By Nwobodo Chidiebere
ON August 27, 1991, Gen. Ibrahim Babangida-led military government created Enugu state amongst twelve then new states that were created in the Federation. Since then, Coal City State—as it is fondly called, as a result of huge deposit of coal beneath its surface, has journeyed through turbulent voyage of self-discovery cum political metamorphoses. The old capital of the then Eastern region was created to give a sense of belonging and political emancipation to the ‘Wawa’ people.
Enugu State has been ruled by several military administrators and governed by civilian governors within the twenty-five years of its lifespan. But though–provoking questions on the minds of Enugu indigenes are: has ‘Wawa’ man been truly emancipated, both politically and economically? Have we been able to champion the ultimate vision of self-actualization—which is the last form of human needs according to Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs?
Have past leaders of the Eastern hub state toed the path of vision as enumerated by its founding fathers? Can we beat our chests in front of our children and I say ‘this is Enugu State of our dreams’ where opportunities for wealth creation are made available for all and sundry irrespective of his family pedigree, town or local dialects?
As we engage in the euphoria of celebration, I want all the political, religious, economic and community leaders in the state to see this silver jubilee as a life-time opportunity to introspect on the successes and failures of Enugu state since creation. We should not make the mistake of an ostrich, which buries its head in the sand, thinking that all its challenges will just fizzle away. This is the time for self-examination and reflection. It is not opportunity for political homage or sycophancy. The vision and mandate of Enugu State must be resuscitated again. Enugu must be great again. The dying spirit of brotherhood (onye aya Na nwaneya), which an average ‘O42’ resident is known for, must be revived again. Without mincing words, Enugu State had had leadership failures in the past. We have not been that lucky with visionary and passionate leaders. Those who found themselves in the position of authority in the state saw it as opportunity to amass wealth, oppress their political enemies and pauperize the Coal City State, at the detriment of its development.
All the past and present political leaders, from ward to national levels should reflect on their individual roles in developing or impoverishing the state. The age-long narrow-mindedness of Enugu political elites should not be passed on to the next generation of leaders. We must deliberately advocate for paradigm shift in the leadership ideology cum political philosophy of the state. Those who find themselves in political offices should not see it as poverty alleviation gateway because wealth without value is the worst form of poverty.
I will personally suggest the adoption of lessons as being propagated by Mahatma Gandhi’s seven blunders of the world as guiding principles for present political and religious leaders in the state. These blunders are: (1) wealth without work; (2) pleasure without conscience; (3) knowledge without character; (4) commerce without morality; (5) science without humanity; (6) worship without sacrifice and lastly, (7) politics without principle.
Out of these seven blunders, two blunders that capture gross erosion of visionary leadership and growing appetite of ‘free’ money in the state are: “wealth without work” and “politics without principle.” wealth without work has not only encouraged corruption in the state politics but has pushed our teeming youths into abnormal and incomprehensible quest for wealth. Mind–boggling, ignoble cravings for wealth amongst Enugu political leaders, has immensely affected development of the state potentials, because resources meant for its growth are shared, diverted or looted out-right with impunity.
The second blunder that has politically enslaved Enugu people is politics without principle. It is very disheartening that those ‘elders’ who are supposed to be beacons of political ideologies in the state are the ones displaying crass politics of stomach lubrication. Those who are rightly placed by nature to play the roles of statesmen in the state are the ones stifling the growth of Coal City State via their self-centeredness, pettiness, and bankruptcy of political compass.
A regrettable scenario where founding members of the PDP from the state would abandon the party in the state for the party at the centre, for the sake of crumbs, leaves so much to be desired. The most condescending aspect of this politics without principle as being exhibited by these men are their chameleonic tendencies—where they are members of the APC in Abuja for the sake of political patronage and the PDP ‘members’ in Enugu for retention of board appointments held on their behalf by their wives.
Are these the ‘statesmen’ who will advise Gov. Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi correctly? What were their reactions on the killings of Enugu people by invading herdsmen? Until these fair-weather politicians are relegated to the background, Enugu State will continue to move in circles of political wilderness, even at the age of golden anniversary.
As we mark 25th anniversary of our dear state, I wish to use this medium to make a clarion call to the futuristic-minded youths of Coal City, State, who have that burning desire to a make desirable change in the polity. It is time to take over the baton of leadership from these political rent-seekers masquerading as elders, who have overstayed their welcome on the podium, even when the ovation has stopped. Until we rise in unionism to retire these old retrogrades and redefine the standard in Enugu politics, political deadwoods and neophytes would continue to populate corridors of power on behalf of all of us, thereby mortgaging our collective destiny.
Where were Enugu youths when career politicians who had milked the state dry and bequeathed her with incompetent leadership, since the advent of democracy in 1999 were being recycled again? What is the justification of reappointing those who had served from commissionership cadre since 1999 up to House of Representatives and ambassadorial positions to be recalled back as State Commissioners again?
Where lies the political future of Enugu youths? Anyone who cannot run successful businesses and survive outside government has no moral impetus to remain in government. He or she is nothing but a liability and economic regressive force on the development of the state.
I beckon on Enugu youths to synergistically arise and redirect the course of politics in the state, not for material benefits but to enthrone true, sincere political and economic leadership in the state, so that when we roll out drums again to celebrate golden jubilee of our dear state in another 25 years we would have built a state all of us will be proud to call our own.
Chidiebere writes from Abuja