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Enugu: 22 years of unbroken democracy and Ugwuanyi’s giant strides

By Samson Ezea
29 May 2021   |   4:15 am
Just like other states that have been predominantly controlled by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) since the return of democratic governance in Nigeria in 1999, Enugu could be described as a PDP stronghold.

[FILES] Ugwuanyi

Just like other states that have been predominantly controlled by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) since the return of democratic governance in Nigeria in 1999, Enugu could be described as a PDP stronghold.

In 1999, Dr. Chimaroke Nnamani from Enugu East Senatorial zone was the PDP governorship candidate. He subsequently won the governorship election and won his second term in office in 2003.

After the completion of his second term in office in 2007 with numerous achievements, Mr. Sullivan Chime from Enugu West Senatorial, who was the PDP governorship candidate in the state in 2007, succeeded him in office.

Chime won his second term in office in 2011 and completed it in 2015. He was succeeded in office by Rt. Hon. Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi from Enugu North Senatorial zone, who was also the PDP governorship candidate in the state in 2015. Just like his predecessors, Ugwuanyi won his second term in office with an unprecedented record of 95.4 per cent votes in 2019.

It is heartwarming to say unequivocally that since 1999, the governorship seat in Enugu State has seamlessly, effortlessly and peacefully moved from one Senatorial zone to another in line with the implied zoning arrangement agreed upon and instituted by the founding fathers of the state to ensure and promote equity, fairness and peaceful co-existence.

Several attempts by some people in the past to alter the zoning arrangement by contesting election against the governorship candidate from the favoured Senatorial zone had always been resisted by Enugu people through massive voting and support for the candidate from the preferred zone. The zoning arrangement has engendered even development, security and peace in the state.

So, PDP has remained the ruling party in the state since 1999. The party was also in control at the centre from 1999 till 2015 when it lost power. However, it maintained its position in Enugu as the dominant party with the election of Ugwuanyi as governor.

Six years of Ugwuanyi’s administration, which include four years of his first term and two years of his four years second term, have been eventful, developmental, peaceful and inclusive.

Within this period, Ndi Enugu have witnessed massive infrastructural development, absolute peace, security, social justice, social services, good governance and employment generation which were among his administration’s four-point agenda unveiled to the electorate during his first term swearing-in at Okpara Square, Independence Layout Enugu in 2015.

Ugwuanyi’s administration has recorded considerable achievements despite the fact that on assumption of office, his administration was faced with myriads of daunting challenges that included recessed economy, paucity of funds, backlog of unpaid workers’ salaries, arrears of pension, infrastructural deficit in rural areas, unemployment and others.

Not deterred by these enormous challenges, Ugwuanyi in his inaugural speech, committed the affairs of the state to God Almighty with the slogan “Enugu State Is In The Hands Of God.” Without hesitation, the administration hit the ground running by bringing to bear the governor’s financial prowess and prudence in reforming, rejigging and repositioning the state’s Internal Revenue Service (IRS) for better performance and improved revenue generation.

This singular action improved significantly the state’s Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) from N14 billion in 2016 to N18.4 billion in the first 10 months of 2017 and now N31 billion, thereby placing the state in a good financial stead, even without the monthly federation allocation as revealed by The Economic Confidential in its 2018 Annual States Viability Index (ASVI).

Also introduced in the day-to-day running of the government by Ugwuanyi were good governance, equity, fiscal discipline, accountability and transparency. Since then, governance in the state took a new direction geared towards peaceful co-existence, integration and even development across the state. Ugwuanyi’s leadership style has decidedly remained inclusive, progressive, eclectic and unprecedented in the state’s leadership history.

Within his first term in office, Ugwuanyi’s administration presence and footprints prefaced virtually all the 450 autonomous communities, 17 local councils and three senatorial zones in the state.

All the sectors of the state economy witnessed his government’s interventions with rural development, education, health, infrastructure, security, workers’ welfare and youth empowerment, taking the lead.

Across the state, roads like Opi-Nsukka dual carriage way, Obechara Road Junction-Umuakashi Mechanic village-Ikenga Hotels Junction-Enugu Road Nsukka Junction and Umuezebi-Nru Junction have been completed. Others include extension of Agbani-AforAmurri Road, the extension of Ituku Road, the construction of Ogonogoeji-Ndi Akpugo Road (Atavu Bailey Bridge-AforOnovo), the construction of the 42-metre span Bailey Bridge and road works across River Nyama to Amichi, linking Umuogo and Umuagba Amaechi Uno/Obinagu community, all in Nkanu West local council.

Of note is that the Agbani-Amurri Road was constructed for a community that has never witnessed any form of development or government presence on its land in the past 100 years plus. In the same vein, the Ogonogoeji-Ndiagu-Akpugo Road from Atavu Bailey Bridge to Afor Onovo is the first state government road in the entire Akpugo land since the creation of the Enugu State.

Not left out is the popular and historic Milliken Hill Road, Ngwo, constructed in 1909, but was abandoned for several decades before Ugwuanyi’s administration reconstructed it with streetlight. The three-kilometre road is part of the 12-kilometre 9th Mile-Ekochin-Ngwo-Milliken Hill-New Market federal road, which the state government rehabilitated to serve as an alternative route for commuters and motorists plying the dilapidated Enugu-Onitsha Expressway.

Also within the state capital, Ugwuanyi’s administration has executed numerous road projects at Holy Trinity Street and Bishop Michael Eneje Street, Nawfia Street, Ibuza Street, Isi-Uzo Street, all in Independence Layout Enugu. Also asphalted are Mount Crescent, GRA Enugu; Dental School-Tipper Garage Road, Trans Ekulu, Enugu; Loma Linda-Timber Shed Road and many others.

In its first four years, the Ugwuanyi administration spent not less than N45 billion in road construction and reconstruction across the state. These are not inclusive of the numerous road projects awarded by the administration close to his reelection that have been completed and are in use now.

In the education sector, through the Enugu State Universal Basic Education Board (ENSUBEB), Enugu is among the states that have consistently paid their counterpart fund making it possible for them to access the Federal Government Universal Basic Education fund.

With this, ENSUBEB has built and renovated more than 480 primary school classrooms, provided learning and teaching facilities and recruited more than 3,500 teachers. Also recruited through the Post Primary Schools Management Board (PPSMB) were more than 1,200 secondary school teachers, in addition to the 857 volunteer teachers (engaged during the past administration) but were not regularised as permanent staff.

Of great emphasis is the fact that Ugwuanyi’s administration has equitably distributed developmental projects and appointments across the state in spirit of unity, equity and fairness. This is a clear departure from the winner takes all practice of the past that created bad blood among political stakeholders in the three senatorial zones of the state. Ugwuanyi has not only continued to maintain the infrastructure he met on ground, he has built new ones, completed and still completing the abandoned ones across the state.

After many decades without any national or international trophy in its kit, the state-owned Rangers International Club with the massive support of the incumbent administration won the 2015/2016 Nigeria Professional Football League and the 2018 Federation Cup.

Notwithstanding that his administration inherited a backlog of workers’ salary and arrears of pension, Ugwuanyi never engaged in buck-passing or blame game for one day.  His government boldly took the bull by the horn by clearing the outstanding salaries, promotion and introduced prompt payment of workers. Since then, workers in the state receive their salaries every 21st of the month and also 13 month in December as bonus. That is the first of its kind in any state in Southeast zone. This is despite the fact that Enugu State is not oil producing state and is almost at the bottom of the ladder of monthly federation allocation. This made the national leadership of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and workers in the state to confer on him the award of Most Workers’ Friendly Governor in Nigeria.

Also being gradually addressed by Ugwuanyi’s administration is the arrears of pension that have piled up for years due to failure of the past governments to clear it.

Under the administration, Enugu State has recorded the lowest crime rate, even in the face of the resurgence of criminal activities across the country. This milestone, which brought about the peacefulness of the state, was once attested to by the leadership of Police Service Commission. This was responsible for the prevailing peace in the state, before, during and after 2019 elections.

Even when there were some security lapses across the country after the 2019 elections, which affected some parts of Enugu, Ugwuanyi quickly rose to the occasion by rejigging the security architecture of the state. He established and equipped Forest Guard in the state. The Enugu Forest Guard is first of its kind in the country. Ugwuanyi’s administration also appointed former Inspector General of Police, Mr. Ogbonnia Onovo, as the State Security Consultant.

The overwhelming support Ugwuanyi’s administration enjoyed during his first term and his resounding victory in his reelection was a clear testimony of his outstanding performance in office and style of leadership that gives everyone, irrespective of religion, tribe, status and party affiliation sense of belonging in the affairs of the state. That is why from Enugu West, East to North, among the artisans, Christians, Muslims, workers, youths, adults, visitors and others, Ugwuanyi is the man of the people, father and governor of all.

It is also for this reason and others that Ugwuanyi’s chieftaincy title, Gburugburu, has become a brand movement and household name in the state and beyond today. His style of politics is emulative and tolerant. Unlike most political leaders, Ugwuanyi has used political power as shield to protect and unite the people, instead of the usual sword political office holders often use to divide and oppress the people, especially perceived enemies. This and many other feats and giant strides of the administration endeared him and his government to the hearts of Enugu people.

After being overwhelmingly reelected for a second term with over 95.5 per cent votes by Ndi Enugu, many had expected that Ugwuanyi would rest on his oars and give good governance a back seat. But that was not the case. Knowing full well that to whom much is given, much is expected and that the reward for hard work is more work, just like in his first term, Ugwuanyi hit the ground running after being sworn-in for second term in office.

He proved cynics and skeptics, who had always believed that elected political public office holders, especially governors, do not perform in their second term wrong, with his developmental and progressive actions since his re-election.

In line with his avowals, assurances and promises in his reelection acceptance speech that he and his team will continue to serve the state with fear of God, humility and unwavering commitment to improving lives and lifting the state to unprecedented heights, Ugwuanyi’s administration has been living by its words and walking the talk with the construction of the 22.443km Neke- Mbu-Ogbodu Aba-Obollo Etiti Inter-community road linking Isi Uzo local council with Udenu local council, 26.665km Ukpabi-Nimo-Ugbene Ajima-Eziani road targeted at opening up the agrarian communities of Uzo-Uwani local council, and the 10.5km Nike Junction-Harmony Estate-Amorji Nike-Adoration Pilgrimage Centre road that serves as bypass to ever busy Nike road and a link between the densely populated Abakpa-Nike and the suburb of Emene Enugu and others. Work is ongoing at the first Enugu State flyover at the popular T-junction along Nike road that was awarded by the administration.

With the approval of the new minimum wage for Nigerian workers, Ugwuanyi was among the first governor in Nigeria to implement the minimum wage after working out the consequential adjustment with labour union leaders in the state.

Also with the outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic in the country, Ugwuanyi was among the first governors that took proactive and precautionary measures by building and equipping isolation centres, approving life assurance for health workers and embarking on aggressive sensitisation campaign alongside all the relevant stakeholders in the state.

These efforts were recently appreciated and acknowledged by the health workers. They include the Medical Laboratory Scientists Association of Nigeria that honoured him in Abuja with COVID-19 Response Champion and National Association of Resident Doctors ESUT Parklane Hospital Chapter, who commended him for being outstanding in handling the pandemic in the state.

In line with his administration’s flair for genuine peace, Ugwuanyi has not only settled some knotty and age-long communal crisis that had defied settlement before now, he has also set up a Peace and Conflict Resolution Committee headed by Dr. Uche Ogbu with former members of House of Assembly and National Assembly as members.

Consolidating and expanding vigorously on its first term’s giant strides, the administration has opened up the rural areas to reduce urban migration, created jobs, provided good governance, maintained and sustained peace and security as major policy thrust. Enugu State is indeed in the hands of God.

Ezea writes from Independence Layout Enugu