By Christian ABURIME
The evolution and trajectory of a modern state within a complex country like Nigeria reflects a dynamic interplay between historical legacies and contemporary realities of development.
Addressing the challenges posed by successive leadership, systemic dynamics, government structure, fiscal profile, resource allocation, human factor and other variables requires innovative approaches to governance that fosters a progressive state development. Adapting to the evolving dynamics is crucial for the continued relevance, effectiveness and transformation of a modern state like Anambra.
Since 32 years ago of its creation, Anambra State has indeed come a long way. It has had its fair share of developmental challenges, of trials and triumphs, of twists and turns, through the years. Yet, this state, deservedly nicknamed “Light of the Nation”, is today like never before a shining beacon of excellence in the South East and Nigeria under the new current leadership of His Excellency, Governor of Anambra State, Professor Charles Chukwuma Soludo, CFR.
Before he ever became the Governor, Prof. Soludo had a grand vision of what Anambra State should be. He envisioned a livable state in the mould of an African Dubai-Taiwan mega city, an axis of sustainable prosperity, where everyone will be welcome to live, learn, work, invest, relax
and enjoy in.
So, when this erudite, globally renowned professor of macroeconomics and former CBN governor was sworn into office as Governor of Anambra State in March 17, 2022, he came armed with his avowed vision and hit the road sprinting.
Guided by his campaign mantra, ‘Solution is Here’, Governor Soludo anchored his grand vision on Five Policy Pillars of Security, Law and Order, Infrastructure and Economic Transformation, Human Capital and Social Agenda, Governance and Value System, and Sustainable Environment.
By the time he presented his scorecard one year after assumption of office, it was a tale of an Anambra State advancing by leaps and bounds in the gathering vortex of transformative achievements, some which are summarized below.
Security, Law and Order
Thanks to the sense of urgency that Governor Soludo brought to bear, the state of security in Anambra State has improved remarkably. Kidnapping for ransom, banditry and communal disputes were rampant before his government took office, but Anambra is far safer today.
From onset, the governor set up the Ministry of Homeland Security and constituted a Joint Task Force that comprises the Nigerian Army, Navy, Civil Defence, NDLEA, Police and Anambra Vigilante Group (AVG). He invested in modern security technology and continues to do all possible best to keep Ndi Anambra secure.
Also, the Soludo government fostered cooperation with the legislative and judiciary arms of government to maintain law and order, and in terms of judicial productivity, Anambra State today ranks second only to Lagos State.
Infrastructure and Economic Transformation
Right from inception, Governor Soludo declared a state of emergency on road challenges and embarked on infrastructural and economic transformation, including transportation, land, power and technology. Within the first nine months, he awarded 261 kilometers of roads spread across the 21 local government areas, with cement stabilization and stone bases guaranteed to last for 20 years.
Today, almost 400 kilometres of roads are in various stages of construction, with some already completed. In fact, the Anambra State Executive Council (ANSEC) under the leadership of Governor Soludo continues to approve new road projects that run into billions and billions of naira, thereby turning Anambra State into one massive construction site.
In order to curtail the menace of flooding, the Soludo government also embarked on desilting of drainages and clearing structures blocking the waterways, while launching comprehensive initiatives to address other environmental issues.
This government from inception signed an MOU with the EEDC on power supply to provide electricity in Anambra’s major cities 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Also, Anambra’s night economy is becoming buoyant again with the conversion of 6,380 diesel-powered streetlights into solar streetlights. On transportation, in addition to many roads being constructed and renovated, the current administration has been reinventing Anambra’s inter- and intra-city transportation systems, designing modern bus terminals, planning for a sky train pilot in Onitsha and modernizing our waterways transportation system.
The Anambra Airport is also under conclusive construction now. The government has since developed a concession plan for water supply in Onitsha, Awka, Nnewi, and Ihiala, as well as laying 2000km of fiber optics ducts to ensure last mile connectivity for accessing high-speed internet. This, together with the establishment of the Solution Innovation District, is serving as the foundation for developing Anambra into a robust digital economy to boost startups, tech ventures, inventions and so on.
Besides, 32 hectares of land at Agulu Lake have been purchased to build an Africa leisure and entertainment hub known as African Disney Land, while the government has also developed an industrial framework for which 53 hectares of land at Ukpo have been acquired for the Export Emporium, 100 hectares of commercial land at Ukwulu and 80 hectares for automotive industrial park in Akwihedi, Unubi, and Uga were also acquired.
Anambra Government also received from indigenes a free donation of 200 hectares of land in Ogboji for Anambra pharmaceutical hub.
Human Capital and Social Agenda
In the area of human capital and social agenda, Anambra is flourishing under Governor Soludo. With this government’s wide-ranging reforms and investments in the educational sector, especially the unprecedented recruitment of 5,000 teachers for our public schools earlier this year, the results are already showing.
Anambra students are excelling everywhere. Just earlier this year, Anambra State students represented Nigeria outside the country and beat other countries like China, India, Singapore and Pakistan to emerge overall winners of the 2023 Malaysian International Bilateral Debate Championship.
The status of our healthcare too is getting healthier, as the government has upgraded three general hospitals in Ekwulobia, Enugwu Ukwu, and Umuleri, including dental units, hired over 300 medical personnel, and activated a Ministry of Health taskforce to implement the government’s health policies.
As a way of tech-compliant youth empowerment in this digital age, the Soludo government signed an agreement with Microsoft and set out to train 20,000 Anambra youth in fundamental and advanced digital skills. This year’s Anambra Talent Inventory and Innovation Week will also take place in October.
And the government has since started the One Youth, Two Skills programme by which approximately 5, 000 of them are being trained and billions of naira set aside to empower them for self-employment and job creation.
Governance and Value System
The Soludo administration has reformed how Government works in terms of governance and value system. It developed a reform strategy, restructured MDAs to align with the Solution agenda, improved workers’ welfare by 10%, paid pensioners’ pensions and gratuities since 2018, cleared backlogs, transitioned from transactional to transformational governance, and saved the state over N10.4 billion from new contracts awarded to the state government.
Governor Soludo has since increased the IGR base of the state from 1.5 billion naira monthly to 2 billion naira monthly with a target of reaching 5 billion in 2023.
And if every Anambra living in the state and elsewhere can pay 5% of their income to Anambra, the state will be at a higher level of IGR in three years.
Also, massive construction, including 25 peripheral structures, is underway to provide Anambra with a befitting Government House and lodge in Awka, critical facilities that had been non-existent for 31 years.
What is more, Local Government Secretariats that were burned down by criminals before Soludo government came have been completely rebuilt. Sustainable Environment Without a sustainable environment, a noble vision can be endangered. It is a fact that 35-40% of Anambra landscape is facing existential threat from gully erosion, which in a way makes Anambra the world’s erosion capital.
But the Soludo government is not folding its arms. It has begun a clean, green campaign to transform the state into the cleanest in Nigeria. Already, the bill for environmental sustainability has been drafted and enacted by the State House of Assembly.
On its urban regeneration plan, the state government is transforming slums and buildings that litter the Anambra landscape in Onitsha, Nnewi and other towns.
The government is enforcing sustainable municipal planning, and to become a smart megacity that the rest of the world will want to visit, a campaign to plant millions of trees has since kicked off, pedestrian walkways are being installed, and landmarks are being planned for remodeling, among other initiatives.
In a nostalgic tribute to Dr. M.I. Okpara legacy of the old Eastern region, the Soludo government has been sowing the seeds of agricultural renaissance in Anambra through its Coconut and Oil Palm Agenda.
So far, this government has distributed a total of 1.1 million oil palm and coconut high-yielding seedlings to over 100,000 households in Anambra. This initiative will be sustained to guarantee 500,000 – 1,000,000 households in the future earning N1.5m to N3m per annum, thereby helping them out of poverty.
Already, many Ndi Anambra and non-Anambra investors in the State and even outside the country are scrambling to join in this emerging agricultural revolution.
Subsidy Economic Relief
Following the peculiar economic challenges that Nigerians started facing earlier this year as a result of some necessary reforms undertaken by the Federal Government, especially the removal of fuel subsidy and resetting of the exchange rate system, Governor Soludo has since offered a relief package of palliatives for Ndi Anambra, the first to do so in the South East.
The state government on August 22, 2023 announced an interim package of palliatives to make life a bit easier for the people, most especially the most vulnerable. The wide range of the palliatives was anchored on APGA party’s motto of “Be your brother’s and sister’s keeper”.
Accordingly, Governor Soludo announced that every pensioner and public servant in the State and across the 21 LGAs will be paid a monthly flat non-taxable cash award of N12, 000 from September 2023 to December 2023.
Again, the backlog of gratuity and pensions of the State’s pensioners will continue to be cleared, and Anambra State Government has been distributing rice to over 300,000 households across the 326 wards in the State.
Other palliatives in the interim package touch diverse areas of need. For instance, in order to minimise the burden of survival on the highly vulnerable people in Anambra, artisans, transporters, hawkers, traders and others are exempted from certain taxes, levies and so on.
The government also announced that Tuition will remain free for primary school to JSS3 students in all state public schools, while other school levies and fees are being reviewed. Pregnant mothers will be enjoying free antenatal services and free delivery services in State primary health centres and general hospitals.
The government also approved the repair/renovation of all serviceable Public Servants Staff Buses, while there are plans to purchase many of the CNG-fueled buses to be provided by the Federal Government to ease intra-state transportation for Ndi Anambra in general.
Alongside youth empowerment earlier mentioned, the Soludo government is also completing the set-up and funding of the Ward-based Cooperative Initiative for micro-enterprises, whereby a revolving loan scheme at near zero interest rate can be accessed by over 100,000 micro businesses in Anambra.
Ease of Doing Business and Investment Summit
In his restless quest to realize the African Dubai-Taiwan vision of a prosperous, livable Anambra mega city, Governor Soludo has been very pragmatic in seeking investments and investors from outside the state and the world at large.
First, his across-board reforms have lately catapulted Anambra State to the 7th position on the ranking of Ease of Doing Business among 36 states in Nigeria, as well as the 1st position on the same ranking among Southeast states.
Also, earlier this year, Governor Soludo successfully held Townhall Meetings with Anambra State businessmen and professionals in Lagos and Abuja, enjoining them to come home to invest as Anambra State is no longer a transit lounge, but a burgeoning investment destination. And to consummate his drive for the much-needed investments to help develop Anambra State, Governor Soludo recently held the first ever Anambra Investment Summit in the state.
It was indeed a historic milestone with the inaugural Investment Summit held on September 7, 2023, showcasing the theme “Laying the Foundation for a Prosperous and Smart Mega City.”
The monumental event brought together a diverse assembly of potential investors, government representatives, private sector leaders, and civil society stakeholders. Together, they engaged in robust discussions on the manifold investment opportunities within Anambra State. Hosted by Governor Soludo himself at the Anambra International Convention Centre in Awka, the state capital, the Summit witnessed a series of significant Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signing ceremonies between the state government and 13 esteemed organizations.
These collaborative agreements signify a significant leap towards actualizing transformative projects in various sectors of Anambra State, such as the development of the Onitsha River Port, Neni Water Scheme, the AUU Automotive Industrial Park, the Nko Agro Park, the electrification of Green Village, the creation of the Awka Shopping Mall, Anambra Intra-City Rail, the Ikenga Mixed-Use Industrial City, Anambra Pharmaceutical Hub and Millennium Real Estate development.
Thus far, the government of Prof. Chukwuma Charles Soludo within less than two years impressively impacted Anambra State and Ndi Anambra in many critical ramifications. The journey towards a livable, prosperous Anambra mega city as an African Dubai-Taiwan model, anchored on his Five Policy Pillars, is fully on course.
Anambra State is not only realizing its sobriquet of being ‘Light of the Nation’, but it is also becoming the leading light of the East. With every heartbeat of unity, every stroke of progress, every swell of goodwill by Ndi Anambra, and of course the support of the Federal Government, the Soludo government will continue to fortify his legacy of transformation in the years ahead.
The Solution is not only here, but it is working well. May Anambra State continue to win.