At the church service on Sunday, March 17, to mark the fifth anniversary of the Governor Willie Obiano administration, which is also the first anniversary of its second tenure, Archbishop Valerian Okeke of the Onitsha Ecclesiastical Province in Anambra State, made a point which contemporary leadership and management researchers would find significant. Chief Obiano is the Anambra State governor, but he alone is not responsible for the transformation which the state has witnessed in the last few years, noted the archbishop, who is an internationally recognised professor of moral theology.
Archbishop Okeke was obviously stating a point which the governor himself has been making. For example, while playing host to the Lagos State branch of Ohanaeze Ndigbo last month, Chief Obiano noted that the state has been able to catch both national and international imagination of late because of the knowledge, skills and social values of persons appointed into various key positions, as well as the invaluable roles of the other arms of government, especially the legislature. “I am not running a one-man show”, he declared. The governor was not trying to play to the gallery by sounding humble, but calling attention to an important leadership fact which has hardly been appreciated in Nigeria even by social science scholars.
Distributed or shared leadership is a principle which acknowledges the contributions of various individuals or groups to the success of an organisation or society or state. Researchers now accept that it is misleading to ascribe the success, or failure, of any enterprise or place to one individual. In a dictatorship where only one man is the alpha and omega, it is usual to give the credit to only one person, but the world is now in an era which has witnessed what the great political scientist, Francis Fukuyama, calls the globalisation of democracy. We are familiar with such new buzzwords as inclusiveness and “carry everyone along”.
Studies have shown that leaders who appreciate and acknowledge the contributions of others deliver superb results. Take Francis Cardinal Arinze. As President of the Pontifical Council on Interreligious Dialogue at the Vatican, he was preeminent in enhancing the relations between the Catholic Church and other faiths around the world during the papacy of John Paul II, drawing global applause. But he refused to take the glory. “The people with whom I work do all the work and I take the credit”, he humorously told the world press. It didn’t come to the world as a surprise when Arinze was elevated to the Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of Sacraments, becoming effectively the fourth person in the Vatican and papabile, that is, one of the foremost candidates to be considered for papacy.
Ex governor Donald Duke of Cross River State has been critical of the imperial ways of Nigerian political leaders, observing that they impact profoundly on the quality of public policy. Duke is reported to have said that Nigerians will cry if they get to know what goes on at executive council meetings from the presidency to the states. Far from quality and honest discussions meant to promote the public good, what goes on at council meetings is that, to paraphrase Pius Okigbo, council members organise their views to pander to the Big Man. Creativity and innovation which lead to progress are thus stifled. Sycophancy reigns supreme because it is well rewarded.
Anambra State under Obiano’s leadership is different, as Chinedu Emeka, the state deputy governor from 1999 to 2003, has remarked. According to Dr Emeka, Obiano enjoys healthy debates among council members, arguably the most accomplished of professionals in any state in Nigeria. The result is the immense progress which Anambra State has recorded in recent years in various sectors, ranging from education to social harmony to agriculture to security to infrastructure, etc. Its economy is now the fourth largest in the country, placing it ahead of those of African countries like Ghana if Anambra had been a country.
On the 1st anniversary of Obiano’s second term, it is worthwhile to take a look at one of its innovative programmes, as explained by the Commissioner for Information and Public Enlightenment, C. Don Adinuba:
“The Anambra State Government is about to launch the third phase of the N20 million Community-Choose-Your-Project Initiative. Governor Willie Obiano has already set aside N20m for each of the 179 communities, amounting to 3.58 billion naira, for this phase.
“Communities which have yet to complete the 2nd phase will, however, not participate in the third phase. The government observes that only 78 communities have completed the 2nd phase and are, therefore, ready to start new development projects in the third phase.
“It is regrettable that about 50% of communities have yet to finish the 2nd phase on account of mostly communal politics and squabbles. The internal politics and squabbles are slowing down the progress of not only the affected communities but also the entire state.
“The Anambra State government is in a hurry to develop all communities in the state. Consequently, it is appealing to all Presidents General, Ndi Igwe and other stakeholders in the communities to ensure that their communities are not left behind. We call upon them to resolve their problems immediately and complete the 2nd phase of the Community-Choose-Your-Project Initiative.
“The people and government of Anambra State are proud of this initiative which has brought concrete development to every community. It has been copied by some other states like Ebonyi and Enugu, though theirs is restricted to N10m per community.
“The Community-Choose-Your-Project Initiative is an unprecedented development strategy by the Anambra State Government through which each of the 179 communities in the state selects a project it wants the government to execute for it worth N20m. The community even chooses the contractor who must come from the area while the government provides the resources. Communities have chosen libraries, civic centres, health centres, markets, water boreholes, etc.
“The strategy has earned praise from researchers and development experts around the globe as a perfect example of the bottom-up approach to development which is recommended in the democratic setting, as opposed to the traditional top-down style which sees top government officials decide projects for communities without bothering to find out what the communities actually want or need.
“Once again, the Anambra State Government thanks all the communities in the state for participating effectively in the first phase of the development initiative and enjoins those still battling with the second phase to finish them immediately, so as to participate in the third phase. The government is grateful to all the Presidents General, Ndi Igwe and other stakeholders in the communities for their noble roles in the government’s determination to make the state remain exemplary in development”.
God bless Anambra State, the Light of the Nation.
-Agbodike PhD, represents Ihiala2 in the Anambra State House of Assembly, Awka.