Beatification and ‘beautification’ of an area boy
In spite of Nigeria’s problems, the leaders behave in a way diametrically opposed to the people’s genuine concerns such as the mass starvation, poor education and health services and insecurities of all kinds. But the President keeps a fleet of presidential aircrafts while the governors have fleets of armoured-paneled or bullet-proof cars and receive hefty salaries while the people are forced to hold their skins and bones together with a slave wage that only condemns the conscienceless income distribution system in the court of equity and justice. This has not stopped the leaders in the states, local governments and at the centre from embarking on white-elephant projects. This brings one to the Ebonyi state example, which ordinarily bears our contention much more glaringly and truly.
Ebonyi state was created in 1996 by General Abacha after agitations led by founding fathers from Ezeogo Akanu Ibiam, Senator Offia Nwali, Martin Elechi, Prof, Chigozie Ogbu, Dr. Agbafor Igwe, Rev. Nwafor among others. Of course, during military regime, two military officers and one police officer ruled the state in turns between 1996 and 1999 when Dr. Sam Egwu was elected Governor and ruled from May 29, 1999 to May 28, 2007. Governor Martin Elechi succeeded Governor Egwu and ruled between 2007 and 2015, when he was politically ousted by his creation (Engr. Dave Umahi), who succeeded him on May 29, 2015.
Governor Egwu’s regime was marked by several policies aimed at uplifting the social tone and confidence of the people as encapsulated in his Free Education Programme and the establishment of a State University and a College of Education. A school of thought was of the opinion that robust educational reforms targeting the primary and secondary school system to afford the mass of the people good quality education, which is the pedestal for socio-economic functionality in any society would have been better.
Governor Elechi assumed office and declared all aspects of the socio-physical infrastructure as “priority.” In this wise, he flagged off at one fell swop about 29 bridges tagged “Bridges of Unity” with the access roads and two gigantic water treatment plants. These bridges and roads solved the communication problem bedeviling the state by reason of its geography. He also designated about 27 secondary schools as pilot schools for boarding house system while some mission hospitals were given subvention in return for reasonably scaled charges for patients. He also embarked on a new Government Secretariat at a new town development scheme named after his chieftaincy title “Ochudo” and also commenced the building of a new market. The new secretariat and the new market were considered white-elephant projects and indeed ended up uncompleted.
Governor Umahi served under Governor Elechi as Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party from which pedestal he charmed Governor Elechi with weird political schemes, intrigues and praxis whose alluring but false flourishes enthralled Chief Elechi to allegedly promise him “anointment” as his successor. Before Chief Elechi could recover from the spell it was late and the political machine created under him and the subterfuge of the PDP National Office and Jonathan Presidency rubbished his gubernatorial advantages as Chief Umahi simply pulled the carpet under his feet and got himself elected as the PDP candidate and subsequently the governor.
It has been one year and six months since May 29, 2015 when Governor Umahi took over the mantle of leadership from Chief Elechi. Right from the Abakaliki Township Stadium the venue of the inauguration, the new Governor unfurled his programmes. And these programmes were not in the areas of the educational and health services but in the construction of ‘three flyovers’ over some roads within the state capital, Abakaliki. The construction of the flyovers have commenced just as the remedial works of the hitherto deplorable Abakaliki Township roads and some rural roads have been going on, some expeditiously and admirably but others in a very snail speed, perhaps due to paucity of funds. But it is a likely excuse that the state is not solvent enough for the construction works undertaken so far that an officious by-stander would be surprised at what the Governor and his government consider “priority”. If the government complains of insufficiency of fund, then why should it undertake street-lighting scheme when over 70% of Ebonyi State rural communities are not electrified. If there is paucity of fund for an overhauling of our educational and health systems where does the government get or intend to get the money to fund the beautification of the landscapes as expressed in the demolitions and rebuilding of the roundabouts and water-fountains? If the government cannot pay decent salary to its workers where does it hope to find the money to build an ultra modern Government House and Legislative House at the centenary city as recently advertised for bids in the Daily Sun, Wednesday, October 19, 2016 at page 32. These are clearly white elephant projects that have little or no bearing on the socio-cultural and economic well-being of the people of Ebonyi State who have borne the brunt of years of marginalization and underdevelopment in the various well-advanced societies they were part of before its creation.
Nobody will tell the Governor the truth due to the prevailing culture of sycophancy or stop him from building the castles for the governor and his co-rulers or demolishing the roundabouts and rebuilding them with water-fountains or turning Abakaliki to become a poor cousin of Paris, the City of Light. But he should note that none of these has any relevant bearing to the positive well-being of an average Ebonyian. A man eats, lives in a decent house and procreates and educates his offspring first before aesthetics. That is the basic stage where the transformation of an ‘Area boy’ or Agbero starts from by a conscious and deliberate effort at changing his substance not white-washing him. And so should it be with Nigeria and all its constituent parts. Ka Chineke mezie okwu!
Onwe, Former Political and Legislative Adviser, Ebonyi State (2001-2011) and Doctoral Student of Law) 4B, Ogoja Road, Abakaliki.