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Envisioning 50 years of Anambra State

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A HISTORIC event took place in Anambra State about two months ago but it passed largely unsung. For the first time in the history of this country, Governor Willie Obiano pooled a large number of eggheads and professionals, 48 in all, for the sole purpose of figuring out where Anambra State would be in the next 50 years; what she would look like in 2070 and of course chart a pragmatic path to realising the vision.

   And who is in a better position to chair this all important and carefully selected team if not the Anambra born Professor Charles Chukwuma Soludo (CFR), a professor of economics, former Central Bank of Nigeria governor and a member of the recently constituted presidential economic advisory council. A visiting scholar to a number of renowned universities abroad, Professor Soludo also consults for reputable international agencies and organizations.

Governor Obiano essentially charged the group to identify sectors of the state economy that the development plan will focus, define their objectives and develop specific policies, programs and strategies for realizing the 50 years vision.

Apart from a few new media bloggers and state owned media that reported this innovation indevelopment planning, the mainstream national media seemed not to have appreciated the significance of the initiative. Encouraged by this seeming indifference, social media rascals who are widely patronized by opposition politicians, turned the novel creation on its head, giving it all manner of bizarre interpretations. Some of them wondered why anybody should be talking about Vision 2070 when we all would have been probably dead. Others pronounced it dead on arrival, foreclosing any useful outcome just because of the disaster called Vision 2020. Yet another group felt Governor Obiano simply created a platform to advertise Professor Soludo so that he can to take over from him – as if Soludo needs any special introduction to Anambra people. And because social media lends its space to all manner of literacy categories, it was obvious that more than half of the commentators were ignorant of what scholarly visioning is all about, judging from the pedestrian exchanges that trended that period. Somebody as much as queried: “Why is Willie talking about vision now? Did Anambra people tell him that they are blind?” Another commentator retorted: “My friend, by 2070 you would have been old enough to have lost your sight, so you need Obiano’s vision”. It was that bad.

It’s not surprising to some us that these people ascribed all manner of interpretations, even the most mundane, to Obiano’s visioning, an art he mastered in his corporate life. He once told his audience that a visioner is often seen as a mad person because others don’t see what he is seeing. It is only when his/her dream crystalizes that they begin to appreciate what initially looked to them like a fantasy. And his predilection for planning ahead informed, unlike most of his counterparts, his vision to create an Anambra State that would become the first choice investment destination and the most preferred location to site new industries. It was on account of this vision that his administration went about committing huge resources to security, thus making Anambra State one of the safest states in Nigeria. This of course created the much needed socially stable environment that has attracted close to $5billion in local and foreign investment commitments in diverse sectors of Anambra State’s economy. These investors were further encouraged by the deliberate policy of the Obiano administration which sought to remove obstacles that could become impediments to starting and doing business smoothly in the State. And it was in recognition of this feat that Anambra State was consistently ranked high by the World Bank Ease of Doing Business reports 2018/19.

The cynicism and hoopla that trailed the convocation of Vision 2070 by opposition politicians and undiscerning minds almost portrayedObiano’s action as a heresy of sort just because it was the first time they were witnessing a far flung development planning in our political economy since the colonial era.

To start with; Vision 2070 is not a product of happenstance. Governor Obiano probably made up his mind about three years ago to convoke a 50 years development planning committee after listening to the thought provoking seven page lecture by Professor Soludo to mark his third anniversary in office. Titled, “Anambra: An Emerging Start-up State and our Collective Challenge”, the erudite scholar observed that Nigeria is living at a critical juncture that requires a fundamental economic and political restructuring which could avail her a more perfect union. And where Nigeria decides to get it right, it could offer a perfect opportunity for what he calls “creative destruction and transition to a post-oil economy and a more balanced and stable federation.” But while we wait for the federal government to do the needful and provide leadership for the country, Anambra people must unite“…to exploit their God given potentials to build a new prosperity corridor – a prosperous homeland for the globalizing tribe”.

He cited a few countries like Singapore, Malaysia, South Korea, Dubai, Israel, etc, that have achieved spectacular economic miracles such as the type Anambra aspires to have. These societies, according to him, attained their commanding heights because they got some fundamentals right and they kept doing them over a long period of time. Secondly they had a grand vision and plan such that successive governments kept moving within the defined trajectory. And thirdly, they had long tenured governments to cement their vision/plan instead of the four yearly turnovers with policy reversals and false/fresh starts. The constitutional four yearly huddles notwithstanding, Soludowas of the view that Anambra people need extra ordinary cohesion, new thinking/orientation, new politics and different actions to accelerate the momentum for the economic miracle of the 21st Century.

He argued convincingly that at an urbanization rate of 60percent, Anambra State over the next 50 years will become one mega city, strategically located to become a commercial and industrial hub.

Methinks then that what Obiano did in the light of the above postulations was to deliberately and creatively elasticize the concept of strategic planning which would serve as a future pathfinder that could easily aid subsequent administrations get their bearings right. Political parties will continue to come and go with their peculiar programs, ideologies and leadership styles, but the truth is that Anambra State and her people have remarkable tangible and intangible socio-economic characteristics that cannot be sacrificed on the altar of our kind of vacillating politics. It is upon these vital essences of our people that Vision 2070 would be predicated – those peculiar socio-economic features or what I call the Anambra DNA that make Anambra State unique and different from other states. Irrespective of the political leadership in power, those visible and invisible indexes that typify Anambra State will still remain. A veritable development planning such as Vision 2070 therefore must necessarily seek to factor in these sublime peculiarities especially now that Obiano’s administration has set the tone in that direction.

Beyond that, our world is evolving so fast and a few obscured issues which humanity was hoping would fizzle out are gradually but steadily becoming a huge threat to the global family. Tools that we saw only on Star Wars and Magic Fiction movies have become items we use, real time, on daily basis. Today the world is concerned, more than ever before, about issues like climate change, depletion of ozone layer, carbon emission, need for clean energy options, electric cars, advancements in hi-tech, robotics/artificial intelligence and so on. These are emergent realities that are unstoppable. A time will come when crude oil will be worthless and Anambra State does not wish to be caught in that embarrassing dilemma.  Any country orpeople that refuse to come to terms with this obvious direction which the world is moving and fails to plan how to take advantage of these realities is doing a huge disservice to their layers of unborn generations.

Obiano was mindful of, not only the dynamics that characterize Anambra State and her people, but where the world is headed when he inaugurated Vision 2070. He doesn’t want Anambra to be caught napping. Just like the typical land surveyor we know, Vision 2070 aims at surveying the distant future holistically and plant beacons that would guide subsequent political leaderships in better navigating our people through the emergent global economic and technological dispensation that promises to challenge the way we live.

Paul Nwosu wrote from Awka

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