will come to Anambra to re-fuel. How true is this? Why would these airlines not refuel in Lagos but Anambra State? He should let the people know. Obiano’s inaugural speech also boasts of how he will transform Awka into Dubai. “…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”, and a word for Nnewi and Onitsha: “We shall also faithfully implement the master plans for Onitsha and Nnewi.” Meanwhile, Awka is in deterioration while Obiano is seemingly unaware there are Master plans for Awka, Nnewi and Onitsha, which were produced for the state by UN Habitat.
Under Peter Obi, the people would tell there were efforts to provide some basic needs for Awka. It was under Obi that the State constructed its first Secretariat; completed the SEMA building; started and completed its Teaching Hospital; reconstructed Zik’s Avenue and many other roads, including Agu-Awka-Nibo-Nise-Enugu Ukwu Ring Road; Court Road; Majua Street; Awka Inner Ring Roads; Amawbia By-Pass, and all the roads in Nodu area.
Ex-governor Obi obtained permission from the Federal Government to re-construct Head-Bridge to Zik’s Round-About and thence to Umunya. After completing those sections, he obtained further permission to work on Amansea to Amawbia Round-About and subsequently Amawbia Round-About to Umunya. When Obi could not finish it, he set money aside for its completion. Rather than continue with these projects, Obiano used the funds to start three fly-overs that are not only badly designed, but is a danger to commuters because of their structural defects and increased traffic congestion. Today, when Obiano’s men point at those fly-overs, it is their proof that Awka has become Dubai – even as the state capital is in decay.
The yearly clearing of the drains was stopped in 2014, such that once it rains in Awka, everything is at a stand-still. Still on his inaugural speech, Obiano made mention of his plan to “Build ultra-modern markets and shopping malls and revamp existing ones with new amenities.” How do we analyze this? At the time Obiano took over in 2014, his predecessor was constructing shopping malls in Nnewi, Onitsha and Awka. Having fulfilled all the conditions required by Anambra for the Onitsha shopping mall, including the dualisation of the road to the Mall, the private company building it completed it during his tenure. Today, however, Obiano claims it is his project, even when he did not contribute a kobo to it. Meanwhile, the mall at Awka (70% completed) and the one at Nnewi (50% completed) have been abandoned.
This is one of the tragedies of deceptive inaugural speeches, especially among a people with poor sense of history. I am sure most Anambra people have since consigned their own speeches to the dustbin, without asking necessary questions. Obiano also said he would provide an enabling environment for industrial take- off. The test here is simple: Under his predecessor, five new industries commenced operations in Anambra State, but under Obiano, none. Frustrated by his indifference, some global companies such as Distell and Neimeth had to abandon the facilities they started under the Obi administration.
All said, when we place the fulfilment of his promises against the actual promises, we submit that the Government of Obiano has failed, and woefully too. One of the tragedies of his administration is that people in the state know he has failed, because there are no projects to point at. Beyond Obiano, there is the need for Nigerians to wake up and monitor those they elect to lead them, and ask them questions at the appropriate time.