Anambra:The Limits of Propaganda- By Hon. Chudi Offodile

Where did Mallam Nasir El-Rufai go wrong in his presentation on Anambra’s budget of misplaced priorities?  Is it the facts he presented that Anambra State with adult literacy at 74.0% is behind Imo (80.8%) and Abia State (78.2%) or  that the two major contributors to IGR will be N6.76 billion from taxes and about N4 billion from fines and fees?  If this IGR is measured against the state projected personnel costs of N16.3 billion, Anambra cannot pay its staff salaries without reliance on federal allocation; this means it is one of those ‘dependent’ states and is not economically viable for independent existence. Can anyone fault this simple analysis from information provided by the government itself?

I need not restate all that El-Rufai laid out in that piece but I was surprised that he was accused by Governor Obi of insulting the Igbos and that only Anambra State indigenes can assess his administration not outsiders who have never visited the state like El-Rufai. Anyway, I am an Igbo from Anambra State and I state as follows: I do not feel insulted in anyway by the article in question and being from Anambra State, I wish to exercise the right which the Governor graciously granted only the indigenes of Anambra state, which is the right to assess his administration.

Peter Obi brought civility into governance in Anambra State at a time politics in the state had degenerated to dangerous and unacceptable levels. That I must concede. But he has also taken, as they say, liberty for license, engaged in needless propaganda, pursuit of federal lucre and in the process, squandered a golden opportunity to positively transform a fruitful virgin state.

Propaganda works and it has worked well for Peter Obi, but it has its limits. One of the areas where a lot of propaganda has gone into in Anambra state is road construction.  A lot of quality roads were constructed by the Ngige administration.  But the present government claimed to have ‘Asphalted’ over 500 km of roads and claims that Anambra State has the best network of roads in the Country. How much did it cost the state, assuming the number is accurate and of what quality?

A government that prides itself as the most prudent in Nigeria should present the whole picture to its citizens. For instance, in May, 2011, the government of Cross River State under Senator Liyel Imoke, signed contract agreements Publicly with eight contractors for the construction of 474 km of roads valued at N20.325 billion to cover 28 communities across the State under the Cross River Rural Access and Mobility Project.  The Projects are being jointly funded by the African Development Bank contributing N7.016 billion and Cross River State contributing N13.308 billion.

How much exactly did the 500km of roads built in Anambra State by Governor Obi cost?  Informed citizens have put the figure at between N48 billion and N60 billion, more than double of what Cross River State is spending for corresponding kilometers of roads. As regards the quality of the roads, most indigenes would admit that you can determine which road was done under Ngige and the ones under Peter Obi by the standard. The roads built under Ngige are of a much higher quality. Most of the roads done by Peter Obi will have to be re-awarded, a case of penny wise, pound foolish.

Another major propaganda point is that the government of Peter Obi has not borrowed while other profligate states have been borrowing recklessly. How can a state with massive infrastructure deficits keep its funds in the bank while the Governor’s major developmental efforts will be in commissioning of bore holes, immunization programmes and giving grants to schools seeking accreditation?  How much of the state government money is actually in the bank and can the government come out categorically and deny the rumor that over N150 million is paid out by the ‘banks’ as commission every month?  Is there a correlation between these monthly commission payments from the banks and the fact that the average cycle of contracts and payment in the state is two to three years sometimes more in order to maintain a certain minimum bank balance?

While rebuking El-Rufai for daring to point out the facts about the state, the Governor claimed that he has attracted industries to the state and mentioned two: Innoson Motors and SAB Miller Breweries in Onitsha. Innocent Chukwuma is from Nnewi in Anambra state. His company, Innoson has always been in Nnewi, long before Obi became Governor.  It started as a motorcycle assembly plant before moving to buses, and other vehicles.  So Peter Obi did not attract Innoson to Anambra State. He considers as a major achievement the fact that he built the road leading to the Innoson factory and brought the President to commission it. Congratulations!

On Sab Miller, the Governor will need to address the rumor making rounds in the state concerning the ownership of 22% of Sab Miller shares.  Anambra State Government owns 10% while the remaining 12% is said to be owned by other businessmen from Anambra State.  Who are those other businessmen? Since they are not ghosts, it is important that their names be made public to avoid ugly rumors.

Talking about investment in the state, the Governor is known to be a successful trader before he became Governor. If the state is so attractive for business, what informed the decision of his own company NEXT International to invest over N12 billion building the two largest shopping malls in Abuja, one in Mabushi and the other in Central Area, opposite federal ministry of transport? The Governor announced proudly that this year, he will pay N32 million as tax in Anambra State.  Why invest and create employment outside the state and then pay tax in Anambra State? It is a very strange way of doing things.  Anambra State needs the investment and jobs that the Governor outsourced to Abuja and other places. I call on the Governor to publish his tax returns to know exactly where the N32 million income tax is coming from. Is it from dividends or other sources? Since he mentioned it, we need to know more.

Anambra State is a rural state and nobody can deny that.  It has no airport, no stadium and no good public secondary school. If you fall sick in the state and you are unable to navigate yourself to the Nnamdi Azikiwe Federal University Teaching Hospital, you are finished. The State University Teaching Hospital, Awka, which was ‘commissioned’ by President Jonathan in 2010, is still an ongoing project in 2012. Yet, the money is in the bank!  None of the three ‘cities’ within the state; Awka, Onitsha, Nnewi is really habitable.  There is no public water supply system in those areas.  The Government of Obi competes with individuals in the provision of boreholes all over the state with his so called development partners.  No place like that can attract talents who will contribute to the development of the state.

Little wonder then, that two out of every three property/land transactions in Asaba and Enugu involve indigenes of Anambra State.  Most members, past and present of Anambra State House of Assembly and Commissioners including most of the bank managers in Anambra State, all have their houses in Asaba and Enugu from where they commute to Anambra State. Why not?  Their children have to attend good schools which do not exist in Anambra State.  What Obi has managed to achieve in six years, is sustaining the rural status of the state.

The only habitable estate in Awka Capital Territory is the Udoka Housing Estate built by the Chukuemeka Ezeife administration in 1991/92.  Across the other side of the Enugu – Onitsha expressway is the Ngozika Estate built by Obi’s government of a quality much lower than the Jakande houses of the eighties.  He claims to have secured accreditation for School of Health Technology, Obosi, School of Midwifery, Nkpor, School of Nursing, Iyienu. Fine! But these are institutions built by his predecessors and he is listing securing accreditation as his achievement.

He announced that he invested N4 billion of state funds in Orient Petroleum but it was conceptualized and set up by Dr. Mbadinuju. The Anambra State University was set up by the same Mbadinuju and when Peter Obi builds a faculty building or hostel in the school, he will advertise it as a monumental achievement. Yet he claims that there was nothing on ground when he became Governor of the state.  Even the Women Development Centre, Awka which is Anambra’s equivalent of the International Conference Centre, Abuja [Don’t laugh] was built by Mbadinuju. And I ask, apart from the State Secretariat, what project of note has Peter Obi initiated and completed in the past six years?

Thisday newspaper in awarding Governor Obi (4) four stars in its rating of Governors stated among other things that he built 77 bridges and 103 Schools.  These are unsubstantiated claims.  Some bridges, yes but not a single school was built under Peter Obi. What he did was that he awarded contracts to the 177 town unions in Anambra State to build 4000 classroom blocks in the schools within their communities. Unprecedented absurdity!  He has no coherent educational policy.  He would donate computers to some schools, give some principals’ money directly to build toilets in their schools and then supply some with generators as the spirit moves him. When the cacophonous interventions failed, he then out of frustration, rather than a carefully thought out policy, handed over the schools to the missions to continue from where they stopped 40 years ago.  Lord have mercy!!

Thisday again listed a new Onitsha hotel and convention centre under construction as one of his achievements. This brings me to the issue of transparency and due process. Contracts under Obi are generally not advertised and are usually arbitrarily awarded. This ongoing convention centre was one of the few advertised and tenders received from companies all over Nigeria. After the pre-qualification and opening of the financial and technical bids, Costain won the bid and was invited by the Anambra State Ministry of Commerce to collect the award letter.  Before that could be done, Obi unilaterally awarded the contract to another company. Serious companies avoid Anambra State resulting in the poor quality of work seen in the projects undertaken by Obi’s government.

Governor Obi has announced two years to the end of his tenure that he will build a new Governor’s Lodge and Governor’s Office before he hands over in March 2014. Informed citizens are asking him not to bother.  Since he has lived in a temporary governor’s lodge and operated from a temporary governor’s office for six years there’s no hurry.

Lest I forget, three years ago when people complained about the lack of development in the State, Governor Obi announced to Anambra people that he was developing a base map for Awka, Onitsha and Nnewi with a United Nations group, Habitat in order to have orderly development. Great idea! Three years after, can someone please ask the Governor the status of the ‘base map’?

Hon. Chudi Offodile is a Lawyer and former member of the House of Representatives who served between 1999-2006 representing Awka North/Awka South Federal Constituency, Anambra State. He was also Chairman of the Public Petitions Committee of the House of Representatives.

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