March 17, 2022 was historical in the former eastern Nigeria . There were high hopes across Nigeria . Ndigbo finally got a sign of relief that a political Leader has emerged in the Igbo Nation. Even an Old village woman has tremendous hopes that a renowned Professor of Economics would turn the fortune of the State within a shortest possible time.
Prof Soludo came prepared . He was conscious of humungous expectations from the people of Anambra. People expected him to perform miracle as economic wizard.
Mr Governor commitment was first shown in his inaugural speech and I quote ” Within the next one week, the list of Commissioners will be laid before the House of Assembly. Tomorrow, we will head to Okpoko in Ogbaru Local Government Area and parts of Onitsha and Idemili as we signpost our commitment to fundamental urban regeneration, beginning with the greater Onitsha metropolis”
During the first month of being in the office , Prof Soludo proved to all his ardent followers that he meant business . With his visit to Okpoko and Onitsha as well as Prisons, People concluded that the Servant Leader has finally come.
But ,as the list of Commissioners and Government appointees began to hit the public space ,the euphoria and excitement that first signal a new order started to die down . It is from one wrong step to the other . Campaign Promises were ignored like monthly report of financial status of the State, prompt public service delivery . First, Mr Governor did not understand how complicated Biafra agitation has become that he ordered civil servants to start reporting to office on Mondays . He got the first baptism of fire and tactically withdrew. He thought that a visit to Nnamdi Kanu would calm the situation down ,it compounded the situation leading to beheading of his kinsmen serving in State House of Assembly.
Mr Governor efforts to respect the gentleman agreement he had with former Governor Willy Obiano did not help matters. In his augural speech ,Prof Soludo has this to say ”Let me particularly thank my friend and outgoing governor of Anambra, HE (Sir) Willie Maduaburochukwu Obiano, for being an honourable gentleman and leader. On Sunday, 20th November, 2016, I accepted your proposal for gentlemen’s understanding and partnership. I kept my part in 2017 and even after five years, you still kept yours in 2021. I always emphasize this point because it is rare these days to find people who keep their word in politics, and we will never take your support for granted. You are indeed a great leader”
With the above position,many people who saw Obiano Government as a disaster began to lose hope with the Soludo administration. Certain key Officers who played active role in Obiano Government were re-appointed . Ofcourse, the gap between the Government and the people widened because of poor altitude to work of Government appointees. Mr Governor cannot be everywhere . Obiano men have so many things to hide and they could not allow genuine people to come close to the revolutionary Leader – Prof Soludo. Even the monthly radio program the people expected from Mr Governor was abandoned. Ndigbo across the world were ready to bring in their ideas and financial resources but alas , political jobbers made every access to Government House difficult. The once talent hunt portal was thrown to waste-bin for political consideration given people close to power opportunities to bring in their friends . About 2800 volunteers that Mr Governor mentioned during his first meeting with Gov Obiano Executive were nowhere to be seen.
In the third month of the Administration, the high hopes were far fetched . Even as Mr Governor was trying to lay a solid administrative foundation ,strengthen Government institutions ,confront unknown Gunmen and kidnappers that have almost taken over eight local governments, tackle touts and still service the bogus government wage bills yet majority of the people in the State believed that Mr Governor allowed the virus in the Government House to distract him . They expected him to understand that the people are frustrated and disillusioned and needed a Governor who would have direct communication with the people like Pastors on a daily prayer session. There seem to be certain spirit in the seat of power -Government House that holds elected officers. Those around Mr Governor started playing too important, they stop picking their calls . Even ,a call center( not the security lines) promised by Mr Governor in his manifesto and during ABS interactive session to narrow the communication gaps between the Government and the people have not been implemented five months after Inauguration. Government turns out to be for selected few ,for privileged elites ! It seems that another set of elites have hijacked Government as usual with the ordinary People yet to notice any public policy that will change their lives for better.
The implementation of palm and coconut seedlings distribution showed that the ministry of agriculture has no plan . Nobody cares to know how the communities that collected the seedlings planted them . In some cases ,the councilors that brought the seedlings shared it among the selected few and the cabal that have hijacked different communities leaving the collective interest in the gutter. I once asked one of the Councilors how they intend to measure the performance of the seedlings distributed or is Government just sharing seedlings without any plan.I am bothered because if we miss to lay a solid foundation,the remaining 3 years may go the same order. Mr Governor promised that Cooperative Societies will be used to empower the ordinary people. A call to State Cooperative Office informed me that they have not heard anything from Government.
On education, Mr Governor insistence on merit based recruitment of Teachers endeared him to many progressive minded people. However , nobody has seen the government education policy even as the new academic session is about to begin . As the case with other States in Nigeria,private schools see failure in public schools as an opportunity to exploit parents . Public Schools have continue to be a dumping grounds for the sons and daughters of nobody while the working class battle to pay their children school fees in private schools. It is frustrating of public schools to demand for sitting table and chair during admission ! Where is Government model schools ! There is unsustainable class struggle going on as many families see public schools as being inferior and this has psychological effects on pupils. The household income is dwindling even in the face of high cost of living . I expected Mr Governor to reconcile the widening gap between public and private schools ,look into why people send their children to private schools ,look at their school fees structures and even how much they pay their teachers.People are really suffering , unfortunately,nobody wants to speak out for fear of the obvious. Even People around Mr Governor are afraid to raise issues with Mr Governor for reasons I don’t know. Alas, our society encourages praise singing as criticizing Government means no job ,no contract ,no government patronage and one is seen as enemy of Government.
On Road construction, the state of road in Anambra is too poor but Mr Governor has promised to commence works on roads as soon as rainy season comes to an end . I have no doubt that Mr Governor will live up to the expectations and I believe construction will start from October,2022 . But ,I will make further inquiries about the cost implications of building roads during rainy season . Road construction should be done year round as there is no time to waste .
On Sanitation , the initial disappointment that greeted the administration during the first four months have died down. Sanitation Contractors are living up to expectations.The mounting waste materials have disappeared around the State . But , one of the workers of these Contractors complained to me that they have not been paid . Government should ensure that workers are happy at all time .
On Housing , nobody has seen the blueprint on Housing policy . There is no justification for the kind of rent tenants pay in cities . In Awka for instance ,tenants pay as high as N800,000 per anum for a three bedroom flat. How much is minimum wage? How much do average people make in Awka? Tell me why people should not collect bribe to make both ends meet? I expected immediate execution of low cost housing estates in three major cities in awka for low income earners .
What of job creation ! Agricultural sector is known to be the highest employer of labour ! I have not seen any plans to establish farm settlements and give Cooperative Societies access to grants or single digit lending. There should be a well defined roadmap to drive agricultural revolution,investors are waiting to see such and Government must play public interest role to show people direction.If Mr Governor could approve about N6B to build a new Government House,I am aware of a proposal from Italy to Commissioner of Agriculture that would create thousands of rural jobs in real terms if Government should invest about N3B but Government said there is no money.In South Africa , Government has provision for Students loan ,pay nursing mothers including all sorts of incentives . In Canada , School Children were paid if their parents were not earning enough income . In Nigeria ,what you hear is ” there is no money ,NNPC has stopped remitting money for sharing . There are so many creative things to be done even without federal allocation for a State to drive to the path of prosperity. There are so much idle funds everywhere waiting for Government direction . Government has a role to play in organizing the market but committed and passionate people must be in the saddle to revolutionarize the entire system , Constitutional constraints not withstanding .I have not seen any sincere effort to rehabilitate the agitated and frustrated youths .Where is the incentive to be law abiding ?
On taxation, Anambra people will always support a Government who is working for their interest . Mr Governor promised to be announcing income and expenditure of Government on monthly basis but nobody has even seen how much the former Governor handed over. I have always suggested that tax figures should always be fixed in line with economic realities. Asking Keke/Shuttle Drivers to pay certain amount of money indicated that tax officers want to set Mr Governor administration against the people on the street.
I do not expect Mr Governor to perform miracle but having the right people with passion to serve public interest,people with ideas and high senses of creativity,people with sense of contentment and accomplishment will connect Mr Governor vision with the people . Ofcourse, nobody will take any excuse from Mr Governor as he acknowledged this fact during his inaugural speech and I quote ” The hopes and expectations rise up to the heavens. Understandably, all of us wish that I could perform miracles – by waving my hands and all our problems will be solved. I hear you. I feel your pulse. For your sake I keep awake at night, sometimes having palpitations about not letting you down. Well, since God is the Miracle Worker, I will look up to Him in prayer and faith as we all start the work ahead of us. I see and feel all the humungous challenges. I know the lean financial base of the state. I know the limitations imposed upon a subnational state such as Anambra by the peculiar structure of our federation. But here’s my promise: I will give it my all. I will work very hard every day, with you, to make Anambra proud. Every kobo of your tax money will be deployed to provide you maximum value”. Ofcourse,Nobody doubts the sincerity of Mr Governor.
Indeed ,people of Anambra State don’t expect too much from the Government. But , effective communication of public policies ,implications and benefits will go a long way to keep hope alive.
Finally ,I want to remind Mr Governor that Good Governance Ministry will be assessing his performance with his five key pillars : law and order (homeland peace and security); economic transformation as Nigeria’s next axis of industrial-tech and leisure; competitive and progressive social agenda (education, health, youth, women and vulnerable groups); Governance, rule of law and a rebirth of our value system; and aggressively tackling our existential threat posed by the environment—towards a clean, green, planned and sustainable cities, communities, and markets.
Mr Governor promised a liveable Anambra State and home of Igbo people across the world . We pray that he succeeds . Amen .
Ndubuisi Anaenugwu writes for Good Governance Ministry (GGM)