CONFOUNDING THE PESSIMISTS

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Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi

Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi’s place is assured in Lion’s Building, writes Chidiebere Nwobodo

The cloud of 2019 general election is thickening and the rain of election is about to pour. Those who have interests to protect or project are strategising in order not to be torpedoed by the impending storm. Politicians are running helter skelter; from pillar to post, either to ensure gaining political offices, retaining their current positions or move to higher ones. One state where the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and its governorship candidate are not troubled or losing sleep is Enugu State. The 2019 governorship election of the Coal City has been “won” and “lost” even before the main contest. Political watchers and pundits who are observing developments in the Eastern state with keen interest, will attest to my assertion that Lion Building—the Enugu seat of power, will remain with the PDP for the next four years; starting from 29th May, 2019.

How did Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi weather the storm? Why is he looking so relaxed when some of his colleagues are fidgeting and sweating profusely to win re-election? Why are the odds in his favour? Is he a skillful weather forecaster to know when and where the political rain will come from? Or is he a trained sailor on a voyage across a turbulent ocean, but understands how to stem the whirlpool of waves, ride on its strength, instead of sailing against the ocean currents? A deep, introspective and holistic political punditry is needed to unravel the magic wand of Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi in locking down political atmosphere of the state; making it impregnable for the APC and other opposition parties ahead of 2019 governorship election.

As a veteran political strategist cum public affairs analyst who is also indigenous to the state, I will express few points I believe has handed the governor his second term mandate even before the election. It is no longer news that Governor Ugwuanyi rode on the back of massive goodwill to become number one citizen of the state in 2015. Taking a paradigm shift from his predecessors, he created a new political philosophy that portrays leaders as servants and not dictators. He has been able to unite the political elite in the state along this ideological conviction—that political power is not meant to oppress, intimidate and subjugate the people but serve them. He demystified the mystery behind Lion Building as a throne of tyranny and despotic tendencies, and rebranded it into diplomatic seat of governance—where wishes and aspirations of Enugu people rule and not parochial interests of the privileged oligopolistic few.

Before the Governor Ugwuanyi-led administration in the state emerged, Enugu State operated a faulty and barbaric political philosophy and leadership ideology. Recent rulers that held sway in the state as governors commanded loyalty and respect by instilling fear and insecurity in the people via the display of brazen impunity and sheer fascism. Dissenters were treated as enemies of the state, while anyone who dared associates with them, was seen as a traitor. Enugu Government House—Lion Building precisely, became synonymous with power intoxication cum executive rascality. Governor’s wish was law that must be obeyed by all, no matter how ignoble, despotic and immoral. The state metamorphosed into inhabitable hot terrain for opposition politicians. Any year preceding general elections in the state was usually hostile, tensed and volatile; with a lot of uncertainty and apprehension in the state’s political hemisphere.

Governor Ugwuanyi heralded paradigm shift in the polity and politics of Enugu State. He literally changed the narrative of leadership of the state from staunchly conservative tyranny to liberalism as embodied in true democracy. He views criticisms as alternative perceptions and not attacks on his personality or style of governance. His penchant for reaching out to his detractors by diplomatically engaging them is the hallmark of passionate leadership, which eluded the state before now. Even the worst paranoic critics of the governor will not deny this singular fact—he is a genetically wired democrat! He believes in consultation with stakeholders and communities in the state before any policy decision that affects them is taken. Even in political appointments where he reserves the prerogative power to dispense, he still deems it fit to consult widely before overriding decision is made. He has a democratic spirit that abhors imposition. He listens and listens. He has pioneered a new philosophy in the use of political power.

I can categorically state that these sterling leadership qualities were the traits that endeared the governor to the people of Enugu State before highlighting other areas of leadership strength. His democratic body language which made his government an inclusive one, has built enormous goodwill for him in the state both amongst the political class and the masses in the streets. Whilst his predecessors demanded respect from the people using the instrumentality of raw power, Ugwuanyi earned it. While his forerunners used arrogance of power to secure their political base, he has maximised the persuasive power of humility to win the hearts of his people—including some of his hitherto critics. Governor Ugwuanyi has proven to be a true student of Abraham Lincoln’s school of thought and lives by that philosophy, that a man with strength of character and great mind is one that cannot be easily corrupted or intoxicated by political power. He has outgrown megalomania.

Outside his meek personality, the governor’s performance in critical sectors of the state has differentiated him as a thorough-bred bureaucrat who understands the nitty-gritty of governance. Hitherto forgotten rural areas have been given a face-lift via massive infrastructural strides. The state capital is also not left out. The economy of the coal city has been boosted drastically which is reflecting in the geometric increase in the internally generated revenue of the state. Presently Enugu has one of the best ease-of-doing-business rating—according to World Bank report. Insecurity that is usually associated with political season has reduced in sync with Governor Ugwuanyi’s peaceful and diplomatic approach to politics. I can assert without fear of contradiction that there is virtually no opposition to the governor’s re-election. His second term mandate is given. The APC—the main opposition party in the state – is riddled and plagued with irredeemable crisis that will leave it polarised and weakened beyond the 2019 electioneering.