Umahi's Historic Visit to Abia

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The recent visit of the Ebonyi State governor, David Umahi to neighbouring Abia State, where he had a conducted tour ofprojects embarked upon by his host, Okezie Ikpeazu reveals that there is a lot governors can learn from one another‎, if only they are humble enough to understand that nobody has a monopoly of knowledge, writes Benjamin Nworie
After a three-day working visit of Ebonyi state governor, David
Umahi to Abia state, the host governor, Okezie Ikpeazu declared that Umahi is the wisest governor in Nigeria. The mission of the visit is quite result-oriented, revealing and memorable. The visit is the first of its kind especially to be recorded for Ebonyi state, for a
governor to interface with his colleague on the best way to drive the economy.
The visit, observers hinted, has shown that Umahi is not only wise but humbly committed to uplifting the welfare of the people of his state and the development of all the critical sectors of the economy in his state.
Testimonies of the people have indicated that Umahi has displayed enough wisdom in the services of his state since he came to power.
On May 4 2015, Umahi led a strong delegation, made up of some of his cabinet members, leaders of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the state and other relevant stakeholders to Abia
state on the visit where he was hosted by his Abia
state counterpart. The visit afforded Umahi and his entourage the
opportunity to inspect some of the ongoing projects in the state.
When Ikpeazu first visited Ebonyi to observe Umahi’s administration construction of three long flyovers at the same time, some ill-informed members of the opposition parties in
Abia state picked hole in the visit and described it as shameful for
Abia state and its citizens to look to Ebonyi state for development strategies.
The decision of Umahi to return the gesture by visiting Abia to see first hand how Ikpeazu was carrying on should be a welcome development for critics who believed that Ebonyi should be looking forward to Abia for developmental purposes. But the critics are missing the point: Umahi’s visit to Ikpeazu leaves big and memorable lessons to other governors and leaders to always interface and exchange ideas to move their states.
For those wondering why the exchange between the governors is important, Umahi has answer for them: it is a peer review mechanism. He said the opportunity provided him with the opportunity to tap into the ingenuity of the Abia state governor in e-governance, especially in the area of commerce and industry.
While receiving his visitor, Ikpeazu said “Umahi is a very wise man. To me, his is the wisest governor in this country. I believe there is more to learn from Ebonyi than what Ebonyi would learn from us. I know a few months ago when we were conceptualizing Osisi Oma interchange, I went to him and was bold to inform the Nigerian public that I went to Ebonyi to learn how to donbridges because Governor Umahi is doing three flyovers at the same
time.
“He took me out and we were standing at the projects sites until 7pm. Beyond that with his long hands, he wrote dimensions of the bridges, concrete mix and what I should expect contractor to do. Infact, I went to school and I came back with notes. Today, to the glory of God, that project is ongoing.”
Since Umahi assumed office, he has placed his campaign promises above party politics. The defeat of the former president, Goodluck Jonathan in a way rattled him like other PDP faithful because of its implication for the the government and people of Ebonyi state. Ebonyi state has existed on the paltry federal allocation and crumbs of internally
generated revenue to carter for all the needs of the people.
The situation called for a display of uncommon wisdom by aligning with the federal government for support and other
assistance, rather than play opposition politics with the fortunes of the people. This, according to Umahi was why he was among the first governors elected under the PDP platform to show solidarity and love to the president, Muhammadu Buhari.
Umahi’s visit to Buhari was misunderstood in some quarters, as a ploy to perfect his defection to the ruling APC. Rumours had it that his romance with the Presidency was to enable him use the APC platform for his re-election. Notwithstanding these criticisms and suspicion Umahi continued to praise Buhari’s government. He remained focus on his mission which is to get the federal government’s support for the state.
The governor maintained that he was elected to do the work of
government while party leaders should concentrate on the business of party politics and game. At many fora, Umahi noted that he would not gamble or play politics with the future or fortunes of Ebonyi people and that was why he has consistently said that individual rather than party politics would play prominent role in Ebonyi’s choice of Presidency in 2019.
Umahi has maintained that Buhari’s government has been beneficial to his people and it would be ungrateful of him to play opposition with the federal government. Umahi’s position has paid off handsomely in his agricultural revolution, especially in rice production with federal government supports to boost food sufficiency in the state.
To domesticate the success stories of Abia state government in his state, Umahi said “we are here to tap your ingenuity in commerce, your ingenuity in internal revenue mobilization, your ingenuity in governance, your ingenuity in peace and e-governance you have deployed in the state. We want to know how to make these. You must teach us how
to make these. That is why we are here. We came with people who are into shoe making, people who are into cloth making, leadership of our market associations.
“I tell people that care to know that when it comes to governor and
president of the country, there is no politics. The President is the
only boss we have and the President has supported your state, has supported my state. So, we have no reason not to support him. Party politics is a different ball game. I believe that our party leaders should play politics while we do the work of government.”
He said that through these measures, his state has been transformed in less than three years of his administration.
Much of the Ebonyi success stories are in the area of road construction, bridges, urban renewal, security, workers welfare and other sectors. All the sectors have benefitted from the
government. Many visitors to Ebonyi state have
always praised the ingenuity of Umahi’s administration in uplifting
and advancing the ecstatic quality of the Abakaliki capital city.
Less than one year of his administration, Umahi embarked on streets light projects and construction, reconstruction and rehabilitation of all urban roads which at that time were deplorable and badly damaged. The refuse
dumps which had overtaken major streets and junctions in the capital city were tackled with much resilience and commitment by his government.
It is to the governor’s credit that Ebonyi state capital
ranks as one of the neatest state capitals in the country. The water
fountains and adoring lightings are another tourism sites to behold.
Meanwhile, it also worries Umahi that most of the hawkers at the major cities in the country are from his state. To correct this, he introduced empowerment programmes where over 4000 youths were selected and given N250, 000 each to start
small scale businesses.
The governor also understood the point that, no development in the state would translate into much to the people, who are predominantly civil servants without
improving workers’ welfare and other packages.
Notably, the May Day celebration by workers in Ebonyi state always turned out to be the most excited moment in the life of workers in the state.
The workers love him too. They were full of excitement and jubilation that the governor had virtually approved and granted all their demands and ordered immediate implementation. Umahi not only increased the workers’ salaries by 5 percent, he also introduced the payment of 13th month salary to workers. He also suspended the new Ebonyi Pension Law and ordered for the immediate refund of all deductions made from workers salaries since the advent of the law in the state.
The pension bill since signed into law had generated controversies and mixed reactions from the organized labour which maintained that the ratio of five percent and eight percent by employer and employee respectively contravenes the provision of the Pension Reform Act (2004) as amended which pegs the ratio at a minimum of ten percent employer and eight percent employee.
The governor also approved N1 billion One to pay gratuities for
local government and state workers for the month of May. According to him “In the month of May, we shall be releasing the sum of N500m for local government gratuity. And state gratuity will get another N500m.”
He pledged to give union leaders a free hand to come up with another, stressing that he would not interfere
with whatever resolutions the labour union come up with.
He said “I am going to address all the problems of workers today. In the past because of deceit, it appears workers are at logger heads with government. Workers are government, government is workers. There is no government without workers. You are the platform upon which government is laid.
“By your popular request, we are going to suspend the pension law and all your desires will be taken into considerations. In the month of May, by 15th, every deduction,made in respect of the pension law will be refunded back to you. Since we have two pension boards for local government and state and we have very hardworking leadership of organized labour, it will be your duty to seat down and articulate what you will like the pension law to be. I will not interfere”.
“You will be the one to tell us when the law should come into effect. Any moment it’s convenient for workers, we will now approach the house
of assembly. But we will continue to pay pension to our senior
citizens”, the governor declared.
The labour crisis reached a crescendo during the past administration of Chief Martin Elechi over demand for the implementation of the N18, 000 minimum wage. The organized labour battled, Elechi’s administration throughout his eight years in office, to press home the demand for the wage.
The crisis spilled over to Umahi’s administration with Elechi’s
surremptious approval of 50 percent increase in workers’ salaries at the twilight of his administration.
Umahi saw the decision as a plot to destabilize his government and an opportunity to nail him and plant perpetuate
labour crisis, knowing that the allocation of the state could not sustain the payment of 50 percent increment.
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Umahi has maintained that Buhari’s government has been beneficial to his people and it would be ungrateful of him to play opposition with the federal government. Umahi’s position has paid off handsomely in his agricultural revolution, especially in rice production with federal government supports to boost food sufficiency in the state.