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Obiano: Historical Caesar, who met Rome in bricks and left in marbles

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IT WAS the first Emperor of Rome, Augustus Caesar, who proudly declared that “I found Rome a city of bricks, and left it a city of Marbles”(March of Civilisation, by George Guest, 1979, page 61).

   This was because Rome was bedeviled in civil wars, from the foundation of Rome in 753 BC to the regime of Augustus Ceasar, in 31 BC.

  The long centuries of protracted wars had exhausted Rome to helplessness and they naturally decided to give  peace a chance, because it is said that “Peace is better than strife”. So, when Augustus Caesar became emperor in 31 BC, they saw no reason to kill each other just for the sake of leadership. So, Augustus Caesar had time to think of good governance and support development projects.

Humane and good laws were made and loyal conquered provinces were given Roman citizenship. Magnificent houses were built, roads and drainages were constructed to link Rome with their numerous provinces in their vast empire. Rome, which was not a sea power like Carthage and Phoenicia before, now built fleets of vessels and became supreme in sea mercantilism.

Augustus Caesar encouraged learning and famous writers like Livy, Vergil, Horace wrote works to promote Roman civilization. Horace, a poet and singer, sang songs, praising Augustus Caesar, for his wisdom in using magnanimity to rule, which brought about peace, tranquility and eventually, prosperity.

  The people called their generation as “Peace of Rome.” As Augustus Caesar was a benefactor of learning, they christened his regime as the ‘Golden Age of Latin Literature.’ It was during this period of Peace of Rome that Jesus Christ was born in Judea, a province in Roman Empire, which vindicated his title of “Prince of Peace”.

  When Governor Willie Obiano came to office in 2014, Anambra State was under the siege of criminality. Upper Iweka, Onitsha, the chief commercial town of Anambra, was a den of criminals and not safe both day and night. In April, 2014, barely three weeks in office, Obiano convened a security summit, where stakeholders and experts in security came and deliberated on the issue.  Obiano implemented their recommendations and Anambra replicated the “Peace of Rome” as the safest state in Nigeria and attracted investors.

   Strategic junctions in Awka Capital City were perennial victims of excruciating traffic gridlock and Obiano built vehicle flyovers at Aroma Junction of Ekwueme Square and Secretariat Road, Kwatta- Junction and Amawbia By-Pass Junction, furnished with street lights.

  In education, he sponsored teachers in overseas re-trainings, especially science teachers, who reinforced the technical colleges with modern knowledge. Students of the technical colleges became artisans, to the extent of winning contracts on commercial bases, or supplied the skilled labour to execute lucrative projects in their schools.

This was seen in the capability of students at Heerey Technical College, Ogidi, in Idemili North Local Government Area, Government Technical College, Onitsha, in Onitsha North LGA, Community Technical College, Umunze, in Orumba South LGA, to mention but a few.

   When Obiano came in 2014, rice, which is the chief staple food in Anambra, as it is greatly consumed in all functions at public and private, was in deficit supply. The production by local farmers was 80,000 metric tons a year while consumption was 320,000 metric ton a year. Obiano introduced mechanised agriculture, and gave farm implements to the farmers.

He created the Anambra State Small Business Agency (ASBA), for soft loans to the farmers to boot productivity. He invited large scale investors to cooperate with what is known as Public Private Partnership (PPP), and from that system, a big conglomerate, the Coscharis Mechanised Rice Farming and Mills came and invested at Anaku, for farming and Igbariam, for milling. Others are also located at Omor, Amichi, Ufuma.

The combined efforts of their activities have helped to produce the famous Anambra Rice, and in 2021, Anambra State was able to produce 550,000 metric tons, and has enough for home consumption and surplus for export. The Minister of Agriculture, Dr. Audu Ogbe, the governor of Central Bank of Nigeria, Dr. Godwin Emefiele, the   Chairman of Federal Task Force on Rice Production, Alhaji Abubarkar Bagudu, visited Anambra at Coscharis Farms, and thanked Governor Obiano for implementing federal government’s mandate to produce enough rice for Nigeria, and ban importation. Central Bank of Nigeria gave N7billion Naira  to Coscharis Farms on soft loan for their efforts.

   Governor Obiano established a programme of creating employment form the private sector with the collaboration of Public Private Partnership (PPP). In this scheme, youths are the target beneficiaries in what is called “One Youth one Skill.”

The beneficiaries are given skill acquisition training on various professions, among them are tailoring, electricians, mechanics, building technology, catering and hotel management, barbing and hairdressing, etc. After graduation, they are given seed money for capital investment and also machines for workshops. Over 5000 beneficiaries have benefitted from the scheme drawn from all the 21 local government areas of the state.

  In performing one of the graduation ceremonies, the Commissioner of Youth Entrepreneurship and Creative Economy, Prof. Theresa Obiekezie, said that it was the fatherly predilection of Governor Obiano that all youths are gainfully employed and become assets to society. She urged the graduates to acquit themselves creditably as beneficiaries for government’s benevolence.

 She told them that her ministry shall closely monitor them to evaluate their prosperity, adding that their Trade Certificate can enable them to secure employment in the public or private sector, and also set up their own entrepreneurship.       

   Another milestone in the marbles that Obiano has left Anambra is the Anambra International Cargo and Passenger Airport. It occupies a space of 1500 hectares of land and built to international best standards. Since it commenced commercial operations on December 7, 2021, it has received over 150,000 passengers, with over 400 flights, many of them by private jets who pay exorbitantly for it.

The biggest planes in the world, the Boeing 737-700 are also landing there. Two Anambra captains of industries in air transportation, Allen Onyema from Mbosi, in Ihiala LGA, and Dr. Obiora Okonkwo, from Ogidi, in Idemili North LGA have expanded their business empires to the airport, and are harvesting rich dividends. This has enlarged the magnanimity in their charity foundations to the advantage of Anambra people. Over 2000 workers of Anambra origin are already employed there.

  Then, there are the International Township Stadium, at Awka, International Conference Centre, Awka, the state capital. All these are evidences of Obiano meeting Anambra in bricks and leaving it in marbles.

  The “Golden Age of Technical Education” and “Peace of Anambra,” in Obiano’s regime 2014-2022 cannot be complete without making reference of the contributions of his wife, Dr. (Mrs.) Ebelechukwu Obiano. With her natural and God-given virtues of humanitarianism, she reinforced Obiano’s governance with compassion to the needy.

She established a charity organisation, known as Caring Family Enhancement Initiative (CAFÉ), and used it to cater for interests of the less privileged. With her own seed money invested in it, she attracted money from philanthropists, among them, her husband. She provided for the welfare of the needy. She visited the School for the Handicapped Children, at Isulo, Orumba South LGA, and renovated and refurbished their school blocks and dormitories.

 She increased the quantity and quality of food for the inmates. She built hospitals and rehabilitated homes for the mentally challenged at Nteje in Oyi LGA, and catered for their treatment and rehabilitation. She built toilet facilities in markets in many rural markets. She built many houses for indigent widows. She sponsored the reinforcement of crippled hands and legs with artificial limbs for indigent patients. She sponsored training for skill acquisition programmes for many people who are now artisans in various professions, who are self employed and earning comfortable living.

  The Commissioner for Women and Children Welfare, Lady Ndidi Mezue, described Dr. (Mrs) Obiano (Osodieme) as a mother of excellent virtues, whose compassion and generosity to the needy and enthusiasm for holistic development of the state, as witnessed in her numerous tours of all the towns of the state, as their benefactor are unprecedented. Lady Mezue testified that through her charity foundation and sponsorship for training and business entrepreneurship for many people, the first lady has manifested a living saint and a role model for future first ladies.

   With these legacy projects and may more, Governor Obiano, like his historical counterpart in Augustus Caesar in Rome, has actually met Anambra State in bricks and left in marbles. It is now left for the in-coming administration of Professor Charles Chukwuma Soludo, and his wife, Dr. (Mrs.) Nonye Soludo, to continue from where their predecessors left and promote Anambra from marbles to diamonds.

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