The Man Willie Obiano

Willie Obiano, a retired banker and APGA candidate, sprints into the November 16, governorship race as a dark horse. Can he also spring a surprise?

|  By Maureen Chigbo  |  Oct. 28, 2013 @ 01:00 GMT

THE November 16, governorship election in Anambra State is not a race for the faint hearted. It is a race most of the contestants are tightening their girdles and adorning breastplates like soldiers going to a war front. The candidates who have emerged on the platform of all the political parties in the race are more than 20. But the prominent ones are candidates of four political parties namely, the All Progressives Grand Alliance, APGA, the All Progressives Congress, APC, The Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, and the Labour Party. All the candidates who have been cleared by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, are already mounting a hot campaign to sensitise the electorate that they are the best suited for the job.

On the platform of APGA is Willie Obiano, apparently the dark horse in the political firmament of Anambra State for now. Obiano will be the first to admit that he is not the real Nigerian brand of politician. And he has many reasons to say so even though he is already learning the hard lessons politicians who aim at success in the political game do as soon as the enter into the murky water of politics. First, he knows that being a thoroughbred professional, which he is, is not the same as being a thoroughbred politician. The kind of temperament one displays which augurs well in the world of bureaucrats and technocrats will not necessarily work out in the political circle where he will have to contend with all manner of people especially the die-hard media professionals who might unsettle him with their probing questions.

But his years of experience as in the oil and gas and banking sectors as well as his geniality will also come in handy in helping him to deflect political missiles that will come his way either from his fellow political gladiators or from the media. Obiano is coming into the Anambra uncharted political waters where the stormy waves could easily capsize his political boat well-heeled in board room politics where he must have learnt the nuances of survival. His experience as a distinguished banker and technocrat, a seasoned and proven public policy leader on economic development, financial accountability and human resource development are all the attributes that will help him steer the affairs of Anambra state if he survives the odds (basically inexperience in politics) against him to win the November 16, governorship election.

Obiano’s game plan is anchored on continuity. That is, continuing from where Anambra State Governor Peter Obi stopped. As stated in his manifesto: “Let us continue to plant the trees that will give shade to our children and our future”. Obiano says that he is “passionate, very enthusiastic and will continue the programmes of the present administration to transform our state to occupy its rightful place in Nigeria and Africa.”

Obiano, who rose to become the number two man in Fidelity Bank Plc, where Obi used to be chairman before he became governor, retired in 2012 after 23 years of meritorious service to the financial industry in Nigeria. His vision is to make Anambra State the first choice investment destination and a hub for industrialisation and commercial activities. His mission statement is to create a socially-stable and business-friendly environment that will attract indigenes of Anambra, Nigerians and foreigners to seek wealth creating opportunities in Anambra State.

According to Obiano, “Building on the enviable foundation laid by Governor Obi, continuity will be the guiding strategy and theme of my administration. The importance of ‘Continuity’ is evident both at home and abroad as government and private institutions who have adopted a similar theme have benefitted immensely. I also intend to adopt the State’s current strategy, christened: Anambra Integrated Development Strategy, ANIDS. Today, ANIDS is and shall continue to be the driving force behind the rapid development taking place across all sectors. In the first 12 months of my administration, we will work tirelessly to continue, complete and commission (3Cs) all on-going projects across various sectors in the state.” Obiano’s manifesto states that the 3Cs will have impact on various sectors such as education, works and infrastructure, health, public utilities, environment, lands planning and housing, investments and job creation among others. Obiano’s continuity agenda could be a double-edged sword. While it may appeal to pro-Obi voters, it might set him against those who do not like the governor’s way of governing Anambra State, especially his later day propensity to dispense funds to various churches instead of using such fund to advance development in the state.

The APGA candidate may also have to contend with people, who think that Obi is bringing divisiveness in Anambra politics which has not been there hitherto. For instance, it was Obi who introduced the idea that Anambra North should produce the next governorship candidate in the state. Those who are opposed to the idea cite the fact that Anambra North has never lacked people who are well endowed in human intellect and knowhow. They readily cite the example of Nnamdi Azikwe, late first president of Nigeria, who governed the Eastern region for eight years. They equally state that the likes of Senator Joy Emordi, a one-time governorship aspirant and late Senate President Chuba Okadigbo, to mention a few, were all from Anambra North. But the fact remains that since the new Anambra state was created, nobody from Anambra North has won an election to be the governor certainly not because they are not capable but, may be because Anambra people as a whole do not find the candidates appealing enough to vote them in as governor of the state. Obiano is also seen as the Obi’s hand-picked anointed son who will shield him from any malfeasance he might have committed while in office.

If Obiano provides polished answers to defray these nuggets, he may have to contend with the issue of money which is very fundamental in Anambra politics. But Obiano, who holds a B.Sc. (Second Class Upper) in Accounting and an MBA in Marketing from the University of Lagos, is not fighting shy. He told editors in Lagos, in September that he could not have retired as the number two man without having a nest of fund. Obiano, who is a fellow of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria, ICAN, equally confirmed to Realnews that he has a financial war chest with which to prosecute his political battle and win the governorship election.

The APGA candidate, who started his banking career as an officer in First Bank in 1981 from where he moved to Texaco Nigeria Plc, as a lead accountant specialising in Bunkering, Lube-blending and refinery audits, rose to become the chief internal auditor in Texaco (Worldwide). He has attended numerous management programmes all over the world, including Havard University, Boston, USA, Pan African University, Nigeria, and Stanford Graduate School USA. He has won many awards and commendations including the USAfrica Best of Africa Distinguished Banker of the year 2012 Award and Best Youth Corper Award during his National Youth Service (1979/80) and was conferred with chieftaincy titles by his hometown, Aguleri, for his selfless service to the community. He has also been involved in other humanitarian activities. However, only time will tell if Obiano’s financial war-chest, accolades and achievements will propel him to victory in his current political adventure.

Anambra Needs Continuity of Government – Obiano

Willie Maduabuchi Obiano, gubernatorial candidate of the All progressives Grand Alliance, APGA, in an interview with Maureen Chigbo, editor, Realnews magazine speaks on why he wants to occupy the number one position in Anambra State and why he thinks he is the best suited candidate for the job Excerpts:

ObianoRealnews: You had worked as a banker for 23 years before retiring in 2012. Could you tell us about yourself and why you want to go into politics now?
Obiano: I am sure you know my background from so many years in the banking industry and other areas. I have my first degree and second degree in Accounting and Marketing from University of Lagos. I am a chartered accountant and have a cumulative experience of over 30 years in two different segments of the economy. I was executive director for nine years at Fidelity Bank among other places I had worked. That’s my background.

Realnews: Why did enter politics which many view as a dirty game. Are you prepared for the mudslinging that must surely come?
Obiano: This mudslinging is what has kept very good hands from going into politics. And people like us are not afraid of mudslinging. But the truth is in Anambra State where I am trying to run, the incumbent governor has done a great work and therefore requires somebody that understands how to take it from level one to level two to come in and that’s why I am there. I have the experience, the background, the profile to be able to actualise that. That is exactly why I am running.

Realnews: A lot of people are scared about politics in Anambra State because of the history of violence there. Are you prepared for it?
Obiano: By the grace of God, there will not be any violence. And there has not been any in a long time, since about four years now. Anambra State is a very stable place, peaceful. People go about their business without fear. The candidates respect themselves. That’s why I think, for now, I have not seen anything that tells me there will be violence. I am confident that at the end of the day, there will not be any violence. We are going to have a very peaceful election in Anambra. And we need to show the people all over that we are very competent people. We are very mature people. More importantly, we will tell people that we have learnt from our mistakes.

Realnews: What are the areas you will like to improve upon from your predecessor?
ObianoObiano: The way  to answer the question is that my predecessor has done a great work. And we are coming into this with the Lagos module – Tinubu/Fashola strategy. Part of the blueprint Fashola is running came from the Tinubu era, consistency. So what we are trying to do is to ensure that using those core development strategy the ANIDS, Anambra Integrated Development Strategy that goes for simultaneous  development across all sectors, so that if you ar doing something in health you are also doing something in education. You are also doing something on infrastructure – roads  and what have you. So, that kind of simultaneous development. He has taken it to a certain level. There is so much to be done in those enablers because that’s what they are called in economics. Roads, school, they are enablers, they enable you to activate your economic development. So, what we are trying to do basically is to ensure that we begin to do things that will move us into industrialisation. So, the core of what you are going to see is in agriculture because that’s where the spinoff will come for industrialisation. The core again you are going to see is in commerce. The enablers that will make this happen have been done extensively well which we are going to improve on in education, health, infrastructure development and in the public service, in the judiciary in terms of their process, enabling IT to help them work, in environment. You are aware of the erosion problems that we have, about 750 of them have been identified. You need a lot of money to do that. So, working with the partners, the donor agencies, we will be able to take on that because it is affecting a couple of things. We are going to complete a lot of projects that are on-going that have been activated in commerce like the malls and that are in process, the three that are in Onitsha, Awka and Nnewi; we are going to complete that. I am sure you are aware of the hotels that are being built. These are the enablers that will drive the economic growth that we are talking about. Because by the time you have those kinds of infrastructure then you are ready to take off.  Agriculture will receive a lot of attention in the sense that it has to be mechanised. We will bring some expertise outside our state to be able to train our people on how to do them. And with those mechanised things in agriculture, a spinoff will come because you will be compelled to do storage, processing. So, down the line you are creating industries and these are things that create jobs for the people. Security is also very important. He has done a great job integrating the vigilante into the security network. The vigilante group is very important, he armed them. There is still need to buy equipment. By and large, we are looking forward to a time when kidnaping, and robbery will be a thing of the past because it is not culture of the people.

Realnews: Money plays a lot of role in Anambr State. How do you intend to fund your campaign? Do you have enough financial war chest to prosecute your campaign for the guber race?
Obiano: The only thing I can tell you is that I have a war chest. That is why I am here.

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