‘El-Rufai is delusional’ – Thisday editorial board member responds to Peter Obi critique

by Dr. Okey Ikechukwu

Mallam Nasir el-Rufa’i’s analysis of Anambra State’s 2012 budget lacked the objectivity and attention to available evidence needed for believable conclusions. He certainly got some data on physical and human geography and capped it with random and recondite statistics. This is all right where the targeting audience is foreign, especially if el-Rufa’i wants to later assemble the episodes in a book; as one suspects that he will eventually do. It will then be the seminal work of a good governance minded African – in principle at least.

El-Rufa’i’s claims about poverty in Anambra State is the exact opposite of the truth. This is evident in the Poverty Profile Report of the National Bureau of Statistics, published in the Punch Newspaper of February 14, 2012. Corroboration can be found in the congruence of government efforts and the self reliance driving the state’s economy. Dr. Magnus Kpakol, as head of the national poverty eradication programme, said as much on December 31, 2010. This was during the flag-off of the payment of the Poverty Reduction Accelerator Investment and second phase of the Care of the People (COPE) programme, when he urged other state governors to emulate Anambra.

El-Rufa’i used faulty data which had been officially brought to the attention  of the Minister of National Planning, Minister of Finance, the Vice-President and the National Economic Council. Is it not curious that the source of El-Rufa’i’s statistics shows Anambra to be poorer than Yobe, Taraba and Sokoto States?

At the governor’s meeting of May 22, 2012, with the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN), Anambra, Enugu and Ebonyi Chapters, the Chairman, Dr. Chile Obidigbo, confirmed that the state had performed beyond their expectations in its promise to encourage and empower indigenous manufactures.  Mr. Peter Obi is the only governor who meets regularly with them.

Anambra has special funds in the Bank of Industry (BoI) for manufacturers. Obi laid the foundation stone for the construction of Innoson Motor Manufacturing Company, built the road leading to the factory and invited President Goodluck Jonathan to inaugurate it. Cutic cable in Nnewi has a related story and there is close interface with firms like Chikason, Orange Drugs and other manufacturing companies in the state says a lot more than can be gleaned from El-Rufa’i’s analysis.

The second largest brewer in the world with the market capitalisation of close to 50 billion pounds and which is twice bigger than MTN, BA Miller, will commence production in Anambra; with the state investing N2 billion. Anambra State has more bank branches than the entire South-east put together and the numbers doubled under Obi’s tenure. Whereas Anambra State had about three really good hotels in 2006, today there are over 30 of them.

The Ambassadors of the USA, Russia, EU, China, Denmark, Canada and South Africa, among others, have visited the state; each concluding some investment conversation before leaving. Development partners have quadrupled their interventions in the state. Anambra is a reprioritisation economically impactful road networks and targeting roads that will enable farmers get their goods to the market; and link communities needing economies of scale by leveraging their areas of strength. Local governments like Anambra East, Anambra West, Ogbaru and Ayamelum got roads for the first time under Obi. On record today, there are over 600 kms of physically measurable major (and interconnecting) roads, built within the last six years.

El-Rufa’i set out to educate people about the Anambra State Youth Reorientation and Empowerment Programme (ANSYREP), but without first informing himself. The funding of the remaining beneficiaries will be concluded next month. More new and thriving fish farms and poultry houses will merge to empty their yield into the market at considerable profit. New trained floor tilers, electricians, painters, hairdressers and barbers, as well as roofing and ceiling P.O.P service providers, tailors, confectioners, etc are the deliverable from the programme. Many beneficiaries of the programme are now employers of labour and others used the ANSYREP leverage to better prepare themselves for the WIN programme of the Federal Government; and some of whom got up to N20 million from the Federal Government for their respective businesses.

A more diligent writer would have gone beyond the generalisations supplied by paid researchers to note that there has been no bank robbery in Anambra State for the better half of a year now. The state chose to equip the police, which has so far got over 300 vehicles, communication gadgets and offered other forms of logistical support. The data on crime rate exists for reference. Only last month the community-police parole initiative was announced to be facilitated with security vehicles for each of the 177 communities in the state. Every community gets regular security funds of N500,000.

Anambra is among the very few states actually paying the new national minimum wage and was the first to pay it in the South-east. But the state did not accept demands for pay hike based on workers’ comparative assessment of what their ‘professional colleagues’ were earning in other states with higher revenue base. The government showed its receipts and asked how their demands would be accommodated. The strikes were eventually called off, without the pay rise. But attention was focused on ‘the fact’ of a strike and not on its underpinnings and final resolution.

A state that hosts the most non-indigenes in the South-east, in which the Northern community now has a traditional ruler tells a story: The logic of settlement is that people flock to places of higher economic value. The 1000 housing units making up the second phase of Ngozika Estate have all been completely bought; with the state government under pressure to build 10,000 more. This is poverty, per excellence!
Its youth empowerment programmes always have values reorientation components. As for the state doing nothing about then crude oil deposit in the state Orient Petroleum was formed in 2001 and only got energised under Obi; for which the chairman of the company, Chief Emeka Anyaoku, made his appreciation public. In addition to constructing the road leading to the facility for over N! billion, the state government has invested N4 billion in the project.

In education, Anambra State had a celebrated school handover to their former church owners last year, along with money for equipment and rehabilitation. There is N6 billion in the bank, for the four years’ salaries of the teachers.

This is in addition to a public apology for the rude takeover of the schools without compensation 40 year ago and an open admission that government’s takeover of schools is responsible for the collapse of morals and standards. Anambra has consistently remained among the first three states with the highest number of JAMB applicants and the performance of Anambra students in national and international academic competitions give the lie to el-Rufai’s analysis.

It is true that the health sector got N1.4 billion in the 2012 budget, but that is because there are multiples of that amount being expended in the health sector by development partners. Before the current government, no health institution in the state was accredited, but two modern hospitals are now accredited.

The following have also been accredited: College of Heath Technology, Obosi; College of Nursing and Midwifery, Nkpor; and School of Nursing, Iyienu, among others. Hospitals have been built and rehabilitated, hospital equipment have been procured, various health programmes are implemented.

The state is funding 10 hostels in various missionary-owned hospitals this year, while a new maternity complex at Waterside is under construction.  Borromeo hospital at Iyienu and Adazi got over N500 million attracted by government from development partners.  

This scenario is also applicable in the water sector, where Anambra is working on many water projects with support from development partners, like the EU, UNICEF and MDGs. This year alone, the MDGs will deliver eight major town water schemes and UNICEF will provide water to 30 communities in Ogbaru, etc.

Agricultural sector is private-sector focused and the state recently secured N1 billion loan for farmers. Close to N1 billion is committed to the FADAMA project and Anambra’s FADAMA III is regarded as the best in the country by the World Bank. But el-Rufai does not know any of these. He also does not know that the state is working on over 27 erosion sites.

In the usual delusional language of a presumed economic crusader, he advised the government of Obi to cut down on the size  and cost of government, not knowing that the cut down on all costs is already 40.

Editor’s Note: This piece was first published in Thisday

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