Lecture delivered by Obiora Okonkwo, Ph.D. at the maiden Dr. Michael I. Okpara Leadership Lecture/Awards at Sheraton Hotels, Abuja on June 3, 2021.
I am very highly honored to be part of this very special event; more so for the opportunity to speak on the leadership model of Dr. Michael Iheonukara Okpara, the revered Premier of the old Eastern Region; a rare patriot, visionary and political leader who, decades after his death, remain a benchmark for transformative governance not just in the south east region but Nigeria at large. The history of political governance in our country will not be complete without the prominent mention of the likes of Dr. Okpara who upon taking over power from British colonial administrators at independence in 1960, laid the foundation for the economic development of their various regions in the spirit of competitive federalism upon which the young country was established. Political trailblazers like Dr. Okpara deserve our eternal adulation and I can’t thank enough the leadership of the Michael Okpara Foundation for this opportunity to reflect on his life in the face of the numerous governance challenges that Nigeria faces.
Given the pervading gloom over Nigeria today and considering the legacy of Nigeria’s founding fathers, one may be tempted to conclude that ‘the labor of our heroes past’ may indeed have been in vain, despite the optimistic tone of our national anthem.
On a personal note, Dr. Okpara has always been my leadership hero whose ideals I have espoused in the numerous public lectures I have delivered. In fact, when the leadership of the Michael Okpara Foundation came to notify me of this lecture and leadership award, I remember telling them that Dr. Okpara may be a Saint and that it was perhaps his spirit that led them to me, given how much I revere him.
Celebrating Dr. Okpara in the face of Nigeria’s current developmental challenges calls for deep introspection and sincere acknowledgment of how we got into our current governance morass to enable us chart a way forward if we are to realize the undoubted potentials of our dear country. As my people, the Igbos say, we should know from where the rain started to beat us to know what we need to do to shelter ourselves from it.
In this lecture, I plan to do the following:
Paint a brief profile of Dr. Okpara and the immense lessons we can learn from his purposeful life
Explore Okpara’s Leadership Philosophy of Humanism and Legacy of Okparanomics from 5 perspectives- Agriculture, Industrialization, Infrastructure, Education and Health.
Address the Decades of Decline of the Post-Okpara Years in the South East and Nigeria at large and the urgent need of Rebirth
Recreating the Okpara Magic in the 21st Century
MICHAEL IHEONUKARA OKPARA: A BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH
Popularly known as M. I. Power, Dr. Okpara became Premier of the Eastern Region at the age of 39. The son of a laborer, he had his early education in Mission schools and later attended Methodist College, Uzuakoli from where he went to study Medicine at Yaba Higher College, Lagos and became a medical doctor at the Nigerian School of Medicine. He worked briefly as a government medical officer before going into private practice.
As a private medical practitioner, he impacted his immediate community so much and later developed likeness for Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe who was then the leader of the National Council of Nigeria and the Cameroons (NCNC) which metamorphosed into the National Council of Nigerian Citizens. That fondness for Azikiwe propelled Okpara’s entry into politics when he joined the Zikist Movement. He was arrested and briefly detained following the 1949 Coalmine Riots in Enugu for allegedly instigating the riots with his fiery speeches.
Okpara had his first shot at electoral politics in 1952 when he was elected into the Eastern Nigerian House of Assembly from where he held different cabinet positions as minister of Health, Agriculture and Production. He remained loyal to Dr. Azikiwe and refused to join the revolt of some NCNC leaders against the great Zik. Okpara assumed the leadership of NCNC when the position became vacant with Zik becoming governor-general of Nigeria and served as Premier of Eastern Region from 1959 to 1966. The military coup of 1966 brought his Premiership to an end. He subsequently went into exile following the end of the civil war. He returned to Nigeria in 1979 and transited to eternal glory on December 17, 1984 at the age of 64.
I have summed up Dr. Okpara’s life to underscore four key things that we can all learn from, especially those of us aspiring to public office today. First is his relative youth and record of achievements in the roughly 6-year period he was Premier, underscoring the saying it is not how long, but how well. Irrespective of age and length of time in office, transformative leadership such that Okpara embodied is about clarity of vision and the courage to see it through. We continue to celebrate M.I. not because he lived long but because he lived well and positively impacted lives through Public Service. That indeed is the true worth of a man; attributes we cannot ascribe to vast majority of those who have held public office in Nigeria.
This leads me to the second point- the lack of service-driven Mentoring in our political culture today. Okpara who was a poor laborer’s son became elite, a medical doctor through dint of hard work and the opportunity of decent foundational education courtesy of Mission schools. That the great Zik spotted him from a relatively young age and groomed him to become the political leader he was is a bold testament to the power of political apprenticeship and mentorship based on strong ethical values and altruistic service. Unfortunately, much of that today is lost in the buccaneering that our party politics has often been reduced to, with unscrupulous Godfathers, driven primarily by pecuniary interests, hell-bent on installing lackeys into public offices. Given the impressive legacy of Okpara’s Premiership, Zik the mentor, reminiscent of the biblical incident, would have proudly proclaimed- this is my beloved boy, in whom I am well pleased.
The third aspect of Dr. Okpara’s life which we can all learn from is the selflessness and integrity he brought to public life. For example, despite overseeing the establishment of the Government Reserve Areas (GRAs) in every part of Eastern region, he never made any allocations to himself such that the only house he owned was built for him in 1979 by friends and associates upon his return from exile. He was a most remarkable man and selfless political leader, the likes of which we may never again see in public life in Nigeria. It’s therefore not surprising that Christian Igbodo in his edited collection- Dr. Michael Okpara: Lessons in Leadership and Service, would describe him as a historic statesman and everlasting moral compass.
That puts Dr. Okpara in the same pantheon with the likes of Julius Nyerere (popularly called Mwalimu- the Teacher), whose austere life style as leader of Tanzania, has recently put him on the path of possible beatification as a Saint of the Catholic church.
It also needs emphasizing that although a medical doctor by training, Dr. Okpara came very prepared for public service in part because of his immense curiosity for knowledge and self-growth. According to Dr. Pius Okigbo, his friend and schoolmate at Yaba College, ‘he read wide in philosophy, literature, economics and medicine. In the life of such a rounded and profoundly educated man, medicine was his calling, politics his career and wide-ranging intellectual pursuits his emetic’. As Okigbo further explains, Okpara’s medical training gave him a ‘special dent for humanism. He believed in the perfectibility of man. He sought to gain knowledge and control the universe around him but in so doing to lay an example by being frugal without being parsimonious, simple but knowledgeable, humble but not obsequious…No one who came close to him will fail to be struck by his candour, forthrightness, humanism, simplicity and knowledge’.
Sadly today, most of our political leaders are obsessed about power and less concerned with acquiring the skills needed for effective leadership. And by this I don’t necessarily mean formal education for as the American writer and polemicist Mark Twain reminds us not to let school stand between us and education. Yet, the point must be made that effective public governance requires some basic skills set that those aspiring to public office must acquaint themselves with.
This now brings us to Dr. Okpara’s premiership of Eastern Region (1960-1966) and how the above personal attributes helped shape the immense, yet to be matched accomplishments of the man we gather today to celebrate.
‘OKPARANOMICS’: THE OKPARA LEADERSHIP PHILOSOPHY AND LEGACY
In a super brilliant and encyclopedic lecture delivered in 1987, the (now late) pre-eminent economist and great man of letters, Dr. Pius Nwabufo Okigbo offered penetrating insight into Dr. Okpara’s leadership philosophy which fundamentally informed his Premiership. Tagged Okparanomics, Okigbo argued that it was, in part, Dr. Okpara’s background as a medical doctor which led him to embrace humanism as a cardinal principle of public policy in which development is primarily about people, especially the poor and vulnerable (average citizens) who the government have a core responsibility to help within the constraints of public resources (emphasis mine).
As Okigbo further explained, Okpara’s progressive development philosophy was pragmatic and non-doctrinaire in that it also recognized the importance of a strong economy which would enable government to substantively pursue its social welfare programmes (i.e. affordable healthcare, subsidized housing, free education etc.).
Contrary to the views held by some, people-centered development is not antithetical to building a buoyant, even capitalist economy, so long government has its priorities right. If anything, they are mutually reinforcing and the recognition of that was key to Dr. Okpara’s resounding success as Premier. Those who argue otherwise are inflexible ideologues constrained by false binaries.
In his Okparanomics discourse, Okigbo explored Okpara’s largely integrated approach to development from five broad areas with the Agricultural sector as the driving force. These are: Agricultural Development (i.e. Rice and Grains, Livestock, Technology in Agriculture); Industrial Development; Infrastructure; Education and Healthcare.
Agricultural Development: Starting from the pre-independence Azikiwe-led Eastern Nigerian government in which Okpara was Minister of Agriculture, the region embarked on extensive development of palm plantations under the management of the Eastern Nigeria Development Corporation using the most efficient seedlings available at the time. Massive Plantations and farm settlements were established across the region which today encompasses 9 states- Cross River, Anambra, Imo, Enugu, Bayelsa, Abia, Ebonyi, Akwa-Ibom and Rivers States. And by the time Okpara became Premier in 1960, the plantations had begun to yield fruit at rate of 2.5 to 3.13 tonnes of bunches per acre. And while these were slightly below the projected yield of 3.13 to 3.37 tonnes of bunches per acre because of inefficiencies of Government plantation management, it still made the Eastern region a global leader in Palm produce and a mainstay of the Nigerian economy, along with Groundnuts, Cotton, Rubber, and other produce. The immense success of the palm plantations led Malaysia to Eastern Nigeria in 1961 to take their first palm seedlings for cultivation. Stunningly, for decades now, Malaysia has become the global exporter of palm and allied products, even refining palm oil to power machines and automobiles, while today, it barely registers in Nigeria’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). What a shame? Indeed, leadership matters.
A key component of the region’s Agrarian revolution under the Premiership of Dr. Okpara was in the area of development of grains, particularly rice. As Okigbo explained, the Okpara’s government invested substantial resources in the expansion of rice production in Abakaliki and other parts of the region which was boosted by the development of milling facilities such that by 1965, Abakaliki had become the main rice processing center in Nigeria handling massive deliveries from rice cultivating communities from other regions of the country. This helped turn rice which hitherto was exclusive to the rich, into a major staple of the region.
Livestock development was also a core component of Dr. Okpara’s integrated agrarian revolution with primary focus on poultry farming and to a lesser degree, Pig farming. This involved recruitment of specialists in poultry development through a United States Agency for International Development (USAID) assisted program. By 1962, Eastern Nigeria was relatively self-sufficient in poultry meat with substantial surpluses of eggs which led to the government policy of one egg per person, per day.
In its effort to transform the agricultural sector, the Okpara administration adopted the leading technologies in crop science, animal husbandry and food processing with the goal of creating value chains to ensure sustainability. Little wonder the region was self-sufficient in food production and sought markets for her agricultural products in other parts of the country and beyond.
The integrated nature of Okpara government’s approach to development was arguably most pronounced in its industrial development agenda. As Okigbo explained, government developed sector-specific industrial clusters in the region’s major cities. For instance, the government invested in a number of industries organized around construction and building– Corrugated Iron sheets (Port Harcourt); Asbestos Roofing Sheets, Ceiling boards and Pipes (Enugu); Metal Door and Window frames (Port Harcourt); Bricks (Umuahia), Door Mats (Aba). It also actively encouraged private companies to go into household materials and décor such as mattresses, metal and wooden furniture, among others.
Major industrial projects in the works by the time his administration was abruptly ended by the 1966 military coup include a Glassblowing company. The delays in securing industrial sites and getting them ready for use led the administration to establish industrial layouts in key cities of the region with primary focus on two- Port Harcourt and Enugu for large and small scale industries respectively. The focus on the two cities was aimed at getting them fully operational with the provision of water, power, communication and other facilities in as little time as possible. It is to Dr. Okpara’s eternal credit that the Trans-Amadi Industrial Estate, Port Harcourt with its numerous industries exits today.
The Eastern Nigeria Development Corporation (ENDC) drove the government’s effort at industrialization and agrarian revolution and the following iconic manufacturing entities were direct or indirect products of Okpara’s leadership genius- Nigercem at Nkalagu, Nigergas and Nigersteel at Emene, Aba Textile Company, Golden Guinea Breweries and Modern Ceramics Industries, Umuahia, Standard Shoe Factory, Owerri, among others.
The regime’s wave of industrialization also spurred developments in tourism and hospitality which led to the establishment of hotels including the prestigious 4-star Presidential Hotels in Enugu and Port-Harcourt.
The development of critical infrastructure was a key component of Dr. Okpara’s legacy in the entire Eastern region. In a short space of 6 years, his administration built an extensive network of roads that connected not just the major cities of the region but also key communities. This was critical to advancing the administration’s effort at industrialization. Many Easterners may not know it, but most of the road networks in the region were first built by the Okpara administration, many of which today are barely motorable due to decades of neglect.
Further, growing up, people of my generation and those older would remember the pipe-borne water that passed through virtually all communities of the region, courtesy of what was then called ‘Water Works’. That was the Okpara administration at work for the people and as far as public amenities are concerned, none is more essential than clean water. Where are the State Water Corporations in the East today? Such basic amenities that we took for granted in the 1960s and 70s, have all but disappeared. Talk of regressive development.
The Okpara administration also built and modernized the famous Main Market in the commercial city of Onitsha which has long been regarded as the biggest in West Africa. As a testament to his vision, today, the market has expanded to communities adjoining Onitsha attracting traders from virtually all states of Nigeria and the ECOWAS region.
This is merely a tip of the iceberg because if we have to list all of Okpara’s accomplishments in the area of infrastructural development, we probably will spend days here.
Following the establishment of the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, in 1960 by the federal government of Nigeria, the Okpara administration understood its importance as the only university in the region and supported its growth in every way it could. The regional government also tried to raise the standard at the secondary level of education to ensure quality feed into the university which would help develop well-trained workforce for the region. In the good natured spirit of competitive federalism, the Okpara regime also introduced universal free primary education in the Eastern region following the example of the Western Region where Chief Obafemi Awolowo in 1955 became the first Premier to implement the policy. While it may not seem much today, Free Primary Education was such a big deal in the 60s as the primary school certificate was not only an entry point into teaching and other junior civil service jobs, but also the basic ladder to educational advancement.
Given his background as a medical Doctor, quality public healthcare, especially at the primary level was something Dr. Okpara championed during his roughly 6-year Premiership. His medical training along with his rustic upbringing led him to promote the establishment of cottage hospitals in rural communities where the vast majority of the people of the region lived. A village boy at heart, by the time of his death in 1984, he had returned to semi-rural medical practice.
This is not to suggest that he neglected the equally important higher level of medical care. For example, his government was in advanced talks with the then Soviet Union for the development of a Specialist Hospital in Enugu. There was also a proposal to establish major reference hospitals across the region which would have directly improved healthcare delivery as well as enhance the training of medical and paramedical workers. Unfortunately, the 1966 military coup and subsequent civil war ensured those ideas never came to fruition.
As I have already mentioned, this is only a snippet of Dr. Okpara’s immense legacy as Premier. And among our key takeaways are that leadership matters; vision matters, integrity matters, policy articulation and implementation also matter. Even more importantly, that government is about people, especially the vast majorities who often work so hard but lack a voice and just need small help by way of public policy to get by. Dr. Okpara embodied the Humanism he preached and lived it in and out of office and to the very end of his illustrious life. He epitomized transformational leadership and brought profound change in the political administration of eastern Nigeria not by the force of his authority as Premier but by the moral influence of his example.
As a visionary, Okpara was way ahead of his time. Some of the things that defined his leadership in the 1960s are only becoming fashionable now. For example, he encouraged Public-Private-Partnership (PPP) sometimes called P3 in his development policies long before we had a fancy name for it. His Humanism, people-centered approach to governance speaks to what the U.N. and development partners today romanticize as Human Security.
Little wonder Okpara has remained a benchmark for good governance not just in the geographic area that previously constituted the Eastern region, but in Nigeria at large. Virtually, all informed commentators agree that since the end of his Premiership in 1966, no public officer from the region even comes remotely close to being compared with him. Perhaps, the only one that occasionally gets a distant mention is the second republic (1979-83) Governor of the old Imo State, Sam Mbakwe.
Begs the question: what became of good political leadership in Nigeria, despite the examples of our founding fathers, who although imperfect, left a decent legacy for us to follow?
And I really think that in trying to answer this question, we should probably focus as much on the followership as on the leadership simply because, all too often, people get the type of leaders they want, even if sometimes unwittingly. In Nigeria, politicians get away with anything because the followership lets them; as actions, even the most odious, no longer seem to have consequences.
Even more than leadership, democracy is about followership; an informed and attentive citizenry that strives to hold the leadership accountable at all times; that insists on full complement of their constitutional rights and refuse to accept crumbs.
I so often wonder how we got to this very low point in our public life of demanding too little from our governments; where the payment of salaries is now considered an achievement, despite the relatively enormous amount of resources at their disposal. Of course no individual, company or government can ever have enough resources to do everything, but prudent management (both in government and in our personal lives) demands getting our priorities right (i.e. privileging the people over everything else (as Okpara did); eliminating waste (i.e. getting the best value for money) and in the case of Nigeria, reducing corruption to a minimum. I strongly believe that governance will drastically improve in Nigeria the day citizens will begin to earnestly interrogate those in leadership positions about the decisions they make on their behalf.
As our people say, the rat can only erode the cooking pots of those who are asleep. That perhaps explains why last October’s EndSARS protests, which unfortunately degenerated into violence, should be a wake-up call to urgently address the deep-seated structural, even existential challenges like very high unemployment and under-employment, particularly among Nigerian youths.
That the protests took us by surprise is also emblematic of a fundamental governance problem- the disconnect between government and the governed. The abuses by SARS operatives were not new. In truth they have gone on for decades, but successive governments either played the ostrich or were probably ignorant of it- which is even worse. Good governance is inextricably tied to human security and it didn’t require the protests and the unfortunate violence it engendered to address the problem. A proactive response several years earlier would have saved the country this mountain of trouble, especially with respect to the lives lost and the billions it will cost to rebuild critical infrastructure destroyed in states like Lagos.
Despite the unfortunate violence and looting, I view the ENDSARS protests as a desperate cry for help by Nigerian youths. And if we heard them loud and clear, as some of our elected officials at all levels have claimed, our political governance culture must change.
Coming on the heels of Nigeria’s 60th independence anniversary, the ENDSARS protest is an inflection point in our nation’s history which calls for deep introspection to address our myriad developmental challenges of which youth unemployment is a key part of. And these require swift, yet well thought out, comprehensive and integrated policies on poverty eradication; not a disparate patchwork of stop-gap measures or palliatives across agencies which are not only grossly inadequate but are also not effectively coordinated and sometimes lacking in transparency.
To paraphrase James Freeman Clarke, Nigeria’s political class should start thinking more about the next generation (our teeming but restive youths) and not the next election, as is all too often the case.
Further, the ENDSARS protest should be a wake-up call for us, the elites who often ensconced in our privileged positions barely care about the problems around us. The disruptions and insecurity caused by the protests only underscored that whatever relative comfort we may enjoy, we are all on the same boat and that such privileges are no more than occupying choice seats on the deck of the Titanic.
TOWARDS A NEW COURSE; A POLITICAL RENEWAL OF THE SOUTH EAST
Both in the old Eastern region and in Nigeria at large, the human and material resources to achieve greatness abound. What is often lacking is visionary leadership, along with the courage and integrity required to bring the people along as most Nigerians have become so jaded and intensely distrustful of the political class.
To return Igboland into the progressive development template began by the Okpara administration, we therefore must make conscious effort at changing our leadership selection process to ensure that only those who have the right kind of character, capacity and with an eye on developing legacies for society, not for personal enhancement and wealth, are entrusted with public office. Okpara had no personal house as premier and we celebrate him as much for his altruism and integrity as his capacity to articulate people-centered policies and effectively executing them. How is it that the developmental strides made in the 1960s along with amenities like public water supply which we took for granted have all evaporated?
How is it that a people, under a regime with far less technological resources and less exposure were self-sufficient in food production and had jobs for almost everyone, have become heavily dependent on food imports with their youths roaming the streets in search of work? How come that a people whose son, Prof. Augustine Njoku Obi, developed the Cholera Vaccine in 1971 today barely register in the global race for new therapeutics? How is it that a people whose progenitors left indelible landmarks in the different professions, commerce and industry are now at the weeping end of a faltering republic? How is it that a people to whom Dr. Okpara bequeathed industrial estates are now more comfortable with importing even toothpicks and sundry products from Asia? What became of the quality Aba-made products of the 60s and 70s; a city which was the hub of Nigeria’s local manufacturing enterprise? The questions can go on and on. How is it that many of the factories that dotted the Aba and Onitsha landscapes have today been converted into places of worship where our frustrated and gullible brothers and sisters are encouraged to pray for miracles?
Whenever I drive through Onitsha and see Awada Layout, I shudder in disbelief because I know that Awada became a prime estate for the Igbo elite long before Maroko in Lagos was transformed to become Lekki. Today, we can’t compare value of properties in both estates. How come that we left Onitsha, one of the best planned cities in Igboland and still one of the largest market in West Africa, to become a dungeon with kiosks and shops at every corner?
How come our youths have abandoned our time-honored apprenticeship scheme lauded by no other than TED Reports as the biggest Venture Capitalism Scheme in the world to take on betting as means of livelihood?
How many of the cottage hospitals established by the Okpara administration are still operational? How come that St. Charles Borromeo Specialist Hospital, built in 1964 by the Archdiocese of Onitsha, is still actively rendering quality service and those built by the Okpara administration are not doing as well? As my friend Mr. Peter Obi, an accomplished administrator and two-term governor of Anambra State once asked- are we cursed or are we the cause.
RE-INVENTING THE OKPARA MAGIC: MY JOURNEY INTO ANAMBRA GOVERNORSHIP
For some time now, I have operated primarily in the private sector; part of the comfortable elite, who held the view that ours is to enjoy the comfort that our wealth provides while governance and leadership is for the politicians, irrespective of how ill-prepared they may be. However, after a very deep introspection and reflection on the state of our affairs as a the nation, at a personal retreat I had in 2017, I decided that rather than sit back and blame our leaders for failing to build on the legacies that the likes of Dr. Okpara bequeathed to us, I would get involved in elective politics to help find solutions to the needs of our people.
It is for this reason, and none other, that I have decided to offer myself to serve Anambra state as governor. In doing this however, I have committed everything into the hands of God and insist that if it is not his will, let it not be. If it is God’s will, then, God will lead the way and provide me with the necessary support for the June 26, 2021 party primary election and ultimately victory in the November 6, 2021 governorship election.
In offering myself for the service of Anambra state and its people, I have decided to sacrifice personal comfort, roll my sleeves and dirty my hands in order to build on the legacies that Dr. Okpara left behind. It is therefore for me, a call to serve the people of Anambra state in particular and Nigeria at large. That is why my mission philosophy is encapsulated in the words- …maka ilu olu oma. Olu Oma which means to do the good work. It is designed to comfort all citizens of Anambra. It will be government that is creative, purposeful, led with courage and driven by sharpened administrative skills, intelligence and experience. We envisage a selfless and caring shepherd-leadership. Isn’t that what Dr. Okpara did in the old eastern region for which we remember, celebrate and honour him today? As the great Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa often would say, politics is too serious to be left to (career) politicians.
Like I had said severally, I am in the race for Anambra state to make positive impact on lives and lift our state from the poor level of governance where it has been brought to and offer a new meaning to leadership. I intend to bring about a situation where the people are at the center of every government decision and policy. I intend to rebuild our ethical infrastructure and tap into the abundant human capacity of our state to help recreate 21st century Okpara magic.
In pursuing this vision, I have outlined a carefully thought-out and thoroughly debated 10-Point Agenda for the common good of our people and the edification of the human person. These are as follows:
Rapid Rural Development
Economic Growths with Jobs
Revitalization of Education -Human Capital Development
Youth Manpower Development and Employment
Planned Urbanization and Urban Renewal
Peace and Security
Improved Access to basic (preventive and curative) health services
Rebuilding our Ethical Infrastructure
Social Welfare and Poverty Eradication
These 10-Points are backed by a governance philosophy that every project, program and activity of our administration MUST pass through namely:
• Poverty Eradication/Wealth Creation.
• Creation of Employment (provision of dignified and meaningful life).
• Reduction of Inequality (i.e. enthronement of social justice & the creation of a society in which everyone has a stake, now and in future).
• Human Capacity Building –building the critical, market driven skills of the future.
• Rebuild our Ethical Infrastructure –value re-orientation and enthronement of honesty.
• Value for Money –cost effectiveness, efficiency, and integrity.
• Equity including gender equity, Common good and God’s assigned purpose for Ndi Anambra.
My quest to lead Anambra into a new future is backed by leadership ideology to run an open, consultative and all-inclusive government. It shall be a government that is transparent, creative, and accountable, respects rules, procedures and observes the separation of powers and responsibilities of the different arms of government. It shall give due consideration to equity, gender balance and fairness in allocation of resources, projects and appointments among the three senatorial zones. It shall accord maximum respect for elders, traditional institution, leadership of non-governmental organizations (churches etc.) underpinned by strict pursuit of merit, honesty and other democratic ideals.
Like Okpara, mine is a Humanistic, people-centered economic vision anchored on the twin pillars of wealth creation and poverty eradication; an all-inclusive economy that offers quality jobs to all who are willing to work and a basic safety net for those manifestly unable to, including the elderly. My vision, to paraphrase the late writer Obi Egbuna is a society where success is not measured solely by the presence of the rich but also by the absence of the poor.
In pushing for the above, I draw inspiration from Dr. Okpara’s courage, focus, vision, purposefulness, tact, humanity, empathy and love for the people. I believe that with God seeing us through the elections victoriously, and with the formation of a new government which team would be ready long before inauguration in March 2022, we shall work conscientiously and dedicatedly to redraw the map of the development of not only Anambra state, but the entire southeast region which, I believe, should be integrated to create the sort of infrastructure that our people need to let free their creative genius and indomitable entrepreneurial spirit.
Ladies and gentlemen, I am fired by the zeal to change the narrative on Anambra state and the southeast. Our people seem entrapped. They seek a new leadership; one that will inspire them to do more for themselves and their various communities. I recall a message I received on my phone after recent live interviews I had on AIT Television and Arise TV. The message read: Good morning Dikeora, I have watched your two interviews on AIT and today on Arise TV. My deduction from your brilliant answers to question on your plans to manage Anambra state better when you become the governor. I saw brilliant well-articulated plans to uplift our state from the complete mismanagement of all aspects of the state, so much so that those of us, who believed in the viability of our state on creation and invested heavily in the state, are now regretting investing in the state. I had wanted to take some drastic decisions regarding two of my investments in that state however, after listening to you; I think I will tarry awhile…
While I am not and cannot be Dr. Okpara, I am however immensely inspired by his leadership credentials just like he was inspired by the charisma of the Great Zik of Africa. Okpara had no godfather and did not need any to excel. He had God leading him. Being new in electoral politics, people often ask who my Godfather is and my simple and honest answer is that I have no godfather, but only have father God, the Almighty who brings to fruition every good intentions of man. I therefore commit the June 26 primary election of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) holding in Awka, Anambra state, into his hands. May God lead us to expected victory for the good of Anambra, Igboland, Nigeria and humanity at large. It is about a new leadership that makes a difference. Despite the pervading gloom, a new dawn will emerge and the south east and Nigeria will fulfill their promise. Hope springs eternal?
Obiora Okonkwo, Ph.D.
June 3, 2021