Raymond Ozoji, Awka
The task of governance is one which poses huge responsibility on an individual or group of individuals formally constituted to administer the affairs of others in trust and confidence. This is achieved through public administration as well as a governmental principle such that every aspect of the society is given fair and equal representation in the polity. Furthermore, those entrusted with the people’s mandate through a social contract borne out of an electoral process are expected to affect the lives of the citizenry positively through viable and workable policies and programmes that will in turn engender growth and development in all aspects of their socio-economic and political life.
In other words, the task of good governance cannot be divorced from the establishment of structures as well as amenities that will improve the living conditions of the people such as road infrastructure, job and wealth creation, constant power supply , industrialisation, security, viable local government system, to mention just a few. The question therefore is, what is the status quo in Anambra state under the incumbent governor vis-a-vis his commissioners and other cabinet members in his second term stewardship? To what extent has the Willie Obiano four point agenda and 14 enablers enunciated in his first term, translated into good governance and better life for the citizenry? How have the commissioners and other principal officers of his administration contributed to the transformational growth and advancement of the state economy? What is the living standards of the people of Anambra state between 2014 and the present day as it relates to housing, wealth and job creation, better life for rural populace, rural-urban development, security of lives and property, infrastructures as well as social amenities? These and a host of other issues of practical and pragmatic development will form the hallmark and foundation of this incursion into Governor Willie Obiano’s second term cabinet in Anambra state.
Consequent upon the subject matter of this chronicle on Governor Willie Obiano’s second term commissioners and other cabinet members, Mr. C. Don Adinuba, the state commissioner for information and public enlightenment said Anambra state parades the best professionals and technocrats in the state executive council which has enabled it to maintain and sustain giant strides in its development goals. The commissioner explained that the governor’s cabinet members were not chosen on political grounds but based on their professional integrities, technical expertise and experiences. He said he was not chosen out of political sentiments or nepotistic tendencies but on grounds of his wealth of knowledge and technical know-how in his area of professional competence. Furthermore, the commissioner noted that none of the cabinet members is a professional politician; instead they are all career professionals and authorities in their individual disciplines and specialisation.
According to him, the State Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice is a university teacher and so it is with other commissioners who he said have had monumental accomplishments in their respective careers and endeavours prior to their appointments into the government of Anambra state under Governor Willie Obiano’s regime. Adinuba however noted that Anambra state has remained on the upswing as well as more result-oriented in the administration’s reincarnation. He observed that the development indices in the state are more favourable at the moment in comparative analysis with what the Obiano administration met on ground upon inception. The commissioner took cognisance of the fact that the contributions of the cabinet members have grown the economy of Anambra state as evident in the rain of awards, laurels and recognitions accorded the state adding that Anambra state was honoured recently by the government of the federation for being the only state in Nigeria that promotes and supports small scale businesses.
Judging from the foregoing, the image-maker and spokesperson to the Anambra State Government held that the contributions and recommendations of those in the State Executive Council have been very pivotal and instrumental to the realisation of the policies and programmes of the current dispensation. Adinuba therefore stated that the commissioner for trade and commerce was pulled out from the Australian National University where he was teaching to come home and deploy his expertise to grow Anambra economy. According to him, the Secretary to the Anambra State Government who he said is a professor of Econometrics was pulled out from his base in the United Kingdom and equally obliged by Governor Willie Obiano to offer his services to his state of origin. He further disclosed that the commissioner for works worked at Shell Petroleum and Mobil Oil respectively describing him as a highly informed competent engineer. He said no cabinet member operates as an island instead they have what he called synergetic relationship as a team and unity of purpose adding that the Senior Special Assistants (SSAs), Special Assistants (SAs), Special Advisers (SAs) and other political appointees down the line are competent professionals adding value to the administration and to the state in general. Cognisant of the fact that there may not be enough people with qualification and experience in the ministries to execute a particular programme or project of government, the SSAs and the SAs complement what they do because they are professionals comprising journalists, medical personnel, lawyers, engineers to mention a few stressing that Anambra state has in the last three years become the most competitive state in Nigeria due to the calibre and quality of persons in Governor Willie Obiano’s cabinet.
Also speaking, the Head of Service of the Anambra State Civil Service, Barr. Harry Uduh, said he has been privileged to serve under a couple of Chief Executives of States at various intervals but however arrived at the conclusion that Governor Willie Obiano is the easiest to work with. The Head of Service maintained that the governor understands the workings of the public service because his parents were of the public service and that the governor was brought up with the meagre resources of the public service. He recalled that upon assumption of office in 2014, the governor expressed great concern at the meagre salaries workers received in Anambra state and as a result, one of his early assignments was to increase workers’ salaries by 50 percent across board. Upon his inauguration into office, the Head of Service stated that the governor promised workers mass transit buses and delivered on his promise to them. He said the governor assured workers of salary alert on 25th of every month and religiously maintained the payment of workers’ salaries on the aforestated date. In spite of the upsurge in the number of people that are retiring from active service, the governor still paid pensions and gratuities to senior citizens in Anambra state regularly without grumbling. Uduh also stated that labour issues are properly managed in Anambra under the administration of Governor Willie Obiano and that labour leaders are happy even happier than their counterparts in other states of the federation. Although the Head of Service admonished workers to live up to expectation, he also pointed out that the state government has initiated moves to ensure maximum productivity and discipline in the service stressing that lateness and absenteeism met severe sanctions and punishments and that the rule of the civil service states that absenteeism is tantamount to self-dismissal even as he also disclosed that the office of the Head of Service intervened in cases of functional overlap between ministries. In concrete terms, however, he said that the office of the Head of Service has been the oil lubricating the wheel of fortune in the state adding that there is nothing the current administration achieved without the instrumentality of the state civil service even as he believes that policies and programmes don’t hang in the air; that they are being implemented by workers.
In the opinion of the Chairman of the Nigeria Union of Journalists Anambra State Council, Comrade Emmanuel Ifesinachi, the governor’s second term cabinet members have really proved their mettle in spearheading various ministries, departments, parastatals and agencies of the state government as well as strengthened media relations especially as it concerns the propagation of government policies and programmes. He also observed that with the governor’s supervision and directives, the entire executive arm has caused a monumental turn-around of the entire state as premised on the governor’s four point agenda and 14 enablers. Ifesinachi therefore applauded Obiano’s second term cabinet members saying that “as the Governor of Anambra State, Chief (Dr.) Willie M. Obiano has done well in the areas of Media Relations, Security Networks, Agriculture, Education, Commerce and Businesses.
Governor Obiano had, in the last five years, invested to improve the state of arts of the State media establishments to the extent that they are competing favourably with their contemporaries. More so, the Governor, realizing the fact that media is the oxygen of democracy, had established cordial relationship with Journalists in Anambra State. He had donated two buses to the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), Anambra State Council which has facilitated movements and contacts amongst Journalists within and outside the State. He has been supportive to and had funded media programmes carried out by the Union in the State.
The basic essence of Governanment is to protect lives and property of the people. Hence Obiano has instituted a reliable and trustworthy security platform that had chased away hoodlums, criminals and unscrupulous elements out of the State. For sustenance, he had formed a security crack team made up of Heads of Security Agencies in the State and had kept in touch with them on a regular basis for the good of the State. The Security situation is such that Anambra State is favoured for foreign and local investments.
Stability of any economy can only be guaranteed if food security is assured. The Government of Willie Obiano has liberated food potentials of the State. His Agricultural policies and programmes are geared towards encouraging both subsistence and big time farmers. This is a genuine effort to food sufficiency in the State. More so efforts in this direction are equally seen in his institutionalizing agriculture through the introduction of Agriculture in school curriculum in primary, secondary and tertiary educational institutions in the State.
Education remains the foundation of growth and development of any State or Nation. The State Governor paid due attention to educational development through budgetary allocations and policy implementation. Under Obiano, pupils and students have had it so good that students of Anambra State have won global laurels time without number.”
In the same vein, Chief Chris Okey Udeze said that Governor Obiano has done tremendously well in attracting investments to Anambra state. Although he said that the governor might have reduced his speed on other projects like road construction and some others but by and large, his Operation Light Up Anambra State has indeed provided street lights to interior communities in the state and that such efforts were highly commendable and worthwhile even though he pointed out that Governor Willie Obiano seemed to have slowed down the tempo of his developmental drive contrary to what obtained in his first term where he said the governor performed exceedingly well and endeared himself to the people of Anambra state. Udeze however noted that the truth of the matter is that Governor Willie Obiano appears to be more concerned about his relationship with the federal government than consolidating on his achievements in his second term in office. He said there is no doubt that the governor is fraternising well enough with the All Progressives Congress-led federal government at the Aso Rock but expressed worry that such fraternity does not hold in Anambra state where he noted that the APC has been completely shut out from the scheme of things. According to him, the governor’s first term cabinet was more vibrant and result-oriented in comparison to his second term cabinet that he said operated at a snail speed and that developmental drive was at its lowest ebb. He stressed that Governor Obiano should rejig his development plan to enable his administration to record more achievements.
At a closer observation, it wouldn’t be an affront to infer that there seems to be no executive council in Governor Willie Obiano’s second term regime. This is because public opinion has it that the incumbent cabinet has little or no understanding of what good governance and public administration entails because they see themselves as stooges and loyal servants to the governor. This scenario however is not in tandem with the wishes and aspirations of the citizenry and that the modus for the selection or appointment of commissioners and other cabinet members leaves much to be desired in the current dispensation. Even though the Head of Service, Uduh, had eulogized the governor for his passionate disposition concerning workers’ salaries and welfare packages, a lot still behooves on him to get the Chief Executive and first worker of the state to recognize civil servants as workers in the employ of the government of Anambra state. Although the governor at the outset of his administration, increased workers’ salaries by 50% across board and has equally maintained the payment of these salaries on a regular basis, some civil servants spoken with on grounds of anonymity said they still went home with peanuts as salaries considering the magnitude of financial responsibilities on them as family members. They said their houses have become home of reptiles and rodents and there are no roads leading to their houses.
Some of the workers said the last time Directors in the state ministries were given official cars was in 2013 but expressed great concern that the government in power is about six years old and no director in the state ministries has been given an official vehicle let alone permanent secretaries. They said such development was due to lack of understanding of the elements and ethics of good governance. Another very pivotal issue they raised was the death of the ministries, departments, parastatals and agencies of the state government as well as non accountability of accounting officers, thus portraying an incurable rot in the state civil service. Also, another worrisome development is the sad reality that the governor pays little or no attention to the affairs of children as evident in not giving the Children’s Parliament due recognition. From investigations, it was gathered that the governor in the last six years has not spared an hour with the Children’s Parliament to obtain first hand information concerning their welfare and needs. More so, there has not been advocacy visits nor courtesy calls by the children on the governor. Most pathetic is the fact that rather than attend the 2019 Children’s Day Celebration to felicitate with the children, the governor chose to travel to the Western part of the country to obtain chieftaincy title on the same day. This, some pundits said, was a letdown and incompetence on the ability of the state commissioner for women, children and social welfare to get the governor to understand the import of such occasion and why his presence is inevitable irrespective of his busy schedules. To this end, some have wondered if the governor’s executive members work to satisfy the masses or they work to satisfy the kitchen cabinet. Also the commissioners are expected to render account of stewardship on a monthly basis regarding how they run the ministries but unfortunately, obtaining government information regarding policy implementation seems a herculean task because most of the commissioners and some other cabinet members do not go to the press to render account of stewardship. So journalists are perpetually handicapped and bereft of information on government business in Anambra state. Furthermore, there used to be post exco briefings on resolutions reached at state executive council meetings but such routines have long gone into oblivion and the press unit at the government house is now being used by security agents.
Be that as may, the public feels that the Anambra State Council of the Nigeria Union of Journalists is a total mess as it appears to be government rubber-stamp. It observed that the Union’s Press Centre in Awka is a glorified playground thereby making press men suffer untold hardship to get news and information for public consumption. The public believes that if the press centre has the semblance of its counterparts in Enugu state and other states, it would provide a congenial and convivial atmosphere where top government functionaries, business moguls, politicians as well as all manner of persons would call in to relax and exchange information on current affairs while journalists would be at a vantage position to do their jobs effectively and efficiently. From all indications, Anambra state seems to be sitting on a keg of gun powder at the moment because crime has escalated again as some security heads have become bank directors. All markets in Anambra state are on crisis due to imposition of touts as market leaders leading to increase in cult activities in the markets. Vampires have taken over Anambra markets. Private schools win laurels for the state but government-owned schools are left to mourn their fate. The bone of contention remains, how is the governor’s cabinet responding to the situation individually and collectively? Rather than recycle cabinet members and also replace SSAs, SAs and other appointees, the public however admonished the governor to have a think-tank to refocus and reposition the state towards realisation of its economic policies, programmes and projects that are replications of the aspirations and expectations of the people in Anambra state.