Oguejiofo Ujam advises the Governor-elect of Enugu State, Dr Peter Mbah, to be wary of the antics of political jobbers in the Coal City State as he hits the ground running after inauguration on May 29, 2023.
After the main battle for the governorship seat of Enugu State, there are still two other contests awaiting the victorious gladiators. One is how to settle down and deliver on the mandate received, while the other relates to the demands of political actors that have various IOUs (I Owe You).
For those who may not be conversant, IOUs are often generated through concessions and promises to stakeholders in the course of the bargaining for votes. Consequently, in Enugu State, the two scenarios are currently weighing heavily on the minds of the incoming administration of Dr. Peter Ndubuisi Mbah and Barrister Ifeanyi Ossai. As major political concessions, they both hold the ambitious promise of massive infrastructure development in different parts of Enugu State.
But, what makes the burdens very unusual is that unlike in the past when the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) had a retinue of elected officials or was in control of the Federal Government, it is no longer so.
As things stand in the state, which has been a traditional base of PDP, apart from one Senator-elect, one member of the House of Representatives-elect, and 10 members-elect for the state House of Assembly, the party now depends on the incoming governor for political ventilation.
Before now PDP boasted of control of the Federal Government from which such things like membership and headship of boards of agencies and parastatals were appointed. But, as the curtain falls on the Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi administration and another All Progressives Congress (APC) federal government is about to take office, the challenges for the incoming Dr. Peter Mbah executive in Enugu State are enormous.
What seemed to compound the situation in Enugu State is that the incoming Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) administration has been made to look like old maids by the advent of Labour Party (LP) young naïve and confused maidens. These untested and inexperienced upstarts, who boast only of their youth and fresh faces in politics and administration are stomping the place with a mistaken entitlement mentality.
Based on the insurgent emotional politics that defined the 2023 elections in the Southeast, especially in Enugu State, the state legislature has been robbed of the unanimity that has always characterized the Coal City State House of Assembly since 1999. For instance, despite the Labour Party faulty and disputed victories, some of these nubile maidens sheepishly muster the courage to even interrogate the rules of engagement in the emergent House of Assembly ahead of their inauguration.
Add to that the distracting influence of the Governorship Election Petition filed by the Labour Party and its candidate in the last governorship election, Mr. Chijioke Edeoga, who tends to whip the erroneous sentiment of a stolen mandate. It is obvious that the incoming Mbah administration is confronted with a myriad of concerns.
The basic concern is the quiet, but damaging influence of certain political jobbers, who go about amplifying the false notion that they made Mbah’s governorship victory happen. These political actors, most of whom belong to the PDP also speak in low tones about the possibility of a nullification and re-run of the governorship poll in Enugu State.
Pitifully, among this small group of documented political actors are those who went out of their way to sabotage Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi’s interests at the election in apparent bid to favour the leaders of a political Halloween crowd.
Then, there is the major burden for the Governor-elect, which has to do with the ambitious visions contained in his forward-looking manifesto.
While campaigning for the election, Dr. Mbah is on record to have spoken about disruptive innovations and the tall ambition of growing the economy of Enugu State by as much as over 60 percent.
The implication of the incoming governor’s promise is that Nigerians, particularly Enugu people that voted him into office, should expect the state’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) to rise to N30 billion from the current N4.4 billion.
Consequently, given that giant proclamation, how far could the political considerations from politicians that are waving various forms of IOUs go to restrain or enhance the fulfillment of the incoming administration’s electoral promises?
As an academic that has devoted so much time studying the socio-political dynamics of Enugu State, this writer believes that Dr. Mbah should place political considerations beneath strategies for mandate delivery.
In a word, the governor-elect should not balk from taking hard decisions by kowtowing to the erroneous conjurations of political jobbers who claim that a re-run poll is a possibility.
As the recent general elections exposed, winners emerged not out of the exploits of political jugglers, but from individual qualities and public perception of the contenders.
That being the case, Dr. Mbah and Barrister Ossai should know that it is the mandate of the Enugu people that they hold. As such, their preoccupation in choosing their aides and implementing their policies and programmes should be in the overriding public interest.
Even in the unlikely event of a repeat governorship election, it is the same Enugu people that would have the last say on who becomes their governor. Nobody should blackmail the governor-elect to choose square-pegs for round holes in making necessary appointments.
Next to that, as he gets ready to take over the reins of political power, Dr. Mbah should extricate some low-hanging fruits from his manifesto. Setting up a close-knit and compact cabinet that would help him drive the much-expected economic transformation should be followed by intentional implementation of policies surrounding economic transformation and poverty reduction in the state.
Industrialisation occupies a central place in the disruptive governance model that Dr. Mbah envisages. Therefore, developing modest cottage industries that up-scales value-addition in the food production chain should be among the subheads with triple asterisks.
The incoming administration should hit the ground running by tackling environmental sanitation and infrastructure uplift in the state as well. And, because all hands should be on deck to meet timelines and achieve targets, it is hoped that the men and women the Mbah/Ossai administration would enlist for this massive attack on socio-economic progression of Enugu State should be those with eyes on the ball rather than those that could be distracted by concerns for their political tomorrow.
A look at the names of quality individuals that made it into the 64-man Transition Committee left some positive feeling that the Governor-elect is committed to carving a new path to socio-economic development of the state.
Of course, being a major player in the private sector, where he excelled in the Oil and Gas industry, Dr. Mbah demonstrated that he has the rich social capital to meet the enormous expectations of Ndi Enugu.
Dr. Mbah’s remarks while inaugurating the Committee continue to ring in my head and gives the confidence that he understands the enormity of the expectations and challenges.
The Governor-elect had stated: “The task before us is humongous, but not insurmountable. Ndi Enugu chose us, believing that we were the only ones qualified to take them through this consequential journey…
“Our vision for Enugu State is a luscious land flowing with milk and honey. In this vision, we do not see the entanglements of today. Transiting into that land of purpose, of economic and social Eldorado is a big plan that we are convinced is possible and doable.”
I am also encouraged by the sterling remarks of the former founder of Platinum Bank, Prof. Pat Utomi who has tried to associate himself with infrastructure development in Enugu State by expressing the optimism that a new Enugu State is possible “with passion, imagination, and commitment by the government.”
Building this new Enugu State through disruptive policies and inclusive governance has therefore become the measuring scale for the incoming administration. Politics should play in the background to achieve high water marks.
-Prof Ujam writes from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka.