Enugu 2019: Opposition on a tightrope
Enugu appears to be one state, which opposition parties may find difficult to poach. Apart from the fact that Peoples Democratic Party has remained the dominant party in the state since 1999, the incumbent governor, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi-led administration has by its people-oriented policies diminished the presence and quality of opposition in the state.
Ugwuanyi-led government did not achieve this by intimidating or compromising opposition, but by running transparent, eclectic, developmental and inclusive government, where everybody matters irrespective of party, religion, tribal or language.
On assumption of office, Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi met obvious and daunting challenges on ground. Apart from the fact that his party, PDP for the first time lost power at the centre, Ugwuanyi was encumbered with pre-and-post election litigations that lasted for sometime. Funds accrued to the state from Monthly Federation allocation dwindled drastically due to the sudden crash in the price of crude.
Some basic amenities such as roads, health centres and others were calling for government’s quick attention, especially in rural areas. A local government like Nkanu East has not witnessed the presence of a bridge and good road, despite it’s location which is not too far from the state capital. But today, Governor Ugwuanyi has not only constructed roads there, he has built bridges. Most PDP stakeholders and members in the state, who were in Abuja before returned to Enugu en masse because PDP is no longer in power at the centre.
With a clear agenda, Ugwuanyi-led administration took on these challenges with courage. The government apart from continuing with the uncompleted projects initiated by his predecessors, the government initiated new ones majorly in rural communities for easy access. Ugwuanyi’s administration reformed and repositioned the state Internally Generated Revenue system. Today, after Lagos and Rivers, Enugu is next in terms of good IGR. On this basis, Gov. Ugwuanyi’s administration has prudently managed the finances of the state to the admiration of many.
In the area of political appointments and opposition parties’ relationship, he has spread appointments and development projects across the three senatorial zones, unlike his predecessors that concentrated everything in their senatorial zone while in office. He has related with and respected opposition party members, the same way he has respected his party members.
Despite that his predecessors have defected to other parties, Ugwuanyi still accord them their due respect without compromising his government’s vision and agenda. Known for extreme humility, Ugwuanyi hardly exchanges words or attack anybody no matter the situation, not even percieved political opponents. He always believes in dialogue instead of confrontation. Not because he is weak, but because it is his style and has always paid off for him. Besides, he believes strongly that apart from politics and power, Enugu people are still one.
While most state governments and their workers are always at loggerhead over non-payment of salaries and allowances, workers in Enugu state have continued to receive their salary on the 23th of every month and 13th month before every Xmas since Ugwuanyi assumed office. The workers have not only endorsed Ugwuanyi for second term, they have fervently prayed for him and conferred several awards on him. One of the awards was “the most workers-friendly governor in Nigeria. While other states have sacked workers, Enugu government recently employed more than 500 mostly youths that have resumed workers in various ministries and agencies.
When this year’s May and June monthly federation allocation was delayed due to some challenges, Enugu was among the few states that paid workers’ salary without the federal allocation. Also not left out are pensioners who have suffered neglect until Ugwuanyi’s government came to their rescue. In appreciation of governor’s gesture, the Pensioners under the payroll of the State Government recently paid a solidarity visit to Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi at the Government House, Enugu, in appreciation of his commitment to their welfare, in spite of the nation’s economic challenges.
The jubilant retirees, who described Ugwuanyi as “one of the foremost pensioner-friendly governor Enugu State has ever produced”, reassured him of their “absolute loyalty and support.”In their address presented by the State Chairman of Nigeria Union of Pensioners (NUP) Damian Udeani, the pensioners, who turned out in large numbers, said that the governor has “continued to pay us pensions regularly,” which they noted “is vital for our existence.”
They added that Ugwuanyi’s administration in keeping with its commitment to their well-being, had approved the release of N100 million every month for the payment of backlog of accumulated gratuities “most of which you inherited from past administrations”.They equally noted and appreciated the governor for reconsidering a verification exercise for pensioners who did not participate in the programme in 2016, stating that “these and many other kind gestures were why we gave Your Excellency an ‘Award of Excellence’ last December”.
No wonder ahead of 2019 elections, virtually all the communities, groups, associations including religious and civil society organisations have endorsed Ugwuanyi for second term. Saying that Ugwuanyi enjoys overwhelming support and following by majority of the residents of Enugu state is an understatement. One thing many Nigerians, especially those outside Enugu have not observed or know is that Ugwuanyi is a home, grassroots and handy governor, who is always there and accessible by his people, when it matters most.
It would be recalled that since he assumed office, he has only travelled abroad once. That is why the name Gburugburu is reverberating at every nooks and crannies of the state. Ahead of 2019 elections, Gburugburu is not only a name in Enugu and beyond, it is a movement of which almost every resident of the state is a member.
Since his coming into office, Enugu has witnessed absolute peace, security of lives and property. There are no cult clashes, political fights or security crisis. Ugwuanyi carries every stakeholder in the state along irrespective of party affiliation, religion, status or tribe. Even members of opposition in the state that are neither here nor there can testify to Ugwuanyi’s massive popularity in state, which is as result of his outstanding performance in the office.
It is not surprising that from Bishop Emmanuel Chukwuma, Senator Jim Nwobodo, Senator Ken Nnamani, Ex-IGP, Ogbonnia Onovo, Rev. Father Ejike Mbaka, workers, teachers, Okada riders, rural dwellers, traders to members of opposition and others in the state, testimonies and confessions about Gburugburu and his unprecedented good works in Enugu are the same. No wonder, the universal slogan in that state today is: “Enugu is in the hands of God.”
With these achievements on ground, it will amount to self-deceit for some politicians, who recently defected to All Progressives Congress (APC) in the state to overrate their political value ahead of 2019 polls. Apart from limited time at their disposal to make any inroad in the state, most of the defectors have no followers and credibility.
• Ezeah wrote from Aku, Igbo-Etiti Council Area in Enugu State
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