Iwas with Rt. Hon. Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi till at about 1am on May 29, 2015, just a few hours to his inauguration as the fourth civilian Governor of Enugu State, and the third in this dispensation. I had a burden on my mind- the state was in very huge debt; there was industrial disharmony over unpaid wages; oil revenue was on steady, drastic decline; with too little businesses, coupled with comatose and decrepit state-owned enterprises, Enugu remains fantastically poor in terms of Internally Generated Revenue (IGR); political acrimony was palpable; and development challenges were nevertheless myriad and on steady rise. Yet, expectations were as high as the heavens for a man who rode to power on tremendous and popular support unprecedented since the creation of the state.
“Your Excellency, congratulations in advance, but to be honest, I do not envy you because this is a wrong time to be Governor of this state”, I quipped as I made to leave. There was dead silence as we walked to the door. Then, he broke the silence at the doorstep. In between his characteristic optimistic smile, he said: “Uche, don’t worry, I believe in the miracle of five loaves and two fish”. I nodded. “Lord, pardon my unbelief”, I muttered to myself as I entered the car and departed.
Although Ugwuanyi reiterated to the mammoth crowd at the Michael Okpara Square, venue of his inauguration, on the need for belt-tightening on the part of government and the masses, he nevertheless defied realities as he promised to pursue his four-point agenda, namely, employment generation, enhanced social services and good governance, rural development, and Security and Justice. He also vowed to “deploy government services to create fair and equal opportunity for every willing citizen to make a living and create wealth, educate our children, and enjoy life in a peaceful and secure environment”.
365 days down the line, I cannot but totally agree that the miracle in which Jesus Christ fed over 12,000 persons with only five loaves and two fish is at work and that Enugu is, as Ugwuanyi coined it, truly in the hands of God.
First, I think the greatest achievement of the Governor in the last 365 days is the restoration of political peace and harmony in the State. Since 1999, godfathers on one hand have tried to assert their presumed larger-than-life status of a kingmaker, while each sitting governor, on the other hand, had always tried to assert himself as the new political lord, leading to clashes of ‘overlords’ and ‘ingrates’, depending on which side of the divide you belong.
The other dimension was kill-and-whack contestation between Abuja and Lion Building, wherein sitting governors sought to undermine/or cut federal lawmakers, especially presiding officers of Enugu origin, to size, while the later battled to survive.
However, Ugwuanyi has so far tried to manage the power dynamics and contending interests. Although it appears too early to judge, the last Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) congresses in the State point to a new thinking in managing political relationships and interests. Thanks to Ugwuanyi’s unassuming, democratic, and team-player dispositions.
The result is that there is less distraction for himself and those in Abuja as he galvanizes energies towards piloting the state through these difficult times and delivering on campaign promises.
A few years ago, it would have been stupid to think of payment of salaries as an achievement, but, certainly not now. Nigeria is in crisis and 27 states are in dire distress over crash in oil revenue. Workers are on indefinite strike in several states over arrears running into multiple months.
Governor Abubakar Bello of Niger State recently confessed that hisstate had incurred N3 billion debt since January when it started borrowing from banks to pay salaries and that the debt could hit N10 billion by December if he did not stop borrowing. His words: “The truth of the matter is that I cannot give what we don’t have”.
On the contrary, Ugwuanyi has not only cleared the humongous arrears he inherited, Enugu workers smile to the bank before the end of every month. Ugwuanyi believes that a worker deserves his/her wages and that being a civil service state, Enugu’s economy will virtually collapse if workers are unable to inject their salaries into it.
In 2015, the administration paid 30% Equity Contribution for Enugu State Civil Servants, between Grade Level 01-10 to enable them purchase 100 units of one bedroom flats at Elim Estate, Ibagwa Nike, Enugu. The workers collected their keys last year. Little wonder he is the toast of labour. Also, on 3rd June 2016, the Trade Union Congress conferred on him the “Most Labour Friendly Governor” Award at its Triennial National Conference and Awards Night.
At the same time massive infrastructural works are ongoing or completed. The administration has taken care of the the Amaeke-Ngwo-Nsude- 9TH Mile By Pass; Airport Roundabout-Orie Emene-St. Patrick’s College-Eke-Obinagu Road project; Holy Trinity Street and Bishop Michael Eneje Street, Independence Layout, Enugu; Nawfia Street, Independence Layout; Mbanefo Street, New Haven; Secretariat road by G.R.A;Court Avenue road by New State Secretariat, etc.
Work is currrently ongoing on Abakpa Nike Road; Opi-Nsukka dual carriage road; Ohom Orba Junction-Imilike Ani- Ezimo Uno- Ezimo Agu-Imilike–Ogbodu Aba-Obollo Etiti-Amalla-Obollo Afor (Udenu Ring Road); Orie Emene–Adoration Ministry Road; Enugu Road (Nsukka) Junction-Umuezebi-Nru Junction-University Gate; Amankwo-Ameke-Amah Brewery Junction-9thMile by-pass road project; Post Office Roundabout- Odenigbo Roundabout-Ogurugu Road-Ikenga road; Obechara Road Junction-Umuakashi-Mechanic Village-Ikenga Hotels Junction road; Inyaba River quadruple cells bridge in Amagunze; etc.
In addition, the procurement process are in progress for the construction of 25 new roads and three bridges across the 17 Local Government Areas.
In the agricultural sector, the government approved funds for the effective participation of Enugu in the implementation of the N2 billion Staple Crops Processing Zone (SCPZ), an agricultural programme of the African Development Bank and Federal Government that will see to the rehabilitation and expansion of the Adani Irrigation Scheme, provision of infrastructure, feeder roads and schools, etc. Enugu has also procured 20 tractors to catalyse mechanized agriculture in the rural areas.
Many communities are already benefitting from rural electrification projects of the government. For instace, the 15km Inter-Town-Connection (ITC) 2.5MVA Injection Sub-Station at Ezi-Nze in Udi LGA will provide electricity to communities across Udi, Uzo-Uwani, and Igbo-Etiti LGAs and supply power to the Adada Dam project. The Dam itself will give life to the Greater Nsukka Water Scheme that is perennially in the pipeline.
To boost security in the State, the government donated 20 patrol vehicles to the police. But in the face of the failure of the security agencies to avert the Nimbo attack despite the logistical support provided, the Governor had recently provided N100 million seed money to reboot the vigilantes across the state to beef up security.
The administration is completing the construction of Enugu State Diagnostic Centre inherited from previous government, and construction of 200-bed Ultra-Modern Specialist Hospital at Amalla, Orba in Udenu LGA is ongoing. These are just a few.
Although all these could not have been possible without prudence, sagacity, and Providence, Ugwuanyi also understands that heavens helps only those who help themselves and that Enugu needs to think out of the box, maximise its human capital base and also plug all wastages to survive.
To this end, the Ugwuanyi administration constituted an 11-man Committee on Local Government Staff Audit and Biometrics Data Capturing Exercise, and an 8-man Administrative Committee on the Completion of Enugu State Basic Education Board (ENSUBEB) projects in the primary schools in the state to plug loopholes and bring culprits to book.
It also raised an Economic Advisory Committee comprising respected Enugu citizens to help put Enugu on the path of sustainable growth and development through investment promotion, industrialization, tourism, agricultural revolution, wealth creation, skills enhancement, etc. The recent Enugu Economic Summit, aimed at showcasing and harnessing Enugu’s potentials, reconfirms Ugwuanyi’s commitment to bequeathing a buoyant and economically robust State that is independent of oil revenue.
Although for Ugwuanyi, the journey just started, one can confidently say that a job well begun is half done.