Nseobong Okon-Ekong writes that Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi of Enugu deploys deft political manoveures to win more friends without resorting to arm-twisting and violence

Enugu State appears to have a penchant for governors who love outlandish titles. In the recent history of the state, former Governor Chimaroke Nnamani, popularised the moniker, Ebeano. The nickname became an all-embodying statement and philosophy for all that is progressive and forward-looking. Ebeano was a movement that won many converts. Incidentally, the proponent of that philosophy has been rehabilitated in a deft political masterstroke that continues to win more admiration for the astuteness of Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi of Enugu State.

By helping to restore the Ebeano heritage, Ugwuanyi has not only stabilised himself on the shoulder of giants, he has also secured the collective goodwill commanded by acolytes of Ebeano. Through careful political balancing, Nnamani is back to reckoning in the affairs of Enugu, after being away for more than 10 years. The rehabilitation of Nnamani as a Senator in the 9th senate is one of the lasting achievements for which Ugwuanyi will be remembered. By this act, over 90 per cent of influential stakeholders in the polity of Enugu have been successfully reconciled to work in harmony with Ugwuanyi.

While he has not been blowing his own trumpet, Ugwuanyi has subtly built the biggest network of political juggernauts that combines the strength of former governors Jim Nwobodo, Sullivan Chime and Nnamani. Without imposing himself on anyone, Ugwuanyi has deployed deft manoveures that has left opponents in awe of how he manages to win more friends without resorting to arm-twisting and violence, which appears to be the language of many governors, with security details and arms at their disposal.

In the jostle for re-election in the recent national elections, Ugwuanyi was, arguably, the only governor in the South-east whose victory was predictable. While his counterparts struggled with integrity (and even identity) crisis, he trudged on confidently, mainly on account of his many achievements. Not surprisingly, he polled the highest number of votes in each of the 17 local government areas of the state and was returned to serve a second tenure. Indeed, Ugwuanyi is one of the poster boys of good governance in the current dispensation, making his party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) very proud. The 2019 governorship result in Enugu State speaks volumes for the love the people have for Ugwuanyi. He polled a total of 449, 935 votes to defeat his closest rival, the candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) Sen. Ayogu Eze who polled a total of 10, 423 votes.

One of the undisputable achievements of Ugwuanyi’s administration in Enugu State that must not be taken for granted is the enduring peace. Since the inception of his administration, the governor has made it clear that he abhors violence. At every turn, he has opted to work for harmonious existence which propels rapid development of any society.

In the past four years, Enugu has continued to enjoy peace, which has engendered good governance, unprecedented socio-economic growth and security of lives and property – earning Enugu the enviable status of one of the most peaceful and secure states in the country. Once again, Enugu is steadily regaining its status as the leading city in the South-east and South-south. This culture of peace coupled with other sundry remarkable achievements in massive infrastructural development, especially in the rural areas, has attracted massive investment, helping Enugu to get back its pride of place.

In recent times, no leader, East of the Niger, has gained a consensus of good opinion like Ugwuanyi. Most leaders of thought are in agreement in their commendation of the exemplary ideals of the Enugu State governor. The Spiritual Director of the Adoration Ministry Enugu Nigeria (AMEN), Rev. Fr. Ejike Mbaka, has consistently reiterated his unflinching support and endorsement of Ugwuanyi.

Mbaka expressed delight with Gov. Ugwuanyi for entrenching peace and good governance in Enugu State, because “he is a good man; a man of peace; a perfect genius; humble and ever patient”. According to him, “I have never seen this kind of unquestionable, magnetic, pragmatic and dynamic peace in Enugu State before, because of one Gburugburu. Gov. Ugwuanyi has no enemy. He is a governor who has good relationship with the entire Nwodo family, Senator Fidel Okoro, Senator Ken Nnamani, Senator Jim Nwobodo, Dr. Chimaroke Nnamani and other leaders. Gburugburu is the ‘Messi’ in the field.

During his maiden interaction with journalists on assumption of office in 2015, Ugwuanyi stated that his administration will work hard to maintain peace as a panacea for progress and rapid development of the state. The peace-loving governor pledged not to engage in any act that would undermine the relationship between his administration and the past ones vis-à-vis himself and past leaders of the state.

According to him, “the era of new guard fighting the old guards in Enugu State is gone; my administration will not fight old guards to settle old scores. Where there is no peace, the people will not make meaningful progress.”

Whereas, drums of war are beating in almost every state, Ugwuanyi’s readiness to run an inclusive government where all former governors and other leaders are accommodated irrespective of political affiliation has made the difference in Enugu. According to him, “everybody is our friend and the era of politics of bitterness is over.”

Born on March 20, 1964, Ugwuanyi, today, Wednesday, March 20, clocks 55. Sworn-in as the 3rd civilian governor of the new Enugu State on May 29, 2015, Ugwuanyi on Saturday, March 9, 2019 was overwhelmingly re-elected, in one of the most peaceful, transparent and credible elections in the history of the state.

The most amazing aspect of the entire scenario was that the governor’s resounding victory in this month of March coincided with his 55th birthday anniversary, which calls for double celebrations in thanksgiving to God, for His mercies and kindness to a man of faith and goodwill.

His overwhelming victory and that of all other candidates of the PDP in the state, did not come to many as a surprise, especially those who are informed about the political antecedents of Enugu State, as well as the governor’s sterling performance and swelling popularity in the state.

For instance, at the grand finale of the governor’s door-to-door campaign, held at Udenu Local Government Area headquarters ahead of the just concluded governorship and state assembly elections, some of these leaders eulogized him for entrenching peace, tranquility and good governance, in a manner that has never been experienced before in the history of the state.

They described Gov. Ugwuanyi as a man of history, expressing delight that he has united everybody in the state, irrespective of political leaning. The leaders told him that the culture of peace and good governance he has entrenched in the state was unprecedented and will earn him a landslide victory at the polls.

The party stalwarts added that his pre-election adoption by 70 political parties in Enugu State as their consensus candidate was an affirmation that the governor has united everybody in the state.

While Senator Ekweremadu disclosed that “there is no bickering or quarrels among the political leaders in the state”, Senator Nwobodo, who described Gov. Ugwuanyi as a son thanked him “for bringing everybody together”.

According to Senator Onuaguluchi, “Gov. Ugwuanyi has brought uncommon peace to the state” and “all of us have come to learn from Gburugburu (Ugwuanyi)”. Senator Okoro pointed out that “we have not seen his type before”, and Amb. Mrs. Eze joined others in urging the people to vote massively for him and other candidates of the PDP.

Shortly after the March 9 election, which was adjudged the most peaceful, freest and credible by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC)-accredited local and foreign observers, 70 political parties, and leaders of the state, among others, the coalition of governorship candidates in the state led by Gerald Abonyi of Labour Party (LP) congratulated Gov. Ugwuanyi, expressed satisfaction with the outcome of the exercise and pledged to support his administration.

Basking in the euphoria of the well-deserved victory, support groups and people from various Local Government Areas have continued to troop to the Government House, Enugu to equally congratulate the governor.

Accepting the mandate, the governor stated that “this victory does not belong to me alone.” He disclosed that “it belongs to Ndi Enugu – our political leaders and other stakeholders irrespective of party affiliations; the market men and women, the barrow pushers, taxi and commercial bus drivers, ‘Okada’ and ‘Keke’ riders, petty traders, other artisans, town union and community leaders, the clergy, our revered traditional rulers, civil servants, the farmers, the professional class, youth and women groups, students and others who are the true heroes of our democracy”.

He told the people of the state that he was “deeply humbled that you have, once again, invested your trust and faith in our team,” saying that it is now for him and his deputy and running mate, Mrs. Cecilia Ezeilo “to continue to work for you.”

According to him, “I hereby reaffirm that we will continue to serve you with the fear of God, with humility and an unwavering commitment to improving the lives of our people and lifting the State to unprecedented heights of development and progress.”

The governor also expressed gratitude to President Muhammadu Buhari for “his exemplary leadership and for providing the enabling environment that ensured the peaceful conduct of elections in our State.” He equally saluted the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) “for a job well done and for keeping alive the dream of a brighter democracy.”

Extending his hand of fellowship to other contestants he added: “In truth, the victory is not a winner-takes-all. In our spirit of brotherhood, everyone is a winner. Therefore, I reach out my hand of friendship and partnership to my fellow contestants. I invite all of you to join hands with me so that together, we shall build a better Enugu State, to the glory of God.

Re-committing himself to the service of God and the state, Gov. Ugwuanyi declared: “Now is the time to get back to work. We are inspired by the sacrifices and support of our people in renewing our mandate. I am confident that by the special grace of God and with your continuing cooperation and prayers, all things concerning Enugu State will continue to end in praise.”