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Anambra Oni Baje!

By Uche Nworah (     Published  June 1st, 2009

I owe the title of this piece to Okechukwu Obinwa (Ayola), a classmate at C.I.C Enugu who responded to an entry I made in my Facebook status with the ‘Anambra Oni Baje’ expression. I had jokingly suggested that since Governor Raji Fashola of Lagos state was kind enough to accommodate our brother Ben Akabueze in his cabinet as a commissioner, Anambra people should reciprocate such kindness and ‘borrow’ Governor Fashola as governor in 2010. Though this was meant as a joke, however, the seriousness of the suggestion and the desperateness of the Anambra situation were not lost on many who commented in the Facebook thread. One commentator, Dafe Ivwurie I think it was, wondered if Lagosians will be willing to ‘release’ their hardworking governor for such a rescue mission and went ahead to request that Fashola come to Delta, his home state instead.

It is not difficult to see why Ndi Anambra and others would not mind having a Fashola as governor in Anambra state or in their states. As Ndigbo would say, it is difficult to conceal pregnancy. Majority who commented live in Lagos and are familiar with the efforts of the current administration to create a mega city from a city that was almost grinding to a halt due to decaying infrastructure. Today, there is a new sense of direction and renewed hope in Lagos state. In slightly over two years, Governor Fashola has demonstrated that once there is a will there is a way, as shown by his multi-pronged approach to tackling the issues that Lagosians hold dear to heart such as roads, housing, education, environment, transport etc. These attempts to make Lagos a good place to work, live and play have been hailed by various people and organisations including other state governors who openly confess that Fashola is the best performing governor in Nigeria. A possible candidate for President in 2011 then? Maybe.

A favourite school address for Nigerian public officials is Oxford or Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government which is reputed to be one of the best in the world in terms of teaching, plus the added social and professional networking opportunities for the students. Nuhu Ribadu, ex-corruption Czar and EFCC Chieftain is currently enrolled at Oxford while Nasir El-Rufai, former FCT Minister is pursuing graduate studies at the Kennedy school. Knowing the Oxford and Harvard traditions, one could safely assume that such high quality education does not come cheap meaning that every year, millions of dollars leave the Nigerian economy as tuition fees for public officials wishing to acquire new skills and knowledge in governance.

In an era where adopting global best practices is most desirable, there may be nothing wrong with Nigerian public officials going to Harvard and other top universities to update their skills. This is because of the enriched experiences they may bring back having worked on simulation projects with peers from other countries. However, where the problem may lie is in the outcome of such intellectual pursuits. To what extent are the officials able and willing to practice what they have learnt when they return? Does the system even allow them to put the newly acquired knowledge and skill to best use? Will the opportunities present themselves for the Harvard returnees to take this country forward sector by sector by applying the various models and theories they may have learnt?

Other state governors that have been mentioned as doing well in their respective states are Governors Sullivan Chime of Enugu state, Chibuike Amaechi of Rivers state and Godswill Akpabio of Akwa Ibom state. Those who have visited these states attest to the rekindling of good governance spirit evidenced by the level of planning in the projects being embarked upon by the respective state governors. In Enugu state, Governor Sullivan Chime who shies away from publicity choosing instead to let his government’s good works speak for him has changed the face of Enugu, the capital city through his many infrastructural projects. It is surprising that all these could be achieved in just less than two years with another two years left from his 4-year mandate. Now Enugu citizens are happy again and singing Chime’s praises even as they look forward to his promise to do more in all the local government areas.

Lagos is another example, arguably one of Nigeria’s most complex states to govern but Governor Raji Fashola does not give the impression of a man who could be fazed by daunting challenges. In under two years, he has shown that government can actually be made to work for the citizens. The level of civil and infrastructural works going on in Lagos at the moment is unprecedented, all aimed at improving the quality of life of people living in Lagos. Through some agencies such as LASTMA and LASAA, the Lagos state government is changing the way people behave as Lagosians now say that the fear of LASTMA is the beginning of wisdom.

While other state governments are complaining about dwindling fortunes as a result of the fall in federal allocation, the Lagos state government has through a re-engineered tax system been able to generate the revenue it needs to execute its many projects. It has also set up a PPP office thus ensuring that priority projects are concessioned in the best interest of the tax payers.

Fashola may not be coming to Anambra state as governor in 2010 but it will not be out of place to expect some of the cowboys and hopefuls for the Anambra state governor’s seat including the incumbent, Mr. Peter Obi to undertake a one-week internship at Lagos state government house, Alausa - Ikeja for some basic and rudimentary lessons in governance. Other state governors and political aspirants are also welcome. I am sure Governor Fashola will oblige them on pro bono basis. This is more practical and cheaper than going to Harvard or Oxford. The tried and tested successful model of governance by The Fashola School of Government could also be adopted and taught in Nigerian universities, at NIPPS, Kuru – Jos, CMD Shangisha and LBS.

As they say in Lagos, Eko Oni Baje (Lagos will not spoil), Ndi Anambra are also saying Anambra Oni Baje (Anambra will not spoil).

May it be well with Nigeria, and with Anambra state. Ise!

Nworah is the author of Nigeria Confidential. 

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