By Ikechukwu Amaechi
ON Saturday, October 15, Mr. Frank Nweke Jr., former Minister of Information and the Enugu State governorship candidate of the All Progressives Grand Alliance, APGA, unveiled his social contract with the people, titled, “A Manifesto for rebuilding the Enugu of our dreams.”
The 56-page document came with an unalloyed pledge: “My team and I will restore trust to government and dedicate ourselves to the fundamentals – building a stable and prosperous state where every citizen is economically empowered, has access to portable water, excellent healthcare and quality education; a place where every life is secure and treated with respect and dignity.”
Reading through the manifesto, one can appreciate the intellectual rigour and deliberateness that went into it, a fact which the former minister stated quite poignantly. “This Manifesto was crafted,” he said, “from the result of deep research, strategic thinking, and studies of notable exemplars around the globe that show what is possible.”
He said the goal was to provide a compelling, bold, and pragmatic vision for change that ensures all citizens have the opportunity to actualise their highest human potential. No doubt, Frank Nweke has accomplished the task he set for himself. His vision for a prosperous Enugu was clearly enunciated.
It is also instructive that he is about the only governorship candidate that has come public with such a well thought-out and comprehensive vision, even as his colleagues are waiting on their godfathers to deliver the people’s mandate to them on a platter of servitude, and, thereafter, suborn the people’s patrimony. Frank Nweke knows why he wants to be governor. He knows Enugu State and what the issues are, which explains why he will not only proffer solutions to the myriad problems, but also explain the steps he will take in mitigating the problems.
“I have lived amongst our people of Enugu State and listened to their life stories. I have walked our urban and village pathways, roamed the markets, knelt in the churches, driven on our roads, sat in children’s classrooms, shared time with our pregnant mothers, transport workers, and vulnerable groups, and relived memories with our weary and aged, agonised with unpaid teachers and pensioners; I have lifted our infants, held up the hands of Enugu’s youth skyward, and invested in them to touch their dreams,” he said.
So, when he itemized the seven core areas of his social contract with Ndi-Enugu to include economic transformation, human capital development, security, environmental sustainability, governance, leadership and technology, with clear cut strategies for funding and implementing the plan, an incredible dose of believability is thrown into the mix.
For a man who claimed that an incandescent fire of service was lit in him during his time at the Community County Council where he visited the then 209 communities in Enugu State, and seeing first-hand the primitive and agonizing living conditions of the people and felt the pain of their deep yearning for the most basic needs of human existence, committing himself to a life-long service became a fait accompli.
Frank Nweke said he threw his hat into the governorship ring because he is acutely aware that “siloes of support and interventions by individuals and groups are not enough,” in addressing the problems. “We must focus on systemic transformation, and this is only possible through our collective, informed, and active participation in the political process itself as leaders in true service to the people,” he insists.
This can only come from a man who understands what the issues are. Of the seven pledges he made penultimate Saturday, the ones that border on values and ethics of governance resonated loudest. “I pledge that we will transform our state into a destination where investors, students, workers, and tourists from across the globe come to enjoy a safe and conducive environment with world-class infrastructure, business-friendly policies, rule of law, all implemented by a professional and result-oriented public service, and enabled by technology and our immense soft power – values, arts, culture, heritage, creativity etc.
I pledge to lead by example and to commit fully to exercising my political will and agency to engage with relevant stakeholders – political and non-political actors, to implement existing laws, develop additional policies and regulatory frameworks, drive cultural mindset shifts, and strengthen institutions that ensure rights, dignity, safety, and well-being of all citizens,” he said.
Lack of ethically orientated, transparent, and accountable leadership is at the core of the rot in Igboland today. Lack of transparent and accountable leadership is the bane of the Southeast where governance is no longer perceived from the prism of a collective responsibility between the people and the leaders but the whims and caprices of those on a mission of state capture.
That is why Frank Nweke’s sojourn in the shark-infested Enugu political pond where godfathers live large needs attention. Of course, he has started paying the price for his pluck and audacity. That he is running for the governorship on the platform of APGA rather than the Peoples Democratic Party is because godfathers who claim to own Enugu shut the PDP door in his face despite his proven capacity.
That Ndigbo are holding the wrong end of the social equity twig in Nigeria today is an indubitable fact. The conspiracy to keep them out of the power loop is deep-rooted and well entrenched. Those who have captured the Nigerian state to the utter exclusion of Ndigbo have advanced all manner of reasons to justify why the self-serving status-quo must be sustained. And as it is usually the case, some Southeasterners have developed the Stockholm syndrome in dealing with their abusive internal colonizers.
But in recent times, two schools of thought have emerged among Ndigbo regarding how best to deal with the situation. There are those who believe that a Nigerian President of Igbo extraction will signify, fundamentally, a national paradigm shift from exclusion to inclusion and quest for a Nigeria built on the foundations of equity, fairness and justice. That argument is unassailable.
For Nigeria to make the desired progress and fulfil its destiny, the potentials of all its peoples must be fully harnessed and that includes bringing everyone to the leadership table. But there is a second school of thought which believes that as desirable as the idea of a Nigerian President of Igbo extraction is, Ndigbo don’t necessarily need one of their own in Aso Rock to make progress. I agree.
Nigeria loses more by excluding the South-East from the leadership table. Except for the reason of self-esteem, prestige and sense of belongingness, Ndigbo lose practically nothing and the renaissance needed in Igboland will not necessarily come from a Nigerian president of Igbo extraction. While we press for that as bonafide citizens and one of the three legs on which this country stands, to develop the homeland, Ndigbo must take a second look at those they recruit as leaders at the state level.
This is why Frank Nweke’s candidacy matters. The tragedy of the Igbo nation particularly in this Fourth Republic is that maiguards, aided by outside forces, have succeeded in chasing away landlords and have taken over the house. To hope for progress in such sordid circumstance is to stretch the limits faith.
It is ironic that a people that produced leaders like Dr. Michael Iheonukara Okpara, Premier of Eastern Region in the First Republic, and Chief Sam Onunaka Mbakwe, governor of old Imo State in the Second Republic, are today led by a horde insouciant characters that have elevated criminality, their pastime, into an art of governance. Ndigbo must reclaim their homeland, which has been left, for too long, in the hands of easy-osey political journeymen, political jobbers and hucksters by electing men of pedigree as governors in 2023.