By Christian ABURIME
In the world today, Asia’s Singapore continues to be referenced and celebrated as the most successful development story that emerged from the 20th century.
Dubbed a ‘little red dot’ on the Asian continent map, Singapore was indeed a tiny island country with little natural resources; a third-world country that got transformed into a prosperous, modern, smart first-world city-state thriving with rapid growth, full employment, life expectancy, education, housing and other socio-economic infrastructure milestones.
But a society does not get transformed in such a phenomenal manner without a transformative agent.
Behind the Singapore success story was the larger-than-life reputation of its world-respected former president, Lee Kuan Yew. It was Yew who, through his ingenious vision and astute leadership, led the economic transformation of Singapore into a modern-day wonder.
Lee Kuan Yew passed away in 2015, but his legacy thrives on. No doubt, the world will continue to witness amazing stories like those of Singapore and Yew in diverse measures.
Closer home, comes the big question: will Anambra State become a Singaporean marvel under the leadership of Governor Chukwuma Charles Soludo?
Well, if the last one year of performance in infrastructure development by the governor is anything to go by, a Singaporean experience is surely in the offing in Anambra State
As an accomplished economist who had served as a presidential economic adviser and Central Bank Governor, Prof. Charles Soludo came to become the Governor of Anambra State with a rich hindsight that there cannot be economic transformation without infrastructure investments.
Today in our series of x-raying his achievements under one year, we shall examine his score card in that regard. On hitting the ground sprinting from his first day of being sworn in as governor, Soludo has had a crystal clear vision which was well spelt out in his now famous manifesto, (The People’s Manifesto). And one of the core areas he addressed succinctly was to transform Anambra State into “a livable and prosperous smart megacity” and “Africa’s new axis of sustainable prosperity”.
A place where people, Ndi Anambra and visitors alike, would prefer to live, learn, work, invest, relax and enjoy.
In order to actualize that grand vision, the economist in Soludo knew that he must invest massively in critical infrastructure. True to his vision, the governor took off aggressively under one of his 5-Solution policy pillars, namely Infrastructure and Economic Transformation.
Within 12 months, Soludo’s Anambra became what observers now routinely call a ‘huge construction site’. It is neither tales by moonlight nor playing to the gallery. It is a verifiable daylight reality of concrete achievements by a quiet achiever despite the obfuscating aura of political distractions and controversies cast around him by his traducers.
For a start, Governor Soludo early last year declared a state of emergency on roads in order to improve road infrastructure throughout the state. Swinging into action, he awarded and flagged off 261 km road contracts crisscrossing all the 21 local government areas of Anambra State.
Today, some of the awarded road constructions have been completed while others are under various stages of completion. Even more reassuring is that the road projects come with complementary full-scale desilting of drainages and are designed to last at least 20 years! In addition to major road constructions, reconstructions and rehabilitations, the Soludo administration also embarked on palliative works on many roads across the state, thereby making them motorable for Ndi Anambra as was enjoyed during the last festive season. With the improving road infrastructure, Anambra’s economy is being primed for robust flourishing.
Taking the journey of infrastructure and economic transformation further, Governor Soludo also latched on to improving power supply. His government developed a clear road map to 24/7 electricity in Anambra State, being executed in collaboration with power sector partners with the ultimate goal of providing regular power in key cities over the next 2 years. For instance, the government signed an MOU with Enugu Electricity Distribution Company (EEDC), thus building a collaborative pact that has engendered the steadily improving power supply across Anambra State till date.
In fact, some feeders in the state are now receiving 22 hours of power every day. Aside that, the Soludo government has also converted over 6,380 diesel-powered streetlights to solar to sustainably keep our streets well lit at night at minimum cost.
What is more, the Phase 2 of converting additional 11,000 more street lights to solar is underway. When an improved power supply meets a state of improved security, the result is a buoyant night economy already emerging in Anambra!
Have we arrived now? Well, the journey of transformation continues in the transport sector. As infrastructure development cannot be fully enjoyed without a functional transportation system, Governor Soludo developed and is executing a strategic Transport Intervention Plan.
The plan encompasses the modernization of water transportation for riverside areas in the state; the construction of bus terminals at Ekwulobia, Awka, Onitsha and Nnewi; strict adherence to civil aviation safety and operational standards at the airport; refurbishment and repair of existing boats and water buses; continuing work to complete the Anambra International Airport; completing a feasibility study for sky train with a pilot in Onitsha, with exploring financing options; and rejuvenating Anambra Transport Management Agency to address the traffic chaos. Still, the journey goes on.
From Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s poem, ‘The Rime of the Ancient Mariner’, comes the famous line: ‘water, water everywhere and not a drop to drink’. In Anambra State, water is everywhere around us too but is often not clean or safe enough for Ndi Anambra to drink and use for other purposes. Yet, water is an essential part of any economic transformation. That is why the Soludo government also kept faith with improving water resources for the people.
Thus, the government conducted hydrogeological and hydrological mapping of the state; developed a concession plan for water supply in Onitsha, Awka, Nnewi, Ihiala, Aguata and other areas; rehabilitated and resuscitated water supply to the state Secretariat Complex; and collaborated with UNICEF to rehabilitate 98 hand pump boreholes in the 7 LGAs.
If usable water availability is essential, food security is indispensable. This brings us to the agriculture aspect of Soludo’s economic transformation journey.
Conscious of the need for healthy nutrition, Governor Soludo launched a regenerative agriculture project aimed at producing natural (organic) food through sustainable means. He went further to attract donor agency funded Small Holder Horticultural Empowerment Project (SHEP) to Anambra. He embarked on a new Palm and Coconut revolution drive by procuring and distributing 220,000 oil palm seedlings and 150,000 coconut seedlings for poverty alleviation and economic growth.
Also procured and distributed were Ukwa (1000 seedlings), Ogbono (1000 seedlings), Akilu (1000 seedlings), Guava (1000 seedlings) and Sour Sop (1000 seedlings).
And to cap the massive support to Anambra farmers, the Soludo administration undertook mass distribution of free farm inputs to farmers through the FADAMA Covid-19 Action Recovery and Economic Stimulus (FADAMA CARES) which included fertilizers, cassava stems, poultry feeds, day-old chicks (DOCs), improved rice seeds, herbicides and pesticides.
Food security is growing. But that’s not all. Someone once said that industry is fortune’s right hand. It is true. How would the economic transformation of Anambra State be complete without a thriving industry?
How would Anambra attain a Singaporean prosperity without industrial flourishing? Or how would Ndi Anambra make a fortune out of opportunities without industrialization? This made the Soludo government to also prioritize huge infrastructure investments in industry.
First, his government developed a framework for the development of industrial cities that will catalyze rapid economic growth of the state. Then, 53 hectares of land have been acquired in Ukpo (more expected from Ukwulu to make 100 hectares) for the development of an export emporium and Africa’s largest shopping mall.
Also, there is an ongoing engagement with the Federal Government for the Automotive Industrial Park sited on 80 hectares of land donated by Akwaihedi, Unubi and Uga communities.
The Soludo government has further embarked on the construction of the wholesale drug market at Oba to become the largest open drug distribution market in Africa, as well as started the clearing of a 200 hectares Anambra State Pharmaceutical Manufacturing Hub in Ogboji to house over 100 pharmaceutical companies, a pharmaceutical school and so on.
Digitally, to enable the vision and emergence of Anambra as a connected, modern, smart megacity, the Soludo administration has commenced the construction of 2,000km of fibre optic ducts to ensure last mile connectivity. Imagine the resultant digital economy possibilities! Other infrastructure investments include designing and commencing the construction of a Leisure/Entertainment hub around Agulu Lake (African Disneyland); acquiring about 250 hectares of land and signing a PPP agreement with 7 companies for the new Awka City, with 3 companies already on site; and putting back on stream 4 of non-functional 21 housing estates inherited by the Anambra State Housing Development Corporation (ASHDC).
So far, so eventful has been Governor Soludo’s one-year journey to transforming Anambra State economically with massive infrastructure investments. If, according to the World Bank, development happens through structural transformation which shifts the balance of economic activity towards higher productivity manufacturing and service sectors, then Soludo is on the right track.
And as the tireless governor sustains his giant infrastructure development strides, Anambra State could well end up being a modern Singaporean wonder after all. This is just the beginning.