By Chuks Ugwuoke
The peculiarity of Nigeria’s secularity is underlined by the unwillingness of various faiths to dabble into religious and/or political partisanship. There is always the discomfort when Muslim imams or Christian clergymen make declarative statements or testimonies on political issues.
But in all this, the status of the Nigerian federation as a secular democratic republic has not stopped Nigerian leaders – secular or sectarian – from holding political beliefs or applauding political office holders who have distinguished themselves in the service of the people. In doing so, they exemplify the point that their differing faiths do not preclude them from appreciating excellence in governance.
And when some of these religious leaders who speak with the noblest of intentions endorse lawmakers, governors or presidents, it does not portend that they have climbed down from the pulpit into the political arena. Rather, it recognises their efforts and further encourages the politicians to continue to dispense humble service that promotes equity, justice and human dignity.
This is the undeniable case with Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi of Enugu State, whose enduring virtues and values are his bi-partisan approach to governance, which has promoted politics without bitterness, equitable distribution of infrastructure, enthronement of peace and state-wide security. He insists that the circumstances of birth or status of parents must not limit a child’s access to quality education and health.
Thus, from the Catholic to the Anglican, Methodist, Pentecostal, Muslim and others, Ugwuanyi has become a reference point in how one man’s humility and performance in office have influenced different faiths and denominations to endorse him for a second term.
It is somewhat impossible and needless to strive to capture the essence of the man more fondly known as Gburugburu or his numerous achievements via this platform. Though many dignitaries have openly praised his outstanding efforts to transform the Coal City State, such unsolicited endorsements bear witness to that popular saying that “Enugu State is in the hands of God.”
However, Ugwuanyi’s acceptability is not just restricted to the faiths or the numerous personalities and groups who have endorsed him for another term in office. One critical sector that has taken note is the media.
Tomorrow, January 25, 2019, The Sun newspapers will unveil Rt. Hon. Ifeanyi Lawrence Ugwuanyi as the Governor of the Year 2018. The Sun listed the governor’s visible and verifiable accomplishments and justified his choice by highlighting that “for aggressively transforming the Enugu landscape, impacting the lives of his people and revolutionising governance, Ugwuanyi wins the Governor of the Year award.”
Just one week ago, both the Vanguard and Independent newspapers conferred the Governor of the Year awards on Gburugburu, honours that clearly spelt out the progresses that Enugu State under his charge has made in the areas of peace, security, good governance and novel initiatives in rural development. The Abuja-based Leadership newspaper also bestowed another honour on Ugwuanyi.
Perhaps, it is hugely instructive that the newspapers, the society’s watchdogs, have added their critical voices to the recognitions and reputation that Ugwuanyi has earned in only his first term. So, from the pulpit to the newsrooms, the awards merely serve to pay deserving tribute to excellence in public office.
The difference is that, while others endorsed the governor for a second term, the newspapers merely celebrate a humble servant who has shown by his performance that competence is better than rhetoric.
As the conscience of the nation, the newspapers are neither partisan by the conferment of awards nor have they compromised any of journalism’s ethical standards. The power of the press is, in no way, inhibited by the current trend to honour distinguished persons befitting of the awards and which help to spur people in authority to embrace service as the hallmark of leadership.
Without doubt, such awards by the media are usually results of credible and painstaking selection processes that are derived from laid-down criteria that reflect each newspaper’s character and vision.
Aside from the above-mentioned recognitions, the other obvious outcome of Gburugburu’s performance is manifested in the various assessment reports, honours and awards to the state government by reputable national and international agencies. Some of these awards include, but are not limited to, the following:
- The first state in Nigeria to publish its audited state final account for three consecutive years, including year 2017, using IPSAS template within six months of the relevant year as prescribed by law.
- Several professional organisations, including the Association of Nigerian Accountants of Nigeria (ANAN) scored the Government of Enugu State very high in the areas of financial management in particular and overall good governance in general.
- Enugu was adjudged the fifth most competitive state in Nigeria, and this was according to National Competitiveness Council of Nigeria, which assessed human capital, infrastructure, economy and institutions.
- Recently, the state was rated as the second most advanced and responsive state in Nigeria in global good practices, with regard to the ease of doing business. This was from a World Bank Group.
- It is rated Number One in the South-East and ninth in the country, based on internally-generated revenue. What is more encouraging is that the government achieved this without putting any further burden on the lower class or the workers.
- The state is also Number One in the South-East geo-political zone and one of the few states in Nigeria to have successfully implemented the CBN N220 billion Micro, Small and Medium Enterprise Development Programme (MSMEDP).
- Rangers International were crowned champions of the 2018 NFF/Aiteo Cup after 35 years. This was a follow-up on the club’s heroic feat of winning the 2015/2016 Nigeria Professional Football League, again, after 32 years of trophy drought, all thanks to Governor Ugwuanyi’s exceptional support.
For Gburugburu, therefore, the honours from outside the Coal City are ample signals that the March 2, 2019, governorship poll is a contest between a tried-and-tested incumbent governor who is adored for his simplicity and a record of superb achievements and the rest of the field whose faint voices are indicative of ailing ambitions.
As Ugwuanyi receives the 2018 The Sun Governor of the Year award, it is a call to do more to ensure that his demonstrated service leadership, consistent striving for excellence, worker-friendliness, exceptional government-community partnership and an undying commitment to impact lives must continue when the appreciative Enugu State citizens and other residents reciprocally vote to return him to the Lion Building.