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How search for sustainable peace influenced Ugwuanyi’s new cabinet

By Lawrence Njoku, Southeast Bureau Chief
10 October 2019   |   4:16 am
The unease that attended Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi’s delay in forming his second term cabinet was accentuated by the fact that the governor is not only the noisy type, but also his desire to maintain his singsong sobriquet, “Enugu is in the hands of God.”

Ugwuanyi and his new cabinet

The unease that attended Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi’s delay in forming his second term cabinet was accentuated by the fact that the governor is not only the noisy type, but also his desire to maintain his singsong sobriquet, “Enugu is in the hands of God.” Those who work closely with the governor describe him as one that can hardly hurt a fly. As such he is said to be always willing to give up anything for the sake of peace.
However, it is not known whether the governor’s pacifist disposition is entirely a positive trait in the murky waters of Nigeria politics, but it is an attribute that clearly defined his politics in the first four years as Enugu State governor. That the Nigeria Police describe Enugu as one of the ‘most peaceful” states in the country could be in deference to Ugwuanyi’s style. But, at a point in the first phase of his government, the former Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, had seriously kicked against the governor’s brand of politics.

Ekweremadu had, half in jest, told the governor at a function at Government House: “Your Excellency, you don’t like to hurt anybody. You like carrying everybody along. This attribute is rare in politics. We shall see how far you can go with this.”

The event was a solidarity visit by kinsmen of Ugwuanyi’s predecessor, Mr. Sullivan Chime, who had come to assure him of their support shortly after Chime left Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) for All Progressives Congress (APC).
Four years after, Ugwuanyi seems not to have overstepped his bounds. Insiders say the governor’s ability to pander to the whims of the many silent godfathers in the state continues to invigorate his administration. Although the governor would readily deny that he never had any godfather, but the way and manner nominations were made into his government in his first term clearly showed some appeasement indices and that indeed they (godfathers) actually exist.
A source disclosed that such big names as Senators Jim Nwobodo, Ken Nnamani, Ekweremadu, the Nwodos, Dubem Onyia and Chime among others had a say when the administration came on board. Ugwuanyi, it was learnt, would readily tell those who cared to listen that he did not know much about some members of his cabinet prior to their appointment. Yet, he would readily attribute his inability to perform in some areas to little or no knowledge of certain individuals, who did not understand the direction of his administration.

Second term
SHORTLY after he won his second term election, Ugwuanyi dissolved his cabinet. Many had expected that the governor was moving to overcome the challenge of imposition, especially when he set up various ad-hoc committees to review the state’s public sector.The committees were to map out proper direction for the administration in line with his aspirations and electioneering promises. But in putting up his cabinet four months after his inauguration for a second term, Ugwuanyi has made it clear that he is at home with his appeasement policy.
The list of appointees released in two batches and sworn into office recently still show the hands of the silent godfathers, thus raising posers as to whether it truly justified the long wait. In what was sold as having “masses’ input” for several weeks that the ad-hoc committee sat, the governor had invited representatives of the various communities that make up the 17 local government councils in the state to interface on potential nominees for cabinet appointment.
While some of the communities disagreed over their choice, some gave the governor the free hand to engage whoever he wanted as far as the candidate would contribute to the development of the state.
Alas, when the first batch of eight commissioners was released, it contained only names of former commissioners – Greg Nnaji, Chijioke Edeoga, Peace Nnaji, Chidi Aroh, Solomon Onah, Charles Egumgbe, Emeka Mamah, and Vitus Okechi. Shortly after, another batch of 12 names was announced, bringing the number to 20. Of the 12 names, four, Miletus Eze, Peter Okonkwo, Uche Eze, and Marbel Agbo served in the first term.
The freshers are Mathias Ekweremadu, Uchenna Ogbonna, Ada Onah, Kene Oyennem, Obi Kama, Ugonna Ibeh, Victor Nnam, and Emeka Ugochukwu.Although those familiar with the administration’s inception in 2015 claim that it took similar time frame for appointments to be made, it was not without the fingerprints of the godfathers, thereby raising questions about the so-called masses’ input.
A cursory look into the cabinet shows that while some local governments got two nominees irrespective of their size, others got one. It also contained names of relatives and acquaintances of some political bigwigs.

Succession plan
SOURCES reveal how the godfathers leveraged on the need to sustain the peace in the state and pressured the governor into accepting their nominations, adding that knowing he would need them to achieve his succession plan in 2023, he willingly accepted their requests. It stated that not granting their wishes meant drawing the battle line and creating a window for disaffection, a development alien to the appeasement disposition of Ugwuanyi.
It was further revealed that some nominees who had earlier been “penciled for certain positions were changed at the last minute in the bid to satisfy these bigwigs and sustain the so called peace”.The source cited Aninri Local Government Area, which has only 10 wards, but got two commissioners. Ekweremadu hails from Aninri. It was also gathered that two commissioners were appointed from Aninri in a bid to settle alleged rift between the former Deputy Senate President and his brother, Mathias Ekweremadu. The two brothers are said to have been locked in a war of attrition over who becomes commissioner. While Mathias, who lost in the bid to fly PDP’s flag for the House of Representatives seat for Aninri, Awgu and Oji River Federal Constituency to the incumbent, Toby Okechukwu, wanted the commissionership position for himself, Ike was said to have preferred and actually nominated his Senior Special Assistant on Rural Development and Community Relations, Uche Ogbonna, to the position.

Several interventions were allegedly made to reach a truce to no avail. In the end, Ugwuanyi was said to have been persuaded to allow two commissioners from the council, a development that is new in the history of the local government. While Mathias has been assigned Commissioner for Transport, Ogbonna became Commissioner for Labour and Productivity.

Awgu Local Government Area also got two commissioners in Obi Kama and Ugonna Ibeh. Kama was Chairman, State Technical Science Education Board while Ibeh was Caretaker Chairman for Awgu Local Government Area.

Ugonna’s elder brother is Emperor Baywood Ibeh, an APC stalwart in the state. Sources said his (Baywood) relationship with the governor largely influenced the appointment of his brother as commissioner. Ibeh was assigned Culture and Tourism and Kama Science and Technology. One of the local governments, Ezeagu, got a Special Adviser.

It is not clear how several others, who had lost out of the power struggle after they were allegedly promised to be part of the government would be compensated. Now, with the nominations and appointments over, what the people will eagerly look forward to in the next couple of months is how the state could be transformed using the reports of the ad-hoc- committees which Governor Ugwuanyi set up. Is there a possibility that the governor would realise the implementation of the reports going by the time-frame available to him or would it just end as an academic exercise? This is perhaps the big task Ugwuanyi is faced with.

For the reports, Ugwuanyi had set up 12 sectorial ad-hoc committees made up of some of the best brains in the state to look at the public sector such as education, health, public service, justice, water, security and chieftaincy/community matters. Others are agriculture and rural development, finance, review of internally-generated revenue and international development partners’ funding, lands, housing and transport, sustainable environmental and urban management as well as youths and sports development.

Some members of the committees include the Deputy Vice Chancellor (Academics), University of Nigeria Nsukka (UNN), Prof. James Ogbonna, Coordinator, Health Policy Research Group (UNN), Prof. Obinna Onwujekwe, former Head of Service and Secretary to Enugu State Government, Prof. Onyema Ocheoha, former State Attorney General, Chief Mrs. Justina Offia (SAN);  Water Engineer and former/pioneer MD of Anambra (now Enugu) State Water Corporation, Engr. Laz Mba; Retired Inspector General of Police (IGP), Mr. Ogbonnaya Onovo and former State Commissioner for Local Government Affairs, Prof. Frank Asogwa; former Director General of the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC), Mr Emeka Mba and former Super Eagles player, Austin Jay Jay Okocha among others.

Ugwuanyi had asked them to “review the structure and operations of Enugu State Public Service over the last four years; analyze the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats within the various sectors of governance; develop roadmap, templates, policies and systems that will support the government to consistently and optimally discharge its various sectorial mandates”.He had tasked members to help his administration “reposition government to improve transparency and coordination in its business process and strengthen responsiveness of the Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs); ensure that the administration delivers on its electoral promises and social contract, key of which are employment generation, enhanced social services and good governance, rural development, security and justice; consider any other matter(s) which may be incidental or ancillary to the above stated tasks and make feasible recommendations thereon to the state government with a view to improving collaborative productivity and optimal delivery of desired services by the government”.

Although nobody expects the reports of the various committees to be made public after they were submitted, indications are that Ugwuanyi would rely on the reports to pilot the affairs of the state while his administration in the four of years.While swearing in the commissioners last Wednesday, he had reiterated his belief in the recommendations of the committees and had told the appointees to “properly digest the sectorial recommendations applicable to your respective ministries to keep you properly focused on the delivery of your ministerial mandate”
He had insisted that the work of the committees “culminated in my administration’s new strategic architecture with cross-cutting and sector-specific plans for advancement of good governance and optimization of service delivery in the state.“This is intended to facilitate the fulfillment of our campaign promises and social contract with ndi-Enugu”. He had also stated that the appointments were made based on the credentials and capacity of those involved.

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