In January last year, I noted in this column that Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi of Enugu State was making haste slowly. I held that he was neither showy nor insular. I stated further that the governor was a clear-headed realist who knew when and where to draw the line. My submission was that the governor was making steady strides, but he was unobtrusive and unassuming about it.
More than one year after, these lines still resonate with a ring of eternal truth. We will elucidate further the Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi phenomenon in Enugu State. But first let us speak in general terms.
One of the major problems bedevilling this country is the presence of evil men in high places. Nigeria is wracked by high-level maladministration because an overwhelming majority of those who run the affairs of the country have no fear of God. Any talk about living a good and decent life sounds inchoate to them. They do not trust in the imagination. If anything, they are benighted souls who follow neither the heart nor the brain. For them, life does not go beyond the surface plastic reality that they are used to. They have no power of introspection. That is why they learn nothing from and forget nothing about history. They perceive their country and its people in the abstract. There is no humanity or humaneness in their dealings with others. They have a hawkish disposition to life and this does not create room for the essential interconnectedness that every society requires to make progress. This is our unenviable lot as a people. That largely explains why Nigeria is like motion which, as metaphysical poetics espouses, is busy standing still.
If you are used to men of power and influence, most of whom exhibit the tendencies we have highlighted, an encounter with Ugwuanyi would strike you with a remarkable difference. The man is like a breath of fresh air in a choking atmosphere. He is a free spirit without malice or ill will. He puts God first in everything he does. That is why he has put Enugu State in the hands of God. Unlike what obtains in most states of the federation, where governments indulge in senseless sloganeering, “Enugu is the Hands of God” is not a mere declaration. It is an article of faith. It is a philosophy of governance. It is the spirit that drives an administration whose principal is a pious Christian and a devout Catholic.
For weeks now, I have been propelled to look in the direction of Enugu State following the uncommon endorsements that the governor has been receiving for his second term bid. I was moved by the fact that virtually everybody that is somebody in the state has expressed solidarity with the governor. In the same vein, notable institutions, including churches, have been endorsing him for a second term. Even members of political parties other than the one the governor belongs to are all queuing behind him. They want him to return for a second term. Given this set-up, it was not out of place to reason that there must be something about this governor that has endeared him to one and all.
If you ask the governor how the opposition fits into the broad-based support that he enjoys, he will tell you that there is no opposition in Enugu State. This is truly the case because the governor has not constrained himself with partisanship. He is the father of all in the state. He treats everybody, every community, every organisation as equal. He does not discriminate against any. That is why he constructs roads, builds schools and sites life-changing projects in communities and territories where those who ought to be seen as his opponents come from. He does not pigeonhole people into parties or communities. For him, Enugu is for all.
Before now, Enugu State had a sad history of dog eat dog. A quick reminder will suffice. Chief Jim Nwobodo, former governor of old Anambra State and a senior citizen of Enugu State, played a leading role in the emergence of Chimaroke Nnamani as governor of Enugu State in 1999. But no sooner had Nnamani assumed the reins of governance than the relationship between him and Nwobodo ruptured. Nwobodo was practically driven underground. He could not be seen or heard for as long as Nnamani reigned and ruled in Enugu. In the same vein, Nnamani got a raw deal from his successor, Sullivan Chime, who he nurtured and delivered as governor. Acting true to type, Chime, on assumption of office, gave his boss and benefactor the cold shoulder. Nnamani is still licking the wounds inflicted on him by Chime.
Given this tradition of hate and recrimination, many had thought that Ugwuanyi would stigmatise his predecessor. But he is doing none of that. Rather, he is building bridges of understanding and reconciliation. Since he assumed office, he has not just ensured that all stakeholders are brought on board, he has equally gone a long way in reconciling the leaders of the state one with another. He knows and preaches the fact that vengeance diminishes a people and a nation. He loathes acrimony of any sort. That is why Enugu has been peaceful under him.
One of the ways in which the governor is making a positive difference is to delve into provinces, which his predecessors shunned. For instance, whereas Chime refused to touch any project left uncompleted by Nnamani, Ugwuanyi has undertaken to complete all the projects abandoned by his predecessors. He says it is in the interest of the people for the projects to be completed and put to use. But then, the governor has got a number of legacy projects of his own to showcase. The projects, wherever they may be in Enugu State, are not sited randomly. They are products of good thinking. One of such projects is the over 14-kilometre road stretching from Opi Junction, criss-crossing Nsukka township and terminating after the main gate of the University of Nigeria. This dual carriageway, complete with surface and underground drainage, streetlights and paving stones, is one of the most modern roads that anyone can think of in this country. It is one road that has changed the Nsukka landscape. With it, the status of Nsukka as a university town has greatly been enhanced.
The decision to open up Nsukka and make it a model city is well-thought-out. Enugu, capital of the Eastern Region, capital of Republic of Biafra, capital of East Central State, capital of Anambra State and now capital of Enugu State, remains the only city in Enugu State. The governor reasons that the time has come to change this set-up. Enugu State needs another city of comparable status. There is need to develop another city in the state that will take some burden off Enugu. Nsukka has been mapped out to serve this purpose and Ugwuanyi is implementing this plan faithfully.
As someone who believes in and respects the fine ingredients of democracy, Ugwuanyi shares in the democratic ideal, which makes the people the cornerstone of democracy. He sees the people as the true heroes of democracy. In this regard, he is touching the life of the people through life-changing projects. A case in point is the road revolution that has taken place in the slums of Enugu , notably Abakpa Nike, Ngenevu Coal Camp and Iva Valley, among others. Before Ugwuanyi, these slums were forgotten territories. They were hardly accessible. But today, they have been opened up through good access roads. For those who knew Enugu before Ugwuanyi, the slum revolution wrought by the governor is one of those little things that matter much. It is, if you like, a demonstration of godliness in governance.