By Jude Atupulazi and Uche Amunike
The Anambra State Commissioner for Information and Public Enlightenment, Mr C. Don Adinuba, is a man among his people. Simple, humble and accessible, he is a reporter's delight. In this rare interview with Fides crew of editor-in-chief, Jude Atupulazi and assistant editor, Uche Amunike, Adinuba reflects on the journey so far by the Obiano Administration.
Your appointment was likened to placing a square peg on a square hole because of your pedigree in the media world. After some time in the saddle, what can you say your experience has been like?
Rather than talk about myself, I'll rather talk about the quality of people in this administration. There is no state, I repeat, no state that has the caliber of people in this administration. Each person in this administration is eminently qualified through education, experience, professional integrity and moral uprightness. Obiano has set his sights on history. It's not surprising therefore that Anambra has become easily the most competitive state in the whole country. I studied in various disciplines and areas. From education to security to agriculture, to industrialization, to immunization, to road development, to social harmony and so on.
Now, to the nitty-gritty of governance. Sometime last year, the state govt announced a ban on commercial motorcycle operators and promised that there would be shuttle buses to be made available for those who were displaced and they set a timeline that it would be around December. Now, the shuttle buses have not yet arrived. Why is this so?
Policy adjustment. We did order some shiploads of shuttle buses from Japan and the prices came to about 700 and 850 thousand and we were willing to sell at 800 thousand over eighteen months. The governor's major reason for doing it was to empower our people. To prove a point that commercial motorcycle operators can, through the right policy, become vehicle owners. More importantly, to become millionaires. The governor was greatly inspired by the example of Ekenedilichukwu - Chief Augustine Ilodibe, who was a domestic aide of an Irish priest. He behaved so well that when the priest was going, he handed over his Morris Minor to him. He turned it into a cab. From there, he bought a lot of vehicles and with time, he became the biggest transporter in Nigeria. We wanted to do that and we still want to. The snag we had with the vehicles we ordered for was that they were second hand and the banks advised us that based on their own experience, we should not go for second hand vehicles.
The governor himself was at Fidelity bank and was the ED. In fact, he was in charge of loans for consumer products. They reminded us that even the banks do not give consumer loans for second hand vehicles like they were doing in the past because based on their own experience, they could not be able to cover the costs. So, it's risky. We took a look at that and saw a lot of common sense and we began to negotiate with an indigenous motor manufacturing firm to see if they could begin to produce and at an affordable rate. We're still negotiating. But I can bet you, the discussions are so far, very encouraging.
When the governor came on board, the security situation in the state was very bad. He has done a good job of bringing it down to almost a zero level. Today, however, insecurity seems to be rearing its head as the worst menace facing the state is that of 'One Chance' type of robbery where people unsuspectingly board tricycles or buses and end up being robbed and then thrown off the moving vehicle. What's the government doing to solve this problem and bring security back to the state?
I thank you for appreciating that the governor has done a masterful job of security. Just before he took over, the security situation of the state was such that our people who invested here were taken away their investments to places like Lagos and Abuja. I'll give an example with my own personal friend. Sir Elvis Emecheta from Abatete who had to take over his factory to Abuja for security reasons. Our people were no longer coming back home. If they managed to come, they would be at Enugu or Asaba. If there were events like burials or weddings, they would come in a rickety taxi and these were millionaires. They will even tell you they would be passing the night and you would believe them. By 4-5pm, they will head back to Enugu and Asaba and catch the next available flight. Traditional rulers were kidnapped. Some of them have still not been found till this day, including the traditional ruler of Ihembosi in Ekwusigo Local Government Area. An attempt was even made on the Obi of Onitsha. Good a thing, the police got the intelligence early enough and arrested the criminals when they were coming to carry out the dastardly act. The situation was so bad that our people were doing what was considered impossible and unimaginable- conducting traditional marriages in Lagos and other places. My own uncle, Chief C.C Ifeanyi, who used to be the number three man in the Customs and an Ichie in Ihiala, as well as the President of the Lagos State branch of ASATU, the Anambra State Association of Town Unions, succeeded Chief Arthur Mbanefo, Odu of Onitsha as the president in Lagos. Yet, he was compelled by circumstances to have the traditional wedding of his last daughter in Lagos. It was that bad.
Today, Anambra remains the safest state in the whole country, despite one or two security breaches which we have reported. It is the police that declared Anambra the safest state. On one of the occasions, the Inspector General of Police did so on Thursday March 29th last year at Alex Ekwueme Square when the governor presented 60 utility vehicles, all INNOSON, by the way, to the Police, Navy and other agencies helping with the security situation of the state. Yes, we have got reports. We are pouring over them. Anytime from now, we are going to roll out a security plan. Many of these people who come from neighbouring states to steal and then rush back to their states know that if they stay in Anambra, they would be caught shortly. About two weeks ago, the police authorities in the state arrested the most wanted criminal suspect in the state, Mr Udensi, notoriously known as Ikanda. He had been hiding between Lagos and Ogun state. The moment he came to Anambra, we grabbed him. Anambra is not a place you can commit a crime and expect to stay long. We know they are coming from outside. We're monitoring them. Anytime from now they'll become history. We apologize for what has happened. We are very sorry, as you can see some of these are entirely strange. One Chance has been known in Lagos for so many years but not in Anambra State. As you can see, it's an idea brought from outside and practiced by people who are not resident in the state. They know it's much riskier to operate in Anambra State as a criminal than to operate in neighbouring states.
Don't you think that the ban on Okada gave rise to the one chance phenomenon, because those who couldn't use their okada for business again switched over to one chance?
I think you're taking this speculation too far, if I ask you for the logical link of a study, showing that, I know you will find that very difficult to do. Now, the restriction of Okada is not peculiar to Anambra State. Every state in the Southeast did it years before Anambra did. We were the last to restrict Okada in state capitals, even neighbouring Asaba restricted it years before we did. I don't want to talk about Lagos and in none of these places have their authorities established a correlation between the institutional matching motorcycles and a spike in crime rates. Now, I will talk with facts and figures, they are more reliable than engaging in speculations. All the same our people are very imaginative, I know many Okada operators who couldn't operate within Awka, they quickly moved to Enugwu Ukwu; from Awka to Enugwu Ukwu is less than ten minutes where they were allowed; who moved to Nimo, Abagana, Nawfia, where they are allowed. You can access these towns I have mentioned in less than ten minutes from Awka. And these are actually parts of Awka Capital Development Territory. There were few individuals who wanted to leave based on sheer coincidence and they left the state. I know of some people who left for the North to farm and they went back to farm because farming is a seasonal thing they do. So there is no need for people to link the movement to the restriction order. Our people are very creative and very hard working. If you allow anybody to operate in Enugwu Ukwu, Nawfia, which is about five minutes away from Awka, do you think that is enough to make people to remain idle or unemployed or go hungry? Not our people.
Let's go back to the airport project. After the initial enthusiasm by the government, a lot of promises were made that it wouldn't take too long. As you can see, however, it is taking time. What is causing the delay?
Two issues: one is security. The Chinese firm came here with a very sub-graded device, drones not known to the Nigerian authorities; and two, the language, which was coded in Chinese and not in English. It caused a problem, so the drones were confiscated by the air force and kept away for a long time. The Governor did lobby so much, constantly dealing with people like NSA, the National Security Adviser. But he has successfully made a case and they were released. You know our Governor is a very fine diplomat. There is a time his policy caused constructive engagement which was actually very nice, he has a good relationship with every leader of government, regardless of the party it controls. Even here in Anambra, he is a good friend to Sen. Uche Ekwunife who was in APC, now in PDP. People like Andy Uba in APC, Ben Obi, Mrs Josephine Anenih. None of these people are APGA members. It has paid off and the result is that Anambra is not only the most secure state in the country today but the most peaceful. The level of social cohesion we are enjoying in Anambra, we don't find it in any other state. I call it an act of solidarity.
Let me give you one or two examples: when the Governor was inaugurated for the second time on March 18, 2018, the VIP stand was occupied by the members of the so-called opposition party, even candidates who ran against him were there. Two days after the election which the Governor was given the mandate, winning all the local government areas in the state, Dr. Alex Ekwueme died. Ekwueme was in the PDP, his own daughter was the PDP deputy governorship candidate who ran against our Governor. Two days after the election, when Ekwueme died, it was the Governor who led the funeral for a whole seven days, rolled out the drums, gave Ekwueme first class burial, not minding he was in the PDP, not minding that the daughter ran against him. No state in Nigeria has that record. So, are you surprised at the level of peace and tranquility and the sense of social solidarity and camaraderie we have today in Anambra? There is no bitterness and acrimony in our government.
We have been able to resolve the major problem, which is the airport; now is security, but in a second dimension, legal.
The airport is being revived after these obstacles and we are coming back in a bigger way. Only that we are having adjustments. It will be delivered but not as originally planned in respect to time.
What about the problem with cattle herders and farmers?
Last two weeks we resolved it. Herders/Farmers issues have been resolved. So what happened three weeks ago was unfortunate. It was an act by a group of people who didn't know about the code of conduct, about how to do cattle business in the state; those are the people who came from outside the state and acted in violation of the existing accord in the state. They did not register with the association of herdsmen which they ought to have done, they didn't know there were penalties to paid by any persons who violated the code of conduct between Farmers and herders. Immediately we discovered who they were, they took to their heels quickly. Both the farmers and the herders, as well as leaders of the host community, signed an undertaking to live in peace; that there will not be attacks, and that they will go back to the way they were living in harmony with each order.
Many people do not seem to realize that there are over twenty one Fulani communities here in Anambra State and some of these herders were born here, including the Special Assistant to the Governor on Herders. He is officially from Kano, but he speaks and understands Igbo culture more than you and I do. And one other thing people don't seem to know here is that some of the cows we see around belong to the people of Anambra State who give them to herders to rear for them, our people are clever investors. So, the Fulani and the Igbos have over the decades so much integrated that they run business partnerships all over, with no kinds of discrimination. So the level of social harmony in Anambra state is such that even the Fulani herdsmen and Igbo Farmers have wonderful partnerships.
Finally, very soon, the second tenure of the governor will be coming to an end. Has he found a successor yet?
The Governor is preoccupied with the development of Anambra State; not with partisan politics. I hope you are aware that APGA is the only development oriented party in Nigeria. Other parties are obsessed with power for its own sake - what somebody cynically calls power without responsibility. No, the Governor is a perfect APGA man. It is development, development, development! He always tells us that he is inspired and challenged by the success story of Singapore, Malaysia, Taiwan, Hong Kong, South Korea, Indonesia. These are all Southeast Asian nations and no one talks about Israel or Japan. He keeps on asking us that these countries and territories I have just mentioned were behind Nigeria in the sixties and seventies, how have they leap frogged Nigeria? Even Dubai that was in the seventies and eighties an economic desert literary, not metaphorically, is aspiring to become the number one model city in the world. That is their vision. Why are we lagging behind? He realized that all these places mentioned are governed by what is called developmentalism. That is their ideology. Developmentalism can be defined as a country or territory forgetting primordial differences like religion, party differences, ethnicity, race, to focus on the development of living.
Thank you sir