Ugwuanyi @57: Nigeria’s next President?

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By Philip Agbese

The fragrance of permutations for Nigeria’s 2023 Presidency is already whirling pervasively in the air. Nigerians are pretty aware of the informal consensus on the concept of rotational Presidency between the two broad divides of the North and South of the country. So, Nigerians have an implicit understanding of the pendulum for 2023 leadership of the country as falling on Southern Nigeria.

It’s an undebatable reality that the Southwest and the South-South have taken their shots at Nigeria’s Presidency with the return of democracy in 1999. In former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s eight years tenancy in Aso Rock, the Southwest had their slot. Also, the oil-rich South-South region had a dream fulfilled in the slightly above six years stewardship of ex-President Goodluck Jonathan in the Presidential villa.

There would be no controversy when the Presidency of Nigeria rotates to the Southern region of the country, after the eight-year tenancy of President Muhammadu Buhari, who is consummating the leadership slot of the North. It implies that the other two sub-regions within Southern Nigeria have already hosted the finals of the leadership competition in Obasanjo and Jonathan.

So, the 2023 Presidency of Nigeria’s definite destination is the Southeast region, peopled by the revered Ndi’gbos. Leaders of Ndi’gbo are also not asleep either! Therefore, the search for a suitable candidate to present to Nigerians at the appropriate hour is earnestly in progress.

Interestingly, at high profile consultative meetings of Ndi’gbo nation, political fora, community gatherings, religious congregations and social events among others, the name of the executive Governor of Enugu State, His Excellency, Rt. Hon. Dr. Lawrence Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi resonates loudly in favorable ambience. He has everything counting for him positively. He is ebullient, humane, urbane, foresighted, intelligent, learned, a socialite, astute leader, experienced, a celebrated team player and above all, a patriotically detribalized Nigerian.

From all facets of bandied opinions, Gov. Ugwuanyi is not a neophyte in Nigeria’s politics and leadership domain. He cut the proverbial political teeth at the national level in 2003, by representing the good people of Igboeze North/Udenu Federal Constituency. He remained their unblemished national parliamentarian for a record of 12 years (2003-2015) in the National Assembly in the Green Chamber.

Whilst in the National Assembly, Gov. Ugwuanyi interacted with Nigerians of different shades and backgrounds through the various positions of responsibilities entrusted to him in the Green Chambers. He chaired the House committee on Marine Transport, as well as membered numerous other sensitive House committees.

But worthy of cognizance, as member, House Committee on Pensions, Gov. Ugwuanyi tremendously assisted in enacting the Pension Reform Act 2004. Nigerians can attest to its validity in breaking the decades of the chain of general challenges associated with pension administration in Nigeria with the birth of PENCOM administration policy. His sojourn at the House of Representatives fully prepared him for the number one seat in his home state of Enugu, with the epaulet of “coal city.”

The pattern and culture of leadership in Nigeria today prescribes to the ascending order. Therefore, a peep into the world of the few governors in Nigeria today, who have equipped themselves for higher leadership in Nigeria, Gov. Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi ranks dominantly, with evident mien among such Governors.

Born on March 20, 1964, Gov. Ugwuanyi, recently clocked 57 years. He was elected as the Executive Governor of Enugu State in 2015 on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). His records leadership display enviable noble achievements in office. It earned him re-election in 2019.

When Governor Ugwuanyi assumed the mantle of leadership in 2015, Nigeria was neck-deep into recession. Consequently, the state was confronted with nightmarish problem of paucity of funds, coupled with inherited debts and other huge wage bills to be serviced.

The effect of the recession adversely affected the state’s allocations from the federation account. It gravely affected the funding of the development blueprint and vision of Gov. Ugwuanyi. This was a source of worry as even attested by his predecessor, Barr. Sullivan Chime. Former governor Chime had lamented this during the thanksgiving Service to commemorate the end of his administration.

Enugu state was among the 27 states in Nigeria with salaries and pension indebtedness, much less, embarking on capital projects. The bailout funds/other monetary interventions to states by President Muhammadu Buhari was a great relief to the state. Governor Ugwuanyi judiciously utilized it and also, began executing sundry capital projects across the state.

Ugwuanyi has remained focused in his vision to rebuild Enugu State of the dreams of its founding fathers dream. He has railroaded the state aggressively on the path of progress and dignity of all persons irrespective of class, religion or political association in a peaceful and secured environment.

In the last five years, the Ugwuanyi administration has witnessed nothing short of glory. His leadership prowess at managing the affairs of Enugu has been felt all over the state, despite the many obstacles his government encountered during its early days. Manifestly, no impediment has deterred him in maintaining the momentum of development across the state.

And unlike his predecessors who concentrated their developmental projects in Enugu metropolis, Governor Ugwuanyi’s solemn promise during his inaugural address in 2015, was to focus on rural development. He was blunt that “the major interest of Government should be in the rural areas,” to ginger a sense of belonging and all-inclusiveness to access to the treasures of the state.

Governor Ugwuanyi has sustained the pursuit of his rural development drive in the state. He has pursued this lofty vision by closing the urban-rural imbalance in the distribution of basic amenities. Yet, his focus on rural development has not stopped him from completing some of the urban projects he inherited from his predecessors.

He has engaged in these capital-intensive projects when some of his colleagues in sister states are still grappling to even pay workers salaries. This is a major pointer towards his preparedness for a higher governance responsibility.

In the area of roads construction, most of the roads that were abandoned have been completed and commissioned, with new ones initiated and receiving serious attention by his Government. For instance, just within his first tenure of office, Governor Ugwuanyi completed the Udenu Ring Road which was a deathtrap for the people of Ezimo and Imilike-Ani. The completion of that road has opened up these towns to the outside world for business and other transactions. It generated resounding applauses from the masses.

The other legacy road projects that have received the Governor’s attention are the Nike Lake junction – Harmony Estate Road – Amorji Nike – Adoration Pilgrimage Centre, Phase II and III, in Enugu East LGA, which will link Abakpa and Emene and serve as a critical bypass that will decongest traffic gridlock at Abakpa T-junction.

The asphalting of a 22.443km inter-community link road – the Neke-Mbu-Ogbodu Aba-Obollo Etiti road – which connects Isi-Uzo and Udenu LGA, under the Rural Access and Mobility Project II (RAMP II); rehabilitation of numerous internal roads in the University town of Nsukka and the flood routing/erosion control works at Achi street, Independence Layout, Enugu are his signature projects in a generally crunched economy.

Speaking recently during the inauguration of the 12km Ugwuomu Nike-Godfrey Okoye University road, in the outskirts of Enugu East LGA, Gov. Ugwuanyi explained that the road project, which traverses the two communities of Emene and Ugwuomu Nike will not only provide easy access, pleasant commuting experience, but will also considerably reduce travel hours. To the people of Enugu, the road will stimulate local commerce as well as economic expansion with its associated enhancement of quality of life of the populace “who had never known asphaltic concrete road before this intervention,” enthused an analyst.

The alleviation of the suffering of the people of the state, especially in the rural areas, through the provision of critical infrastructures and expansion of economic opportunities have been a major plank of his administration. The dividends have kept coming massively to the people.

These capital-intensive projects have been birthed in Enugu state despite his administration’s experiences with two recessions in five years. But God has made it possible for his administration to achieve greatly with meager resources at its disposal, an explicit testimony of his personality as a good manager of human and capital resources.

With the completion of this 12km Ugwuomu Nike-GO -Uni community road project, Governor Ugwuanyi has made a permanent mark in the community. He has wiped the tears of the people of Ugwuomu community and given them a sense of belonging.

And as attested by the President General of Ugwuomu Nike Town Development Union, Nnanyelugo Felix Nnamani during the commissioning of the road project, “our people have gone through hell over the years and from time immemorial but the governor has suddenly brought us joy. It is on record that Gov. Ugwuanyi is the first Executive Governor of Enugu State that stepped his feet on Ugwuomu soil and his light is showing boldly in Ugwuomu. We can’t thank him and the State Executive Council enough for remembering Ugwuomu Nike.”

So far, the administration has constructed/rehabilitated over 600 kilometers of roads across the state, within a span of five years. These roads are mostly in the rural areas and it has brought development and improvement of livelihood to the rural dwellers.

The Governor’s attention is not only focused on roads construction only. He has also touched other critical areas of infrastructural development across the state. The State House of Assembly Complex has received a facelift during the administration to create a conducive environment for smooth legislative business.

The Governor has also renovated the Deputy Governor’s office within the premises of the Government House and as well as the popular Michael Okpara Square. Work for the new Lion Building located in the Government House, Enugu, with additional works such as landscaping and installation of flood and security lights has been completed.

There are equally numerous constructions works in places such as the Enugu State Secretariat annex in Nsukka satellite town; the construction of 10-unit of Executive Guest House at the old Governor’s Lodge, G.R.A, Enugu, for routine guests of the State Government. Also, work is ongoing at the Nsukka Township Stadium; the remodeling of the Old Government Lodge; a near completed work at the International Conference Centre, Enugu as well as ongoing work for the first Christian Chapel of Worship at the Government House, Enugu.

Peace and security are the foot-mat of development. On security, Gov. Ugwuanyi’s administration has done exceedingly impressive. As the Chief Security officer of the state, the Governor has recognized the sacred responsibility of his Government to secure the lives and property of his people.

Apart from the various interventions towards enhancing the security architecture that will be able to sustain the state’s enviable status as one of the most peaceful and safest in the country, the Gov. Ugwuanyi administration procured 100 units of Innoson Vehicle Manufacturing (IVM) patrol vans, equipped with communication gadgets and handed them over to various security agencies in the state to aid their policing operations in the state.

The State Government has also recruited 1,700 indigenes of the state as novel Forest Guards (the first in the South East zone). It has equally repositioned the Vigilante/Neighborhood Watch groups and purchased 260 security vehicles for Community Policing. This is a demonstration of the premium Gov. Ugwuanyi’s administration places on the security of lives and property of his people.

Again, five newly procured IVM fire-fighting trucks were handed over to the State Fire Service, for the five fire service stations across the three senatorial districts. These fire service stations were constructed by his Government after 56 years, to enhance efficiency and effective response to emergency fire outbreaks in the state.

His efforts in the area of security have drawn generous commendations from top security Chiefs including the Inspector General of Police, IGP Mohammed Adamu Abubakar, as well as the Commandant of the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC), Enugu State Command, Commandant Valentine Ezenyimuru.

To IGP Abubakar, Governor Ugwuanyi is “a very security-friendly Governor for always making the security agencies in the state comfortable to be able to discharge their duties without fear of favour.” The commendation from the Police force came when Gov. Ugwuanyi handed a befitting office complex for the newly created Force CID Annex for the South East geo-political zone, located at the Command’s Detective College, Enugu State.

The Police Chief, who was represented by the then Enugu state Commissioner of Police, CP Ahmad Abdurrahman, described the edifice as “a very good architecturally magnificent office.” The unit now serves as a very highly investigative outreach of the Nigeria Police Force in the Southeastern region.

To the Enugu State Commandant of the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC), Valentine Ezenyimuru, Gov. Ugwuanyi’s security and peace initiatives as well as his good governance is the reason a lot of people were flooding into the state.

In the Public Health sector too, the Ugwuanyi administration has made landmark achievements. He has completed the state-of-the-art Enugu State Medical Diagnostic Centre, as well as constructed and renovated district hospitals and health centres in the state, especially in the rural areas under the primary healthcare programme. The government under Ugwuanyi has also upgraded Udi District Hospital and Polyclinic, Asata to General Hospitals.

Currently, there is ongoing construction of 200-bed Specialist Hospital, Igbo Ano, Enugu North Senatorial District, to serve as facilities for the ESUT College of Medicine that has been relocated to Nsukka. This is even as the government has launched the Universal Health Coverage. There has equally been interventions and integration of faith-based rural health facilities into the Free Maternal and Child Health Programme across the state.

Not long ago, the government again awarded multiple contracts for massive construction of 7 units of Type 3 Primary Health Care Centre in seven LGAs as well as the upgrade and rehabilitation of the General Hospital Ogrute, Enugu Ezike and Nsukka District Hospital, among others.

During the outbreak of COVID-19 in Nigeria in 2020, the administration responded swiftly and expediently to contain the spread of the virus in the state. Gov. Ugwuanyi ensured that the effect of the pandemic did not adversely affect the people and the state’s development programmes. He immediately approved and released N350 million to the State COVID-19 Multi-Sectoral Rapid Response Team in 2020, to tackle the health challenges, with the establishment of isolation and treatment centre at the ESUT Teaching Hospital Parklane, Enugu.

On workers’ welfare, Gov. Ugwuanyi was among the first Governors to implement the new Minimum Wage in Nigeria signed into law by President Buhari. There has been regular payment of workers’ salaries, which is statically on the 23rd of every month and the payment of pension for retirees also done before the end of each month.

The Government has also been paying a “13th month salary” to workers as Christmas bonus. There has also been a 54% equity contribution for 100 lucky civil servants who won the 100 units one-bedroom apartments at Elim Estate, Enugu through open lottery. All these are commendable initiatives of the Governor Ugwuanyi administration on welfare of citizens.

The Judiciary arm of government has also felt the impact of the Ugwuanyi leadership. Aside from the massive renovation of the State Judiciary Headquarters complex, Enugu, the present administration has constructed the first Enugu State Customary Court of Appeal Headquarters complex in Enugu. The Government has also constructed 14 new court buildings and open registries in the judicial divisions and magisterial districts across the state. The former DAD Building, Enugu, has been renovated and converted as the Headquarters for the State Ministry of Justice

In the educational sector, Gov. Ugwuanyi has recruited over 5000 primary and secondary school teachers in the last five years of his administration. There is also an ongoing construction of the state-of-the-art administrative building at the first- ever degree-awarding institution in Education in the South East zone, at the Enugu State University of Education in Ihe, Awgu LGA. Upon completion, the institution will serve as a centre for training of teachers for primary, secondary and tertiary education in the country.

The administration has also constructed, renovated and equipped 897 classroom blocks and other school projects under Enugu State Universal Basic Education Board (ENSUBEB). The state has also witnessed the distribution of numerous computers, science equipment, lockers, chairs and tables for a conducive learning environment (under ENSUBEB) across schools in the state. There is also massive infrastructural development and upgrade of facilities at the Institute of Management and Technology (IMT), Enugu. This is to enable a seamless transition of IMT into a degree-awarding institution.

Thus, the achievements of Gov. Ugwuanyi in office as the Enugu State Governor is an indication that if given a chance at Nigeria’s Presidency, he will not fail Nigerians. Under him, the economic indices of Enugu State have remained favorable in the eyes of observers.

In the last five years, the state has been rated as the second most advanced state in Nigeria towards the frontier of global good practices with regards to Ease of Doing Business, by the World Bank Group.

And looking at these serial successes’, Nigeria’s 2023 Presidency beckons at Gov. Ugwuanyi @57 who has offered himself as Ndi’gbo’s tested and acceptable candidate. Indeed, the generality of Nigerians await anxiously for this outstanding and pragmatic leader for the Presidency come 2023.

Agbese wrote from the United Kingdom.