By Prince Ejeh Josh

The timeless expression that no nation or state has ever achieved virtuosic and remarkable feats without the strenuous efforts of some dedicated, selfless and goal-driven legends who took upon themselves, the pains and inconveniences associated with development and holistic transformation of their society is only reiterative, indisputable, immutable and at the risk of repeating the known. Within the microcosm of their historical epoch, these selfless leaders saw the alleviation of their people’s plights as the ultimate sacrifice and price to be borne by them by all means. These set of pathfinders are, however, rare to encounter especially in a world distorted with the antics of individualism, capitalism and commodification of the commonwealth for personal aggrandizement.

The above analytic description is true of the Executive Governor of Enugu State, Rt. Hon. Ifeanyichukwu Ugwuanyi. This is basically true when a critical review of governance is launched into his administrative style of leadership since his ascendance to power as the Governor of the state in 2015. For those who have enthusiastically observed the politics and administrative will of Enugu State since 1999 when Nigeria was ushered into the Fourth Republic, events unfolding since Governor Ugwuanyi’s administration have pointed towards the direction of a new system of governance. It is a radical paradigm shift from elitist’s political propagation to people-centred administration where the primary concern of the state has been how to sustain the democracy dividends and good governance the people of the state are currently enjoying.

Undoubtedly, political watchers and analysts both within and outside the state have been fascinated by an Enugu State where conscious, principled, logical and well-defined architectural pattern of governance has been laid over the past six years with a view to dissecting rural-urban dichotomy, and the need of bridging the gap, and creating more urban centres in rural communities as promised by the Governor in 2015 and further reiterated in 2019 during the swearing-in ceremonies at Michael Okpara Square, Enugu. To achieve these uncommon feats, the governor had to exhibit some exceptional characters and qualities uncommon to Nigerian politicians and perplexing to the political system. It was a celebrated innovation driven by the selfless desire to lay a new foundation and redefine the political norm for the interest of the general populace.

In order to reassure the people of Enugu State his administration would live up to its promises of entrenching democracy and ingraining good governance where every citizen of the state will feel the pulse of good governance and appreciate the true definition of democracy beyond the pages of papers, the governor not only accommodated members of opposition and worked with them for the development and progress of the state; he took development projects to their respective communities without political discrimination. That is the first step of laying the foundation for the peaceful atmosphere the people of the state are enjoying today. He was prepared to see that, irrespective of political affiliation and sentiment, every member or citizen of the state feels the presence of his government. By so doing, he brings good governance to bear on every household in the state.

Available data indicate that previous governments and administrations had treated rural areas in the state with sheer neglect and utmost contempt despite the significant roles played by them as the goose that laid the golden eggs from agro-allied to production industries. It is on record that some rural communities, which are by no means, the least, had been on the altar of neglect for years. To the inhabitants of these communities, the principles of democracy have been constricted to “electioneering processes and nothing more”. This is understandable as efforts had been on the state capital being the commercial hub of the state. The perspective of the past administrations in concentrating development at the centre, without sounding critical and judgmental, had been adjudged unsatisfactory as they failed to meet up with the yearning, needs and aspirations of the people.

Moreover, this led to the congestion of the Enugu metropolis with its attendant massive rural-urban migration. This has translated to a drastic abandonment of agriculture, and in many cases, gave rise to a frenetic gang of blue-collar job seekers prowling the nooks and crannies of the urban areas which has severely threatened socio-economic and food security in the state.

To arrest this portentous menace, Governor Ugwuanyi immediately swung into action, and in a swift move to also fulfill his campaign promises to the rural communities in the state, initiated life-changing programmes such as massive employment generation, enhanced social services and amenities, rural electrification and reconstruction of new and old roads long abandoned, and his calculated move to urbanize these non-urban areas.

As a follow–up to the above smart and quality progammes, the governor further initiated the “Every-Community-One-Project” programme where all the autonomous communities in the state were to identify a pressing project that would be funded and consolidated by the state government. It was a celebration of democracy and good governance in action the day cheques were handed over to each of the communities for the execution of these projects. It is, hence, arguable that no state in Nigeria other than Enugu state has ever conceived this kind of initiative. They could only toe the same step as replica of what Ugwuanyi’s administration has laid.

For the avoidance of doubt, our checks on the past and present records of all the states of the federation revealed that this idea was novel to them. In passing a verdict on this lofty democratic journey, Dr. Sam Ugwuozor, a political analyst and a theorist, had tersely submitted that the innate purpose and meaning of politics is the common good of all people and all groups. Good political activity which is subsumed in true democracy is a way of helping to live faithfully in the freedom and solidarity that befits human dignity and make possible the attainment of social justice and peace.

This rural-urban blend which has assumed a new vocabulary development in the political lexicon of Nigeria, and often referred to as “Rura-banisation policy” initiated by the state government is just an aspect of systematization of governance in the state. For many political observers and public affairs analysts, the definition of true governance could be painstakingly discovered from the potency of the above laudable policy. This is coupled with the government’s already paraphernalia of power distribution, wealth creation, and economic empowerment programmes that have not only hit the wave of governance, but kept the ground running. It will also be recalled that the governor had commissioned a great number of breathtaking projects in the state in the past years. Most of these projects which included but not limited to construction of new roads where none had existed, provision of multi-billion Naira ultra-modern healthcare system, new fire service stations and fire service trucks, construction and renovation of both primary and secondary schools for a higher standard of education in rural communities. It was a deliberate move to decentralize the government in order to accommodate the rural dwellers. It is surprising that the governor could decentralize and delegate his powers where many state governors have arrogated upon themselves, power beyond their jurisdiction. This deliberate policy was driven by the urge to set the pace in governance, with the effect of building and investing more on the state’s institutions rather than on individuals. The Governor has never minced words in his determination to alter the pendulum and drive down democracy dividends to every home in the state, and to achieve this, he believes that strong institutions must be built and consolidated.

A tour to most of the communities in Enugu state would leave one astounded as more works are being executed on daily basis. This exemplary leadership by the governor has given a sense of belonging and rejuvenated the hopes of those long abandoned. Today, more commercial cities are being created by this administration in its effort to redefine democracy in the language that even the dumb can understand and the blind can feel. Worthy of mention is the state government intervention on the 22km Ehamufu-Nkalagu Federal Road once known to be notorious for accidents, and business stagnation. This singular act has opened Isi-Uzo local government to free-flow commercial activities with other parts of the state, and by extension, other states. It’s a hope and light at the end of the tunnel for the people of the area.

Presently, there are massive ongoing projects of integrating the 17 local government areas in the state for greater development, commercial diversification and business complement for mutual benefits by the Ugwuanyi’s administration. To say the least, these projects couldn’t have been possible without fiscal discipline, vision, determination and teamwork in the face of lean resources by the governor’s team of strategic think-tank. It is a kind of discipline worth emulating by other state governments. It is a philosophy laden with the willingness to accept responsibilities and tackle them decisively.

One would, however, wonder the secret behind the enormous successes recorded this far by the Governor Ugwuanyi’s administration at a period the nation is grasping with cash crunch, economic austerity, and lurking disaster. A time many states of the federation have precariously relapsed into almost banana republic, where their citizens lack the basic good things of life due to the inability to pay workers’ salaries, pensions and gratuities; a time life has become what the English philosopher, Thomas Hobbes, once described as a “state of nature where life is brutish, nasty, and short” due to extravagant imprudence of those saddled with governance responsibility. It is not surprising that with this ugly development, many had expected the worst to happen; especially as the hope of Nigerians continues to glow dim in the country they call their own.

What is surprising, however, is the pace at which Governor Ugwuanyi has performed amidst this trying time. For analysts and even those critical of his administration, Ugwuanyi has got some magic wands that have led his administration to be rated as a topnotch state in democracy dividends and established good governance despite the biting financial misnomer in the country. The effect of this was to insulate the citizens from the scourge of misfortune wreaking havoc on other states. To drive this further down the boulevard of good governance, Enugu State under Governor Ugwuanyi was one of the first states to implement the national minimum in Nigeria. The Governor has kept pace with regular payment of workers’ salaries, pensions and gratuities. Surprisingly, while other states are retrenching and down-sizing their labour-force, and have even taken further step to slash their salaries, the Enugu State governor has reassured the people of the state that retrenching staff or slashing their salaries would be his last option. Thus, it’s glaring that where many states have faltered, Enugu state, despite being one of the states that receive the least federal allocation, saw opportunities in such challenge and used it as its stepping stone for good governance.

For us, however, far from attributing Ugwanyi’s successes to any magical superstition, his administration has been a devoted disciple of financial prudence, shrewd and pragmatic management of both human and material resources to attain its lofty goals. The administration is penchant for taking a dramatic departure from over reliance on monolithic economy powered by crude oil to economic diversification where the state has now ventured into services, tourism, hospitality, agriculture and technology as a way of generating more income to meet the need of the people.

Aside Governor Ugwuanyi’s unrivaled successes in the Enugu metropolis such as roads’ infrastructure, construction of a new flyover to ease traffic congestion and create enabling environment for business to thrive, social welfare, investment and youth empowerment through the MSMEs, massive infrastructural development, positive transformation of the education sector, subsidization of the health sector, etc. which will be a topic for another any, rural areas have been major beneficiaries of Ugwuanyi’s paradigm shift in the governance of Enugu State. This is a time for urban dwellers to be envious of communities in rural areas as the government has made provisions and will continue to reach out to the people through life-changing amenities in different communities, ranging from electricity, pipe-borne water, roads network, and soft loans for agriculture, social and physical security to basic healthcare facilities.

Of recent, Enugu state was able to tame the scourge of COVID-19 and swiftly stamped it out despite the fact that the state serves as a strategic gateway between the north and the east. This is understandable. Prior to the outbreak of the deadly pandemic, the administration of Governor Ugwuanyi had already constructed some world class medical structures, equipped with modern medical facilities which served as a preemptive strategy to shrug off the virus when it finally hit the state. This uncommon good governance gesture could be seen in the completion of the ultra-modern diagnostic centre in the state, the construction of Type 3 Primary Health Care Centre in some of the local government areas, construction and equipment of modern cottage hospitals, and other massive rehabilitation of existing health care centres across the state.

In addition, in the area of agriculture, the Governor’s appointment of Hon. Mike Ogbuekwe as Special Adviser on Agriculture and Focal Person, Enugu State Non-Oil Export Programme, set the pace for revolution in agriculture in the State. It is predicted that, with the established system of agricultural yielding on ground, Enugu State would surpass its neighbouring states in production of certain agricultural produce such as rich and tomatoes, Enugu state having been leading in cashew, pepper, and palm productions. With these incentives, the youths are going back to agriculture, generating incomes and are becoming employers of labour. As a product of this concerted effort, the state recently rolled out its “Coal City Rice” in a massive way. It’s a great feat in the right direction. These cereals have greatly helped in alleviating the plight caused by COVID-19 havoc as the state has continued to reach out to many household within the state through the State Emergency Management Agency.

In areas of critical infrastructure, the Governor has hinted that his administration would not relent in its determination to ensure that projects are taking to even the smallest community in state. In the meantime, some of the projects already executed include but not limited to the following; the Inyaba Bridge in Naknu East local government area which has provided some “economic links” for the people of Amagunze, Amechi-Idodo, and the people of Enugu East local government area; the Ndemde Bridge in Enugu South local government area; the rural electrification and water projects in Olido, Umuida and Umuopu in Igbo-Eze North council area; the Ogbaku Road in Agwu; Agbani-Afor-Amuri Road in Nkanu local council; the Iheaka-Ibagwa-Itchi-Unadu-Ovoko Road in Igbo-Eze South council; the Ekochin-Ekeani-Miliken Hill-New Market Road in Enugu North, the 14 kilometer Opi-Nsukka dual carriage way, Enugu State University of Science and Technology Teaching Hospital, Igbo-Eno, the 13 kilometer Abakpa-Emene link, the beautifully crafted Emene-Ugwuomu road, and a host of others too numerous to mention. Moreover, more projects are being flagged-off and, indeed, fully executed in non-urban areas which include, constructions of Obollo-Eke Junction; Agala-Okpaligbo Junction; Ohom Orba-Amajioka-Umuikeoha-Agu Orba, and Okpu Agu Orba Road in Udenu local government area. Worthy of mention also are; the Ogurute-Mkpamute-Igogoro-Ikpamodo-Okpo-Amaja Road in Igbo Eze North, and the Ugbwakwa-Nara-Nkerefi Federal Road which has attracted the Governor’s timeous intervention. Available statistical records showed Enugu State under the leadership of Governor Ugwuanyi has completed over 650 kilometre roads just within the space of 6 years without losing focus on other critical sectors in the state.

Furthermore, the Governor, out of his magnanimous act of meekness for local government workers, had ordered that all salaries due to them be promptly paid with immediate effect especially from those inherited by his administration. No more complaint. He did not stop there; he equally ordered that pensions and gratuities of both the retirees and those in active service be paid without further delay once the funds are available. This is materializing and the reality is now like a dream come true. Today, the endorsement and implementation of the new minimum wage in the state have brought succour for Civil servants who are always jubilating at the mention of Governor Ugwuanyi’s name for the new lease of life. One thing is peculiar to the governor; he doesn’t wait to be reminded or persuaded before spreading his tentacle of democracy and good governance to the people. His is a democracy weaved around the people; both the high and the low. This astute demonstration of good governance has gone a long way in sending messages to the world about the man the Governor Ugwuanyi is. He has marked himself as a tested, trusted and reliable leader especially in time of economic tribulations. This could have accounted why he has always been decorated with countless awards of good governance from all the corners of the world.

This is a man who came at a time there was no hope for the people. He came as a rescuer of his people, and changed the face of governance not just in Enugu State but also in Nigeria at large. With the way things stand today, we have read on different occasions from national dailies where many non-indigenes of Enugu State have continued to wish they had the like of Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi as their state governor. This could only be described as a modicum of what the governor represents before the public. The summary of this analogy simply implies that, we have a master sheriff in the country. A sheriff whose achievements are drumming for him from far and near, and in his presence and behind him. A sheriff who does not need to visit or invite the media and press for any form of propaganda as others do before recognition is given to his good works.

Ugwuanyi is a sheriff who remains undistracted and focused in his bid to make Enugu state one of the world’s smartest cities. A sheriff whose system of governance has been unanimously accepted by members of the opposition who have, with one accord, branded him with the title; “Omenuko”, an Igbo personage for one who achieves laudable feats in austere times.

Interestingly, the Omenuko’s uncommon strides did not go unappreciated as different sections of non-partisan bodies have kept on rolling out drums in celebration of the governor as a sign of appreciation to him. Flowing from this is the call by these bodies for Governor Ugwuanyi to declare his intention for the 2023 election to enable the continuity of his good governance in the country. His paradigm shift in governance has compelled both southerners and northerners to call on him to consider vying for president in 2023 general elections. Ugwuanyi is seen as a unifier, achiever, driver of modern economy and torchbearer.

The acceptance of the governor by all and sundry shows that the state government has no dissident voices in its modes of accountability and transparency in the management of the state’s resources. Indeed, the governor has been able to woo members of the opposition with his leadership style which they saw as all-encompassing. To the members of the opposition, Govervor Ugwuanyi deserves a resounding applause owing to the fact that he has performed beyond expectation, and still performing. They have equally acknowledged the sacred fact that “it is leaders who make democracy works”. Enugu State under Governor Ugwuanyi is not only working, but safe and sound for the citizens.

It is hopeful that this gesture will be massively reciprocated by the people by supporting the government through prompt payment of taxes, obedience to law and protection of public institutions. With the foundation of this social and political surgery already systematized, and laid as a precedent for others by the governor, one can boldly acclaim that Enugu State is truly safe, and is, indeed, in the hands of God.

Prince Ejeh Josh, BSc, LLB, MSc, NIM, PhD (in view)

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