By Peter Nwasike
With the discovery of the month of River Niger, where it entered into Atlantic Ocean, by John and Richard Lander (Lander Brothers) in 1830, European merchants started to open Inland Trading with the Africans along the River Niger. Formerly, they concentrated along the Atlantic Coast from Badagry-Lagos-Bonny-Calabar.
A Liverpool merchant, Macgregor Laird, started the inland trading in 1832, with expeditions, among them the 1835, 1841,1854, 1857 and 1863 when they signed Trade Agreement with Obi Akazua of Onitsha. Other merchants followed, example those from London, Manchester, Liverpool in Britain. Some merchants from other European Countries of France, Germany, also tried their luck.
In 1877, George Goldie arrived from Britain. He vowed to paint the Niger River with Red. Red is the favourite colour of British Royalty. So he meant to ensure that British merchandise dominated trade in Niger Valley. He adopted aggressive mercantilism from Akasaa-Onitsha-Asaba-Lokoja-Ilorin-Nupe with his newly amalgamated British merchants known as “The Royal Niger Company” (RNC). Championed by Goldie, their formable might forced other merchants from France, and Germany to close and consented to acquisition by RNC. In 1886, Goldie got the Charter to be the British Government’s Agent-General, with security of Police and also levy from traders that did not belong in the amalgamation of RNC. Britain benefitted from his patriotism, heroism and gave him accolade Knighthood of Commander of the British Empire (CBE) as Sir George Dashwood Tubman Goldie CBE.
Anambra State was created by Military President Babangida in 1991, with military governors as administrators. The nascent democracy started in 1999, with Governors Chinwoke Mbadinuju 1999-2003, Chris Ngige 2003-2006, and Peter Obi 2006-2014. They all had their own systems of administration.
In 2014, Governor Willie Obiano came to power, and imbued with the virtues of Patriotism, like George Goldie who wanted British Merchandise to dominate the Niger Valley, Obiano also wanted Anambra products to dominate Anambra Markets, and so formulated Vision and Mission as follows:
Vision: To make Anambra become the first choice Investment Destination and a hub for industrial and commercial activities.
Mission: To create a socially stable business friendly environment that will attract both indigenes and foreigners to seek wealth creating opportunities in Anambra State.
To achieve the vision and mission, Obiano formulated his economic Blue-print to be Four Pillars of Agriculture, Industrialization, Trade and Commerce, Oil and Gas. This is to be anchored on Twelve Enablers as Security, Education, Health, Roads/Bridges, Sanitation, Water, Electricity, etc.
He understood that the primary objective of Government is safety of life and property, because if people are not sure of their life and health, and also that their hard earned property will be used and enjoyed by the owners, nobody will take such risk to reside in strife-torn area. He put security on the priority list, because on assumption of office in March 2014, he convened security summit in April 2014, made up of delegates from international experts of Israel, national experts of Police, Army, Navy, Local stakeholder as Traditional Rulers, Presidents General, Village Vigilante Groups, etc. he implemented their recommendation and equipped the Police, Army, Navy, Village Vigilante Group, with vehicles, communication gadgets, speed cars, Circuit Camera Television (CCTV), welfare packages etc.
He appealed to his primary constituency the banks, to perform their “social-welfare responsibility of business”, by helping to equip the police. The Banks responded with Patrol vans to the Police Business Emperor, Alhaji Aliko Dangote, vindicated Obiano when he donated 150 Patrol vehicles with equipment to the police, and said; “it is imperative to help Government to enthrone efficient security of life and property because, without security, development will be jeopardized and hindered, because, no sane investor will risk precious life and valuable property in an environment of barbarism, vandalism, fatality and burglary. (New Telegraph Newspaper, Thursday, May 11, 2018, Page 1) With Obiao’s prudence in management of men and resources, Anambra State became a heaven for investors to operate.
Agriculture: Obiano’s astituteness in Agriculture is to make Anambra Self-sufficient in food supply. He knew that subsistence farming with matchets and hoes, is outmoded and inadequate. He said that his brand of agriculture is one of modern implements of tractors, harvesters, threshers, de-stoners, fertilizers, irrigation machines, improve seedlings etc. He instituted a Commission of Enquiry for Agriculture, headed by Prof. Emma Omaliko. He implemented their recommendations and supplied necessary machinery. He involved private sector driven economy with the system of Public, private partnership (PPP) for the actualization of mechanized agriculture of his dream. He established the Anambra State Investment Promotion and Protection Agency (ANSIPPA), to facilitate fast processing of documents for business registration and acquisition of land for investments, with Igwe (Prof) Cyril Enweze as the Chairman. He also established a system of aiding small scale farmers, by creating access to capital investment with Two Billion Naira, on loan of single digit interest, with Chief Clement Chukwuka as Chairman. This helped to disburse the loan to eligible farmers. It is the combined efforts of these farmers, among them women that help to produce the vegetables of Ugu and Onugbu that were exported to Europe. The former Vice President of Nigeria, Alhaji Atiku Abubarkar, testified that he saw farm products from Anambra in food-shops of Britain and America.
The Public Private Partnership (PPP) of Obiano’s system attracted major investors in the Agriculture of Rice Farming, Chief Cosmas Maduka, of Coscharis Mechanized Rice Farm at Anaku, Ayamelum Local Government Area. He invested heavily and produced his own brand of quality rice, in collaboration with foreign partners. Obiano also revamped the Anambra Imo River Basin Authority, which the Federal Government ceded to Anambra. He organized the Rice Farmers into Co-operative Societies, and supplied them with necessary inputs of machinery, irrigation machines, improved seedlings etc. They organized themselves in a system of “Value Added Chain”, with some as producers, some as processors, some as marketers. The same system is replicated at Amichi, Ufuma, Urum, etc. Their combined efforts helped to produce the famous “Anambra Rice” of international best practices in quality and quantity.
When Obiano introduced the Agricultural Revolution in 2015, the average production of rice in Anambra State was 80,000 metric tons of Rice, but the local consumption rate was 320,000 metric tons. With improved Government’s guidance, the production of 2017 was 350,000 metric tons. Thus, Anambra had enough for home consumption and surplus for export. With accelerated ambition in the mechanized farming, it is envisage that the production for 2018, shall be 600,000 metric tons.
In fact, in 2017, the Minister of Agriculture, Chief Audu Ogbeh, the Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Dr. Godwin Emefiele, the Chairman of Task Force on Agriculture and Governor of Kebby State, Alhaji Abubarkar Bagudu, visited the Choscharis Mechanized Rice Farm at Anaku, and also the co-operative Rice Farmers at Omor, all in Ayamelum Local Government Area, and testified that Anambra, under Obiano is supreme in food cultivation, especially rice. They described Anambra as partner-in-progress with the Federal Government in food sufficiency in Nigeria, with the prospect to stop importation in 2020. They pledged Federal support to sustain the excellent record of Anambra.
Industrialization; Obiano applied sagacity and involved the private sector for good result. He intervened for the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN) and invited the Federal Government, and so the Vice President Prof. Yemi Osinbajo and the Minister of Commerce, Mr. Okey Enelema, visited the industrial clusters at Onistha and Nnewi, and appreciated the efforts of Anambra to be successful in industrializing Nigeria. In his eagerness to involve the private sector in production and creating employment opportunities, Obiano embarked on the proverbial system of “Teaching them how to fish, and giving them hook to fish, so that they can catch fish eat fish all days of their life, instead of giving them fish to eat in only one day, and languish in hunger. He created the Anambra Small Business Agency (ASBA), and floated pool of refundable loan with Two Billion Naira, for the ASBA. Many people have benefitted, among them women and youths. When the Federal Government brought their own “Government Enterprises Empowerment Programmer (GEEP)”, which the Vice President Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, inaugurated at All Saints Cathedral, Onitsha in April 2018, the GEEP hit the ground running. Prof. Osinbajo lauded Obiano for already starting the similar GEEP in Anambra, and disclosed that 600,000 people have benefitted, with many of them from Anambra. He also thanked Anambra for implementing the Federal Government’s School Feeding” in Primary Schools, with local foodstuff, and labour, which has created employment for farmers, traders, cooks and service providers.
Education; Obiano introduced innovation, with what he called “Education for Employment” by sending teachers to Singapore for technical training. They have resumed work in Technical Colleges, and imparting useful knowledge. The partnership with Church Schools, with good financial intervention, has helped to ensure qualitative education, with many schools winning national competitions, and representing Nigeria in global competitions, with good results.
Health; Obiano has signed into law, the National Insurance Health Scheme (NHIS), and refurbished many General Hospitals, and Primary Health Clinics in the villages, to make it successful with quality health care delivery to all citizens, both rich and poor.
Oil and Gas: He has intensified efforts through National Assembly Members of All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) in the National Assembly, led by Senator Victor Umeh, and Senator Princess Stella Oduah, for Federal Government to approve Anambra’s status as “Oil Producing State”, and get her rightful royalty. This was seen in the Bill being sponsored by Senator Princess Stella Oduah and Senator Victor Umeh, for South East Development Commission, to be signed into law. In this respect, Anambra shall join Abia, Imo, as Oil Producing States, and deserve the Development Commission, just like the Niger Delta Development Commission. In this regard, Anambra Oil Producing Status will be hastened with more prospects for Anambra.
Governor Obiano has also anticipated the prospects of the oil and gas deposits, so that the crude oil from Aguleri Oil Wells and Refinery could be sold in the Cargo Airport, at Umueri, to all the Aircrafts flying in Nigeria and beyond, in need of Aviation Kerosene. With this, Anambra’s oil and Gas shall be maximally appropriated.
During the “Economic Recession” of 2016, Obiano introduced the system of “Twenty Million Naira Choose Your Project Initiative”, for all the 181 Communities in the State, which made them to choose any development project of their priority need. He mandated that the workforce of contractor, labourers, service providers, shall come from the villages, so that cash can circulated among the villagers. The people felt happy with the system, as they executed many news school blocks, hospital, markets, feeder roads, town halls etc.
Obiano has succeeded in his objective of Making Anambra become the first choice investment destination and hub for industrial and commercial activities and achieved food sufficiency in the State, just like his British counterpart, George Goldie. So Obiano has led Anambra to achieve social upward mobility as a mature man of 27, by being independent in most of her socio-economic needs.