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Micro-zoning Enugu governorship and need for sustained vision

By Fred Eze
26 August 2021   |   1:55 am
As the hullabaloo over the successor of Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi of Enugu state in 2023 continues to reverberate, it has become necessary to pan the searchlight in the direction of not only which part of the state deserves to produce the next Governor but in particularization, who actually does the cap fit that will sustain…

As the hullabaloo over the successor of Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi of Enugu state in 2023 continues to reverberate, it has become necessary to pan the searchlight in the direction of not only which part of the state deserves to produce the next Governor but in particularization, who actually does the cap fit that will sustain the 2015-2023 Enugu vision.

Chronologically, most sitting Governors since 1999 preferred to pick their successors from their kitchen cabinets, who are believed to have been mentored in the direction of the administration’s thinking. Unfortunately, some of those choices failed to yield the expected continuity of vision for factors that were best explained by both the predecessors and their successors. While the few failed experiments produced bitter acrimonies, they did not by any inch reduce the success stories recorded from the mentorship model.

Research showed that what caused most of the collapsed mentored leadership were differences in the vision of successor from the precursor. Such scenarios occurred when the predecessors did not give their aides the liberty of exercising self creativity in dealing with issues on their own while they were being mentored.

Arriving at the most suited successor of Governor Ugwuanyi requires that such a successor comes from the generally agreed senatorial zone of the state that should produce the next governor and in this case, Enugu East senatorial zone. Among the six local government areas in Enugu east senatorial district, some local governments have been marked out for having produced previous plum political offices while two councils are deemed to be the most disadvantaged local government areas. They are Isi-Uzo and Enugu North local government councils.

Enugu North local government fortunately or unfortunately is the metropolitan council which ordinarily should have preference over every other council area, yet such has not been the case. Enugu North local government is the only council in the state that does not have representation in the state Executive council till date.

Standing on the marginalization in the state reminds me of the agitation by a section of Enugu west senatorial zone that feel bitter and marginalized despite the fact that they have produced political leaders of great repute between 1999 and date. It’s unfortunate that such half part of Enugu west zone now lay claim to cultural zoning instead of senatorial zoning, their tragedy being that the previous state administrations did not pay closer attention to their area, even when their zone produced governorship in the last dispensation.

Well, the Greater Awgu plight is understandable but incongruous in their arguments to lay claim in the 2023 leadership of the state. What they could not get under the state leaderships were in greater proportions redeemed for them through their formidable representation in the federal government and that should be enough to assuage them.

Therefore, having examined all the variables and factors in favour of Enugu North local government area, the micro-search for Ugwuanyi’s successor from his kitchen cabinet may not be far from one of his aides who has shown extraordinary leadership traits, similar confidence and courage; humble but misunderstood in the exercise of duties. Such a successor may not be far from Dr. Josef Umunnakwe Onoh.

Popularly referred to as Ken Onoh in the state, the young Onoh strikes me as the perfect governor Enugu state would have in 2023. From my distant Abuja abode away from home, I’ve read about Onoh’s aspiration to be governor which I raised objection against because of the critics of his job at the Enugu Capital Territory Development Authority. Onoh’s case could be likened to Governor Nasiru El’Rufai of Kaduna state who when he was the Minister of Federal Capital Territory was not liked by lawbreakers who preferred to circumvent the law in Abuja. But today, El’Rufai’s Kaduna state is adjourned to be the most resilient state in Nigeria, save the insecurity in the North West, which is a product of many factors beyond his control.

I changed my mind from Onoh’s critics recently when I alighted from the Akanu Ibiam airport and had to drive through the Oye Emene route, passing adoration ground to Nike lake Resort hotel. I immediately understood that it takes a man with a firm belief in sanity to have affected development control in Emene. At Abakpa, I was also amazed to see that both the Timber and Abakpa nuisances have been sanitized.

Onoh’s strides in development control made me take a further tour of the state capital. At Trans-Ekulu, I met the Capital Territory men marking the illegal structures that defaced the estate which used to be the pride of coal city. He has gradually reclaimed the city to my shock and admiration. His magic wand still remains a puzzle and credit to the Ugwuanyi administration of Enugu state. Onoh’s performance in the Enugu Capital Territory is indicative of Governor Ugwuanyi’s vision of good governance in the state.

Onoh’s good knowledge of Enugu was further demonstrated at Kenyetta market where he was able through strength of character, decongested the old city center to make it once more habitable and uplifted Enugu’s enviable status. His success in the administration of Enugu Capital Territory presupposes his capacity of replicating universal development in the entire state.

All these previous street chaos that Onoh has put sanity to had all existed from the military regimes up to the democratic dispensation, yet no one had the will to achieve his feats that even previous governors could not achieve.

I’ve taken a deep study on all those presently prospecting for Enugu state governorship in 2023 and could not find who to place beside Onoh’s enviable antecedent, including one who had worked in a larger federal Capital Territory. From a family background, the young Josef Onoh was groomed for leadership and a task to protect the reputation of his name. He is free from encumbrances and has not been dented with any corrupt practice in his political life. I was equally privileged to have gone to his business concern in GRA Enugu where he exhibited his class, taste and worldview through a distinction of investment.

In private life, Onoh has excelled above obviation, while in his public sphere he has done what would have posed as impossible to others. He was the Executive Director of Eastern Bottlers Company Limited, makers of Limca soft drinks that was owned by his father. He has developed his personal estates while he was not in government. He has contested for political positions, starting from councillorship of New Haven ward in 1999 to Chairman of Enugu North local government council in 2007. He later became Chairman of Enugu State House of Assembly Committee on Finance and Appropriation. In 2015 he was made Special Adviser to Governor Ugwuanyi on Domestic matter and later became Special Adviser on Security matters and was again appointed a Special Adviser on Special Projects before he was appointed as Executive Chairman Enugu Capital Territory Development Authority (ECTDA).

He therefore has no reason not to run for Enugu governorship in 2023. Sometimes it takes to give someone who has something to lose, leadership. I recall when the first son of Chief C.C Onoh, Mr. GB Onoh was the chairman of old Enugu municipal council which has now metamorphosed into Enugu North, Enugu South and Enugu East local government councils, and the National Association of Local Government Employees (NULGE) was on strike and he did not wait to have access to local government fund, but he used his personal fund to pay the local government workers and the strike was called off. As a local government chairman, GB Onoh constructed the thorny Akwata road and also made Abakaliki road in GRA an envy of a New York street. His record was so impeachable that he later became the commissioner the Lands and no land has been traced to him as having acquired it while in office.

I also recall that the late C.C Onoh did a similar thing during his brief stint as Governor of old Anambra state and the teachers were being owed. He got his own money to pay them and did not allow them to go in penury and gnashing of teeth, nor asked for refund till his death.

Josef Onoh is reputed for strict enforcement of Capital Territory regulation, even where it seemed impossible. His sense of history of the state is so impeccable that his leadership trait is not in doubt. Governor Ugwuanyi owes a duty to Enugu state to install a successor who will make him and the state proud of accelerating development in the state from where he will stop. The greatest gift and legacy Ugwuanyi will leave behind would be Onoh whom he has mentored for continuity of his legacy.

Enugu state in itself owes C.C Onoh the honour of rewarding him for his dogged struggle in the actualization of the state creation. 2023 will make it 40 years of his three months brief stint as governor of the old Anambra state, yet he has been more appreciated in other south east states more than in his home state. Continuing in his emancipation struggle, C.C. Onoh fought tooth and nail to ensure that a Wawa man, the late Justice Eze Ozobu, was made a Chief Judge in the state. Even though Onoh was not a Catholic but an Anglican, it was through his activism that took him to Rome where he tabled the Wawa marginalization before the Pontiff, after which an Nsukka man, Most Rev Michael Eneje was coroneted the Catholic Bishop of Enugu Diocese. Under CC. Onoh as the chairman of Nigeria Coal Corporation, the corporation acquired so much that none of his successors met his precedent until the corporation was finally laid to rest.

Enugu state should move beyond the present style of politicking that was enthroned in 1999, where people who have no stake, nothing to lose, are brought in to lead the state. It is for such styles of leadership that has withheld the state from making much progress and Governor Ugwuanyi will make the greatest mistake in 2023 if he goes beyond his cabinet, practically Josef Onoh, to select his successor.

The advantage of having somebody as the young Onoh as governor of the state is that he was born with a silver spoon and would not be attracted to primitive wealth acquisition if he becomes a governor. These other gladiators, without backgrounds and who are now positioning themselves are all searching for a way of pilfering from the state purse. Their statesmanship is in doubt but are touting for how to share the patrimony of the state.

Onoh by his image has already exhibited a zero tolerance for corruption and frivolities. His little public life has shown him as one who does not condone profiteering which is the reason why sanity in adherence to town planning regulation has returned to Enugu capital city. If he becomes governor, all the hangers-on, bootlickers and sharp practitioners will disappear from Enugu political corridors. He knows Enugu back and front, what to touch and what not to touch to make the state grow.

People have always said that the synergy and cooperation between Governor Ugwuanyi and Onoh is an indicator that both of them formed a formidable force. The understanding between the two has shown that Enugu can be better in the hands of Onoh.

Eze, an Estate Manager lives in Abuja