A welcome Address by the Governor of Anambra State, Chief Willie Obiano during the Regional Security Conference of the South East and Delta States in the Governor’s Lodge, Amawbia, on August 22nd, 2015.
Ladies and gentlemen, on behalf of the good people of Anambra State, I welcome you to this historic conference. With the greatest sense of humility, I receive you with open hands and an open heart. First, I must congratulate all my brothers, the governors of the South East and Delta who assumed office almost three months ago. I have followed your programmes from your first day in office and I can boldly say that there is hope for our people. I have no doubt whatsoever that you will justify the great confidence our people have placed in you with a masterful performance. My brother, Governor Rochas Okorocha who has been there earlier than all of us, I congratulate you too on your second coming. I have no doubt that you will finish strong! Igbo bu Igbo, ekenem unu!
Ladies and gentlemen, this may well be our finest hour as a people… the turning point in our march to greatness that must tip the scale of progress in favour of our people. I say this with every sense of responsibility because, recent experience has shown that living in an increasingly dangerous world, the only panacea for economic growth and development is a safe and secure environment.
Ladies and gentlemen, our world has never been an easy place to live in. Through the ages, humanity has always been blighted by one concern or the other. Sadly, most of mankind’s greatest anxieties were caused by man’s own hands. I speak of the Trans-Atlantic Slave trade, I speak of Apartheid South Africa, I speak of the World Wars and finally I speak of the present climate of fear, brought upon us by terrorists. To bring the matter closer home, I also speak of our home grown headaches – Boko Haram, kidnapping, violent armed robbery, child trafficking and other petty crimes that rob us of a deserved peace of mind.
Speaking about mankind’s never-ending struggle for a better world, the great French philosopher, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, the author of The Social Contract, observed in 1762 that “man is born free, and everywhere, he is in chains.” Ladies and gentlemen, man is in a different kind of chain today. Although we have made steady progress from the era of the divine monarchies of Europe that inspired Rousseau’s timeless quote, to modern democracy with its many freedoms, our chains are no less heavy than they were. Strangely, from pre-history to the many wonders of science we have today, man remains the sole architect of his own fears!
The Peculiar Challenges of the South East & Delta
Years of ferocious assaults on cities and communities in the South East and Delta by successive robbery gangs and kidnap cells have driven meaningful investments away and stifled the economic growth of the region. In Anambra State in particular, we have experienced waves of gang rules in the commercial city of Onitsha that were so dominant that constituted authorities felt helpless under their brutal onslaught. The story is very much the same across the states in the region and Delta State. It may vary in degrees from one state to another but this region has had a most troubling crime history for far too long. The time has come to wipe this dark history away!
Ladies and gentlemen, we have assembled here today to interrogate our circumstances; to ask ourselves hard questions and to set for ourselves a common agenda. The pertinent question we must ask ourselves is how long? How long shall the South East and Delta State and other contiguous states bear the brunt of brazen criminality and meaningless brigandage? How long shall our people’s well known enterprising spirit be driven away to nourish distant lands while our homeland wallows in squalor? How long shall we continue to fall to the barrel of a gun pointed at us by our own brothers, friends and kinsmen who are caught up in violent crimes?
The Anambra Story
Ladies and gentlemen, the economic survival of our people depends on how well we answer these questions. In Anambra State, we have made bold efforts to answer these questions. We have fought and won the war against crime and criminality. We have driven kidnappers, armed robbers and drug barons out of our cities and communities. With the sustained efforts of Operation Kpochapu, Operation Sheba and other tactical initiatives, with the committed vigilance of the officers and men of the Anambra State Police Command and the solid support of the Nigerian Army, the Navy and the Department of State Security, we have cleansed Anambra State of criminals. With the tremendous support of the Vigilante Groups under the professional care of the retired former Commissioner of Police in Delta State, we have routed kidnappers and armed robbers from Anambra State. We have freed our social and economic space for businesses to thrive along with leisure. We have cleaned up the state and flung open our doors to investors, attracting substantial investments to the tune of $2.4bn in the past 17 months. All around Anambra, there is a new sense of freedom among our people. But our freedom cannot be complete until our neighbours begin to experience a new atmosphere of liberty. Recent experience has shown that a security threat in one location is a security threat to the surrounding regions. So, our freedom over crime will remain incomplete, so long as the armed robbers and kidnappers we drive away from Anambra State can find safety anywhere in this region.
Fellow Nigerians, our recent experience has shown that any meaningful effort to address security threats will miss the target if it does not involve an entire region or an economic block. There are so many instances where contiguous states that are blighted by a common security threat have pulled expertise and resources together to overcome it. For instance, Nigeria is currently working together with Cameroun, Niger and Chad to overcome the threat posed by Boko Haram in the North East. We must therefore work together to overcome the challenge of insecurity in our region.
Fellow Nigerians, we must fight this war together, win it together and enjoy the economic and social benefits of victory together. We cannot afford the consequences of a prolonged failure in this regard in an emerging Nigeria with clearly demarcated regional economic blocks. From the concentration of businesses in specific locations in the country that, it is saddening to see that 55 years after independence, Nigeria has yet to make the expected leap out of the regional economies of the pre-and- post-independence era. It is indeed disheartening to note that our national economic planning has left some regions scratching for survival while others are in full bloom. But there is no time to indulge in unproductive excuses or ring our hands in blame. If we cast a look backwards to where we are coming from, we shall remember that we have overcome greater adversities in our march to the present day. We shall also remember that any economic setback we have suffered as a people will take only time and planning to overcome. Indeed, we shall be better than our fathers. And the time to make that happen is now!
An Eastern Economic Agenda
Ladies and gentlemen, I must not fail to remind us that the time has come to set an Eastern Economic Agenda. The shrinking of spaces for migrant people across the country calls for a robust economic and social agenda that will make our people less vulnerable to increasing hostilities around the world. There is a strident call by History on every leader from this region which we cannot ignore. Posterity looks onto us to build a befitting economy for the South East and Delta State. And for us to even contemplate anything of that magnitude, we must first find a lasting solution to insecurity in the region. This all important Conference is therefore an economic call to arms. We must all rise to wage a successful war on insecurity as a precursor to economic prosperity and greater fulfilment.
Brothers and sisters, as we settle down to the business of the day, I would like to remind you that in the words of the great Nelson Mandela, “it always seems impossible until it’s done.”