By Prof. Oguejiofo T. Ujam
While the 2023 general election is a subject of suspense and concern in some states, Enugu could be said to be apparently in a jubilant mood, waiting for the election to come and go, so as to usher in a perceived government in waiting.
Come May 29, 2023, the fourth generation of Ebeano administration will begin its first four-year term in Enugu State. There are many reasons the electorate in the state believe that the March 11, 2023 gubernatorial election in the state will end up as a mere coronation for the duo of Dr. Peter Ndubuisi Mbah and Barrister Ifeanyi Ossai.
When incumbent governor Hon. Ifeanyi Lawrence Ugwuanyi hands over to Dr. Mbah, Enugu people would be relishing the beauty of the relay race within the Ebeano line-up, which took off on May 29, 1999. Dr. Chimaroke Ogbonna Nnamani returned from the land of the world’s best democracy, the United States of America, where he was plying his trade as a medical doctor and specialist in obstetrics and gynaecology, to birth purposeful governance and visionary leadership in the state.
The people of Enugu State listened to his message of upscaling democracy dividends from popular participation through infrastructure provision, educational advancement, and socio-economic empowerment of the citizens. They believed in him and empowered him with their votes. Dr. Nnamani was therefore sworn into office on May 29, 1999, as the executive governor of the state.
During his two terms as governor, when most of his peers were groping in the dark about what to do with their mandate or overwhelmed by public adulation, Dr. Nnamani set out to re-engineer Enugu State politics through purposeful governance. Consequently, selecting and grooming a crop of emerging leaders that have continued to steer the ship of governance progressively in the state.
May be, coming from the United States, Governor Nnamani knew full well that political power is usually held in trust for the people. Above all, from day one, he adverted his mind to the fact that his second term ambition would be a referendum on his performance in the first term.
Nnamani appeared to be a man in a hurry because he adopted a multi-sectoral approach to development programmes in education, public utilities, housing, infrastructure, agriculture, sports, youth and women development as well as rural development.
He left a very large imprint in the area of healthcare delivery, being his professional area of specialization and expertise. The Park Lane Hospital, which was transformed into the Enugu State University of Science and Technology Teaching Hospital, in addition to the development of functional primary healthcare institutions across the 17 Local Government Areas of the state won the admiration of development partners.
That was how Partnership for Transforming Health Systems (PATHS) was born. That Enugu children were spared from most childhood killer diseases remains an enduring testimony of Governor Nnamani’s vision for efficient healthcare delivery systems.
That in part explains why women and children in the state continue to celebrate the former governor, who now represents the good people of Enugu East Senatorial District in the Senate. Whenever you see clips of women singing, clapping and dancing to the melodious tunes of ‘Chimaroke, Ebeano’ in praise of the former governor, such spontaneous gaiety reverberates always at the sight of Senator Nnamani radiates from the women’s reminiscences of the monumental achievements of the former governor.
That Senator Nnamani remains very popular across the length and breadth of Enugu State could be traced to his sterling performance in office. It could therefore be argued that Senator Chimaroke Nnamani laid the solid foundation for the Ebeano developmental and governance paradigm that continues to define the politics of Enugu State.
When Barrister Sullivan Chime collected the baton of leadership from Nnamani in 2007, he expanded on the Ebeano architecture by concentrating on four major planks of governance, including urban and rural /environmental rehabilitation, security, health and citizen inclusion in governance.
It could be said that the Chime administration concerned itself with reclaiming the old glory of the Coal City as the colonialists planned it. The governor reinforced the foundation already set by his predecessor and benefactor, Nnamani, by ensuring the return of a modern taxi transport system and street signage. Part of Chime’s record of achievements was that he engineered international investment via the introduction of modern supermarkets and trading malls, which enabled the free exchange of goods and services that grew the state’s internally generated revenue.
Within the eight years he occupied the office of governor, Chime also supported the nation’s security agencies in ensuring that they performed their constitutional roles of preventing crime and protecting life and property in Enugu State at optimal levels.
Having completed his tour of duty, Chime, who hails from Enugu West Senatorial District put the baton into the willing hands of Hon. Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, a three-term member of the federal House of Representatives.
On May 29, 2015, Ugwuanyi, who hails from Enugu North Senatorial District, took his oath of office as the fourth executive governor of Enugu State.
It is on record that Ugwuanyi mounted the saddle at a time of great economic downturn for the federal republic, due mainly to the volatility in the price of petroleum products (Nigeria’s major revenue earner) in the international market. Nonetheless, the governor deployed innovative ideas and prudence to pursue his agenda of social welfare and rural integration.
A cursory look at the seven years of the Ugwuanyi administration leaves the impression that the governor was emphatic on people-oriented policies and programmes. First of all, the governor encouraged political harmony among the various citizens by inculcating the fact that no matter your political, religious or zonal tendency, we all belong to one Enugu State.
Part of Ugwuanyi’s populism cum welfarist approach to governance could be seen in the nature of rural roads and social amenities his administration embarked upon to open up the Enugu countryside and rural feeder roads. For instance, in the university community of Nsukka, where this author resides, evidence of Governor Ugwuanyi’s rural integration efforts are not only evident, but mammoth.
From the expansive capillary of rural roads, which enhances the evacuation of farm produces to the urban areas, to the two high institutions, the ultra modern Enugu State University of Medical Sciences and the Specialist Hospiral, Igbo-Eno and the newly established Federal Polytechnic, Ohodo.
These two high institutions are simultaneous huge openings of employment generation and manpower development in Enugu North Senatorial District. Ugwuanyi has also deployed a somewhat urbanization function around the Orba international Market and inter-regional Obolo transport hub, which is a major inter change in transportation capable of complementing the university town in the attraction of other developmental activities. In the minds of the people, Ugwuanyi has given a good account of himself as a proud subset of the Ebeano family
The record of the governor’s achievements in office could explain why the people of Enugu North Senatorial District in unison pleaded with the governor to represent them in the Senate of the federal republic of Nigeria.
It is therefore expected that on May 29, 2023, Ugwuanyi would hand over the baton of leadership of Enugu State to another generation of leaders, Dr. Peter Mbah and Barrister Ifeanyi Ossai. Interestingly, the two young men have undergone tutelage in the Ebeano political idea, which the vision bearer, Senator Chimaroke Nnamani, explained recently as being synonymous with ‘Aladimma’ philosophy.
All things being equal, the anticipated Mbah administration is coming to power at a time of new political awakening among the younger generation, who have resolved to interrogate the purpose of government, as well as the marks of responsible leadership.
So, for the very fact that Dr. Mbah has distinguished himself with vast international academic learning and business exposure as well as excellent record in private and public service, it has become a given that come March 11, 2023, Enugu State citizens would be trooping to various polling units in the state to confer the gubernatorial mandate on the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) candidate.
The expected coronation, therefore, stems partly from the fact that the fourth floor of Ebeano architecture of statecraft, which the Mbah administration represents, would combine all the elements of the foundation laid between 1999 and 2007 by Senator Chimaroke Nnamani and those of other builders in the second and third floors.
Briefly, the emerging skyscraper of Enugu State governance would expose the elements of beauty, credibie purpose and sustainable development to attract investors, enhance ease of doing business and guarantee innovativeness.
Therefore, on March 11, 2023, when the Enugu electorate will vote for Mbah and Ossai, their unwritten IOU from the incoming administration is equivalent to a call to excel and make the state stand out.
It is encouraging that in the course of his ongoing thank-you-tour of the 17 local government areas of the state, Dr. Mbah has been speaking the language of a change-agent, who understands the enormous public expectations from him.
• Ujam writes from Department of Pure and Industrial Chemistry, UNN.