By Ozioma Ubabukoh
The last week of October was one filled with high political drama at the state level. In Plateau State, eight lawmakers met at the wee hours of Thursday, October 28, to remove the Speaker of the State House of Assembly.
In the Southeast, precisely in Enugu State, a young commissioner for the powerful Ministry of Lands and Urban Development resigned his appoint from the administration of Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi.
In a clime where it is unthinkable for politicians to leave ‘juicy’ offices on the basis of principle or infraction of due process, the resignation of Dr. Victor Chukwuemeka Nnam, as Enugu State Commissioner for Lands and Urban Development, is not only a source of public interest, but also calls for closer look at the insular administration in the state.
The current Enugu State Chief Executive Officer, Ugwuanyi, has maintained a record of public taciturnity such that it is impossible to know where he stands on any issue of public interest. Apart from written addresses, the governor has never bothered to offer insight or add his voice to any topic.
It is a practice the governor began during his eight years stint at the lower chamber of the National Assembly. Neither during debates nor through media interaction could Ugwuanyi’s opinion be heard on matters of social development or national conversation.
However, the resignation letter by Nnam did much to reveal what goes on in Ugwuanyi’s executive coven in Enugu State. The former commissioner, in adducing reasons for his exit from the cabinet, deconstructed the Ugwuanyi administration. He succeeded in doing that in three paragraphs, albeit fraught with typos, which possibly indicated that the young commissioner was, either in a hurry to leave the office or too pained by what he saw within the administration he served the state in the two eventful years.
As somebody who plied his journalistic trade in Enugu State among other major cities in Nigeria, this writer knows how far the issue of land ownership and administration go to define governance in the state. It was, therefore, based on the possibility that Governor Ugwuanyi wanted the right things to be done in those areas that the appointment of Nnam, a young academic and professional surveyor, was greeted with much public adulation and excitement.
Regrettably, on Friday October 29, 2021, a day to the national convention of the Peoples Democratic Party, the bubble burst. Nnam resigned as commissioner and gave strong hints about the choking condition he found himself, which disabled the intended change and expected sanity in the land ministry and registry.
Before the commissioner’s sudden resignation, there had been subdued narratives about the governor’s appetite for real estate alongside all his siblings and family members. That fact may have informed the first paragraph in Nnam’s letter of resignation.
Captioned: “Letter of resignation of my appointment as the Commissioner for Land and Urban Development, Enugu State,” Nnam wrote, “Sir, when you appointed me the Commissioner for Lands and Urban Development, Enugu State in 2019, I accepted the appointment with hope that I was going to be allowed to bring on board world (global) best practices in land administration. I immediately proposed for establishment of a GIS Land Administration System to enable the ministry stamp out land grabbers and create investors’ confidence in our land system. The proposal was rejected till date without explanation.”
The question, which the commissioner left hanging was, who rejected the proposal? From the plethora of social media attacks on the commissioner, including otherwise complacent bodies that sprung up to celebrate or condemn the former commissioner, it is obvious that more tales would be told in the coming weeks about how Ugwuanyi governs not only the state, but also land matters.
The governor may need to come out of his usual taciturn style and speak out on some of the unstated issues mooted in his former commissioner’s letter of resignation. Barely two years into the Ugwuanyi administration, the issue of land deals and Memoranda of Understanding entered into by the preceding administration of Governor Sullivan Chime became a subject of public disturbance in the state.
Those who are conversant with Enugu State will recall that, right from the days of old Anambra State, land matters had always been a source of friction. In those days, dispute over land was always between the Ngwo people of Enugu North and their Nike brothers of Enugu East Local Government Area.
Former Anambra State governors, Chiefs Jim Nwobodo and C.C Onoh, had their fair doses of land-related litigations between communities in the two council areas. By the nature of the state capital, which was well laid out and planned by colonial overlords in the pre-independence era, most of the landed property in Enugu metropolis are owned by Nike, Amechi and Ngwo communities.
The recent storm in a tea cup by the members of Enugu State House of Assembly, which revolved around allegation of extortion and allocation of land, came as a pointer to the developing story in the old issue of land ownership in the state.
Flowing from the former commissioner’s letter, there are reasons to believe a lot of unsettled matters that involved the state governor, especially given the unexplained circumstances that led to the removal of a former commissioner for lands, who was a known lackey of the governor.
Were similar things playing out or was Nnam found too rigid based on his insistence on the ethics of his profession and belief, both as a surveyor of international repute and pastor?
The former commissioner left nobody in doubt as to why he resigned and that puts a lot of pressure on Governor Ugwuanyi to do some explaining, not through surrogates, but in person:
“However, the reason for my resignation is the recent removal of the professional heads of department under me on punitive grounds for simply doing their jobs diligently. My conscience will no longer allow me to continue to serve your administration while those innocent professional senior civil servants are punished for doing the right things,” Nnam wrote.
By returning his official vehicle, a black Prado SUV to the Governor’s office, Dr. Nnam shows that his hands are clean and, therefore, deserves plaudits as a venerable champion in the advocacy for youth inclusion in governance.
• Ubabukoh, principal consultant at Plexus Media Interlinks, writes from Lagos