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USAfrica: Obiano’s phenomenal year of 2016 achievements

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Special to USAfrica multimedia networks (Houston) and USAfricaonline.com • @USAfricaLive

By James Eze

For Governor Willie Obiano of Anambra State, the New Year arrived with a memorable gift. A few hours into 2017, Senator Ben Bruce, founder of the famous Silverbird media franchise announced with a tweet that Governor Obiano had emerged winner of the Silverbird Man of the Year 2016. A perfect start to a very important year in his political career, it is doubtful if Governor Obiano could have hoped for a better start to a defining year. But it also firmly placed a golden seal on what had been an out-gone phenomenal year for him.

Well, we all know that 2016 was a difficult year for Nigeria. Not only did the economy slump into the abyss after thrashing around in the grips of falling oil prices but Nigeria waddled through a maze of heated rhetoric and bouts of finger-pointing into avoidable spams of blood and gore. And as though seized by manic schizophrenia, Nigerians shouted themselves hoarse at every turn of events – a people once described as among the happiest on the planet now reduced to a terribly shaken lot, groping for a foothold that “change” had wrenched away.

But as it turned out, however, in the midst of the gloom and doom, hope rose in incandescent glory in the unlikely places. In Anambra Sate, the narrative is redolent with hope. In Lagos and Kebbi State, new grounds were broken. But in Anambra in particular, leadership rose with the full weight of history to restore the people’s belief in the government to think for the society as a whole.

Indeed, it is interesting to recall that when the year began, most people seemed carried away by the euphoria of the change of guards in Aso Rock and the melange of promises that came with it. But Anambra State was largely out of the bubble. Governor Obiano had since figured out that even with the emergence of a new helmsman at the centre, the specter of economic depression that had since set in with crashing oil prices would take a water-tight economic management to halt. So, he quickly organized a strategic retreat for his cabinet where intensive scenario planning was carried out. This was followed up by another retreat which attracted some of the finest brains in financial and management consultancy in the country. The result is a tightly knitted administrative model that offered enough elbowroom to government to meet its obligations in the direst of times. And so, in a decidedly difficult year when other states doubted the wisdom of their own existence, Anambra was paying regular salaries to workers as well as leave allowances and other entitlements.

But what seems rather fascinating about it all is that Obiano did not allow the honour conferred on him as The Sun Governor of the Year which came rather early in the year, obfuscate his vision or slow down his thinking. And when they gave him the Zik Prize for Good Governance in the middle of the year, he took it all in his stride and kept an eye on the ball. He was also honoured with a Certificate of Recognition by the Institute for Housing and Urban Development of the Erasmus University, Rotterdam in the Netherlands in August. But he didn’t let it get into his head. He stood his ground and masterfully completed six bridges in two and half years, maintained a chokehold on the security situation in the state to ensure that Anambra remained crime-free and successfully held two important town hall meetings in Abuja and Port Harcourt to bring Ndi Anambra who were resident in the two locations up to speed with his giant strides at home. Stakeholder engagement is crucial to democracy!

Nevertheless, Obiano’s final test of competence as a manager of human and material resources finally came when Nigeria recorded two successive negative growths and slipped into a recession. Interestingly, if the historic admission by the Minister of Finance, Kemi Adeosun that the economy had slid into recession drove jitters into the spine of his contemporaries, it had the exact opposite effect on Obiano. No sooner had the situation become clearer than he had rolled out a well thought-out Economic Stimulus Package that would serve as a realistic antidote to the debilitating effects of the recession on his people. Obiano was the first governor to react to the economic slump; rolling out measures that would mitigate the biting pangs of recession on the weak and the vulnerable and stepping up to re-assure the industrialists in Nnewi and Onitsha that they would not be swept away by the gale.

A direct result of Obiano’s intervention in the harrowing pains of the recession was the removal of taxes and levies, increased support to SMEs, social intervention for low income households and involvement in massive construction projects that would create jobs for the unskilled labour force. His revolutionary bottom-up development initiative which allows every community in the state to choose a project valued at N20m that the state would execute is also part of this response. It serves two useful purposes at the same time. It ensures that no community in Anambra State is left out of the government’s development web and next, it places immediate cash in the hands of the rural folks and low income groups who supply the labour needed for the construction of the projects. It is a tightly conceived initiative that leaves no room for waste.

Again, in pursuit of his assurances to manufacturers in the state, governor Obiano took the bold path and formally presented the plight of the state’s industrial community to the presidency. It was in response to this appeal that Vice President Yemi Osibanjo visited the Nnewi and Onitsha industrial clusters and offered further assurances as well as palliative measures. Incidentally, before Osibanjo’s visit, the Minister of Agriculture, Chief Audu Ogbe and the governor of the CBN, Mr. Godwin Emefiele had both visited the agricultural belt in the state to see the rice farms in Anaku and Ifite Ogwari. The CBN governor was so impressed with the mechanized farm in Anaku that he announced that the apex bank would release the sum of N3bn to Anambra to boost the state’s efforts in blazing new trails of excellence in manufacturing and agro-allied industries. There have been other visits by key ministers and important senate committees as well. Babatunde Raji Fashola, the Minister for Power, Works and Housing has come to inspect the 2nd Niger Bridge project, the Zik Mausoleum and the decrepit Umunya sector of the Onitsha-Enugu Express Way. The Senate Committee on Works, led by Senator Kabiru Gaya has also toured federal roads in the state and offered assurances and just the other day, Governor Obiano handed over the necessary documentation on the 80 hectares of land designated for the development of an automotive industrial park in the state to Dr. Okechukwu Enalama, the Minister for Industry, Trade and Investment. The building of an automotive industrial park is a farsighted initiative that will lend deep roots to the on-going efforts to sustain the manufacturing of automobiles and auto spare parts in Anambra State.

However, beyond the brass task of laying the foundation for future prosperity, Governor Obiano also stepped up to give Anambra a serious face-lift in the out-gone year. Awka may well be Nigeria’s new city of light with modern street lights twinkling a thousand luminous sparkles in a mild rebuke of the persistent darkness at night. Code-named Operation Light-up Anambra, the street-lighting project that is crisscrossing the state, from Awka to Onitsha, Nnewi and other towns gave Christmas holiday makers something to cheer about during this yuletide season.

And as has been attested to by many people, this year witnessed the highest number of Christmas holiday makers in Anambra State in the past two decades. Thousands of Ndi Anambra who had heard of the wind of change at home felt safe enough, elated enough and hopeful enough to come home for a grand reunion with family and friends in the truest tradition of Christmas. These folks defied the pangs of recession to come home in their numbers and successfully turned the whole state into one huge carnival with a colourful celebration across the length and breadth of the state.

And this perhaps is possibly why for Governor Willie Obiano, 2016 was indeed a phenomenal year!


ANAMBRA HONOURS ITS HERITAGE ICONS, HIGH-ACHIEVERS AND BUSINESS TITANS ON DECEMBER 16; Chimamanda Adichie, Mikel Obi, Chido Nwangwu get Ambassador of Excellence award

[embedyt] http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=68DP3rtPS0c[/embedyt]
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World SOCCER SHOWDOWN: South Africa backs Morocco; U.S under pressure

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Special to USAfrica [Houston]  • USAfricaonline.com  •  @Chido247  @USAfricalive

“It is an old myth that Africa doesn’t have the capacity, and naysayers should stop using the political argument. Africa hosted the best Fifa World Cup ever and with good support, Morocco can emulate South Africa,” said the SAFA president Jordaan.

Johannesburg – South Africa Football Association (SAFA) president Danny Jordaan has promised Morocco that South Africa will give its unqualified support to secure another World Cup on the African continent in 2026.

Morocco is vying to stage the world’s biggest football prize against a joint bid by Canada, Mexico and the U.S.

The Moroccan delegation comprises ex-Senegal and Liverpool striker El Hadji Diouf and former Cameroonian goalkeeper Joseph-Antoine Bell.

Jordaan said it would be great for Africa to have a second bite of the World Cup cherry, adding Morocco’s bid was Africa’s bid.

Jordaan assured Morocco that he would personally lobby for the Council for Southern Africa Football Associations (Cosafa) and the rest of the continent to rally behind the Moroccans.

In his remarks, Antoine Bell said Morocco had all the ingredients to host another spectacular World Cup.

“South Africa showed the way and I am confident Morocco will follow suit. The country has international standards, from the stadiums to top infrastructure. Morocco can compete with the best in the world,” he said.

By giving Morocco its support, South Africa’s voice would make all the difference on the continent, Bell said.

“When South Africa talks on the continent, the rest of the continent listens hence it is vital for South Africa to support Morocco. South Africa has the experience and Morocco will use this experience to win the 2016 bid,” added Bell. African News Agency

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BUSINESS

USAfrica: Nigeria’s embattled President Buhari returns to London

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Nigeria’s embattled President Buhari returns to London

Special to USAfrica [Houston] • USAfricaonline.com  • @Chido247

In a few hours, Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari will travel to Britain from Abuja on Monday April 9, 2017. According to a news release Sunday evening by presidential spokesperson, Garba Shehu, Buhari who has been facing severe criticism on his performance since May 2015 will “hold discussions on Nigeria – British relations with Prime Minister Theresa May, prior to the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meetings scheduled for April 18 to 20.”

Since Buhari became civilian President, his first trip to Britain for medical treatment, according to USAfrica News Index, took place from January to March, 2017. Soon, following the clear evidence of the challenges he had regarding his health, he made his longest and most talked about trip when he left Nigeria back to London on May 7, 2017 and returned to an apprehensive nation on August 19, 2017. He is 77 years old
The likely issue of his meeting with his doctors concerning his yet, officially, undisclosed health challenges was not mentioned by his spokesperson.

On another business matter, the former army General will meet the Chief Executive Officer of Royal Dutch Plc, Mr. Ben van Beurden regarding “Shell and other partners’ plan to invest $15 billion in Nigeria’s oil industry. These investment ventures will lay the foundation for the next 20 years production and domestic gas supply, bringing with it all the attendant benefits both to the economy and the wider society.”

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BUSINESS

BrkNEWS: U.S government, technically, shuts down as 4 Republican Senators vote against Trump

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Donald-Trump-getty-USAfrica

Washington DC (AP) — The U.S federal government shut down at the stroke of midnight Friday, halting all but the most essential operations and marring the one-year anniversary of President Donald Trump’s inauguration in a striking display of Washington dysfunction.

Last-minute negotiations crumbled as Senate Democrats blocked a four-week stopgap extension in a late-night vote, causing the fourth government shutdown in a quarter century. Behind the scenes, however, leading Republicans and Democrats were already moving toward a next step, trying to work out a compromise to avert a lengthy shutdown.

Since the shutdown began at the start of a weekend, many of the immediate effects will be muted for most Americans. But any damage could build quickly if the closure is prolonged. And it comes with no shortage of embarrassment for the president and political risk for both parties, as they wager that voters will punish the other at the ballot box in November.

Social Security and most other safety net programs are unaffected by the lapse in federal spending authority. Critical government functions will continue, with uniformed service members, health inspectors and law enforcement officers set to work without pay. But if no deal is brokered before Monday, hundreds of thousands of federal employees will be furloughed.

White House budget director Mick Mulvaney wasn’t optimistic Friday evening about the chances of Democrats and Republicans reaching a deal on a spending bill before midnight. Still, he said there’s a “good chance” they find a solution by Monday.

After hours of closed-door meetings and phone calls, the Senate scheduled its late-night vote on a House-passed plan. It gained 50 votes to proceed to 49 against, but 60 were needed to break a Democratic filibuster. A handful of red-state Democrats crossed the aisle to support the measure, rather than take a politically risky vote. Four Republicans voted in opposition.

In an unusual move, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell allowed the roll call to exceed 90 minutes — instead of the usual 20 or so — and run past midnight, seemingly accommodating the numerous discussions among leaders and other lawmakers. Still as midnight passed and the calendar turned, there was no obvious off-ramp to the political stalemate.

Even before the vote, Trump was pessimistic, tweeting that Democrats actually wanted the shutdown “to help diminish the success” of the tax bill he and fellow Republicans pushed through last month. White House press secretary Sarah Sanders later termed the Democrats “obstructionist losers.”

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