On August 27, 2019, Enugu State will mark 28 years of its creation. The epoch-making event, no doubt, calls for celebration in appreciation of the manifestation of God’s goodness in the state.
Enugu has come a long way as the capital city of Nigeria’s Eastern Region; defunct State of Biafra; East Central State; old Anambra State; old Enugu State, when Abakaliki (now Ebonyi State) was part of it and the present Enugu State. Politically and socio-culturally, Enugu remains home to all Igbo. It continues to play a key role in the socio-political and economic life of Ndigbo and Nigeria.
Created as an urban settlement in 1909, following the discovery of coal, Enugu was made the administrative headquarters during the amalgamation of the Northern and Southern protectorates of Nigeria, in 1914. It retained the status in 1929 when the Province of Southern Nigeria was created and has continued to forge a common force for peace, unity and progress.
Enugu remains emblematic of Ndigbo and beyond, having produced a handful of legends and iconic national leaders who contributed immensely to the development of the state and the Nigerian Project. These greats include Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, Professor Eyo Ita, Dr. Michael Okpara, Dr. Akanu Ibiam, Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, Dr. Ukpabi Asika, Senator Jim Ifeanyichukwu Nwobodo and Chief C.C. Onoh, as well as a host of others.
The struggle for the creation of Enugu State came into limelight following the sustained agitation against social injustice meted to a people (Wawa) who were “honest, patient, intelligent and hardworking.” It was a misconception of the honesty, truthfulness and dignified attitude of the people of the Wawa-speaking area (Enugu and Abakaliki) as a complex issue by the people now known as Anambra and Imo states.
The creation of Enugu State, 28 years ago, therefore, birthed unbridled excitement and a sense of accomplishment for those who painstakingly, doggedly and tirelessly lent their voices and struggled for the emancipation of the Wawa people of Igboland.
These retinue of great minds, who are indeed the founding fathers of Enugu State, include: Chief Onoh, Igwe Charles Abangwu, Igwe J.U. Nwodo, Chief Enechi Onyia, SAN, Justice M.U. Obayi, Chief C.U. Oputa, Chief Dan Ogbobe, Senator Isaiah Ani, Hon. Petrus Agballah, Mr. T.C. Chigbo, Chief J.C.P. Nwagu, Chief D.O. Nnamani, Igwe Edward Nnaji, Ambassador Justina Eze and all other heroes and heroines of Enugu State origin.
They had courage, made sacrifices and were resolute in their struggle to achieve the desired end and posterity will forever remember them in high esteem for they indeed occupy a special place in the lexicon of Enugu State. Also to be remembered in a special way are the courage and sacrifices of the likes of the late Chief Onyeama N’ Eke and members of the Enugu Aborigines Improvement Union who sowed the seed for the struggle against the oppression and subjugation of the Wawa people of Igboland as far back as the 1920s.
During the Silver Jubilee of Enugu State, three years ago, the present governor of Enugu State, Rt. Hon. Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, had dutifully recognised the contributions of the aforementioned leaders, including those now in the present Ebonyi and Anambra states who also offered invaluable assistance towards the struggle for the creation of the state.
Kudos must also go to those who had presided over the affairs of the state since its creation. They include Col. Herbert Obi Eze, Dr. Okwesilieze Nwodo, Navy Captain Temi Ejoor, Col. Mike Torey, Col. Sule Ahman, Navy Captain Adewunmi Agbaje, Dr. Chimaroke Nnamani, and Barr. Sullivan I. Chime.
Today, Enugu State, under the dynamic leadership of Ugwuanyi, has kept faith with the dreams and aspirations of its founding fathers.
The state continues to occupy its pride of place as home to all, a model of peace and good governance and one of the most peaceful and secure states in Nigeria, to live and do business.
Enugu State, under Ugwuanyi, has also gone beyond the horizon of parochialism to promote the principles of love, unity and peace among the political, religious and traditional institutions, which the former secretary-general and now president-general of Enugu State Development Association (ESDA), Chief Enechi Onyia, identified as one of the cardinal dreams and aspirations of the founding fathers of Enugu State.
Onyia, who attributed the developmental strides in the Coal City State to the peace and good governance initiatives of Ugwuanyi, said, “There is very significant peace in Enugu State,” stressing that “without peace, there is no progress.”
It is on record that Ugwuanyi, through his administration’s peace and grassroots development initiatives, has ensured that more infrastructural projects are concentrated in the rural areas than in the urban centres, to give the rural dwellers a sense of belonging and open up their areas for socio-economic expansion. His administration has continued with some uncompleted projects of past administrations, such as the Enugu International Conference Centre and the Enugu State Medical Diagnostic Centre.
Just recently, the peace-loving governor broke a record when he finally settled an age-long inter-communal dispute between Oruku and Umuode communities in Nkanu East Local Government Area, which had lasted for over 25 years, despite interventions by past administrations.
During their thank-you visit to the governor, the jubilant people of both communities, through the traditional ruler of Umuode Autonomous Community, HRH Igwe Moses Idenyi, described Ugwuanyi as “a wonderful and honest man” and “God’s gift to mankind,”, who brought light over darkness in the communities, stressing that, “words of thanksgiving cannot be enough for you.”
According to him, “My people were enemies before, but today we are here clapping hands, thanking God because you (Ugwuanyi) made it possible.”
Indeed, the governor’s uncommon leadership style has ushered in the wind of peace and a revolutionary infrastructural rebirth in the local communities of Enugu State, reinvigorating the passionate vision of the state’s founding fathers to give every Wawa man a sense of belonging, irrespective of class or social status.
Through rural development initiatives such as the “One Community One Project” programme and a great deal of passion for the wellbeing of the masses, Ugwuanyi has remembered the long-neglected communities in the state in line with his firm commitment to the founding fathers’ aspirations.
It would be recalled that Ugwuanyi, in his first term inaugural address, on May 29, 2015, recommitted himself to the aspirations of the founding fathers of Enugu State to “take up the gauntlet of the struggle for the emancipation of the Wawa man from where our heroes past stopped.”
The governor proclaimed that God Almighty has anointed him for a mission, “to bring good news, message of continued hope, peace and development to our people; to bind up the broken-hearted; to proclaim liberty to every Wawa man caught in the prison of poverty and under-development,” promising: “And these, I owe you and my God to fulfill.”
He pledged, among other things, to pursue employment generation, enhanced social services and good governance, rural development, security and justice.
Four years down the line, the people’s governor, in spite of the daunting and severe economic challenges that confronted the nation when he assumed office, has entrusted Enugu State to the hands of God and placed it on a pedestal of peace, good governance, innovation and inclusive leadership.
His humble disposition, honesty, simplicity, candour, good works and uncommon leadership style of inclusive governance and open-door policy delivered the message of hope and rekindled the confidence of the people in participatory democracy.
He has bound up the broken-hearted with a wind of peace that has united everybody in the state, especially political leaders, irrespective of class, religion, socio-economic and political background.
This cherished ambiance of peace, unity and good governance has remained the pillar of his administration’s success story, which earned the governor over 94 per cent votes to be reelected for a second term in office.
The governor’s commitment to the principles of transparency, accountability, due process and prudent management of the state’s lean resources has ensured delivery of democracy dividends to the doorsteps of the people.
While workers’ salaries and pensions are paid regularly with or without the receipt of the statutory allocations from the federation account, even at a time when 27 states could not pay, including the 13th month salary as Christmas bonus, over 400 kilometres of roads spread across the state have been covered with signature projects such as the remodelled ancient, historic and undulating Milliken Hill road and the Opi-Nsukka dual carriageway.
Scholarships were granted to 680 indigent students of Enugu State Polytechnic, Iwollo, Ezeagu Local Government Area, and the Institute of Management and Technology, Enugu, for four years of academic studies in all engineering programmes of the institutions. The Enugu State Traders Empowerment Scheme, launched to assist traders in the state to grow their various businesses through a monthly raffle draw, has so far benefited 3,600 traders who emerged winners of N50,000 each.
While assessing the governor’s achievements in line with the state’s founding fathers’ dreams, Onyia said that “the governor has gone to the extent of trying to meet the needs of the generality of the people,” pointing out that “he went to the marketplace and started helping them because he wants to increase the economy, that is philosophic too.”
On security, while Enugu remains one of the safest states in the country, the state government has continued with its measures to strengthen the security architecture of the state.
Consequently, the state has commenced the overhauling of Vigilante/Neighborhood Watch groups and recruitment of 1,700 Forest Guards in the 17 local government areas for maximum effectiveness; presentation of an Anti-Kidnapping Bill to the State Assembly as an executive bill; payment of 5,200 Vigilante/Neighborhood Watch personnel comprising 20 persons per ward as well as intensive clearing of bushes, which serve as hideouts for kidnappers and other criminal elements, among other interventions.
The state’s traditional rulers, the Catholic Diocese of Enugu and other churches, the president-general of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Chief Nnia Nwodo, among others, have expressed satisfaction with the governor’s untiring efforts and the measures so far taken by his administration to enhance security as well as nip all criminal elements in the bud.
Determined to fully actualise the dreams of the founding fathers of Enugu State, Ugwuanyi, since assumption of office for a second term, has taken an apt and innovative step by constituting 12 sectoral ad hoc committees to review programmes, policies and activities of his administration in the last four years and make recommendations that would assist his government to reposition the state’s public service for optimised service delivery and advancement of good governance in the state in the next four years.
In all, there is every reason to celebrate Enugu State at 28, a state that is truly in the hands of God.
•Amoke writes from Enugu