By Fenny Fwah
Peter Obi was Anambra Governor for 8 years beginning from 2006.It’s not making a hyperbolic statement if one says Peter Obi as at the time he served as the Governor of Ambara state, he was a trailblazer in governance.
Before he took over the mantle of leadership of the state, Anambra was firmly in the hands of a cable which was good at installing a Governor that is funding him and when in power he was cornered to give them limitless access to state funds which was pillaged to the detriment of the development of the state. The bubble however bursted when Dr Chris Ngige was sponsored by this cable. In spite of being taken to Okija shrine to swear oath of loyalty, he changed after serving for while, asserted his independence by embarking on projects that changed the socio- economic landscape of that state. The cable of the Uba brothers tormented him and aided by the then president of country OBJ and through the aid of a whole AIG, Ngige was abducted.
To cut a long story short, Ngige election was annulled by the judiciary on the 15th March 2006 and peter Obi the UPGA candidate was declared the winner. Since Obi became Governor without the input of the Uba cabal, he had no obstacle on his governance and given the fact he was a self made man who came from private sector and was believed to have sponsored himself. He therefore began his tenure with a vision and template that brought about quantum leap in the socio- economic development of the beleaguered state. These are sum of his remarkable achievements.
In the educational sector, he decided to partner with Non governmental organizations, particularly the churches. He returned the secondary schools to the original owners and provided them with grants regularly to run the schools. And intervened in critical projects and programmes. He distributed 30,000 computers which was complimented by HP INC which also donated 22500 computers. The HP company chief Executive described the deployment of these computers as biggest of such project in the Middle East and Africa. Similarly, the administration of Peter Obi provided 500 secondary schools with internet services. Purchased 700 buses and allocated to all secondary schools in Anambra State and took the issue of water supply seriously by providing boreholes to all the secondary schools. All the 177 communities that had secondary schools, he improved the facilities available by constructing class room blocks and other infrastructures.
This partnership approach changed the narrative on secondary education with remarkable improvement impacted on the performance of Anambra State in examinations. Anambra State moved from the 24th out 36 states to first position in NECO and WAEC for three consecutive times. He also touched the tertiary level of education by building Anambra State university from the scratch.
Obi extended his Midas touch to health care delivery with similar partnership with churches. This strategic relationship improved remarkably health care delivery. While medical centres were maned by churches, the state provided funds in support as more than $50m were made available in all types of support. Through the churches, the Obi administration transformed 5 hospitals and specifically built a hospital for heart ailments. Because of giant strides in health delivery, Obi administration won Bill and Melinda Gates foundation( $1m) as the best performing states in immunisation in the South East. The Governor used the money to build 10 maternal and child care centre across the state.
If there is an area Peter Obi is well applauded in the country is the prudent management of Anambra resources. He led by example by reducing the number of vehicles in his convoy to three. When he was on official duty to Abuja he traveled a lone without an orderly or ADC . Inflating purchases and projects were halted. He bought vehicles direct from producers at company prizes and patronised indigenous car manufacturers which were Peugeot and Innoson motors. For instance the government house projects was reduced by half and when furnishing the building he commissioned local producers of furnitures who supplied the beds and seats.
On funds available, Peter Obi was the first state Governor to commence sub sovereign wealth savings, the first of its kind in sub Saharan. At the time many Governors were leaving huge debts, he kept an equivalent of $500m in dollar investment as well foreign currency, including $156m in dollar dominated bonds. The Nigeria debt management office( DMO) rated Anambra as the most financially stable in the country and the lest indebted state in the country. In spite of visible measurable achievements recorded in various sectors, the state under Obi didn’t borrow or raise bonds for his various projects.
Development partners such as UNDP, UNICEF, the world bank, the European Union who were hitherto not in Anambra because of bad governance, started working in State and these bodies consistently adjudged the state as one of the best millennium partnership and commitment reform for good governance.
Peter Obi was adjudged as the best Governor by the the millennium development goals office and the UNDP in the implementation of their programmes in Nigeria.
In a nutshell, peter Obi achievements could be summarized as prudent financial management, executed projects that impacted on social services particularly in the critical sectors of health care delivery and education. Most importantly is using the available resources to execute project without resorting to taking loans and leaving behind surplus for the incoming government. Running a government like a private concerns with investment and investment in bonds.
One of the things that endeared me to this man is his simplicity, dressing in simple safari dresses and no title attached his name like Chief Dr, Rt Hon, His Excellency etc. Here is a man that before coming to government has majority shares in Fidelity and his family has commanding shares in a multi billion Naira breweries, one the biggest in the world. A billionaire who travels in economy class. Recently he was in the news for the wrong reason. He tax returns were queried by the tax office for the period of 4 years, instead of sending one of his assistance to submit his tax returns, he personally went there and not only laid bare his taxes for 4 years but for 10 years and that he paid a total of N240m as tax for 10 years%!
I doff my hat for this simple, but visionary and productive leader. May we see him In our life time crowned with bigger responsibilities and if not him, but his like who could give this beleaguered nation a desirable direction. With his monumental achievements acknowledged by international bodies, the man was indeed a trailblazer In governance.
A retired permanent secretary
Adamawa state ministry of information