Posted on September 24, 2018
As Nigerians ponder on the stunning wave of insecurity in the country orchestrated by malignant and lingering insurgency, bloody attacks by killer-herdsmen, militia restiveness, suspected politically-motivated killings, violent robberies and other regular crimes, one cannot but draw Anambra State under Governor Willie Obiano closer to mind.
On his assumption of office in the first quarter of 2014, the media were so agog with reports of general insecurity and threat to life and property in Anambra that one national daily did a ‘big read’ on a topic it captioned as follows: “Anambra and defiant abductors: 200 kidnappings and the N1 billion ransom”, (see Vanguard, July 27, 2014).
The report gave insight on how over 200 kidnapping incidents took place in Anambra State in the previous two years; and over N1 billion allegedly paid as ransom by family members of kidnapped victims. Among the high profile victims were the traditional ruler of Ukpo in Dunukofia Local Government Area of the state, Igwe Robert Eze; the traditional ruler of Abagana in Njikoka LGA, Igwe Patrick Okeke; another traditional ruler from Adazi Nnukwu in Anaocha LGA, Igwe Lawrence Oragwu; and that of Ihembosi in Ekwusigo LGA, Igwe Jerome Udechukwu. Also in the list was a former Anambra State Deputy Governor during the era of ex-Governor Chukwuemeka Ezeife, the late Dr. Chudi Nwike, who was killed by the kidnappers that took him hostage, to mention but a few. Among the several kidnap victims were those never seen till today; or who got killed even after their family members parted with appreciable sum as ransom payment.
Governor Obiano personally confirmed the development three years later (2017) at a public function, when Deputy Governor Nkem Okeke represented him at the July 2017 Breakfast Meeting organized by the Nigerian-American Chamber of Commerce (NACC) in Lagos. Obiano stated on that occasion: “When I assumed office in 2014, there were no landmark infrastructure, no clear cut strategic vision for the future… We met a state that was heavily traumatized by security issues, such as kidnapping and armed robbery; and before the blueprint, we had to tackle the issue of security first as it discouraged investments and cut off the grid of modern development from the state. After we tackled the issue of security, we set up the Anambra State Investment Promotion and Protection Agency (ANSIPPA). Today, what is widely accepted as Anambra investment success story is as a result of the resolve of my administration to make the state a socially, stable and business friendly environment for investors to seek wealth-creating opportunities.”
Anambra has no seaport. It has no airport. Significant portions of the state are not easily accessible mainly because of bad federal roads. Governor Obiano, like other of his colleagues, is also the Chief Security Officer of a state on paper, but in real terms, the control of the nation’s security paraphernalia, even in states, rests with Abuja.
How then did Governor Obiano and his team make Anambra an investment destination and turned around the hands of insecurity and crime in a state all manner of marauders once relished as their sanctuary? Some say through strategic planning and determination, backed by interagency cooperation. There could also be more to it than meets the eyes.
Starting with the threat of kidnappers, the state government first resolved to demolish/destroy and thereafter confiscate the property (real estate) of acclaimed kidnappers, beginning from his Aguleri country home, where three buildings allegedly built by suspected kidnappers were first destroyed. He had earlier set up a special task force whose membership was drawn from the police, the army and the navy which turned intense heat on the bandits and forced a whole lot of them to flee the spheres of Anambra State.
In the first week of August 2014, reports again had it that four buildings, including a church, belonging to suspected kidnappers, were demolished in Anambra State to complement the state government’s relentless clampdown on criminals. Obiano revoked the Certificates of Occupancy (C of Os) of the four buildings, two of which (including the church) belonged to one Pastor and the General Overseer of ‘Unchangeable God Ministries’, Awkuzu.
In early May, 2016, the Anambra State Police Special Anti-Cultism Squad (SACS) was thumbing its chest with the report that over 140 suspects, which included kidnappers, cultists and armed robbers, had been convicted by various courts in the state within just two months. Indeed, Governor Obiano became one of the ‘oracles’ worthy of consultation when the challenge of kidnap-for-ransom comes knocking. “Kidnapping no longer happens anywhere in Anambra under my watch… By the way, if anybody is kidnapped anywhere and you inform me early, in 15 minutes, I will locate the coordinates of the victim”, the governor once stated.
He also has a similar cheering message in respect of the menace of killer-herdsmen, based on his utterances at the launch of the Emeka Anyoaku Institute of Diplomacy and International Studies held at the Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka in October 2017. Obiano said: “Anambra State has never had cattle menace challenges; and it’s not by fluke. It is because of a concerted special arrangement that we have. I was like the guy that saw tomorrow. I set up a committee – Cattle Menace Committee, headed by the Commissioner of Police, with some traditional rulers and leaders of the Fulani committee in the state as members, two and half years ago. Some of them are here, eight Igwes that normally have challenges with these cattle people. So whenever they destroy farms, they pay; and they have paid seven times in those two years; and whenever our people kill their cows, like they do once in a while, they also pay. With that kind of arrangement, they were happy.”
Obiano was again quite confident to declare at the 50th Conference of the National Association of Law Teachers of Nigeria, held at Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, the Anambra State capital (June 2017), that “Anambra has become the safest state in the country following my administration’s approach towards tackling kidnapping and other crimes”.
“Before now”, Obiano recalled before the audience, “Anambra used to be a haven for criminals, especially kidnappers, and these scared investors. But now, investors have flooded the state for different investments… Anambra stands out today as a shining example of what a people can achieve if they place law and order and national security above every other condition for national growth and development… Our story has changed in just three years… from being an address for lawlessness to an oasis of peace and a destination for wise investors.”
At the July 2017 event in Lagos mentioned earlier, it was revealed that the four pillars of development of the Obiano administration consisted of Agriculture, Industrialization, Trade and Commerce, as well as Oil and Gas. In the first two years of the administration, the state recorded $4 billion investment. Reports say the state’s biggest investment drive presently is coming from Elite International Corporation Limited of China, which is investing over $2 billion in the Anambra Airport City project located in Umueri in Anambra East LGA.
But for the unsettling economic downturn in the country in recent times, Anambra State under Governor Obiano would, most probably, have truly done more in reconfiguring the economic landscape of the country, especially from the South-East axis.
The beauty of it all is that the Obiano government has remained generous in publicly dispensing vital and sensitive information on its challenges and breakthroughs. At a time when most states are on their knees because of the scourge of all manners of insecurity problems, the ‘Obiano Option’ deserves being given a trial by states that wore similar pinching insecurity shoes like Anambra before Governor Obiano and his team rose to the occasion.