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Against Odds, Yuletide of Unprecedented Flurry of Community Projects, PPPs in Anambra


By Chuka Nnabuife

IT IS apt to get confused about current news from Anambra State. For anyone who is not well abreast with developments in the state, he could be overwhelmed by a sense of  being in a swirling mire if not bafflement about all that he currently reads in the news about the South-East state. 

While headlines in mainstream and social media create the impressions of a land where there are sharp divisions, gulfs and political camps, facts on ground establish an impactful leadership with teaming followership. Should the seeker, sincerely nose around,  he would even notice clear cravings by the citizenry to do more to belong and burrow-into the activities of their state.

Without being in Awka, Onitsha, Nnewi, Ihiala or Ekwuluobia or any of the 21 local councils of the state, a follower of events in the media would conclude or imagine that the land is in unending flux and frenzy, with political banters and tantrums reigning as the order of the day. Trending news streams and commentaries characteristically serve a sustained flow of gybes at the state government, along with repeats of embellished reportage that deliberately avoid the main messages of almost every outing of the governor, Prof. Chukwuma C. Soludo. The frequently served staple of skews concertedly tend to frame and stigmatise the  governor and his 'Solution is Here' government. But despite the yet-to-be-fully-unravelled grand design to underreport Anambra events keep emerging to establish the falsehood of the misrepresenters.

Almost from the blues, there is a boom in private, public partnership community development projects in Anambra State.

 Witnessing the unveiling of a plethora of infrastructural projects built by private individuals and communities across Anambra State was one of my best highpoints of the last Christmas and New Year festivities in the state.

There was an upsurge of warm interests in communities for self-help initiatives. Towns, non-governmental groups and persons initiated and executed projects in scores and invited the state government to partner with them. Like in a scramble, enthusiastic men, some as young as 30 and 40 and seldom-public collectives of natives set up state-of-the-art facilities in their home communities and invited the Gov. Soludo to come and cut the tapes. 

The citizens boldly defied an earlier campaign by the detractors to deter ndi Anambra from homecoming, prior Christmas. The number of sons and daughters of the state who returned for the Yuletide was impressive and like a group with sole resolve to 'shame the devil' the returnees gave good vent to festive season by expressing their zeal to join the government's drive for rapid grassroots development. In a discernable pushback against the sensationalised reports of insecurity, the citizens lined behind their state government and showcased a chain of activities (actions) that communicated their keenness for solutions to their state's infrastructural challenges, especially in rural areas.

The number of such projects were too high and obvious to be ignored. As at third week of January 2024, over 50km of new rural roads alongside hospitals, basic schools, at least 60 new lock-up shops for market women, civic centres among others were commissioned for public use. 

It was an unprecedented float of noteworthy community development initiatives put out for public use within the Yuletide. Very remarkable is the high quality of the facilities. Going from town to town to unveil them gave the governor a busy schedule that sustained from Christmas to New Year but it was a tasking but heartwarming tour of duty for him.

Even the governor, could not hide his enthusiasm. At one of such stopovers in Oko, Aguata local government area (LGA), he expressed his joy that his schedule is full of such functions.

"In the last couple of weeks," he disclosed, "I have been going around Anambra, commissioning projects built by individuals and groups of individuals for their communities."

At Nibo, Awka South LGA, a group of natives of the community, based in the United States of America (USA) built a hospital which the governor describes as "so very well built... it has up-to-date equipment...  including facilities for telemedicine".

Prof. Soludo also disclosed that in Abatete, Idemmili South LGA a group did an 11km road while a young man in his 30s endowed the construction of a dozens of kilometers road in Umueri, Anambra East LGA. 

At Ozubulu, capital of Ekwusigo LGA a young man built a facility that contains a market of multiple-lock-up shops, a three-kilometer road and an  over 60-room top class hotel. 

At Neni, capital of Anaocha LGA a group of natives did six kilometers of roads. "Added to the 18km that the late Tonimas (Sir Tony Enukora) did in the town before he died, that will be 24km in Neni alone," Soludo noted.

At Adazi-Ani of the same Anaocha LGA, a man built 38km of roads, while the appears to be a healthy competition between social and age grade clubs in Oba Idemmili South LGA for community development projects to execute.

In Umuoji, Idemmili North LGA a young was reported to have sacrificed the money he would have used to purchase high four-wheel drives 'jeeps' to build roads for the use of natives of his community.

There are equally new schools, electricity projects among others that comprise corporate service provision and hospitality infrastructures. For example, at Okija, in Ihiala LGA oil and gas mogul, Ernest Obiejesi built a multi-service facility that serves conference centers, outdoor sports locations and retreat resorts, including an aircraft hanger. An array of top executives of Obiejesi's Obijackson Group marked their end-of-the-year corporate retreat there, and put out eye-catching photographs and films that are still trending on social media.

Indeed, Anambra was a thriller to experience this Christmas and New Year season but one has not had much of it in the news. The returners also responded positively to the government's call members of Igbo diaspora communities to bring some of their investments home (the _Akulueuno_ call).

The state served such a spectacle in community service projects that anyone who was carried away by the 'agenda reportage' in some sections of the media would be lost in askance when he beholds the reality. 

However, notwithstanding that most of the false claims of detractors such as their red herring that there is no security in Anambra hence people should not return for Yuletide, for their safety, were destroyed as it turned out that citizens defied it and had fun the misinforming ilk did not relent. They kept creating alerts to scare the returnees all through their stay during Christmas and New Year festivities. Events proved the adversaries wrong as it was a blissful, friction-free panoramic days of festivities across the state aside an incident at Umunze, Aguata LGA days to Christmas which officers and men of Anambra State Police Command effectively responded to. But the vendors of the bias against Anambra would not accept defeat. Even when facts clearly establish the falsehood in their plots, they switch to other smears.

Currently, the planks of their lampoon is that the state government should not celebrate private partnership projects (PPP) as achievement. Some even try to pummel the merits of such community development (CD) initiatives. Some even argue that PPPs yield no benefit to government or community while others struggle to reason that it is unfair for a government to take glory in private individuals' or communities' projects.

Obviously, most commentators against the community development (CD) projects want to either diminish the resounding statements they make on the social, economic and political spheres of Anambra State or to totally divert attention from them because they establish the people's interest in the government.

CDs and PPPs are standard practices. They hasten development and foster state and society's healthy relationship.

CDs empower communities. Experts note that they establish a bond between state and citizens. Kenny & Connors (2017) study establish how CDs help to bring about good governance as the phenomenon creates "stronger and more connected communities" in "a holistic approach grounded in principles of empowerment, human rights, inclusion, social justice, self-determination and collective action"

Wikipedia defines

PPP as "a long-term arrangement between a government and private sector institutions." 

Main aim of a CD project is to improve the "well-being, social cohesion, and economic opportunities of a specific community or group of people." This is why CDs tend to be successful because they are often outcomes of detailed careful plans "collaboration, and a focus on sustainable solutions. CD and PPP can be executed to tackle any area of vital need of state or community.

During his stopover at Oko, Gov. Soludo asked and was given a list of 25 eminent sons of the community. He urged them to be active citizens like the late Dr. Alex Ekwueme (popularly called 'Alegi' by his native Oko folks. The former vice president of Nigeria was a darling of Oko people because he attracted or shouldered many CD projects. Soludo reminded the Oko leaders that the menacingly ravaging gully erosion which is the  biggest problem of the town and the state can also be tackled through CD or PPP. He reasoned that apart from roads, schools, hospitals and civic centres there are other initiatives that the partnership between individuals, communities and government can cover. He said government will happily welcome and support such indigenous initiatives that offer desired solutions.

When President Bola Ahmed Tinubu's address at the 19th Convocation Ceremony of the Federal Polytechnic (FEDPOLY) in the same Oko of Aguata LGA on January 13, also emphasised the importance of CDs and PPPs it was like an echo of Soludo's approach in Anambra.

President Tinubu, represented by Dr. Ejeh Usman, Federal Director of Polytechnic Education and Allied Institutions observed thusly:

"...let me make it clear that it takes more than the government of any nation to provide solutions to all the challenges, especially in the area of funding.  

"I therefore enjoin all Stakeholders especially captains of industry to complement the efforts of government...."

Without doubt, the surge in number of CDs and PPPs witnessed during the last Yuletide in Anambra, while establishing the healthy connection and bonding of Soludo's government with Ndi Anambra also underscore a governor that sits down and plans with his people. 

That, very possibly, explains the dearth of reports on it in social and mainstream media.

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