Nigerian state governors on Thursday approved the release of $1 billion from the country’s excess oil account to the government to help fight the Boko Haram Islamist insurgency. The account holds foreign reserves from excess earnings from sales of crude. It currently totals $2.3 billion, according to Nigeria’s accountant general. “We are pleased with the…
If you say that Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, the Governor of Enugu State, is making haste slowly, you will be stating the obvious. He is neither showy nor insular. He is a clear-headed realist, who knows when and where to draw the line. Indeed, the governor is making a steady stride, but he is unobtrusive and unassuming about it. This attribute, I dare say, is in short supply among many a public office holder, especially those of south-eastern extraction.
Those of us who cherish good breeding shudder each time we encounter turncoats, who masquerade as leaders of the people. We usually recoil in amazement at such incivility. Such is worrisome, especially in the light of the fact that Alexander Pope, the 18th Century English Poet, had long ago alerted the world that the reign of the prince of evil terminates in universal darkness. For some of us, the struggle has always been against the princes of darkness. The battle has already begun. And that battle is to rescue Nigeria from the stranglehold of non-starters and misfits whose reign has made the country a laughing stock in the eyes of the civilised world.
For many years, I have had encounters with men of power and influence. But what I find very discomfiting is that many of them are loafers. They are slaves of phantoms and such an airy-fairy disposition does not allow them to connect with the people. They do not and cannot, in the words of Edward Morgan Forster, an Irish novelist, connect with the prose and the passion. The absence of this essential interconnectness has always left society fractured.
Regardless of this gap in human relationships among many of those who have had the privilege of serving the people, there is quite a handful of the sane among the madding crowd. I have had cause to applaud these great souls at one time or another. In fact, I have, in collaboration with like minds, documented their exploits for posterity. But that is not a subject for this column. Suffice it to say that in spite of the madness that reigns and rules, there are still a few public office holders, who are living up to their billing.
Not too long ago, Governor Ugwuanyi was in the eye of the storm. He was an object for public scrutiny. Opinions were sharply divided as to where and how to place him. At issue then was the organised massacre visited on a community in Enugu State by murderous Fulani herdsmen. Nimbo, a sleepy community in Uzo Uwani Local Government Area of the state, had come under attack. The invasion was an affront. It was an assault on the sobriety of a once peaceful community. Consequently, tempers ran high. Anger boiled over. Cries of reprisal rent the air. What should the governor do? Should he return blood for blood? How, indeed, should he respond to this provocation? The situation presented the governor with difficult times. It tested his will.
Should he go the way of Governor Ayo Fayose of Ekiti State, who had adopted strong-arm tactic in dealing with a similar situation in his state? This was especially so since Fayose received accolades from far and near over his position on the issue. Or should the Enugu governor, like William Blake, the English Romantic Poet, create his own system rather than be enslaved by other people’s systems? This presented the governor with a dilemma.
It is noteworthy that in all of this, the governor shunned the gallery. He had a work plan. But he did not need to sell that to the public. His plans probably would not have sold well then had he ventured to share it with the anonymous crowd. He chose the path of quiet diplomacy. Many a casual observer could not come to terms with his method.
While all this lasted, I encountered the governor and he let me, albeit tangentially, into the way his mind was working. It was a security issue and he did not have to write out his entire work plan. But what must be said about Ugwuanyi is that he seems to be succeeding. His approach is yielding fruits. The invaders have been contained without further loss of life on either side of the divide.
What was the essential difference between the Ugwuanyi and Fayose approaches with regard to the provocation from Fulani herdsmen? It was a matter of approach. Whereas one talked tough, the other worked quietly underground. But in the end, both approaches succeeded. Fayose, at some point, had to spice up his tough talk with negotiation. He granted audience to the leaders of the cattle breeders in his state. I commend the two governors for succeeding where others appear to be failing.
However, the point must be made that it takes a mature and calm spirit to endure what Ugwuanyi had to endure. While the provocation lasted, I was impatient with any action that would not produce instant result. There were many others who felt the way I did. But it is gratifying to note that Ugwuanyi weathered the storm. He kept his head afloat in the face of the rough tide. In the end, he came out of it unscathed.
But what is really working in favour of the governor is his relationship with the people.
There is no gainsaying the fact that the best way the government can serve the people is to provide them with the basic necessities of life. I was at the university town of Nsukka recently and could not lose sight of the massive road construction going on there. The new network of roads, when completed, is bound to elevate the status of Nsukka beyond what it is at the moment.
In fact, the facelift, which Ugwuanyi has given to Nsukka, blends beautifully with the good work, which the Vice Chancellor of the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, Professor Benjamin Chukwuma Ozumba, is doing at the university. Since his appointment in June 2014, Ozumba, a professor of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, has left no stone unturned in his effort to reposition the university for greater attainments. On assumption of office, Ozumba unveiled his five-point agenda for the university and he has been pursuing this vigorously. It was in recognition of his development model for the university that the Nigeria Union of Journalists in Enugu State rewarded him with the award of the Best University Administrator. He is still insistent on actualising his One Child One Laptop policy. The expectation is that with the duo of Ugwuanyi and Chukwuma at work, the town and the gown may be in for a beautiful synergy in Nsukka.
Beyond Nsukka, the entire Enugu State is clearly in good hands. The beautiful roads alone are a good testimony. And this is so because the governor recognises that government is a continuum. You have to continue from where your predecessors stopped. Those who treat their predecessors as if they were never in office have never had it so good. Ugwuanyi’s strides in Enugu State are a perfect example of the gains continuity in government can bring.