By Clifford Ndujihe
ALTHOUGH old Anambra, as a state, was created in 1976 from the then East Central State by General Murtala Mohammed, the current geographical area known as Anambra State was created on August 27, 1991 by the General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida military regime. The state retained the name ‘Anambra’ but lost the somewhat developed Enugu capital city to Enugu State. Awka became its new capital.
Thus, Anambra otherwise known as “The Light of The Nation” began its journey into statehood as a rural state.
Anambra is rich in natural gas, crude oil, bauxite, ceramics and almost 100 percent arable soil but most of its natural resources for a long time remained largely untapped. With the avalanche of human and natural resources, Anambra began on a promising note but not without hitches.
In the early days of the state, someone driving along the Enugu-Onitsha Express-way could pass Awka, the state capital and enter Enugu State without knowing he had exited Anambra State. Apart from the rusty Awka temporary site of the then Anambra State University of Science and Technology, ASUTECH, there were little or no landmark developments. There was no stadium or a good event centre. There were few tarred roads. The state was full of wealthy and prominent individuals but poor as a corporate entity.
Transformation into a viable state
However, 25 years after, Anambra has emerged from the status of a rural state to one of the 10 best states in the country. Apart from the Onitsha fly-over, three other fly-over highways have been built in the last two years. Many health institutions have been built. Now, Anambra is among the few viable states in Nigeria coping with the debilitating economic downturn in terms of internally generated revenue. In this league are Lagos State with N268.22bn IGR in 2015, Riivers State (N82.10bn), Delta State (N40.80bn), Ogun State (N34.59bn), Edo state (N19.11bn), Enugu (N18.08bn), Oyo (N15.66 bn), Anambra (N14.793bn), Akwa Ibom (N14.791bn) and Kano (N13.611bn).
Anambra has the lowest poverty rate in the country and in the last 10 years has been among the top five states in terms of number of students taking school certificate and university entry examinations.
Navy Captain Joseph Abulu, the first military administrator, nursed the baby state for five months at the beginning. He, it was, who, renamed ASUTECH as Nnamdi Azikiwe University before it was made a federal institution. He handed over to the first civilian governor, Dr Chukwuemeka Ezeife, who was in the saddle between January 1992 to November 1993 when the late General Sani Abacha took over the rulership of the country and aborted the fledgling Third Republic. Thereafter, a number of military administrators were in the saddle, namely, Dabo Aliyu, Mike Attah, Rufai and Emmanuel Ukaegbu, who handed over to Dr Chinwoke Mbadinuju on May 29, 1999 at the dawn of the Fourth Republic when civil rule returned.
However, the state’s growth remained stunted on account of neglect and bad governance, worsened by the menace of godfatherism, which en-snarled and shackled the Mbadinuju administration.
Freedom at last
Anambra started seeing a ray of light at the end of the dark tunnel during the Dr Chris Ngige three-year administration. First, he had to disentangle himself from the murderous hold of godfathers, who held the state at the economic jugular. But it was not easy. In the political melee, Ngige became the first governor to be abducted in Nigeria after he failed to honour agreements with his godfathers, who catapulted him to power.
The scenario made observers to wonder how a state that produced the likes of Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe, Dr. Alex Ifeanyichukwu Ekwueme Chief Louis Odumegwu Ojukwu, Chief Nwafor Orizu, Dim Chukwue, Dr Chuba Okadigbo, Professor Chinua Achebe, Blessed Cyprian Michael Iwene Tansi, Chief Emeka Anyaoku, Professor Humphrey Nwobu Nwosu, Professor Kenneth Dike, Professor Ben Enwonwu, Dr. Pius Okigbo, Chief Jerome Udoji, Professor Dora Akunyili, Cardinal Francis Arinze, Cyprian Ekwensi, Philip Emeagwali, Prof Chike Obi, Chief Osita Osadebe and Professor Charles Chukwuma Soludo among others, could descend so low in terms of governance and development.
The tide was to change. After Ngige ditched his godfathers, he channelled the humongous funds that would have been used to ‘service’ godfathers to developmental projects especially roads, which opened up many parts of the state especially in Anambra Central.
When Ngige’s election was annulled in 2006, Mr Peter Obi, who took over from him, continued all the projects started by Ngige and concluded them. He also embarked on numerous projects of his own on roads, healthcare, education, industrialisation; provision of social amenities and empowerment of the citizenry.
He paid the backlog of salaries and pension arrears owed workers and pensioners in the state. By the time he was leaving office in 2014, Obi had made Anambra oil producing state, attracted a host of industries to the state, created positive outlook for the state’s finances and saved a lot of money, which he handed over to his successor, Chief Willie Obiano.
To address the problems arising from rapid urbanisation Governor Obi, with the assistance of the UN-HABITAT produced a 20-year structural plan (2009–2028) for three major cities in the state, Onitsha, Nnewi and Awka Capital Territory to restore urban planning and guide their growth into the future.
The plans contain policies and proposals for land use, city beautification, road infrastructure, industrial development, housing, waste disposal, water supply, health and educational facilities to turn the cities in Anambra into successful urban areas to generate employment, wealth and provide high living standards for residents.
Obiano’s rapid approach
Like his two immediate predecessors, Chief Obiano is also in a hurry to take Anambra to the next level. In two years, he has built massively on the foundation laid by his predecessors.
Over the last two decades the rural/urban exodus has caused a shift, making Anambra a highly urbanized state With 62 per cent of Anambra population living in urban areas, Obiano continued with measures to meet the attendant socio-economic and environmental needs of the state.. In October 2015, he signed a memorandum of understanding with Galway modular housing company, Affordable Building Concepts International for 10,000 housing units in the State.
Arguably, Anambra has the best intra-city and intra-town road networks in the country.
On assumption of office, Governor Obiano made agriculture his main trust; about two months into the life of his administration, he launched the Agricultural Revolution in Nteje, Oyi Local Government Area. The action has made Anambra State to become an exporter of farm produce to Europe.
The state has also flooded the market with a wholly indigenous brand of rice known as Anambra Rice which is competing favourably with other brands in the market.
So far, the state government has attracted $150m from Coscharis Farms Project in Anaku, $50m from NOVTEC Farms Ltd in Ndikelionwu, $160m from Joseph Agro Ltd rice project in Omor, $220m from Ekcel Farms tomato production farm in Omasi and $50m from the Songhai/Delfarms integrated organic farm project in Igbariam. There are also Grains & Silos with $40m investment in storage facilities, Lynden Farms with the $61m poultry farm in Igbariam and Tricity Integrated Farms with $11.4m ultra-modern abattoir in Awka.
Among others, Governor Obiano said his objective is to have a fully developed Oil and Gas sector by 2018 in Anambra State and he intends to achieve this through three broad areas of intervention – policy formulation and infrastructure development, private sector participation and community re-orientation.