By Louis Amoke
There is no doubt that the indices of Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyiâ€™s popularity and acceptance by the people of Enugu State are gathering momentum by the day, with gales of endorsements for his re-election in 2019 from different strata of the society .
For instance, while the members of the Peopleâ€™s Democratic Party (PDP) in Enugu West and North Senatorial Districts of the state had unanimously endorsed him for second term because of his unprecedented achievements in just two years in office despite the severe economic challenges in the country, the stateâ€™s workers, during a one-day symposium organised by the Trade Union Congress of Nigeria (TUC), Enugu State Council, passed a vote of confidence in the governor and asked him to â€œcarry goâ€.
The most recent was the endorsement by the stateâ€™s traders under the auspices of Enugu State Amalgamated Market Traders Association (ESAMATA). The traders at a solidarity rally they organised in appreciation of Governor Ugwuanyiâ€™s entrenchment of good governance and initiation of a unique tradersâ€™ empowerment programme, also unanimously endorsed his re-election in 2019, saying that he had â€œperformed creditably in just two years in office despite the daunting economic challenges in the countryâ€.
The traders in a display of their appreciation and support, shut all the markets in the state and mobilised en masse to the venue of the rally to honour the governor. They were full of gratitude for good governance and his uncommon empowerment initiatives to give traders in the state a sense of belonging and bring them closer to the government as the true heroes of democracy. These outpouring endorsements, which are in recognition of the governorâ€™s people-oriented programmes aimed at impacting positively on the lives of the people, have gone a long way to give credence to the overwhelming support and goodwill he enjoys from the people of the state.
Â Announcing the decision to shut the markets, the President General of the association, Hon. Temple Ude, stated that â€œthe plan to shut down the markets to celebrate Ugwuanyi was a unanimous decision of the traders in the stateâ€.
Ude had added that traders will converge to appreciate and celebrate our traders-friendly governor for his support and good governance.
Â He said the rally would offer the traders a unique opportunity to interact with the governor and take far reaching decisions that would further improve their fortunes as well as sustain the progress of the state.
He stated that the governorâ€™s empowerment programme tagged â€œEnugu State Traders Empowerment Schemeâ€, flagged off on February 21, 2017, is one of the policy thrusts of the present administration carefully designed to assist the traders to grow their various businesses for the socio-economic stimulation of the state. It has a package of N60 million annually for 100 lucky winners monthly at N50,000 each through an open raffle draw.
Â Consequently, 1,200 traders in the state will be empowered annually and 400 traders have so far benefited.
Â The governorâ€™s vision has remained that winners of the lottery would invest the money into their various businesses to help promote all round economic growth in the state.
Â It would be recalled that Ugwuanyiâ€™s administration had organised a similar open lottery programme for civil servants in the state from grade levels 1-10, where 100 lucky winners won one unit of one bedroom apartment each at Elim Estate, Enugu, with the state government paying over 50 per cent equity contribution â€“ a landmark feat that saw 100 lucky civil servants become proud landlords in the state.
Â At the rally, immediately Ugwuanyi arrived the venue, the traders burst into dance steps praising and cheering as he walked round with other dignitaries to appreciate and acknowledge the cheers from them.
Â It was indeed an enduring encounter between â€œa governor and his peopleâ€, as the excitement that exuded from the jubilant crowd was a reality of the governorâ€™s swelling popularity and acceptance.
The rally was also a demonstration of unwavering support, love, goodwill and solidarity as the traders could not hide their enthusiasm for the governorâ€™s good works in the state and his kind thoughts for them, saying that his administration â€œis most favourable to traders doing business in Enugu Stateâ€.
In his address, Ude stated that the traders were very happy and at home with Ugwuanyi for his visionary leadership and the empowerment programme initiated by his administration, adding that â€œthe idea was to stimulate the economy of the state as well as alleviate the sufferings of the peopleâ€.
The President General applauded the cordial relationship between the governor and traders in the state, saying that â€œit is equal to none when compared to other states in Nigeria, especially in the south east statesâ€.
Expressing their desire for him to govern the state beyond 2023, Ude said, â€œYour Excellency, no government in the past has ever attempted to establish the existing relationship between traders and government. Traders in Enugu State have resolved that if tenure elongation is democratic, they will sponsor a bill that Rt. Hon. Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi should be cleared for third term in office. Sir, we are committed to showing loyalty and sacrifice to your government, hence you have done much to traders in Enugu Stateâ€.
Â On security and workersâ€™ welfare, he noted that Ugwuanyi had created â€œan enviable security outreach in the 17 local government areas with the establishment and equipping of the Neighbourhood Watch associations in all the nooks and crannies of the state, and has equally remained regular in the payment of workersâ€™ salaries, disclosing that such feat has gone a long way in encouraging traders to do business in the state.
Â â€œWe are convinced that even with the current economic hardship you still positively navigate the affairs of the state for the betterment of the people of Enugu State. We have unanimously endorsed your re-election come 2019â€.
Â The traders equally commended the stateâ€™s Commissioner for Commerce and Industry, Mr. Sam Ogbu-Nwobodo, for his accessibility to them, disclosing that this is the first time since the inception of democracy in the state tradersâ€™ complaints are being â€œtreated promptly without any iota of nepotismâ€.
Â Responding, Ugwuanyi thanked the visibly jubilant traders for the gesture, love, goodwill, solidarity, enthusiasm and support, adding that he felt highly honoured that they shut down the markets in the state to gather in their numbers â€œto show appreciation for the empowerment scheme that we launched for traders in Enugu State last Februaryâ€.
Ugwuanyi explained that the Tradersâ€™ Empowerment Scheme, carefully designed to boost economic activities in the state and improve the lives of the ordinary members of the society, was â€œin line with our promise to deploy government resources and services to create fair and equal opportunity for every citizen to make a living, create wealth and enjoy life in a peaceful and secure environmentâ€.
Â He told the traders that the empowerment programme was only the beginning of his appreciation for their immense support and affection.
Reaffirming his administrationâ€™s commitment to the welfare of the traders, the governor said: â€œWe have indeed resolved to do all that is necessary to better the lot of traders in Enugu State and in this regard, I promise that we will never allow anyone to harass, oppress or exploit you as you go about your legitimate businesses. Be assured that we will deal with any such case, promptly, decisively and comprehensively, as soon as it is brought to our notice.
Â â€œWe are discussing with financial institutions, international corporations and other relevant organisations on the ways and means of extending easier and more convenient lines of credit and other facilities to traders in Enugu State.
Â â€œWe are also working to upgrade the capacity of the Enugu State Marketing Company to arrange special import services for traders just as we are committed to the continuous development and equipment of markets in Enugu State as part of the efforts being made to create a more conducive environment for business and commercial activities to thrive in the stateâ€.
Â â€“Amoke writes from Enugu State