Southeast governors shunning projects of their predecessors
The general impression in Southeast geopolitical zone is that the 2015 greatly damaged politics and governance in the zone. Out of the five states that make up the zone, two are in the hands of what used to be the opposition parties. Of the five, only one has a second term governor. Others are green horns in government, while two could not be described as novices in politics, having been actively engaged in the garrison politics of the erstwhile ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
Having been used to enjoying dominance in the zone, PDP’s final crash in the 2015 election dealt a fatal blow to politics and governance in the geopolitical zone. Of the states, Anambra started the process of opting out of PDP, before Imo joined, albeit deviously, in 2007. For Abia State, its experiment with a homegrown political party could not be sustained.
Flowing from that background, it could be seen that only the core-conservative states of Enugu and Ebonyi obdurately got stuck in PDP throughout the fourth republic. Attempt by Ebonyi to rebel during the 2015 poll could not fructify due to the ingrained PDP style of politics that cede power to the well-connected, and or, the highest bidder. In Imo, Governor Rochas Okorocha’s gamble with the erstwhile opposition paid off, as he was rewarded with a second term.
A look at governance in the zone after the 2015 election reveals that with the exception of Abia and Imo, the other states seem to have shifted from the plans and programmes of their predecessors. While the situation in Abia is blurred by the stiff challenge from opposition during the governorship election, Imo has continued to be a huge ground for policy summersaults and project misconception.
After the late Dr. Samuel Iheonunaka Mbakwe, Imo State seems to have remained profligate, as far as, good governance and responsible leadership are concerned. Under the present administration, there were high expectations from the government, given the prodigious fund of goodwill from the people through the massive upswing of votes that enthroned the government in 2011.
It is on record that, given the circumstances of his election, Governor Okorocha did not have the extra burden of humouring a godfather. But the governor has continued to circulate around slogans and clichés, as he experiments with governance processes and projects. He won the admiration and interest of a lot of people through his populist enticements of free tuition, community county councils and infrastructure development.
Although it could be said that Okorocha succeeded himself in 2015 based on his transition from All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) to the All Progressives Congress (APC), he has not been able to follow through his ideas and programmes with seamless precision and accomplishment.
For Abia State, a lot of people gave up on attempts to measure Senator Theodore Orji’s performance in office in terms of its monumental want of excellence and impact. While he was in office, the then governor identified some undertakings, which he celebrated as legacy projects, but it is doubtful if there is any distinguished recollection of Ochendo’s eight years in office, other than the infamous expulsion of non-indigenous Abia civil servants and dispossessing of some cooperative traders of their market space.
As he was not celebrated as a citadel of success in office as governor, the election of his successor was amidst much cloud and contest. The lingering multi-dimensional disputes over the outcome of the Abia State governorship poll have done much to obscure whatever Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu has tried to do within the past seventeen months he mounted the saddle.
Therefore, not minding that he may not have had any options but to continue with projects of his godfather, if there were any; Ikpeazu’s first term is yet to takeoff. Because, saddled with the burden of much disputation over his election into office as governor, there is no need trying to evaluate how far the incumbent has been able to keep pace with the developmental initiatives of his predecessor.
But for Anambra, Ebonyi and Enugu States, it is not so. Apart from the fact that the governors came to political limelight through the benevolence of their predecessors, they have shown markedly deviation from the projects and programmes conceived by the former chief executives:
Enugu: Ifeanyi Lawrence Ugwuanyi
During the 2015 electioneering, all what Ugwuanyi, a former member of the House of Representatives, had to say as he addressed rallies was Afia Azuma, (the deal is closed). That was his way of telling the voters that since he had the endorsement of Governor Sullivan Chime, who was generally believed to have turned things around in the state, it was settled.
Chime devised a bottom-up approach to project conception and implementation through his legendary VEC (operation Visit Every Community). Through that social science approach, the government documented the needs of various communities in order of priority as requested by the stakeholders.
However, while the Chime administration undertook VEC, it had a four-point agenda of governance, including infrastructure development, urban and environmental renewal, health and social amenities and good governance.
Based on that schema, the Chime administration improved the scenic beauty of Coal City, as the capital city is called; constructed well-paved roads, encompassing big and beautiful roundabouts and secured the state.
Security was the first challenge the Chime administration tackled, providing the security agencies with functional pick up and patrol vans alongside modern communication gadgets. An internal security arrangement, which entailed the composition of neighbourhood watches in the 471 communities of the state, was systematically put in place, such that the whole the state was well covered.
However, seventeen months into his administration, Ugwuanyi has not been able to leave a discernible pattern or programme outline. The administration seems to have abandoned the security architecture already put in place, especially the neighbourhood watch and completing the phased provision of electronic surveillance cameras along the major intersections in the state.
Sources in Enugu disclosed that some of the high definition cameras have been vandalised or gone bad through lack of maintenance. This neglect was also said to have contributed to the successful massacre of villagers in Ukpabi Nimbo community in Uzo-Uwani local council by suspected herdsmen. “If His Excellency had sustained support for the Neighbourhood Watch as Chime did, those people would not have killed our people and run away,” said a member of the community.
Aside from security, another area the Ugwuanyi administration seems to be reneging from its promise to continue with Chime’s projects is VEC. Most communities that were expecting to take their turn in the provision of rural access have been kept in the dark. Not that alone, waste disposal and urban renewal have taken a backseat, such that Enugu is now a ghost of its former scenic beauty.
Again, during his eight years in office, Chime was consistent with the conduct of local government council poll, but Ugwuanyi, citing lack of funds shunned the poll in preference for caretaker committees. Yet, even as he complains of paucity of funds, the general perception in the state is that the governor is agitated by the election petition filed by former Senate Committee chairman on Works, Ayogu Eze, which is pending at the Supreme Court.
But those close to Ugwuanyi said the tight financial situation, which the governor found himself, was because he is refunding some money to the Federal Government, having been fingered in the investigation of operations of Nigeria Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA). Ugwuanyi was chairman, House of Representatives Committee on Marine Transport, prior to his election into office as governor.
Ebonyi: David Umahi Nweze
Governor David Umahi came into office as governor under exceptional circumstances. A civil engineering contractor, Umahi was drafted into the Ebonyi PDP by Governor Martin Elechi, shortly after the 2007 governorship election, as a compromise candidate to douse the supremacy battles between loyalists of former Governor Sam Egwu.
From being the chairman of the caretaker committee of the party in the state, Elechi railroaded Umahi in as the substantive chairman in March 2008. Four years after, the governor toyed with the idea of involving Umahi in his succession plans. However, knowing that his adopted political godson, lacked experience in bureaucracy and politics, the then governor decided to pencil him down as running mate for his second term campaign.
Equipped and encouraged by the prospects of moving from party chairman through deputy governorship and eventually as successor to the governor, Umahi as party chairman, mobilised funds and forces to snatch victory from the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) governorship candidate, Senator Julius Ali Ucha in the 2011 poll.
Having crossed over from managing the ruling political party in the state to deputy governor, Umahi’s confidence in Elechi was bolstered to a prodigious level. As deputy governor, Umahi was accorded the enabling liberty to pilot the affairs of the state and be exposed to the workings of the executive. Supported by the fact of being a civil engineer, Umahi was made to head virtually all executive council committees, particularly those that had to do with infrastructure. He also used the opportunity to weed out commissioners that nursed governorship ambitions, including the then Works Commissioner, Dr. Paul Okorie, who was nicknamed ‘Action’ for his zealous prosecution of road, environmental and water projects from the Sam Egwu days.
Noted for his tightfistedness and frugal lifestyle, Elechi embarked on the construction of 36 bridges alongside 204 kilometres of intra and inter-communal access roads, three mega water schemes, three modern rice mills and 27 pilot schools, new state secretariat complex and international market, among other lofty projects, despite the low fiscal position of the state.
However, after three years of indoctrination, Elechi started retreating from the idea of endorsing Umahi as his possible successor. The elder statesman noted that under his tutelage, his deputy manifested inherent weakness for material acquisition and intolerance to opposing viewpoints, stressing that he found it hard to entrust the leadership of the state to somebody that would not encourage the inclusive participation of all Ebonyi people in the running of their government.
But, having benefitted from the many road and bridge contracts through his companies, Brass Construction, Fucus among others, Umahi insisted on contesting the governorship against Elechi’s bidding. Supported by powerful members of the PDP National Working Committee (NWC), then Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Egwu and very solvent political investors from Anambra State, Umahi not only grabbed the governorship ticket, but also the governorship seat.
As governor of Ebonyi, Umahi confessed that it was not easy to defeat an incumbent or his candidate in an election in Nigeria, pointing out that he spent huge sums to prosecute his governorship election. And sitting on his former master’s seat, Umahi has decided to stylishly avoid some of the ongoing projects inherited by his administration. The first casualty was the dualization of the 12km stretch running from Ebonyi State University permanent site to the city on the Abakaliki-Enugu expressway.
Governor Umahi has complained about the dwindling federal allocation accruing to the state and low internally generated revenue. Surprisingly, the administration has designed and commenced simultaneous construction of three flyovers and pedestrian bridge on the same Abakaliki-Enugu expressway.
Although the government has embarked on aggressive and heavy taxation on residents and small businesses, it has also turned its back on the food subsidy at the 27 pilot schools, made up of grammar and technical schools split between boys and girls in the ratio of 14 and 13.
In response to public outrage against the neglect of the food subsidy and promotion of the 27 boarding schools, Umahi disclosed that school principals should take to farming to generate the food pointing out that he had given the sum of N2b to the commissioner for Agriculture, Uchenna Orji, to upscale rice farming in the state.
Yet, a lot of people note with dismay that the neglect of the boarding school system by the administration was depreciating results already achieved by the boarding policy, which had won public acclaim.
Anambra: Willie Maduabuchi Obiano
If there is any Southeast governor that enjoyed easy access to political power, it is Willie Obiano. Former governor Peter Obi did not spare cost or energy in ensuring that the 2013 governorship election produced a successor on the platform of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA). Given the stiff competition in the election, beginning from a very contentious primary election, sources disclosed that by the time the Obiano was declared winner and sworn into office, a good sum had been spent by Obi as cost of returning his preferred candidate as successor.
Perhaps, in recognition of the determination and doggedness Obi put into ensuring that he became governor, Obiano declared that he would undertake a four-step approach to governance. That process, he outlined, comes under the 4 Cs: continue, complete, commission all projects originated by my predecessor and commence another set of projects that will change Anambra State.”
But barely one year in office, what began as cracks in the relationship between godson and godfather developed into open hostilities. Although Obiano varied the cost of three flyovers across the Enugu-Onitsha expressway from N5b to N15b, the project progressed to 85 percent of completion at the speed of snail.
The Anambra International Hotel at Agulu, suffered worse fate, despite the fact that Obi in his handing over notes, disclosed that he outlined funding pattern for the completion of the project. The Awka Shoprite project, Ogbunike Cave rehabilitation, rural roads in the three senatorial zones, as well as, secondary schools rehabilitation and intervention programmes, among others, were also abandoned.
Although Governor Obiano complained of paucity of funds, he initiated some grandiose projects like Airport at Aguleri. He declared that before his tenure ends, each of the 177 towns that make up the state would have received at least one project worth N20m.
Obiano has also failed to conduct local government election in the state and unlike his predecessor, he has not been splitting local government funds to communities, which made the PDP to demand that he gives account of federal allocations to the 21 local councils in the state.
What angers some of the people in the state is the fact that the governor is about the only one across the nation that was handed over zero arrears of salaries and pension and N75b worth of cash and investments. The people also agonise over the governor’s spending habits, alleging that while his office takes N1.2b monthly, the office of the first lady collects N250m monthly as security votes.
“The N36b Governor Obiano has collected as security votes in his 30 months in office would have funded the completion of the good intentioned projects left by his predecessor,” they lament.