By Dons Eze, PhD
Since I come of age or become old enough to witness political activities in this part of the country, Enugu, the capitals of former Eastern Region, East Central State, Anambra State, down to the present Enugu State, has notoriously been labelled “a political battlefield,”or “a political war front”.
It is either that the incumbents of political offices were out to protect, preserve, or expand their political hegemony at all costs, and therefore would not want any encroachment into their enclave, or that those in opposition were hell bent on pulling down the house, no matter what it would take.
Down memory lane, right from the Azikiwe-Eyo Ita squabble over leadership of Eastern Region; through M.I. Okpara era (“M.I. Power”), which gave no room for opposition; to the battle of wits between Jim Nwobodo and C.C. Onoh; Jim’s Vanguard versus Ikemba Front; Onuaguluchi-Nwodo political rivalry; Chimaroke Nnamani- Jim Nwobodo godson-godfather saga; Chimaroke Nnamani and Sullivan Chime regimes of “Enugu politicians” versus “Abuja politicians”; Enugu was always in the news, not for any other thing, than being a political hotbed.
These were what made many people believe that the game of politics in the Coal City was not for “the boys”, or for the “politically lily-livered”, but for “men who are men”. In other words, for anybody to play politics in Enugu State, he must develop tick skin to be able to fit into the system, so to say.
It became therefore most surprising to many people when it was rumoured that Rt. Hon. Lawrence Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, a ranking member of the House of Representatives, was stepping into the murky waters of Enugu politics. Those who knew him well wondered how the man could fit into the Enugu political jungle without having his head battered, given his antecedent as one who hardly ruffles feathers.
But they were later stunned when Governor Ugwuanyi began to steer the ship of Enugu State without stress, and with tranquility reigning in every part of the state, and with conviviality and friendliness among different political actors. There is no more dichotomy between the so-called Abuja politicians and the local politicians, the sour relationships between the godfather and his godsons, etc. They all begin to sing the same chorus.
Many people begin to ask the reason why? Why has Enugu suddenly become so peaceful, and no longer a theatre of war? Why is everybody seeing things practically the same way, and no more flexing of muscles?
Though, there are opposition political parties in the state, and people with varying political interests, yet these people no longer fight each other, or go on air to slander and say unprintable things against one another.
The reason is because of the personal disposition and character of Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, who has gone out of the way to sue for peace, to broker peace among different warring camps in the state. He makes personal sacrifices and seeks accommodation with all and sundry. In the spirit of give and take, he strives to unite many people with different interests so that there will be peace in the state.
When Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi assumed the mantle of leadership of Enugu State in May 2015, he made it clear that there was not going to be abrupt severing of links between the incoming regime and its predecessor. He termed it, “seamless transition”, a gradual transition from the outgoing administration to the incoming regime. And he kept his words.
Many people were surprised to observe that there was no dismantling of structures erected by the previous administration, no abandonment of projects initiated by the regime, no sacking of staff recruited by the administration, as hitherto was the practice. This was usually what brought bad blood and misunderstanding among various political gladiators and interest groups in the state.
Every human person has an ego, the ego of self-worth, and personal integrity. When you try to deflate that ego by openly challenging, castigating, rejecting, or dismantling projects initiated by a predecessor regime, the person who initiated such projects will naturally feel pained or injured. He begins to fight back, to try to protect his battered ego. He has his supporters and sympathizers who normally will align with him. Then, peace is disturbed.
In most states in Nigeria, and even at the federal level, there is hardly any continuity of programmes or projects. A government will initiate a project, but will not complete it before its time is up. A successor regime comes in and will not touch those projects. Instead, it starts its own new projects, which equally will not be completed before its own end. That’s why we have litany of abandoned projects all over the country, a waste of taxpayers’ money.
Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi did not do the same thing in Enugu State. He toed the path trodden by his predecessors, to complete the projects initiated by them. This does not mean that Ugwuanyi had no projects of his own, or was bereft of ideas to articulate or to initiate his own projects. It is because he wants peace to reign.
In the selection of people to occupy various elective and appointive positions, Governor Ugwuanyi would naturally throw it back to the people. He would either convene a stakeholders meeting, or he would ask the people to go back home and select whoever would effectively represent their interest in government.
This often has disarmed many opposition politicians, since most of those who ran elective offices or who were appointed to various political offices were the real choice of the people. That was why all the elections conducted in Enugu State since the Ugwuanyi administration were effortlessly won by candidates of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), without the opposition political parties raising serious eyebrows.
Even at that, Governor Ugwuanyi has been at peace with leaders and members of opposition political parties in the state. He felicitates, sympathizes, or mourns with them as occasion demands. He attends their social functions, such as weddings, burials or child dedication ceremonies. That is why many of them hardly raises any voice against the governor.
Usually, people bear grudges against an administration when they suspect that they are being marginalized both in appointments and in infrastructural development. In the case of the Ugwuanyi administration, he towers above others in balancing political appointments and in equitable distribution of democracy dividends.
For instance, for the first time in the history of Enugu State, we are now witnesses to a system where some key positions in government like the Secretary to the State Government, the Chief of Staff to the Governor, the Head of Service, the State Accountant General, are spread across the three senatorial zones of the state, thereby giving every segment of the state a sense of belonging.
As someone rightly observes, “it is internal peace that rules and reflects outward peace. Without it, affairs of man shake, totter and fall”. In that regard, it is because Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi has internal peace, he brings it to bear on the entire Enugu State.