In Abuja for the National Economic Council meeting, Governor Peter Obi of Anambra State fielded questions from some editors including LEARDERSHIP SUNDAY’s LOUIS ACHI. He shared insights into the rumbles in the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), the philosophy powering his development agenda, his regular visits to Abuja, post-governorship plans and more
You frequent Abuja these days more than you did in the past.What gives?
I am in Abuja specifically for National Economic Council Meeting and other committee meetings. But usually, whenever I am in Abuja for scheduled meetings, I try to take the opportunity to engage a few other things that could add value to my trip. That probably explains my high presence in Abuja.
Can you elaborate?
Though I am here to attend the National Economic Council Meeting, I have also attended other meetings. This morning I was at the World Bank to discuss issues beneficial to my State; and I must tell you, the meeting was good.
Some are alleging your membership of different Committees is more of a distraction?
Not at all; they should be seen as opportunities to serve one’s country and humanity. As you may be aware, I belong to many federal and NEC Committees. In fact, I have just been appointed member of Committee on Mass Transit.
I have this attitude of trying to attend all the meetings called by these committees as my contribution towards improving the state of things in our country.
As a member of these Committees I recognize the sanctity of our oneness as a country; I look at the position of the South -East in the national equation, and I seek the advancement of Anambra State.
Why is still that some feel that the frequency of your being in Abuja is affecting work at home?
It is ignorance and naivety at work. I am not in Abuja to frolic, I am always there for business and once I am through, I am back home.
Some of our people are unpredictable. When you follow route A, they will say “Ahaa, why not route B.” Before now, Anambra State was a pariah state in Nigeria. A particular Governor of the state could not even see the President of the country.
Today, we are changing all that; Anambra has ceased to be a pariah State. We strive so hard to restore peace and unity to the state. This has attracted a lot of goodwill which comes in various shades.
Through our efforts, our people now get involved in roles that enhance the state in one way or the other. At my age and with my exposure, do you think travelling thrills me? I only travel when it would add value to what I do, and my major interest today is ensuring that the state is founded on sustainable grounds.
The last time the Inspector General of Police visited Anambra State, he made it clear that whenever I am in Abuja I visit him on security matters affecting the state. Organizations in Abuja that have the capacity to assist us will tell you the same story. Any trip I make outside the state is normally driven by the state’s interest.
You seem to be passionate about Anambra achieving the Millennium Development Goals by the year 2015. How much of that dream have you achieved?
We strive to remain on track. Very soon I shall swear-in a new set of Commissioners (they have already been sworn-in) to help us in the pursuit of our vision of attaining the MDGs by the year 2015. It is not an easy task but we are totally committed to it.
As I have tried to explain, all we have done is adopt the MDG goals as our vision and the Anambra State Integrated Development Strategy, (ANIDS) as a vehicle to reach that.
ANIDS helps us to plan properly, budget properly and execute our plans while receiving adequate feedback from the people. Through ANIDS, we are working on all sectors simultaneously. There is no sector you will mention to me I will not tell you what we are doing.
Talking about budget; that brings us to what El-Rufai said about Anambra budget being that of misplaced priorities…
Quite unusual of me, I have taken time to educate him on the back page of Thisday of Jan. 15, 2012 on what we are doing with our budget. I do not intend to comment on that again.
We are not asking you to comment, but for example, he said Anambra under budgeted on health. Is it true?
Let us look at it this way - before I became governor, Anambra State did not have any accredited hospital or health institution. Today, Onitsha General Hospital and Amaku Teaching Hospital are accredited. Many health institutions such as School of Nursing and Midwifery, Nkpor; School of Health Technology, Obosi are now accredited.
Many health institutions owned by the Churches that lost accreditation are now accredited because of our support. We have renovated 15 of the General Hospitals in the state and have even built new ones such as Anyamelum General Hospital, Anaku and Umueri General Hospitals.
We built new structures at Umunze Cottage Hospital. As I speak, we are building 10 hostels at the cost of 60 million Naira each in 10 chosen missionary hospitals.
A few weeks ago, the new Teaching Hospital and College of Medicine built from the scratch by our government gained accreditation.
In that hospital, we built over 20 new structures such as Consultants’ Clinics, General Out Patients’ Department building, House Officers’ Quarters, laboratory, Pharmacology/Emergency building, Mortuary/Pathology building, College of Medicine building, Laundry building, Catering building; Male, Female, Children and Special Wards among many others.
In your own calculation, would a sector where we have done all these be said to suffer from under budgeting? The issue is that we have a lot of development partners who offer us assistance that are not captured in the budget.
Following el-Rufai’s criticism of Anambra budget, Chudi Ofodile, an Anambra indigene alleged you only complete projects started by others; that you should not, as a governor engage in immunization or visit schools. He further questioned the ownership structure of the brewery that SABMilleris building in Anambra State…
You have seen the reason I wanted to refrain from answering. You and I know that immunization is the aspect of medical health care taken most serious in all parts of the world. Today Bill Gates is committing billions of dollars and time to that, and somebody said a governor should not concern himself with immunization.
Let us even apply elementary logic. As a person, would you want to devote time on immunization against polio that will protect you from the disease or would you disregard it and strive to cure its actual infection? What the man is telling us is to disregard immunization and face the real disease. It is tragic and unfortunate.
As to a governor visiting schools, I am currently drawing up a programme that will enable me visit all the schools in Anambra State before I leave. I do not blame him; in the past, people were concerned with visiting godfathers and all of that that the likes of Offodile now think it is the right thing to do. I liken it to Plato’s myth of the Cave.
When some people were put in a cave where they were lucky to see shadow pass by now and then, and being accustomed to the cave, they mistook the shadow for reality. When they eventually came out of the cave, they were confused by the true light.
Anambra people of Offodile’s conviction were so accustomed to paying homage to godfathers that visiting small children in schools become trifles. You pity such people, because that is what they require.
On the SABMiller matter - I say it at every forum that my government has invested over 12 billion Naira for Anambra State in different businesses and SABMiller, where we invested 2 billion Naira is one of them.
You can see how crooked some people think, the 10% Anambra is holding in that corporation means nothing to him. The over 1000 direct and indirect jobs it will create is certainly not known to him.
His headache is to know other people that invested in the company. Today, Anambra has also invested over N4 billion in Orient Petroleum and it is going on very well. The same people, rather that encourage the government for doing this, will only say the project was not conceived by me.
Today, I complete projects abandoned in the past. There is one building in Onitsha, Ministry of Justice Building; it was started by the army, abandoned and used as refuse dump. I recovered it, completed it and it is put into use now. I completed ASUBEB building, SEMA building, among others.
But should this blind somebody from recognizing that I did the Secretariat, Teaching Hospital, Customary Court of Appeal, Five Classroom blocks in each town, including his own, among many other projects from the scratch?
Can you compare Anambra as it then was and how it is now?
You, the media should be doing the comparison, not me. Nobody is a judge in his own case. But in comparing, bear in mind you are talking about a state that used to have 3 hotels, but now has over 30. We are talking about a state where bank branches and businesses have tripled since I became governor.
Indeed, Anambra is now experiencing peace from the jungle it used to be. Today, dead industries are being resuscitated and new ones coming up.One can go on and on.
All is not well with your party, APGA. Some say it is the issue of who will succeed you that is driving the crisis. How true is that?
I am in love with Thomas Santayana’s saying that those who forget the past are condemned to repeat it. How many people who imposed their candidate are happy with the turn of events? I am the last person to try to impose any candidate on the people of Anambra State. Having said this, the question of succession should not be the issue.
My prayer every day is for God to raise among the people of the State somebody who will be better than myself in the management of men and resources to take over from me.The way Anambra is today, I am sure they will, on their own, resist any move to impose anybody on them.
What efforts are you making to control the problem in APGA?
APGA has no problem. I have maintained that any organization manned by man, has its own imperfections. What you see is the manifestation of those imperfections.
What we try to do is to ask our members not to allow APGA go under because of it; and we are confident it will not. Other parties in Nigeria also have their own imperfections.
With less than two years to go, after this job, what next?
I have a business I was doing before I became governor, I will go back to it. One of the reasons people do all sort of things to remain in political offices is because of this faulty notion of taking politics as a job.
Politics should actually be a vocation. Those who take it as a job are concerned less with transformation. When this phase is done, I would have done my part and so I will go back to my family and business.