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Tuesday, April 16, 2024

How Soludo Administration Is Promoting Peace and Community Development in Anambra State

 

By Ifeanyi Okeke

The South-East states in Nigeria were abuzz with colourful celebrations and multiple social events during the 2023 Christmas season, as it is now customary in Igboland during festive periods.
In Anambra state, it was more than just Christmas but a carnival of colours, enchanting rhythms, dance steps and ululations of celebrations and expressions of very rich cultural heritage across the 179 communities in the state. All these would not have been possible if not for the peace and tranquillity that has gradually returned to the state. Thanks to the hardwork and efforts of the state Governor, Professor Charles Chukwuma Soludo, his commissioners, aides, security agencies, traditional rulers, Presidents General, and the resilient spirit of Ndi Anambra who are heeding the Governor’s call to take back their communities.

According to Miss Vera Onyia, a native of Odekpe, in Ogbaru Local Government Area of the state, “The turnout of people who came home for the festivities was massive. People returned home from various cities in Nigeria and the diaspora, for what is now a yearly pilgrimage to spend the holiday period with family and friends in Anambra state.”

Findings indicate that flights to Chinua Achebe airport in Anambra state, and the entire South-East region were fully booked during the past Christmas celebrations, despite the high air fares. Even the cost of traveling from major cities to the South- East by road was not also pocket friendly, but that didn’t deter Anambra state holiday makers from returning home to join in the celebrations.

Interestingly, during the period, wherever one turned to in the 179 communities, there were beehive of activities and celebrants at one event or the other, glowing in brilliant colours of cultural attires and glorious sounds of native flutes, gongs and other traditional musical instruments, that produce soul-lifting melodies that seemingly transformed the whole state into an open carnival, to the admiration of both residents and visitors to the state.

Many people never knew that a beach existed in Anambra state until pictures and videos of Anam Beach Festival in Anambra West LGA surfaced on the internet. There were also other events that were celebrated across the state such as masquerade festivals, chieftaincy, ozo, oba, Iyom and other titles, Ofala, Igu-Aro festivals etc.
Many have attributed this huge turnout of people for different events in the state, to the increasing confidence people now express in the intentional restoration of peace and order in the communities in the state by the government of Professor Charles Chukwuma Soludo, through strategic support to the security agencies, and re- engineering of community leadership system – Town Unions, by the state government.

According to Chief Ikenna Okonkwo, a native of Ogidi, Idemili North Local Government Area of the state, who visited home from Denver, Colorado, United States of America, “Development is not measured only by the provision of physical infrastructure. The soft side of infrastructure – peace and community harmony – also rank among the indices that a responsible government could be evaluated.”

Speaking further, Chief Okonkwo said: “In my interactions with many people, even before I made the decision to visit home for Christmas, I can attest to the fact that Professor Charles Chukwuma Soludo, the Governor of Anambra state has been silently carrying out a revolution in the local government system and community development in Anambra state”.
“The Governor has been doing this through the Ministry of Local Government, Chieftaincy and Community Affairs, headed by the Commissioner, Mr Tony-Collins Nwabunwanne and his team”.
“You know that it is only a stable and peaceful community that would provide the right atmosphere for physical and human capital development.”

Apparently, in the last 18 months, the Ministry of Local Government, Chieftaincy and Community Affairs has successfully conducted many town union elections without the usual rancour and acrimony. Even during the busy period of December 2023, during the festive period, over 40 of such elections, were conducted.
It is on record that several communities that have not known peace in the last few years, this includes communities where the traditional rulers and the Presidents General are at war with each other have been reconciled.

Observations have shown that the state government does not conduct such elections directly, but rather, it supervises the elections to ensure that it was done in line with the provisions of the constitution of the individual towns and laws of the state, as enacted by the state House of Assembly. And where any town failed to conduct such election successfully, the state government would set up a caretaker committee to oversee the affairs of the town until a proper election is conducted.

Giving more insight into the Town Union leadership system in Anambra state, a prominent businessman from Enugu state, who has been living and working in Onitsha, Anambra state, for a number of years, Mr. Boniface Obeta, said, “In Anambra state, Town Unions function like a fourth-tier arm of government after the federal, state and local governments”.

“Significantly, the state government accords town unions recognition as its agent of implementing development programmes in the communities. So, the state government relies on town unions to generate priority development programmes for every community because different communities have their peculiar development needs”.

“Anambra state has 179 communities. Each of the Communities has a local leadership christened town union executive headed by a President-General (PG), Secretary and other executive members, including Vice-President-General, Treasurer, Publicity Secretary, Auditor, etc, depending on the constitution of individual town union. Every town has its individual town union constitution which defines the composition of the executive, tenure and functions of each executive.

“All the town unions have a central umbrella known as the ‘Anambra State Association of Town Unions (ASATU)’. This umbrella co-ordinates for the state government all activities of various town unions in the state. And it has its secretariat in the Government House, Awka. It has a president, secretary and other executive members. ASATU was a brain-child of the late Chief Chimezie Ikeazor (Oboli Obosi), a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, SAN, who emerged as the pioneer president”.

“Town unions maintain security in their respective towns. So, the state government encourages every community to set up a vigilante group to maintain security in the town. The state gives subvention to the town unions to maintain community vigilante, and also supports them with security operational vehicles and other items”.

“The philosophy behind this system is the saying that ‘no crime can successfully take place in any community without an insider’s connivance. The state government sometimes uses the town unions to execute direct-Labour projects, they build primary and secondary schools, construct rural roads, provide pipe-born water, electricity, cottage hospitals, etc, either directly or indirectly.”

A former member, House of Representatives, who represented Anambra East and West Federal Constituency, Anambra state, in the 7th Assembly, Hon. Chinedu Obidigwe, said that the PG leadership system, when well-coordinated, helps to attract development to communities as it acts as a bridge between the communities and the state government.
According to him, a purposeful PG leadership could also help in bringing about relevant review of some identified traditional practices in some communities that hurt progress or bring individuals under undue societal pressure, such as burial ceremonies or diverse other money gosling social practices. But he added that a meaningful community town union leadership should also work in synergy with the traditional leadership of the place in order to avoid internal conflict.

Beyond the encouragement of transparent and credible Town Union leadership in each community, the Soludo administration, in a bid to protect and preserve the traditional institution from abuse, also insists that traditional rulers must abide by some code of conduct, especially as regards the conferment of chieftaincy titles to individuals, in order to stop the abuse of such practice by conferring such titles to only credible people of integrity who have evidently contributed to the development of the communities.

Some relevant portions of the Traditional Rulers Code of Conduct says: “Igwe can only confer title on indigenes of their community after they must have obtained security clearance from the relevant security agencies and approval from Mr. Commissioner, Ministry of Local Government, Chieftaincy and Community Affairs. If the Igwe must confer title on an indigene of another community, he must get the consent of the Igwe of the recipient’s community. The title must be that of the conferring community.”

Checks made at the office of Anambra Commissioner for local government affairs, Mr Tony-Collins Nwabunwanne, confirmed that since the advent of Soludo administration, 134 PG and town union elections have been successfully conducted, while six traditional rulers – Ndi Igwe – have been issued with certificates of recognition by the state government. There are many more in the pipeline.

One can only hope and pray that the present sweet breeze blowing across Anambra communities continues under the administration of Professor Charles Soludo and beyond.

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Okeke, a public affairs analyst wrote from Awka, Anambra State.

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