Akpokuedike: Duty Call In Anambra is a biographical tribute to the former governor of Anambra State, Willie Obiano. The 15-chapter, 202-page and eight bibliography-page book is written by Ike Chioke, a close associate of Governor Obiano.
The appointment of Chioke, who also wrote Obiano’s governorship manifesto, as the Chairman of Anambra State Investment Promotion and Protection Agency, gave him the insight into the workings of the Obiano administration. His close observation of Obiano’s leadership style and accomplishments inspired him to write this panegyric.
This book covers Obiano’s two terms as governor of Anambra and his remarkable public service legacy. During the author’s research for the book, it became clear that he had to delve into the personal history of the man, which enabled the breaking of the book into four sections. The first four chapters encompass Obiano’s pedigree, Biafra, from Christ the King College to the University of Lagos and from First Bank to Fidelity Bank. The author met the Akpokuedike during Prof Chukwuma Soludo’s recapitalisation of banks drive as Central Bank of Nigeria governor.
Soludo had announced the Nigerian banking sector’s recapitalisation policy requiring all banks to raise their capital to a minimum of N25 billion by December 2005. Obiano, who was then an executive director at Fidelity, was responsible for managing the due diligence exercise Fidelity conducted on FSB International Bank. Their relationship began from that transaction, maturing into true friendship, loyalty and mutual respect. After Peter Obi adopted Obiano as his anointed candidate in the 2013 governorship election, Chioke was tapped to develop the first of many economic blueprints for Anambra.
Obiano is from Aguleri, a rural community in the Anambra river valley. It is the largest town in the area and the headquarters of Anambra East Local Council. His parents, Philip and Christiana, are both Catholics and from the same town. Philip, a catechist, was also a teacher, who taught in schools across Igboland. His wife went with him wherever he was transferred to, with her fish business. Of Philip’s six children, two died, leaving Willie as the eldest of the Obiano dynasty. Anambra is 98 per cent Igbo and two per cent Igala.
Following Nigeria’s military coup in 1966, many Igbo families lost their loved ones in the pogrom in Northern Nigeria. Amid the uncertainties, the July counter-coup occurred, and 11-year old Willie and his siblings returned to their classrooms, with ill omen muffling family conversations in homes. In May 1967, Lt. Col. Emeka Ojukwu, as Military Governor of Eastern Region, declared the region the Independent State of Biafra. The declaration changed the history of the region and Nigeria state.
The federal troops attacked Onitsha in October 1967 and the Obiano family decided it was time to move to a safer territory. They left their rented apartment on Ajassa Street, Onitsha, journeying to Amanze in Aguleri, their homestead. During the war years of 1967 to 1969, Willie and his siblings were out of school. The war ended in January 1970 and Willie returned to school at CKC, Onitsha, where he stood out, confident and self-assured. His devotion to his studies was unmatched. His intellectual hunger and inquisitiveness are his defining characteristics.
As the President of CKC’s literary and debating society, Willie won many laurels, including the coveted John F. Kennedy Essay Prize dedicated to the late United States President by the American Embassy. He easily made Grade 1 in his West African School Certificate Examination and his Higher School Certificate course two years later. That earned him a direct entry admission to read Accounting at UNILAG, where he learnt to be responsible, making minimum demands on his parents and never travelling home to Onitsha often.
At the start of his final year in the university, tragedy struck; his father died at the age of 57. Widowhood was an agonising plight for his fish trader mother. Happily, Willie stepped up to take over as head of the Obiano dynasty. For a 23-year-old undergraduate, it was no easy position.
“Without their breadwinner’s regular income, life grew tougher for the Obiano family. But Christie was not daunted. She worked hard, traded merrily and was able to complete the training of all the children. Rosary in hand, she prayed as she worked. Her cheerfulness, good humour and joie de vivre earned her many customers,” Chioke writes.
For Obiano’s 1979/80 national youth service, he worked as an accountant at the Benue State Hotel, Makurdi. For his outstanding performance in the National Youth Service Corps, he was made a Fellow, now a Patron, Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria; the President of Advanced Management Programme of Lagos Business School since 2008; and a 2006 Building New Ventures class member of Harvard Business School.
Willie’s impressive academic record and leadership skills landed him a job at the oldest bank in Nigeria, First Bank, as an auditor. Eighteen months later, he made a strategic move into the oil industry by joining Texaco Nigeria Plc. He was adjudged one of Texaco’s best-dressed gentlemen. In 1991, Willie left Texaco to become the Deputy Manager and Head of Audit at Fidelity Bank. Within months, he became Manager at the bank.
Willie’s meteoric rise to stardom at Fidelity never actually surprised those who knew him well. The pleasure of working with him readily attests to his uncommon drive, principled objectivity and supreme confidence.
Chioke recalls one of Obiano’s legacies at Fidelity, thus, “Alhaji Abulrahman Esene was an Executive Director at Fidelity Bank until 2012 when he retired. Esene remembers Willie’s tenure as Executive Director (Business Banking). Willie led core banking business, deploying his entrepreneurial mind to attract quality risk assets to the bank. He brokered paradigm-changing equity arrangements that firmly placed Fidelity on the global financial map.”
In 2012, after 31 years of meritorious service in the banking industry, Willie, aged 57, retired from Fidelity Bank and moved to the United States of Ameria.
Section two covers ‘Willie and Ebele’, ‘From Candidate to Governor’, ‘Philanthropy, Mentoring and Governance’, and ‘Securing Anambra Lives and Property’. Here, we’re engaged with Willie’s marriage and public life. Like her husband, Ebele is a fashionista. She dresses excellently and admires those who dress well.
The two lovers met on their way to work. Willie was at Texaco then, while Ebele was working at Ikeja Hotels at a Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation facility in Falomo, Ikoyi, Lagos. While commuting to office in their Texaco branded bus, Willie was waiting to catch the bus while Ebele was at the same bus stop on the way to her office. Willie chatted her up, which culminated in a platonic affair for two years before making up their minds to get married. His gentility and her Catholicism glued them together. On October 29, 1988, Ebele wedded Willie at St Anthony’s Catholic Church, Gbaja, Surulere, Lagos. They are blessed with three sons and two daughters. Their eldest child, a girl, graduated as a medical doctor in May 2017.
‘From Candidate to Governor’ is the most interesting chapter. Willie’s CKC confraternity worked for his gubernatorial election campaign, causing the Commissioner for Local Government, Dubem Obaze, to lead his campaign. Willie won and was sworn in as Anambra governor on March 17, 2014. Solo, his CKC classmate, was Secretary to the State Government.
As curtain draws on Obiano’s exploits in Anambra, his accomplishments are to be consolidated by his successor, Soludo, who was inaugurated in March 2022.
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