Governor Willie Obiano
Governor Willie Obiano

Now, anyone who has been following events in Anambra State would know that this is a poorly conceived lie. The fact before us actually shows that Obiano has been Nigeria’s most popular governor in the past six months. And here are Ten reasons why this is so!

Governor Willie Obiano
Governor Willie Obiano

1. Obiano took Nigeria by storm on October 1, this year. In a symbolic gesture that was intended to drive home the significance of Nigeria’s 55th independence anniversary, Governor Obiano granted amnesty to 25 prisoners in Anambra State and announced the gifting of N1m to each ex-convict to enable them get another chance in life.

Giving these Nigerians who have undergone a long period of reformation a second chance with a substantial amount of money to enable them integrate back into the society was a very brilliant idea that drew a loud applause from far and near. But extending this great gesture to these people in such austere times when some states cannot even pay their workers actually shows Governor Willie Obiano as a leader to look up to! And this is why Willie is popular.

2. Most people who live in Anambra State are aware that the state is sincerely the safest state in Nigeria today. There have not been any stories of violent armed robberies, car snatching at gunpoint, ritual killings or high profile kidnappings in well over one year.

While some critics are quick to argue that crime wave is generally low in the South East at the moment, they forget to acknowledge that Anambra had always carried the highest crime rate in the region. But now, all across the state, people go about their normal businesses without any fear of violence of any kind. Of course there might be occasional burglaries or minor irritations that characterize any human society. But Anambra is safe. And this can only make Willie popular!

3. In September this year, Obiano lifted the banner of hope for Ndigbo in general when he convened a highly successful Regional Conference on Security. It was the first time anyone would pursue the idea of cleansing Igbo land and Delta State of criminals. The conference attracted the governors of Enugu, Abia and Delta States while Ebonyi sent a representative.

It was the sort of initiative that Ndigbo had been hoping to see from our leaders over the years – a coming together of sorts to rebuild the South East. Obiano also used the opportunity of the conference to appeal for greater co-operation across the region and then made a strong case for the emergence of a new economic block from the region. All the governors, the Inspector General of Police and the top military brass that attended the conference thought that it was an idea whose time had come. And this is why Obiano’s popularity has come to stay!

4. A few weeks ago, Governor Obiano also showed a remarkable sensitivity to an issue that had become a major irritation to the region. Traders in the entire South East were groaning from a crushing faceoff with the Nigerian Customs Service.

The traders had seen a serious erosion of their income caused by the hard line posture adopted by the men of the Nigerian Customs Service and worried that if nothing was done quickly, most businesses in the region would be up in the smoke. But Obiano quickly waded in and orchestrated a roundtable dialogue between the leadership pf the South East Amalgamated Traders Association and the Comptrollers of Customs in the various divisions in the region.

This opened a veritable window for the establishment of mutual understanding between the feuding parties and saved many families from imminent loss of their breadlines. Obiano demonstrated concern at the right time and devoted his time and energy to help traders in all the markets in Igbo land. And this is why the traders adore him!

5. It is no longer in doubt that Willie Obiano is a bridge builder. Unlike others before him who forced a wedge between Anambra’s illustrious sons and daughters, Obiano is deeply connected to Ndi Anambra irrespective of religion or ideology. He has friends amongst opposition politicians and many other people who do not see life from his own personal prism.

All state events are attended by opposition figures from Senator Chris Ngige to Senator Uche Ekwunife and Stella Oduah. He recognises that ideological differences ought not to count when the issue at stake is the well-being of Anambra State. This is the same attitude he carries to the church. Although he is a Catholic, Governor Obiano has repeatedly gone to worship in many Anglican churches in the state.

He identifies with the Anglican Church in a manner that sets him apart from some people who were governors before him. He adopts the same attitude to other religious groups in the state including the Moslem Community which has repeatedly celebrated Sallah in the Governor’s Lodge since he took over the reign of leadership. Donations to churches for the funding of mission schools are equitably distributed without a hint of discrimination.

In fact, even the opposition will admit that Obiano has built enduring bridges across many troubled channels. And this is why his popularity is far from declining!

6. Sometimes, the opposition seeks to drown the voice of reason with empty agitations that sound hollow even to their own ears. They ask what has Obiano really done? They do this as if they don’t realise that a governor who has increased the salary of workers by 15% at a time when most states are scouring Abuja for bailouts should actually be applauded.

As if they want us to turn a blind eye to the 25 speedboats he launched in Ogbaru the other day to open more access to the riverine communities; as if we should all suffer some memory loss and forget the bags of rice he distributed to civil servants in the state and the arrears of pensions owed local government workers as well as the backlog of salaries owed Water Corporation workers. The opposition would be very happy if we all didn’t remember these things. But we do. And that is why Obiano remains the man for the season!

7. Again, if the prayer of opposition were to be answered, we would all forget that Willie Obiano reacted rather quickly to the plight of the children of the 12 men from Adazi Nnukwu who were slain by Boko Haram by offering them scholarships.

Neither would they be happy if we all recalled that the three surviving children of Okechukwu Odenigwe who lost his life in a ghastly auto accident at Finotel Junction, Awka had all been given full scholarships by the governor. Obiano has touched so many people in so many profound ways that it would take the society losing its mind to forget him. And this is why his popularity pulsates with life!

8. In March this year, Willie Obiano woke up from sleep and put a call through to his Principal Secretary, Mr. Willie Nwokoye. He directed that going forward, all his salaries should be devoted to charity and that they should be creatively channelled to fund different programmes that would make life easier for the underprivileged members of the society.

To give meaning to this gesture, he promptly set up a home for the mentally ill in Nteje, Oyi council area where metal patients are rehabilitated and reintegrated into the society. Three months after Obiano had dedicated his salaries to charity, President Buhari and Vice President Osinbajo undertook to slash their own salaries by half. And this is why Obiano continues to stand out!

9. Anambra indigenes who watched the live TV coverage of the Governors’ Session of the recent Nigerian Economic Summit Group could not have been prouder with the masterful performance of governor Obiano in that session. The former investment banker showed where he was coming from when he seized the moment to sell Anambra to the investment world.

He came across as the most serious of all the Southern governors at the session; marshalling out his points, showing his strategic approach to governance, playing up all the comparative advantages of his state and assuring prospective investors that “Anambra is the safest state in Nigeria.” Many people left the hall talking about the Anambra governor. Obiano is also highly respected by his fellow governors at Federal Economic Council meetings where he dissects economic issues with unmistakable brilliance and aplomb. Willie Obiano is obviously a man on a mission. And this is why his star continues to shine!

10. The tenth reason why Obiano’s popularity will take a long time to fall is that unlike most of his fellow governors, Willie Obiano came into governance fully armed with an economic roadmap. His Four Pillars of Development is very cleverly crafted blueprint that accommodates every aspiration of his administration for Anambra State. It is a rare demonstration of competence in governance. Again, Obiano’s Vision and Mission Statements are outstanding and realistic.

In fact, many aspects of Obiano’s Vision statement are already fully realised. Many governors in Nigeria do not have any clearly stated vision or mission for being in government. Recently, at the very well attended Stakeholders Interactive Summit, Obiano gave a compelling insight into the many achievements of his administration in a mere eighteen month period and the left most of Anambra’s pre-eminent citizens speechless.

And because Ndi Anambra are fully aware of all these, and because Ndi Anambra cannot be led by the noose by people whose only means of livelihood is to hurl invectives at innocent hard-working people on Facebook, Obiano’s popularity will continue to soar!

By James Eze ([email protected])

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