By Francis Nwaze
Ebonyi State was created 24 years ago, specifically, in the year 1996, from Abia, Imo and Enugu states. As a newborn, the state has passed through ups and downs, lots of turbulent situations, marginalization, underdevelopment, discrimination, etc. It was a work in progress and lots of energy was dissipated by leaders in the past to see to the change of the narratives but all efforts had little or no effect.
Admittedly, all the past administrations made efforts in their different areas of concern, depending on their leadership abilities, but Ebonyi State remained an exemplary state when poorest, dirtiest, poor road network, low IGR, etc, were mentioned.
Almost everyone would wish to disassociate himself from being identified as an Ebonyian, the inferiority complex caught almost everyone.
Evidence abounds that first-time visitors mostly pray not to visit again for their bad experience. No one could wear white clothing and walk around the street, except the owner would prefer the colour of the clothing to turn to either mud or dusty colour. It was a bad experience indeed, nothing was working. Potholes in the roads could make a pregnant woman deliver before her time.
While all these were going on, everyone in the state was secretly in prayers and supplication to God for the leader that will play the role of Moses to Egyptian, David to Israel against their Goliath and the Messiah that will know the true needs of the masses.
In the build-up to the 2015 general election, the space was charged with lots of permutations, political analysis, games of the throne, etc. It was a battle for the soul of the state, a make or mar battle. The governor was the then deputy governor and he was in waiting for a directive from God, to run or to leave. Months later, he received the message, God’s message, and he declared for the contest for the number one position of the state.
The team was christened “Divine Mandate”, it was a tug of war, a major battle against the power brass but the Divine Mandate miraculously triumphed at the end. Governor David Umahi was elected the Governor of Ebonyi State and was successfully sworn in on May 29, 2015, and the journey to the liberation of the state began.
Having seen the much work, including cleansing, that was needed in the state, Umahi passionately began his leadership with seven days of fasting and prayers, for total liberation, transformation and strength to work in his new office.
On assumption of office, both the federal allocation and the state internally generated revenue of the state were at the bottom of the list of states and their federal allocation and IGR in decreasing order but the governorentered action with boldness.
The first 100 days in office as Governor, Umahi had turned Ebonyi into a construction site with modern technologies, direct and consistent supervision of the projects, the introduction of a new style of construction and timely delivery of the projects and execution of projects with direct labour to save the not meagar resources of the state.
It began with the cement technology in road construction, a phase that came with mixed reactions as many were yet to understand the technology of concrete roads but it was warmly welcomed when the longevity of the technology was proven to be far beyond the use of asphalt. The streets of Abakaliki, which were hitherto filled with potholes and mini ponds, were transformed with the new technology. As of today, six years down the line, the road projects executed with the concrete technology are still standing firmly as though they were constructed yesterday.
This standard was spread across other council areas as more than 20 kilometres of roads were commenced and completed across the council areas. The governor was not relenting, bearing in mind that access to good road is a clear pathway to the development of any developing city. As at today, he has constructed and reconstructed several roads that space will not be enough to mention one after the other but they are visible to even the blind across the state to see.
Like the biblical mustard seed, Ebonyi, which was relegated to the background as a second class state, has gradually assumed a vantage position in the comity of states, courtesy of continuous transformation by the subsequent leaders of the state.
Currently, under the reign of Governor David Umahi, Ebonyi State can now boast of at least 16 edifying and state-of-the-art flyovers scattered in parts of the state, which are not only adding extra aesthetics to the cities but also saving Ebonyians from the hazards of incessant road accidents that hitherto characterized the Abakaliki capital city.
Margaret Umahi International Market and the Shopping Mall, one of the biggest in Africa, have jointly beefed up economic activities in the capital city and promoted the state’s gross domestic product.
The new Ebonyi State University Teaching Hospital, Uburu, is promising to become a world-class medical tourist centre for practitioners within and outside Nigeria, when fully completed, while the Ebonyi International Airport will bring Ebonyi into the global limelight when flight operations eventually commence, hopefully before the end of 2021.
The Ebonyi Olympic Stadium is expected to revive sporting activities in the state and regenerate the moribund sports infrastructure and culture in the state.
Above all, the streetlight system has not only illuminated the capital city and environs at night but has also added an extra boost to the security of the benefitting residents, as night marauders no longer hide under darkness to perpetrate criminal activities.
Several bridges have been constructed to reconnect villages and communities to their neighbours who had been cut off by collapsed Bailey bridges in parts of the state. Today, rural farmers can export their produce to urban centres with ease, hence, ensuring food sufficiency and affordability.
The capacity of Ebonyi youth and women, especially widows and the less privileged, has been enhanced with several interventions and empowerment schemes that have changed their narratives from nonetheless to employers of labour in their various chosen trades, courtesy of the people-oriented leadership of Governor David Nweze Umahi.
Ebonyi has move up to the first-class position as the food hub of the nation through the consistent strengthening of the capacity of the rural farmers through adequate provision of fertilizers and other requisite inputs by the state government.
Virtually every facet of the livelihood of Ebonyians has enormously received a boost such that, within six years of Governor Umahi’s leadership, Ebonyi has transformed from the rejected stone to the chief cornerstone of the house.
Ebonyi State of today has become a city to visit, invest, live in peace with a secure and safe environment.
Think Ebonyi today.
•Nwaze is Special Assistant to the Governor (Media and