By Chuks Ugwoke
Precisely on February 23, 2022, the electorate in Enugu State will go to the polls to elect the 17 local government chairmen and 260 councillors who will pilot the affairs of that third tier of government for the next two years.
It will be an election like no other because it marks the first time that governance is consciously given to the rural populace, all thanks to Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi’s standout leadership example that fosters a sense of community inclusiveness in democracy and enhances the rural economy.
To stem the political exclusion of the rural folks and promote that sense of belonging, the governor, on different occasions, invited stakeholders from each local government area to the Lion Building to take active part in the choice of the candidates for the chairmanship and councillorship elections.
For a large part, the process was straightforward because there has always been an entrenched zoning of political offices in the Coal City State. But it was also an exercise that put on display certain rib-cracking theatrics by some office seekers who tried, in vain, to outwit the stakeholders and the governor who simply moderated the conversations.
However, reputed for his adeptness at such problem-solving, Gov. Ugwuanyi delved into his rich reservoir of political brinkmanship to bring about acceptable consensus. It was a clear case of consultations producing mutual understanding and reinvigorating the people’s mutual bonds.
“My appeal is that our rural dwellers must be involved in running this tier of government,” the governor often told the stakeholders. “We have to make conscious efforts to enhance our rural economy. We can only do this if and when we encourage our people who live in our rural communities to emerge as councillors.”
Rt. Hon. Ugwuanyi was only keeping faith with his unmasked commitment to always empower the rural dwellers and involve them in the governance of their local communities as well as make the lure of village life compelling for political office seekers.
For the first time, the people of Enugu State will witness this unique governance, where their representatives live with them in the wards, villages and communities.
“I commend Gov. IfeanyiUgwuanyi for his exemplary leadership style, which heals the divides and returns political power to the grassroots,” said Dr. Okwesilieze Nwodo, former governor of the state.
In truth, the decision has ushered in a new sense of belonging among rural dwellers who greatly cherish that they have not been overlooked by the governor whom they gave 95.54 per cent in the last governorship poll.
The true picture of this gesture was on hilarious display at the Nike Lake Resort Hotel on Friday, January 21, 2022, when the chairmanship and councillorship candidates attended a one-day orientation seminar. With each councillorship standard-bearer clutching his or her seminar bag, they were the cynosures of all eyes in their apparel that highlighted their lifestyles, humble backgrounds and dress sense.
But who cared anyway? They were hugely enjoying the privileges that their new status conferred. And even before the February 23 polls, the villagers now prefix their names with the title of “Honourable,” which they gleefully appropriate.
The efficient manner in which the governor conducted the consultations that gave rise to the nomination of the candidates was a triumph for internal party democracy in the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
But this was not the first time that Ugwuanyi has enthroned such credible results in the party’s internal contests. Such was the credibility that the Enugu State governor brought to bear on the July 22, 2020, Ondo State governorship primary of the PDP. The proof of its sweeping impact was gleaned from the wholesome acceptance of the result from the contestants and their commendations of the hitch-free and hugely successful exercise carried out by Ugwuanyi, who was the returning officer and chairman of the governorship primary election committee.
Working in harmony with his other committee members, the governor arrived the venue looking battle-ready and unprepared for any distraction that would impede him from accomplishing his mission. At the end, it was very refreshing when some of the aspirants took turns to laud the conduct of the primary election and, consequently, congratulated the eventual winner, Eyitayo Jegede,SAN.
Without doubt, the governor laid a workable template for the opposition party to adopt in its future primaries because the Ondo governorship primary contest truly offered the PDP a glimpse into the unity and solidarity that a credible intra-party election can enthrone.
Again, Ugwuanyi brought his calmness, leadership and commitment to the highest standards of transparency to bear on the assignment given to him as chairman of the committee for the zoning of the party’s national offices. Working assiduously with other notable party chieftains, he and the other committee members deserve credit for achieving such milestone harmony without the usual tantrums and sectional acrimonies that dogged previous exercises.
The acceptance of the committee’s recommendation by the 94th National Executive Committee of PDP validated the confidence reposed in the team and marked a clear turning point in the party’s renewed resolve to pull the different tendencies together in the campaign to reclaim power in 2023. Ugwuanyi is a beacon of hope in this pursuit.
•Ugwoke is a senior media aide to the Enugu State governor