By Jude Atupulazi
By now no one in Anambra State would say they have not read or watched several write ups or videos all capturing the achievements of our Governor, Chief Willie Obiano, over the past seven years. Within the past week, while those in government tried to amplify and magnify the governor’s achievements, the opposition, expectedly, tried to do the opposite, much like the scenario at a goat market. But deep down, as always, everyone, both friend and foe, knows the true situation of things.
As Obiano turns the bend to begin the last lap in his second and final tenure, I’ve decided to try and do my own assessment of the major things he has done; neither as a government sympathizer nor as a member of the opposition, but simply as an interested bystander.
Awka Flyovers, a Comparative Analysis
These flyovers have attracted praise and criticism in equal measure from members of the public. I understand that originally the Amansea/Amawbia stretch was conceived to be like the Onitsha Bridge Head /Upper Iweka stretch of road. When the present government came in, it decided to build flyovers instead. Now, these flyovers at Aroma, Kwata and Amawbia Junctions, immediately changed the face of the capital city of Awka by easily catching the eye. But that’s as far as one hasn’t been to other places where such facilities exist. At this point I will use the flyovers in Ebonyi State, Abakaliki to be precise, as examples.
In Abakaliki where you have seven flyovers, they are good examples of how modern flyovers look. Each of them allows trucks and other heavy duty vehicles to pass through them. Thus, apart from adding to the aesthetics of Abakaliki, they have also solved the traffic problem as articulated vehicles don’t have to find alternative roads.
However the ones in Awka are not allowed to carry heavy duty vehicles which are now forced to take the side roads and add to the traffic situation instead of solving it. This fact is not disputable. Sometimes the traffic is so heavy that drivers and commuters spend long periods in it. Again, drivers of heavy duty vehicles often hit the barricades at the flyovers, probably because they are unaware of them as they do not see them in other states. The last one which fell over after hitting the barricade at Aroma, caused a serious traffic jam which forced some people to take inner roads.
The flyovers have also taken up much space from the way they were designed and built, thus adding to an already bad situation. Even the flyover at Nkpor built by the previous regime and paid for by the Federal Government, is much better as it carries all manner of vehicles and has no barricade, thus solving the once chaotic traffic situation there.
One therefore wonders what informed the choice of the flyovers in Awka instead of a multiple lane design that we have at Onitsha Bridge Head to Upper Iweka which has permanently solved the traffic situation that used to be there. It just seems as if the government went for extravagance rather than the needful.
The current regime has certainly invested heavily in security, just as the previous one. The manner of its investment made the current government to croon that the state is the safest in the country. The state is certainly safe enough, but being the safest is what I can’t vouch for. All this while, parts of the commercial city of Onitsha have been no go areas in late evenings, especially at Upper Iweka, Obosi and Nkpor. Even as I write now, no one can go there in the night and feel free. In Awka, it is never safe to walk in some areas carrying your personal effects like hand bags and mobile phones in the twilight hours. This was why I once wrote that the state might not be in a position to stave off any serious crime wave were it to arise. I believed that the entire Southeast was then witnessing a general lull in crime. I said this then because what I saw on ground wasn’t what I felt could stop any crime.
Yes, what was on ground were just police personnel sitting behind piles of sand bags at strategic positions and others parking their vehicles by the road side in some areas. That was the situation while cultists ran riot across the state and crimes were being committed in Onitsha. That was the situation when gunmen invaded a church in Ozubulu, killed some worshippers and escaped. To date, no one has caught them. Same was the scenario in a church in Azia where a family of three was shot dead, with the killers yet to be found. Kidnappings have also been going on repeatedly in some parts of the state, with the Enugwu-Agidi-Nawgu axis being a case in point.
There is no place where crime isn’t committed, but I’m only pinpointing these incidents to torpedo the claim that the state is the safest. To me, it is more political than factual.
And now that some evil people have decided to strike, all the police personnel behind all those sand bags have scampered away and we have just realized that there has been nothing on ground to check this. The situation here is also what obtains in most states. Nothing on ground to checkmate serious crime.
Yet, the Government of Anambra State should be commended for at least paying attention to security. That effort should be acknowledged.
My Rating: 70%
The introduction of Closed Circuit Television Cameras, CCTVs, in the state was widely celebrated by the state government and the impression was given that it was going to be the solution to many of our problems as long as crime and criminality were concerned. But just as quickly as it came, it disappeared, such that today, not a whimper is being heard again about the CCTVs. Of all the crimes being committed, not one has been solved by the CCTVs, the locations of which no one even knows. Indeed, should anyone describe the entire matter as a hoax, that person may not be blamed as the project seems to have died a natural death.
My Rating: 0%
This government has done more than any before it in the area of street lights. The way it has paid attention to the little details in this direction is awesome. The street lights have boosted night life, as well as commercial activities at night, making parts of the Awka capital city places where night never comes. The street lights are also in many villages and they have contributed in limiting the commission of crime. Perhaps, the state can truly say on this aspect that it is the best.
What should be done, however, is to ensure that the ones that have gone bad are repaired and that they be installed in communities which are yet to have them.
My Rating: 70%
Once upon a time Anambra was touted as the state with the best road network. It now seems like it was in ancient times. The roads have virtually collapsed, with gaping potholes all over the place. It is now a matter of choosing which pothole to dodge and which one to enter. That’s as bad as it has become. Roads bring development faster than anything one can imagine. But this seems lost on the current government. Even the failed roads are not being repaired effectively and one wonders what the state’s agency charged with road repairs is doing.
Roads are one infrastructure that most people will feel and won’t need to be told if they are there or not. Good roads boost businesses, as well as agriculture. They also save lives.
I once wrote that there were potholes even inside the government house, the Ministry of Works and the state secretariat, pointing out that if they could exist in those places, then there was little hope of other places getting fixed.
For sure, attempts were made at building some new roads, but the majority of existing ones have been allowed to deteriorate, thus defeating the idea of having a road maintenance agency.
Anambra, for a fact, still has the best road network, but accessing them is where the problem lies. Can the government fix them in the one year that remains? I hope so.
My Rating: 50%
International Conference Centre
This is supposed to be one of the signature projects of the current government. The area where it is being built is a vast one. For sure, it will, on completion, add to the beauty of the capital city and raise the state’s revenue profile. But my problem is whether it is a priority project as against being a prestige project. This is because we already have the Dora Akunyili Women’s Development Centre which still has enough room for expansion and improvement. In fact, it has a mini-stadium-like portion that should be completed and turned to another Ekwueme Square where public events can be held. It can also be turned to a small stadium to add to the one being built inside Awka Town. The place also has a hotel and much empty space where other facilities can be built.
So why undertake another gigantic project at the expense of such other facilities as roads? This is why I consider the ongoing Conference Centre as grandiose. It is a luxury we could have done without for now, despite the temptation to have one.
Such projects should come only when we must have gotten most other things, failing which they will remain mere luxuries we can ill afford. Yet, the Conference Centre will add to the beauty of Awka when completed. But for now, do we need it? No.
My Rating: 60%
Like the Conference Centre, this falls short in terms of need. Anambra is surrounded by airports in Asaba, Owerri and Enugu, a development that does not necessitate Anambra having theirs for now except to do so in order to belong to the league of states with airports. This is not saying that an airport is bad. Far from it. It lifts the profile of any state. But in our case, it may not even be of much economic value on the short term because of the competition it will face from nearby airports.
Besides, of what need is an airport which gulps much money when the roads leading to it are bad? More people will use the roads than the airport and more people will also feel the impact of roads. In fact, some people may never use the airport till they die.
Thus, I see our airport as more of a prestige project than a necessity at this point.
However, from what I’ve heard about the airport from those who have been allowed to see it, it is a beautiful piece and one of the best in the country. Even if it is not what we need now, it will one day be needed and to that extent, it is good.
My Rating: 70%
This is a project that is very much needed. Anambra, having produced many great sports personalities, sadly has not had a befitting stadium to show for it. Yes, there are mini-stadiums in Onitsha North and South, but the capital also needs one. The one in Awka may not be the biggest but it is one of the best in terms of facilities and quality. I don’t think there will be many stadiums in the country that will have a better pitch than the one being built in Awka. It is a much needed project which will be used in harnessing many budding talents. It is a well thought out project.
Obiano’s government is the first that has paid the most attention to sports through the indefatigable Tony Oli.
My Rating: 90%
Ugu, Nchuanwu and Yam Export
So much hype was given to the state’s exportation of these food items at one time that everyone expected greater things to lie ahead, especially after it was said the state would earn millions of dollars from their sale. But after a year or two, nothing more was heard about them. What has happened? Are they no more being exported? Where are the dollars accruing from their sale abroad and what has been done with the money? I think government owes the people some explanation to avoid speculation.
To me, the entire saga smacks of a failed project and a political gimmick.
My Rating: 5%
A time was when we daily heard about MoUs being signed by the government, with the expectation that they would soon change the economic fortunes of the state. Like the ugu and nchuanwu saga, this died a mysterious death and not much is being heard about them today. Perhaps, government will do well to enlighten us on this.
My Rating: 5%
Human Infrastructure/Governance Style
Gov Obiano is one of the governors who have invested heavily in people. He is a jolly good fellow, considerate and friendly. He wants to please people and likes to see them smile and is one man many will like to work with and for. He’s such a nice man.
However, governance is much more than being nice. In trying to be nice, he has made many appointments, many of which are however unnecessary. He has made history as the only governor in this state with the highest number of political appointees, half of whom do nothing but drain the resources of the state. Sometimes, situations arise where many people do the same job and get paid. This is no way to run a cost effective government in a dwindling economy. This won’t please a lot of folks but that’s the sore truth.
The governor could also have been more assertive these past seven years. Some things happened that shouldn’t have been allowed to happen. There seems to be some looseness in the running of his government which some smart people took advantage of and this is all down to his kind of person: too nice and may be, too soft in the heart. We don’t have it all, do we?
All in all, I’ll say the state hasn’t been too horrible under his watch although much more could have been done. The main problem seems to have been the confusion over what constitutes a priority or not.
I wish him well and congratulate him on what he has been able to do.