By Steve Oruruo
Since Independence, a class of Nigeria’s highhanded political leaders has become unrepentant architects of bigotry and ethnic divisiveness, unleashing harrowing economic hardships and pervasive injustices on the people. This has precipitated several homegrown cataclysms including the intractable Boko Haram menace, intra-community crises, religious violence, unprovoked marauding Herdsmen killings, incessant kidnappings and dangerous Separatist crusades. Nor can one forget the recent seeming intifada which almost crystallized a spontaneous, massive revolution, riding on the back on the #EndSars movement. The Nigerian public sphere is awash with visible and not-too-visible intimations of generational leadership failings; facts and realities that bear neither esoteric hue nor requiring the interpretation of experts.
The failings of our time, tragically, may snowball into a complete failed status of the nation state if we fail to rescue our flailing and capitulating civilian leadership. Unarguably, the first malady describes the gross incompetence of a sizable proportion of the governing elite; the second, the confluence of expanding ungoverned spaces, multiplying levels of criminalities, dysfunctional and disarticulated economic sub-structures, resulting in mass poverty, youth unemployment as well as the unraveling of the nation’s fragile sectarian and ethno-cultural core; all tragically coming together in a historical time such as is heavily upon us now.
As a matter of fact, the nation handed over to us by the founding fathers has not fared any better. Its historicist spirit is drastically waning; the sense of nationalism evaporating like an insolent mirage; while the various cycles of underdevelopment-across several frontiers confronting us today derive essentially from bad governance and leadership deficits. In a sense therefore, while it was right for the radical Afrocentric Scholar like Walter Rodney to bemoan with historical fidelity and moral authority, how Europe swindled and underdeveloped Africa, I dare say that the narrative of contemporary era is nothing but how poor, unaccountable and visionless leadership has underdeveloped Nigeria.
Judging by the volatile political climate and aggressive permutations heralding the 2023 general elections, it seems more of a candid commentary than pessimism, to say that the nation is on the cusp of another major calamity. Desperate for political salvation from their deplorable existence, ordinary citizens nurse deep-seated resentments and frustrations that threaten to erupt like a volcano. It is either we dissipate this gathering thicket of gloom with zero hesitancy or face what in the nearest future would be a remarkable but most ruinous storm in our history. Given the multiplicity of leadership challenges that are currently overwhelming the managers of statecraft, therefore, now is the time to act.
At a time of reckoning like this, the very first step should be a wholehearted admittance of failure. Our polity needs the injection of new streams of political thought and socioeconomic philosophies for the adoption of novel governance models. Luckily, we can look to a leader who is already in the fore-front of this renaissance, His Excellency, Rt. Hon. Ifeanyi Lawrence Ugwuanyi, the Executive Governor of Enugu State. Using the Wawa clime as his canvas, Governor Ugwuanyi has painted for us a new sociopolitical template based on the tripod of peace, justice and accountability. Akin to the historical greats who were way ahead of their time, the likes of Socrates and Nelson Mandela, Governor Ugwuanyi is resetting our national compass to lead us away from the turbulence on the horizon onto the path of sustainable prosperity.
Ndi Enugu massively rallied behind Governor Ugwuanyi in 2015 because of his political antecedents, track record of sterling performances in public service, his glaring lack of the typical elitist bent and of course the blistering performance of his predecessor more especially in the Capital . Young, virile and unassuming, his aura felt like a breath of fresh air after what perhaps seemed a long maladroit elitism. As a member of the House of Representatives (HOR), Governor Ugwuanyi championed noble causes and lent his voice of advocacy to people-oriented reforms. He chaired HOR’s Committee on Marine Transport with uncanny vigor, fostering a new culture of cooperation and accountability across ministries, agencies and parastatals under their jurisdiction through passionate mediation and uncompromising oversight. He wasn’t the wealthiest candidate neither did he, by birth, inherit political privilege like most of his counterparts. But he marketed his true personality and vision to the electorate – a suave gentleman who like Martin Luther King Jnr. had a dream.
Governor Ugwuanyi engendered a re-engineering of the political climate in Enugu State. He dismantled the hitherto exclusivity of the leadership landscape, flinging the doors to the corridors of power wide open for men and women of all backgrounds, dispositions and sociopolitical leanings who have substance and the grit to deliver good governance to the people. He is a worthy son of Nsukka, but from the get-go, Governor Ugwuanyi, whose foremost priority was the state’s welfare, established his stance as an impartial father to all. This was manifest in his political appointments, appropriation of the state’s resources and adjudication of conflicts. His unflinching sense of equity and justice permeated every sector of human endeavour in the state, arousing a renewed sense of hope among the citizenry for a society compassionate towards its weak and downtrodden.
Governor Ugwuanyi distanced himself from unrepentant belligerents, and at every twist and turn canvassed dialogue and altruistic compromises as sine qua non to lasting peace and societal development. First viewed with skepticism and the authenticity question, Ugwuanyi’s novel political style soon spread like wildfire, converting warring political foes into friends, and sowing contagious camaraderie across every nook and cranny of the state. For the first time in Enugu’s history, we all became Wawa people first before subterranean affiliation to sectional sentiments if any, working towards a common goal – the preservation of our historic heritage and socio-economic betterment.
Peace and justice laid the groundwork for political accountability which gave way to massive economic growth. In just a few years, Enugu’s internally generated revenue (IGR) profile soared; the economy was diversified, breaking the perennial jinx of whimsical and stuttering attempts on rural liberation; the grassroots, long subjected to cruel neglect, were reconnected to the state’s main grid; the education and health sectors witnessed major developmental upheavals; and Enugu’s entire tellurian landscape transformed into a mosaic of legacy infrastructural projects including the recently commissioned first-ever flyover bridge at Nike Lake/T-junction. Through the creation of several opportunities for Enugu’s youths, including the Clean Team project, employment of over 5000 young teachers by ENSUBEB, provision of grants and interest-free loans to SMEs and offering trainings in varied in-demand digital skills, Governor Ugwuanyi not only mitigated youth restiveness but has also secured the state’s future by incubating a massive horde of talents.
As he prepares to vacate office next year and from every indication be voted into the upper legislative chamber in Abuja via the vociferous affirmation of the electorate, Governor Ugwuanyi has made the ultimate move towards the sustenance of political amity in Enugu State and socio-economic progress by facilitating the transparent hitch-free conduct of PDP’s gubernatorial primary election, which produced Barr. Peter Mbah and the youthful, Barr. Ifeanyi Ossai, as the flag bearers. His monumental legacies in Enugu State, coupled with Mr. Mbah’s intimidating profile as an accomplished industrialist, a philanthropist, a consummate administrator, a shrewd manager of men and material, yet a temperate character, means the PDP is all but guaranteed victory at the polls come 2023. Governor Ugwuanyi’s vigorous and unequivocal support for a governorship candidate of Enugu East Senatorial Zone extraction is testament to his unquestionable integrity and a demonstration of unwavering belief and commitment to the rotational arrangement that smoothened his ascension to power and has been critical to the peace and harmony in the state. By this very gesture, he has sent a strong message to purveyors of political discord who place personal aggrandizement above greater good. He has also ensured that the future of Nsukka youths as leaders of tomorrow will not be shortchanged by the grievous free-for-all situation, a breach of the pact is guaranteed to evoke.
Who would better represent the great people of Enugu North in the Senate at this time of immense political and economic uncertainties than Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, a true son of Nsukka, who despite his accomplishments as a political leader, trailblazer and social reformer, has always been loyal to his roots and temperately sentimental towards his kin? In his time at the helm of the state’s affairs, Governor Ugwuanyi addressed some of the most pressing yearnings of the Nsukka people; he constructed the state-of-the-art Opi-Nsukka dual carriageway and many other strategic rural roads, a modern township stadium, a secretariat annex, and a College of Medicine. In addition to a myriad of other human capital empowerments, infrastructural feats and multi-sectorial reforms, he repositioned Nsukka as a key player in Enugu’s political sphere and as the heartbeat of its vast economy. He equally attracted a federal polytechnic to its shores to further broaden its sway in national affairs.
The character and person of Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, a scion of the stock, reflects the Nsukka persona – godly and amiable yet relentlessly enterprising and resolute. Nsukka is home to people of unwavering belief in humanity and sense of good, intellectual giants, think-tanks, business masterminds and indomitable youths who by sheer talent and diligence are powering Enugu State to unimaginable heights. No wonder when it was their turn, they gave Ndi Enugu a colossus who in just a few years has left indelible prints on the historic sands of time. Nsukka people have an innate sense of discernment, and are hence championing Governor Ugwuanyi’s senate bid, confident that he will replicate and even advance his feats in Enugu at the upper legislative chamber. Needless therefore, to say that attempts to malign the Ugwuanyi brand by a few Nsukka political elites, disgruntled by their failure to impose their selfish interests on Enugu State or milk the state dry, is dead on arrival. The good people of Nsukka are not easily manipulated and can easily sniff out street-level mendacities, transactional chicanery and deceit from miles away.
For centuries to come, epic stories will be told of His Excellency, Rt. Hon. Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, who came into office an extraordinary leader, remodeled the political framework and socioe-conomic dynamics in Enugu, and exited office an immortal legend. The values of godliness, peace, justice and accountability which he has deliberately integrated into the fabrics of the society will be the pillars upon which Nigeria will transcend into a new national consciousness that will gravitate it towards enduring unity, oneness of purpose and enviable socio-economic prosperity.
Steve Oruruo is the Special Adviser to the Governor of Enugu State on Information