By Louis Amoke
His ability to connect politics with morality while adhering strictly to the primary purpose of government, which is security and welfare of the people, was one of the outstanding qualities of Rt. Hon. Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi during his adroit leadership as governor of Enugu State.
Ugwuanyi who transferred power to his successor, Dr. Peter Ndubuisi Mbah, on May 29, 2023, must be exceedingly grateful to God for giving him the grace, wisdom and fortitude to withstand all the inherent and unforeseen challenges associated with governance and leadership that reared their ugly heads during his eight-year tenure as governor.
It is an undisputed fact that Enugu’s financial status in terms of federal allocations during Ugwuanyi’s administration, unlike the previous administration, was not buoyant enough to address the state’s numerous challenges and needs of the people.
Again, Enugu’s status as a civil service state with humongous workforce and pensioners to be paid monthly was also a major challenge to the Ugwuanyi administration.
The nation’s economic downturns, the outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic, the enervating EndSARS protest and other security issues largely associated with herders/farmers clashes, among others, equally posed a serious setback to Ugwuanyi’s administration.
These notwithstanding, Ugwuanyi, driven by innovations, proactive and strategic engagements with relevant stakeholders, democratic institutions, policy makers and sure-footed actions, navigated the state out of two recessions and other challenges and left indelible footprints in the sands of time.
Ugwuanyi was able to stem the tide and hold the tempo of peace and good governance in Enugu State till the end of his tenure despite the state’s lean resources and numerous other challenges his administration encountered.
This includes the Obidient Movement during the last general election which was infiltrated by undue interference of religious institutions in favour of Labour Party’s candidates in the state, among other strange factors.
As a peacemaker, consensus leader, man of empathy, bridge-builder, father to all and proponent of rural development model and national integration, Ugwuanyi is resolute in his belief in peace, broad vision, good governance, brotherhood across board, and the principles of equity, justice and fairness.
Ugwuanyi is a proud member of the G5 of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), who threw caution to the wind, ahead of the 2023 presidential election, in their patriotic demand that power should return to the Southern part of Nigeria at the end of the eight-year tenure of former president Muhammadu Buhari from Northern Nigeria, in the spirit of equity, justice and fairness. The PDP had a presidential candidate from the North.
The G5 comprising Governor Seyi Makinde of Oyo State, former Governors Nyesom Wike (Rivers State), Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi (Enugu State), Samuel Ortom (Benue State) and Okezie Ikpeazu (Abia State) were undaunted, resolute, consistent and nationalistic in their demand and their struggle paid off with the emergence of Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu of the All Progressives Congress (APC) from Southern Nigeria as the President of the country.
Appreciating the patriotic role of the G5, the President of the Senate, Senator Godswill Akpabio during Wike’s recent thanksgiving reception at his private residence in Rivers State, complimented the former Rivers State Governor and four other members of G5 and thanked them for all their efforts to bring justice to the country by ensuring the return of power to Southern Nigeria and the emergence of Tinubu as President.
“And I want to thank the G5 Governors. We are very delighted, we are proud to have G5…” the Senate President said.
A bridge-builder, visionary leader and ardent promoter of national integration, Ugwuanyi’s genuine interest and commitment to the peace, unity and progress of Enugu State in particular and Nigeria in general are well established and exemplary among his contemporaries.
And posterity will always remember him for his wisdom, foresight and sacrifices as well as the patriotic role he played alongside his G5 members and the Integrity Group towards the emergence of a Southern Nigeria President.
Ugwuanyi’s acts of patriotism laced with conscience are boundless. He is an unassuming leader who accommodates everybody irrespective of political, religious or ethnic differences. A God-fearing leader, Ugwuanyi accords utmost respect to all past governors of the state, other political leaders, religious and traditional leaders including their members.
His patriotism, conscience, compassion and firm belief in equity and justice were the driving force of his decision in concentrating massive developments more in the rural areas than in Enugu City to strike a balance and give the rural dwellers, the long neglected and deprived a strong sense of belonging.
Ugwuanyi’s novel rural development model, which some cynics and pessimists including the urban dwellers, saw nothing good about, opened up the rural areas for socio-economic expansion and gave hope and instilled confidence of the larger residents of Enugu State in the rural areas in participatory democracy.
Reappraising his worthy stewardship as governor, Ugwuanyi paid state workers the new N30,000 minimum wage with its consequential adjustment and was also regular in the payment and that of retirees’ pensions among other welfare packages; covered about 850 kilometres of roads largely concentrated in the rural areas with the provision of numerous educational, health, agricultural and security facilities; maintained the existing facilities in Enugu urban and made huge efforts in evacuating refuse and cleaning up of the city through a special task force and the Enugu Clean Team Project respectively, among other interventions.
Besides, Ugwuanyi’s administration among numerous projects constructed the first flyover bridge by Enugu State government, the T-Junction Flyover Bridge by Nike Lake Road, Enugu; reconstructed and remodelled the ancient, historic and undulating 11km Millken Hill Road, Ngwo, Enugu; constructed network of roads in the university town of Nsukka including the 12km state-of-the-art Opi-Nsukka dual carriageway with underground drainage system, fitted with street and traffic lights up to the University of Nigeria Nsukka (UNN) gate, one of the best if not the best quality road project in the South East zone.
His administration equally established a medical university, the State University of Medical and Applied Sciences (SUMAS), Igbo-Eno, Enugu State, and attracted a federal polytechnic to the state; recruited over 7,030 primary and secondary school teachers and executed over 1,365 verifiable projects in various primary, secondary and tertiary schools; constructed and equipped 9 units of Model Type 3 Primary Healthcare Centre in the rural areas; constructed, equipped, upgraded and rehabilitated district hospitals and health centres, etc; constructed a state-of-the-art 600-seat Banquet Hall with basement offices, meeting/conference rooms, among other facilities located within the premises of the newly remodelled Old Government Lodge, GRA, Enugu; built an ultra-modern 5,000-seat Township Stadium, a State Secretariat Annex and a befitting Conference Centre in Nsukka town; and empowered the youths through various empowerment programmes.
The programmes included the Enugu Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) Centre radical transformational initiatives that ensured Enugu youths were equipped with 21st century high income skills that provide pathways to employability and entrepreneurship development. Then there was the training of over 520 youths from the 260 Wards of the State in new techniques and acquisition of skills in agricultural value chain in CSS Global Integrated Farms, Keffi, Nasarawa State, as part of the strategy to develop farmers and improve food security in the state. There was also the award of scholarship to 680 indigent engineering students of Enugu State Polytechnic, Iwollo, Ezeagu LGA and the Institute of Management and Technology (IMT), Enugu, and a host of others.
The Ugwuanyi administration’s massive infrastructural interventions in repositioning the State Judiciary and the State Fire Service were unprecedented. His administration equally invested huge resources in rehabilitation of water facilities in the state including the Ajali and Oji River Water Treatment Schemes and the 9th Mile Crash Borehole Programme powered by solar technology, and a host of other interventions.
On his successor, posterity will also remember Ugwuanyi for also standing firm in his belief in patriotism, competence, capacity, equity and justice in the emergence of a successor from Nkanuland, Dr. Mbah, despite all the abuses, blackmail, betrayals, sabotage and parochial sentiments.
Governor Mbah who has exhibited a deep sense of administrative ingenuity, focus and steadfastness in doing things differently in his first month in office, had appreciated his predecessor, Ugwuanyi for his invaluable contributions towards his emergence as governor stating that “posterity will certainly be kind to you for your deep sense of patriotism.”
Governor Mbah has hit the ground running, and has consequently taken far reaching decisions aimed at speedily actualizing his ambitious economic plans for the state. These decisions include the cancellation of the Monday sit-at-home order which was a clog in the wheel of progress of the state’s economic fortunes; the ongoing aggressive intervention in the water sector to ensure that water gets to the homes of Enugu residents within 180 days of his administration, as he promised; and the untiring efforts at maintaining security in the state.
Others are prompt evacuation of refuse, and the proposed hosting of an Investment and Economic Growth Stakeholder Roundtable in September 2023, which is the precursor to the launch of the first edition of the Enugu State Diaspora and Investment Forum (ES-DIF) scheduled for April 2024 aimed at attracting at least US$2.0 billion in investment interests, among other milestone achievements in 30 days.
In all, Ugwuanyi’s patriotic role in national political space together with his G5 colleagues has given hope for a better Nigeria shielded by peace, equity, unity, justice, inclusiveness and progress.
At the state level, it has equally reflected in Governor Mbah’s mission to do things differently to accelerate development of Enugu State through his disruptive innovation and the infusion of the executive arm of government with technocrats and other intellectual energy needed to deliver on his mandate, and fulfill his campaign promises to the people of the state.
Amoke writes from Enugu