As a young man who was desirous of making name in journalism practice more than a decade ago, I was fortunate and privileged enough to commence practice of the noble profession on politics desk.
Writing and covering politics, politicians and their activities exposed me to many things and brought me in contact with many politicians and critical stakeholders, of which Enugu State Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi is one of them. Since then, I had meticulously followed Ugwuanyi’s political trajectory and leadership exploits, just like other colleagues of his who are political players.
Without mincing words or sounding hyperbolical, I can confidently and unequivocally say that Ugwuanyi, who will clock 57 years tomorrow is not a typical Nigerian politician, who politicises and sees everything from the prism of partisan politics, even after elections. This is the attitude that has been the bane of good governance, peace, development and security in Nigeria since the return of democracy in 1999.
For Ugwuanyi, partisan politics is secondary, while good governance associated with the general wellbeing of the people and peaceful coexistence is primary. Politics to him, starts and ends before, during and after elections. Immediately after that, good governance takes centre stage. The overall interest, welfare and wellbeing of the people irrespective of party affiliation, religion, tribe or status takes precedence over any other interest.
This has been his leadership style before and since 2015 he assumed office as Governor of Enugu state amidst daunting challenges. He is not pretentious, political or hypocritical about it. As can be seen, his government policies and programmes have always been fashioned in that direction. It is not in doubt that it is in his nature to care and cater for others. He places much premium on it more than any other thing. He has been passionate and consistent about it and derives joy in doing it. No wonder, he has been often described as a compassionate leader, rare humanist, welfarist, pacifist and humility personified.
Of utmost concern and worry to him at every given time is how to take care of the welfare and wellbeing of the people, especially the downtrodden. He believes so much in humanity and has massively touched lives and provided comfort for the people at the grassroots level with the provision of numerous critical infrastructure which include roads, hospitals, schools, jobs, and others in the rural areas across Enugu State in an equitable and unprecedented manner.
These rural areas or communities have only been remembered or accessed by politicians before and during elections. Indigenes and residents of some of these rural communities have not seen buldozer, access or asphalted roads for years. The people had lived and survived on self-help and communal efforts, which were not enough to make life meaningful and comfortable for them before now.
But with Ugwuanyi government’s massive infrastructural development and opening of the rural areas across the state, which has led to the completion of more than 248 rural roads and still ongoing, the situation has changed for good for the people of Akpugo community in Nkanu West Council Area, Nimbo and Nkpologu in Uzo-Uwani Council Area, Ogbodoaba in Udenu Council Area and other rural communities across the state.
Ugwuanyi is a man who is at peace with his people and God. He sacrifices anything to ensure that peace reigns. He is never carried away by the paraphernalia of office and exalted position of governor. He has used power to unite and develop the state. Very unassuming and urbane, he is a listening leader, who loves details and good results.
Born fifty-seven years ago, precisely March 20, 1965, into the modest and cultured family of Mr David and Mrs Veronica Ugwuanyi, of Ohom Orba in the present Udenu Local Council Area of Enugu State during the lenten period.
He was christened Lawrence and was also given Igbo name-Ifeanyichukwu, meaning that nothing is impossible with God. A name that is meaningful, philosophical and symbolic and spiritual in all ramifications. A name that has lived with him and has continued to manifest in all his endeavours.
Ugwuanyi just like his siblings, was brought up in a God fearing way. He is clothed with humility, taciturnity, intelligence, honesty and diligence.These virtues remain his greatest assets and strengths. Growing among his peers, he shone like a star both in academic and extra-curricular activities during his primary, secondary and tertiary education pursuit.
His exemplary leadership quality began to manifest early in his life as a secondary school student at the prestigious St. Theresa College, Nsukka, where he was outstanding in character and learning. After his secondary education, he secured admission into the Nigeria’s foremost university, University of Nigeria Nsukka (UNN) where he obtained a Bachelor of Science Degree in Finance and M.Sc. degree in Marketing, majoring in Public Relations. In his quest for deep and wider knowledge, he moved further to acquire MBA degree in Finance and Accountancy from Enugu State University of Science and Technology (ESUT).
While his colleagues scrambled for white collar jobs, within and outside the country upon graduation, Ugwuanyi, who had always believed and preferred working for and with his people for the common good of all, picked a job at Premier Brokers Limited, a prime insurance broking firm in the Southeast zone owned by the five states of the zone and African Continental Bank (ACB) now defunct.
After many years of excellent performance, he rose to become the Chief Executive Officer of the Premier Broking Firm. In 2002, he became the 16th president of the Rotary Club of Emene, Enugu. It was at this point that his leadership qualities and exceptional philanthropy, especially to the downtrodden and the less privileged in the society came to public fore.
Without hesitation and in appreciation of his rare philanthropy, the people of his town, Orba, in an elaborate traditional ceremony conferred on him the title of Dunu Gburugburu 1 of Orba, meaning the man of the people.
Satisfied with his exploits and track record in public and community service, Ugwuanyi’s people beckoned on him to offer himself for political office. His foray into the murky water of Nigerian politics commenced with his quest to serve as chairman of his local council area, Udenu. Despite losing the opportunity to political intrigues and backbitting, Ugwuanyi remained undaunted and focused in his political pursuits, banking on God and his people’s support and prayers.
In 2003, true to Ugwuanyi’s belief, expectation and hope, the political opportunity came calling. He won the ticket of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to contest for Igbo-Eze North/ Udenu Federal Constituency seat. He overwhelmingly won the election and his constituents enjoyed his quality representation. He was rewarded and appreciated by his people with reelection in 2007 and 2011, making him the longest serving House of Representatives member in Enugu State before 2015 general elections.
While in the House of Representatives, he moved so many motions and initiated some people-oriented bills. He also chaired and co-chaired some many committees,including Marine Transport committee which he chaired for eight consecutive years.
Following his philanthropy, performance and antecedent, while in the House of Representatives for more than a decade, Ugwuanyi’s desire to contest for Enugu State governorship seat on PDP platform in 2015 received massive support and accolades across the state. He won the PDP governorship ticket, contested and won the governorship election in Enugu State in 2015. Unfortunately and for the first time since 1999, his party PDP lost the presidency to the All Progressives Congress APC in the same election.
On assumption of office, Ugwuanyi was not perturbed by the change in the political equation at the centre. In the face of the obvious and daunting financial challenges occasioned by the country’s recessed economy in 2015, Ugwuanyi first sought the face of God and handed over the affairs of the state to Him. He faced his job with utmost diligence, equanimity and fear of God.
Knowing that nothing could be achieved in an atmosphere of crisis and insecurity, Ugwuanyi’s administration aggressively embarked on peace and security initiatives. First, he reached out to Enugu people, which include the opposition members, youths, elders, religious leaders, women and politicians, asking them to join hands with him in moving the state forward. He reminded them that elections were over and the wellbeing and peace of Ndi Enugu remain paramount.
Initially, not many believed and took him serious until he convinced them by his actions and inactions that he is sincere and genuine in his approach.
With this, people’s support for his administration increased tremendously because they saw in him a man who can sacrifice anything for peace to reign. Ndi Enugu, irrespective of status, tribe, religious or party affiliation, had wholeheartedly joined hands with his government to move the state forward. That was how and why Ugwuanyi was able to reconcile the political heavyweights in the state, who have been at each other’s throats over age-long political differences. That is why once estranged political allies, enemies and friends are talking to each other in Enugu today. This was not possible before Ugwuanyi assumed office in 2015. Ugwuanyi is an apostle of peace and peace has continued to reign in Enugu under his watch like never before.
In the area of infrastructural development and appointments, Ugwuanyi’s administration has equitably and sincerely distributed and allocated them without minding whose ox is gored or compromising quality, competence or standard. His penchant for youth inclusion in governance is unparalleled. This, he has demonstrated by the number and quality of youths he has appointed into his government. Many youths were also elected chairmen and councillors.
The 450 autonomous communities, three senatorial zones, 17 local government areas and 260 electoral wards in the state have felt the impact of Ugwuanyi’s administration one way or the other. If it is not by appointment, it is by development project and others. No group or individual or community is excluded in the business of governance in the state especially at the grassroots level.
Even with the heightened insecurity across the country, Enugu has remained one of the most peaceful states in the country. This is because of the people’s support and Ugwuanyi government’s massive investments in the area of security.
Apart from rejigging and repositioning the state security apparatus for optimal performance, it was Ugwuanyi’s government that first introduced and commenced the Forest Guard model in the country with the recruitment and equipping of 1700 personnel to work as Forest Guards in the sttate. Other states across the country are implementing the same model today.
The state, despite not being an oil producing state or ranks high in the monthly federation allocation has become a reference point in financial and human resources management, courtesy of Ugwuanyi’s prudence, fiscal discipline and transparency.
Massive infrastructural development have been taken to the rural areas where people have been neglected and abandoned for years. That was how people of Amuri, a sleepy town close to Agbani in Nkanu West Council Area saw and are enjoying for the first time an asphalt road in more than100 years of their existence. Also ongoing now is 26.6 km Ukpabi-Nimbo-Ugbene Ajima- Eziani road in Uzo-Uwani Council Area. The road is the second asphalt road in the entire council area since its creation. Today, the list of rural and urban roads constructed and being constructed by Ugwuanyi’s administration is endless.
Ugwuanyi administration has continued to maintain the basic infrastructure it met on ground and has at the same time built so many new ones to complement them. His government employed more street sweepers which has helped Enugu to remain the cleanest state in the country.
Under Ugwuanyi’s government, Enugu State’s Internally Generated Revenues has improved significantly and the state has performed creditably well in the Ease of Doing Business. Not too long ago, his government was honoured with Institute of Chartered Accountant of Nigeria (ICAN) as the second most accountable state government in Nigeria. While some of Ugwuanyi’s colleagues often globetrot in search of foreign investors that never come, Ugwuanyi has only travelled to overseas twice since he became governor in 2015. He is always around in the state, doing his work diligently. Despite this, investors have been coming to invest in the state because of its peacefulness, Ugwuanyi’s remarkable achievements and good economic policies.
Ugwuanyi by his leadership style which is result-driven has proven that leading a state without much resources is not a rocket science as some of his colleagues have always made Nigerians to believe. He is a governor of many feats and firsts. His popularity has soared and still soaring high within and outside the state. Testimonies of his goodness and sterling performance is overwhelming.
Among the workers, pensioners, security agents, religious leaders, artisans, downtrodden, majority residents, visitors and others, Ugwuanyi’s government is popular and acceptable, because of its good governance and people-oriented programmes.
Apart from paying workers salary every 23rd of the month and 13 month in December, his government has promoted workers as at when due. His government has rebuilt, built and equipped more 500 schools, recruited more than 4000 teachers and provided conducive environment for teaching and learning especially in rural areas that have been abandoned for too long. Enugu was among the first states in Nigeria that approved and paid 30,000 minimum wage and many states are yet to pay it today almost one year after it was passed into law.
It was for Ugwuanyi’s performance in office and others that four national dailies-The Sun, Independent, Vanguard and Leadership, independently found him worthy of honour in 2018 with different and unprecedented awards at the same time, after painstaking assessments of his steady and sterling performance. These awards were first of its kind to any governor in the southeast region, if not the entire country since 1999.
Even in the face of his remarkable performance in office and the myriad of accolades that have continued to pour in, Ugwuanyi is not resting on his oars. He has remained humble and focused on his job.
In his humble nature, Ugwuanyi at the peak of his reelection campaign in 2019, personally went to the grassroots to solicit for votes from traders in markets, artisans on the streets, and residents in their homes. He was massively and overwhelmingly reelected with 95 plus votes which many saw as a referendum on his first term performance.
After his reelection for second term on March 9, many had thought that he will change his style or slow down his performance rate, but reverse is the case. Just few months to his two year in office in his second term, it is the same Ugwuanyi of 2015, the same work rate, commitment and sincerity. Nothing has changed.
The ease, peacefulness and massive votes of which Ugwuanyi was reelected for second term speak volume of his performance, popularity and acceptance by the people in the state. It is a clear indicator of the renewed confidence and trust the people had in him to steer the ship of the state for the next four years. It has also shown that Ugwuanyi is not only at home with his people, he is accessible by them and of assistance to them in time of needs and wants.
The coincidence of his reelection in 2019 with that of his birthday and the Lenten period was an eloquent testimony of God’s presence in his life and plans for higher leadership responsibility in the years ahead. It is divine and a continuous fulfilment of God’s agenda in a good man’s life which no man or evil can stop.
While it is expected that his family members, friends and well-wishers will roll out drums today to celebrate him amidst fanfare and razzmatazz, Ugwuanyi will in his usual manner, philanthropy and religious belief celebrate his birthday in a low key at the orphanage homes and homes of the elderly and the less privileged.
His Excellency, birthday is a new start, a fresh beginning and a time to pursue new endeavours with new goals. Trudge on with confidence and trust in God, you are a very special person to your people. May today and all your days be amazing, prosperous and fulfilling as you sincerely and selflessly serve humanity. True to your name Ifeanyichukwu, Nothing Will Pass God in your life. Hurray and many more rewarding years ahead, the indefatigable leader at 57.
*Ezea, writes from Independence Layout Enugu