By Jerry Uhuo
It was Thomas Jefferson who said: “Nothing can stop the man with the right mental attitude from achieving his goal; nothing on earth can help the man with the wrong mental attitude.” This is the right attitude to a newspaper article, headlined, “Ungodly Political Prophets in Ebonyi State” written by one Ndubuisi Okpala, which was a very poorly executed hatchet job.
In a political period such as this and in an environment like Ebonyi where those deficient in ideas resort to jungle political debate, such article should ordinarily not deserve a response. But since some readers and supporters of Dr. Sam Egwu may not see it the same way, it has become imperative to put the so called Okpala in his right shoes.
The fact that Ndubusis Okpala described Egwu in his article as a politician living in the past and a man who “as governor achieved visibly nothing” and that the Egwu’s regime was a period of “oil boom” was a clear indication that the author knew nothing about Egwu and Ebonyi from 1999 to 2007.
I had in my article, published in December, 2014, stated that I was never a fan of Egwu for some reasons. He was elected in 1999 one year after my election as the President General of Ebonyi State Community, Abuja. I could recall that Egwu then, governor elect, visited the executive of the body in company of Chief Geoffrey Chukwu, erstwhile Chairman of PDP, Ebonyi Chapter, at Optima Hotel, Area 10, Abuja, venue of our meetings, as part of his thank you visit to Ebonyians who gave him the mandate to lead them as their governor.
The expressions on his face were that of someone with burning desire to get down to work and transform the society. Ebonyi people in Abuja congratulated him and promised to give him maximum support to succeed in his administration. Based on the cordial relationship between Ebonyi indigenes in Abuja and that of the state government, through the liaison office, we were directed to prepare a blueprint for the new governor and also to carry out a research on the number of Ebonyians in the Federal Civil Service with a view to creating employment opportunities for the indigenes of the state in the Federal Service.
It was eye opening for the new governor who swung into action and ensured that many Ebonyians got opportunity to work in the Federal Service. What every Ebonyian who witnessed Egwu’s administration will testify to today is that the man as a governor, from 1999 to 2007, had genuine policies that touched on human life and social development which if Governor Martin Elechi had continued would have changed the situation in Ebonyi today.
Egwu knew from the onset that he had a mandate to reach out to Ebonyians and give them a sense of belonging. He had human touch and was compassionate. He empowered many young people and never believed in keeping one set of people in one office for eight years or more as is the case today. He felt that there was need for new ideas and creativity to be brought into governance and, because of that, he reshuffled his cabinet occasionally. He by so doing created opportunities for a lot of people to make their own contributions to the development of the state. He was among the first governors in Nigeria then to create new local government councils which were later turned to development centres because he wanted to bring development close to the people.
He introduced a scholarship scheme in partnership with foreign universities, called HIPACK, which provided platform for young Ebonyians to study up to doctorate levels. Most of the beneficiaries of that project returned home and became resource persons at the Ebonyi State University while many others are practicing in other areas as employers of labour. The current leadership in Ebonyi has abolished the programme. Egwu also in consideration of the poor situation of parents in Ebonyi, allowed indigenous students in the state university to pay their tuition fees in installments.
Egwu promoted peaceful co-existence in Ebonyi and prevented situations that would have escalated to war. But under Elechi’s administration, inter-sectional wars were promoted and allegedly sponsored by government, a clear example is the Ezza-Ezillo crisis generally believed to have been instigated and sponsored by the government.
It is on record that under Egwu’s administration, Ebonyi government never received any revenue from federation account amounting to over N1billion in the first fours years. There was no excess crude as it is today, there was no SURE-P and donations from donor agencies were hardly available, yet he was able to make his remarkable achievements. So the issue of “oil boom” as described by Okpala was nowhere.
When Egwu left office in 2007, he was appointed the Minister of Education by former President Olusegun Obasanjo. He was appointed into different Boards at the federal level as well as member of the just concluded National Conference. There is no doubt that Egwu’s antecedents, political experience and national presence and acceptability, present him as a credible candidate for Senate to represent Ebonyi North. The basic functions of a member of the National Assembly are lawmaking, representation and oversight. For one who was governor and now outside the office, Egwu’s place in the Senate will be an opportunity to use his towering national and international image to attract developments to Ebonyi. Age is still on his side and would not need to make the hallowed chambers a sleeping bed.
I do not wish to enter the wilderness debate with Okpala over which party between PDP and Labour will win the senatorial seat in Ebonyi North as that decision is left for the people of the zone. But because the people of the zone understand what quality representation means, Egwu remains the candidate for the election. It is important to remind Okpala on the 12th century Arabic saying that, “He who knows not, and knows not that he knows not, is a fool. Shun him. He who knows not, and knows that he knows not, is ignorant. Teach him. He who knows, and knows that he knows, is a wise man. Follow him. He who knows, and knows not that he knows, is asleep. Wake him.”
- Uhuo is a public affairs analyst and former President General of Ebonyi State Community, Abuja.