At 66 today, Governor Willie Maduaburochukwu Obiano is a fulfilled man. He has made success of nearly every challenge he has taken on. He graduated from the University of Lagos with a Second Class Upper Division honours in Accountancy. He had a remarkable career in banking which ended as an Executive Director. And finally, in seven months time, he will bow out as the most outstanding governor in the history of Anambra State, so far!
Folks who are familiar with Obiano would remember that he had always had a keen sense of community. Wherever he went; Willie Obiano moved with a firm belief in the intrinsic goodness of man. He does not waste time to make himself comfortable in any environment; reaching out to people with respect and honour and earning same in equal measure. Long before he made a name in banking, Obiano had established himself as a very illustrious son of Aguleri who had a deep concern for the welfare and progress of his community. Back then, he was an embodiment of the essence of Aguleri; gregarious, friendly, caring, but firm. Among his banking colleagues and well-heeled friends in Lagos, Willie Obiano never left anyone in doubt about his love of his rich culture and proud heritage. In fact, folks with good memory would recall that it wasn’t out of character to see him at major occasions with a flutist. Yes, the flutes sang his name and gave his arrival at events a flourish! What a man!
Obiano began early to show that people are important to him in a dramatic way. He built the prestigious Gech Auditorium in his hometown and threw its doors open as a veritable venue for weddings, fundraisers and other cultural events at little or no cost. He always donated relief materials and palliatives whenever ravaging floods wrecked havoc on his riverine kinfolks. In appreciation, he was inducted into the royal cabinet of Aguleri kingdom and given the title of ‘Akpokuedike.’ A name reserved for warriors. This recognition gave him the encouragement to contribute more of his time and resources to the service of his people.
As a banking executive, Obiano exuded an irresistible aura. He was affable, debonair and brilliant. A magnetic field, he drew quality people to himself. His friendship cut across banking, the armed forces, the clergy, the academia and the traditional institution. He is a nice bloke; humorous, fun to be with, the dude everyone wants in their team. The only difference is that even in the midst of fun and games, Willie Obiano always carries himself with a sense of mission. He never loses sight of the importance of meaningful friendship. He has a special gift of knowing what each friend could offer him at any given time. If Obiano took interest in you, chances are that he has seen something remarkable which in some cases may not be easily understandable to you. There’s always a silent purpose to his friendship.
Incidentally, his eclectic approach to friendship often comes handy in the fullness of time; his friends become trusted allies, aides and close buddies. They form a ribbon of excellence around him. They create pools of exceptionality around him. They put a seal of greatness on his simple acts. This is leadership in simpler terms…the ability to influence and guide people to a given destination or purpose. Obiano has excelled in this.
He has also excelled in his interpretation of his place in history; his response to the dominant issues of his time. When he was barely a year in office, a pack of hardened Boko Haram terrorists were sent to the prison at Ekwulobia. Panic ripped through Anambra like a shockwave. Everyone wondered why the authorities should choose to export terrorists to Anambra State. But Obiano worked in silence and before long the genie was out the bottle. The terror convicts drifted away at night like smoke; just the same way they had come.
Ozoemezina, the Biafran memorial, which he organized in his tenth month in office has become a watershed in Igbo memory. Ndigbo have a long memory. Ozoemezina is eternal. But that’s not all. Obiano also touched his people in other silent regions that count. He restored the Anambra pride. He aroused the quest for exploits among them. And they responded in a manner that is memorable. Students and teachers won historic laurels. Industrialists and entrepreneurs suddenly felt proud in their roots enough to invest at home. The Anambra landscape bears testimony to this. He donated his salaries to charity and set up a home for people with mental illnesses. Obiano’s touch is soft on people. He will be remembered.
Yes. Obiano will be remembered on the strength of his legacies and his efforts to bend history in his favour. They will remember Obiano when they see and feel his impact. When they sit in the monstrous auditorium of the Awka International Conference Center, they will remember him. When they watch the ball roll gloriously into the net at the Awka City Stadium, they will remember him. When the flowers flush with green life on the spectacular flyovers, they will remember him. And when their private jets touchdown at the Anambra International Cargo and Passenger Airport, they will clink glasses to his name.
In truth, Governor Willie Maduaburochukwu Obiano has been a huge blessing to Anambra State!
Happy birthday, Akpokuedike Aguleri!