There is a human tendency to become complacent when things are going very well. People assume that things can never go bad again, believing the worst is over. This is so even among the most rigorous scholars in the world. Believing that democracy would always grow rather than diminish, Francis Fukuyama once wrote approvingly about the progressive course of human history, though he has since changed his view.
Warning that the practice of democracy should not be taken for granted, Professor Jim Collins, one of the greatest leadership researchers in the world, declared at the 2009 Drucker Day to mark the Peter Drucker Centennial at the Drucker Institute, Claremont Graduate University in California: “If we think that the world is permanently and irrevocably beyond the reach of totalitarian dictators, that freedom will always triumph, and never will it step backward, I would simply remind us of our history. It is not on our side. Most of the world’s most dangerous and powerful totalitarian states came after 500BC Greece, which was the birthplace of the republic and democracy.”
The tendency to become complacent about the future because things are currently rosy has been brought to the fore by ongoing events in Anambra State. People are taking the rapid progress of the state for granted in a way that suggests that they no longer care about the future. This is dangerous.
Anambra has become arguably the most competitive state in the country in the last four years. Whether in agriculture, security, immunisation, social harmony or education, the state has been very impressive. After representing Nigeria for years in educational competitions in Europe and Asia, it last year crowned its efforts when its students won the Golden Prize in the highly prestigious World Technovision Competition held on Thursday, August 9, 2018, in Silicon Valley in San Francisco, United States. They beat their counterparts from all over the world, including the United States, with their Internet application to fight fake drugs.
It amazes people how a state which was producing only 80 metric tonnes of rice four years ago now produces a whopping 424 metric tonnes annually and the output will increase by 100 metric tonnes per annum in the next one year. Unknown to most Nigerians, especially Lagosians, even the famous Lake Rice, which is the product of a joint venture between Lagos and Kebbi state governments, is milled in Anambra State by a firm known as Stines, based in Amichi, Nnewi South Local Government Area. The firm, like many others, was attracted to the state as a result of Anambra’s status as Nigeria’s safest state, a long leap from the days when the place was practically overrun by kidnappers and other violent criminals.
The bad news is that a number of the elements who made Anambra look like a failed state in the recent past are staging a comeback. Rather than express outrage at what the great Professor Chinua Achebe would describe as sacrilegious, the elites are looking the other way. One of the elements whom Achebe called a renegade contested the recent National Assembly elections as the candidate of a major political party. Though he lost, the mere fact that he was considered at all for the high national office—despite his poor education—in a state ahead of any other in education calls for concern.
The same person was at the centre of the rigged elections in the state during the Olusegun Obasanjo presidency. He was at the centre of the kidnap of the state governor in 2003, at the centre of the three-day mayhem which saw political thugs burn in 2004 the House of Assembly, the Judicial Headquarters, the Governor’s Lodge in Onitsha, the Anambra Broadcasting Service and Government House in Awka, among others. He was also at the centre of the massive fraud known as the Irrevocable Standing Payment Orders (ISPOs), through which the state was swindled of billions of naira under the pretext that some shadowy contractors were doing some jobs for the government.
Quite remarkably, the person with whom this person is accused of committing the atrocities against the people of Anambra State is even laying claim to the same senatorial ticket as the controversial person. No wonder, Ndi Anambra are questioning the agenda of the state branch of this national party for them. Professor Achebe famously described members of the state branch as renegades.
The elite in our state should not remain indifferent to the serious signs of the threat of a return to the era that made Anambra a byword for state failure. As the British political philosopher, Edmund Burke, noted in his days, the only condition necessary for evil to thrive is for good men and women to watch akimbo as evil takes over their land. Professor Pat Utomi of the Lagos Business School has been advising the Nigerian elite against indifference to issues affecting society, citing examples of how various countries were in recent years brought to ruins by this attitude.
Anambra State has become a role model in rapid development. We should never allow it to go back to the days which the locusts consumed. We should never return to the days of the Irrevocable Standing Payment Orders which left the state with no money to pay state employees, making primary and secondary schools close for almost one academic session because teachers were owed for several months.
For those who may not know, ISPOs meant in those days that the dubious contractors would be paid from the state’s monthly share from the federation account. They were paid from what was due to the state before workers and genuine contractors could be paid. The payments were regardless of whether the contractors generated certificates of job done or not. Ndi Anambra want such things as their state being among the first to pay the new minimum wage which Governor Obiano has pledged once the relevant law comes into force. The new minimum wage will increase the state’s monthly wage by almost one billion naira.
As the state holds an election into its House of Assembly on Saturday, it is self-evident that the renegades are gathering once again. Professor Achebe must be turning in his grave. The choice before us is clear: to continue on the present development trajectory or return to the years the locusts consumed.
God bless Anambra State, the Light of the Nation.
-Nzeribe was a manager with First City Monument Bank.