By Samson Ezea
Today May 29, 2020 marks Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi’s five eventful, developmental and peaceful years in office. Four years of his first term, plus first one year of his second term in office.
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 the four-point agenda of Ugwuanyi’s administration the he unveiled to the people during his first term swearing-in in 2015 at Okpara Square, Independence Layout Enugu.
These have been achieved by Ugwuanyi’s government despite the fact that on assumption of office, his administration was confronted with myriad of daunting challenges that included recessed economy, paucity of funds, backlog of unpaid workers’ salaries, arrears of pensioners, infrastructural deficits in rural areas, unemployment and others.
These apart, Ugwuanyi’s party Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) that has been in power at the centre and state with enormous goodwill and ample opportunities, for the first time since 1999 lost power to the All Progressives Congress (APC) at the centre.
Not deterred by these obvious discouraging and enormous challenges, Ugwuanyi in his inaugural speech, committed the affairs of the state to the God Almighty with the slogan “Enugu State Is In The Hands Of God.”
Without hesitation, Ugwuanyi’s administration hit the ground running, by bringing to bare the governor’s financial prowess and prudence in reforming, rejigging and repositioning the state’s Internal Revenue Service (IRS) system for better performance and improved revenue generation. This singular action improved significantly the states’ Internally Generated Revenue from N14b in 2016 to N18.4b in the first ten months of 2017 and now 22billion, 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) released recently.
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, total integration, good governance and even development across the state. Ugwuanyi’s leadership style which is inclusive, progressive and eclectic is unprecedented in the state’s leadership history.
Within his first term in office, Ugwuanyi’s administration has presence and footprints in 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 like never before with rural development, education, health, infrastructure, security, workers’ welfare, 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 LGA.
Of note is that the Agbani-Amurri Road was constructed newly 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- Miliken Hill-New Market federal road which state government rehabilitated to serve as alternative route for commuters and motorists plying 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 the last four years Ugwuanyi’s administration has spent not less than N45b in road construction and reconstruction across the state. These are not inclusive of the numerous road projects awarded by Ugwuanyi’s administration close to his reelection that are ongoing and nearing completion 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 400 primary school classrooms, provided learning and teaching facilities and recruited more than 3000 teachers. Also recruited through the Post Primary Schools Management Board ( PPSMB) were more than 1200 secondary 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’sadministration has in its last four years equitably distributed developmental projects and appointments across the state in spirit of unity, equity and fairness to the admiration and happiness of all in the state. This is a clear departure from the winner takes all practice of the past that created bad blood among political stakeholders in 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 Ugwuanyi’s administration had won the 2015/2016 Nigeria Professional Football League and the 2018 Federation Cup.
Notwithstanding that his administration inherited backlog of salary of workers and arrears of pensioners, Ugwuanyi never engaged in buckpassing 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 23rd of the month and 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 in the cadre of monthly Federation allocation. This made the national leadership of 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 pensioners that have piled up for years due to failure of the past governments to clear it.
Under Ugwuanyi’s administration, Enugu State has recorded the lowest crime rate. 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 was some security lapses across the country after the 2019 elections of which some parts of Enugu were affected, Ugwuanyi quickly rose to the occasion by rejigging the security architecture of the state, establishing and equipping 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 in during his first term and his resounding victory in his reelection is a clear testimony of his outstanding performance in office and style of leadership that give 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, residents, visitors, religious groups and others, Ugwuanyi is the man of the people and governor of all in the state.
It is also for this reason and others that Ugwuanyi’s chieftancytitle, Gburugburu has become a brand, movement and household name in Enugu State today. His style of politics is emulative and tolerant. Unlike other political leaders, Ugwuanyi has used political power as shield to protect and unite the people, instead of the usual sword, political office holders normally use power as to divide and oppress the people, especially perceived enemies.
This and many other feats and giant strides of Ugwuanyi’s administration endeared him and his government to the hearts of Enugu people.
After being overwhelmingly reelected for a second term with 95. 5 plus percent votes by Ndi Enugu, many had expected that Gov. 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 hardwork is more work, just like in his first term, Ugwuanyi hit the ground running after being sworn-in for second term in office.
He has so far proved the cynics and sceptics, 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 reelection.
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 LGA with Udenu LGA, 26.665km Ukpabi- Nimo-Ugbene Ajima-Eziani road targetted at opening up the agrarian communities of Uzo-Uwani LGA, and the 10.5km Nike Junction-Harmony Estate- Amorji Nike- Adoration Pilgrimage Centre road that serves as bypass to everbusy Nike road and a link between the densely populated Abakpa-Nike and the suburb of Emene Enugu and others.
With the approval of minimum wage for Nigerian workers, Ugwuanyi was among the first governor in Nigeria to approve minimum wage for workers, 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 governor that took proactive and precautionary measures of buliding and equipping Isolation centres, approving life assurance for health workers and embarking on aggressive sensitisation campaign alongside all the relevant stakeholders in the state.
If not for the obvious lapses and sabotages at Enugu state’s closed borders which brought about the importation of Covid-19 virus in the state by people with travel history to the state within this period of inter-state lockdown, it is obvious that Enugu wouldn’t have any case of Covid-19 pandemic by now. Even at that, the cases of Covid-19 patients would have been higher than what it is today, if not for Ugwuanyi’s continous monitoring of inter-state movement compliance, especially at the state’s closed borders.
In line with his administration’s flair for genuine peace, Ugwuanyi has not only settled some knotty and age-long communal crisis that have 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.
Before the outbreak of Covid-19 pandemic, there were construction activities across the nooks and crannies of the state, courtesy of the Enugu State Government’s infrastructural development policies and programmes.
It is obvious that Gov. Ugwuanyi’s administration is consolidating and expanding vigorously on its first term’s giant strides with opening up of the rural areas, creating jobs, providing good governance and sustaining peace as major policy thrusts.
Ezea, writes from Independence Layout Enugu